Being a Floridian means having lots of family vacation options. A Disney Cruise is hard to beat, especially for families, and even more so for young kids. There are lots of things to be aware so you can make the most of your Disney cruise vacation.
My family is about to head on a Disney Cruise and there are a number of things I’ve learned during the booking process. Here’s what you need to know before getting on a Disney Cruise.
Why A Disney Cruise?
First, let’s cover some of the reasons why my family selected a Disney Cruise. This may help you decide if a Disney Cruise is even right for you.
I have been on multiple Disney cruises — full disclosure I did work for Disney for many years and that included working aboard the cruises ships for a bit. I have also been aboard multiple Norwegian Cruise Line’s voyage. We’ve loved our Norwegian Cruise experiences, it’s just with our young son it is hard to beat the atmosphere and activities found aboard Disney.
Family-Friendly Disney Cruise Line Features
- Multiple pools and a kid-friendly splash area
- Multiple kids activities and child care clubhouses
- Kid-friendly dining experiences
- Allergy-friendly menus and service
- Disney characters on board
- Disney entertainment on board
- Staterooms designed for families
- Adults-only areas to give parents some rest
A note about Disney characters: Disney character appearances are similar to those at Walt Disney World right now. There are no formal greeting sessions with hugs and autographs. Instead, characters appear at a safe distance. But you’ll still be able to get plenty of selfies and photos. Cast Members are not able to take photos from your phone.
As of March 31, 2022, Disney indicated that traditional character meet and greets will resume on Disney Cruise Line very soon.
Budget-friendly Disney Cruise Line features
- With most Disney Cruises departing from Port Canaveral, it is budget-friendly for Central Florida families (no additional travel costs)
- Inside staterooms aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy feature a Magical Porthole showing real-time ocean views and animated Disney characters, making this a good choice for families (like mine) on a budget.
- Inside staterooms aboard the new Disney Wish, Disney Magic, and Disney Wonder do not have the Magic Porthole, but are still a good choice to save some money on a Disney cruise. Oceanview rooms are a good option too to find a happy medium.
- On the Disney Cruise Line website you can see all cruise dates in a list so you can see how the rates vary and find a time, and price, that works best for you.
- There are so many features on each Disney cruise ship, your family will have plenty of fun even if you do not book additional excursions or port adventures.
- Note, there is a charge for parking at Port Canaveral, about $22 per day.
Any Disney vacation, whether it be a cruise or staying at Walt Disney World in one of the family-friendly resorts, takes lots of planning. I find that although a Disney Cruise takes a lot of planning and a lot of time to get things in order ahead of time, once you are on the ship the planning is practically done. And therefore it is less stress than a Walt Disney World vacation.
Things You Need To Prepare for Your Disney Cruise
Disney Cruise Line COVID Requirements
As you can imagine, Disney Cruise Line has intense protocols for health and safety. As of mid-January 2022, all guests of eligibility age are required to be fully vaccinated. Those younger than eligibility need to have a negative test result between 24 hours to 3 days before departure. All guests will be tested before boarding as well.
Documentation to show proof of vaccination of all those that are eligible is done through Safe Passage. You’ll need to have your Disney Cruise reservation number ready when you register with Safe Passage. Your sail date must be within 15 days of the current date before it is available for registration.
Children who are not old enough to be vaccine eligible must have a negative PCR test result submitted to Safe Passage up to 3 days before sailing. They will also be tested prior to being allowed inside the cruise terminal.
COVID-19 testing is done at the parking area of the Disney Cruise Line terminal. It is a self-administered nasal swab test, completed under the supervision of a third-party staff member. Results are provided through the Safe Passage website and through email.
It is best to review all the information about COVID-19 aboard Disney Cruise Line directly on their website.
New Disney Cruise Line Mask Policy
For sailings originating from a US port of departure beginning April 1, 2022, face coverings will be optional in most indoor locations.
- Guests ages 2 and up, including those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, will still be required to wear face coverings in the Walt Disney Theatre.
- Guests under 5 years of age who are currently ineligible to be vaccinated will be required to wear face coverings in Youth Activity spaces and in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; and, while not required, it is recommended that these Guests wear a face covering in all other indoor locations.
- Face coverings may be required in ports of call based on local government requirements.
It is best to review all the information about masks and face coverings aboard Disney Cruise Line directly on their website.
Travel Documents Required for Disney Cruise Line
The travel documentation required for Disney Cruise Line varies by that departure and destination ports.
The Bahamas, Caribbean, Pacific Coast, Bermuda or Canada – Round Trip Cruises
Sailing from/to: Port Canaveral, Miami, Galveston, San Diego, San Juan, New Orleans and New York:
U.S. Citizens (Including Children)
Original valid U.S. Passport
Original valid U.S. Passport Card
Original valid Trusted Traveler Card (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
Original or copy of their state-issued birth certificate AND Government-issued photo ID
Children 15 years of age and younger are required to present one of the documents listed above, but do not need to present a Government-issued photo ID.
Please make sure you review the travel documentation required for Disney Cruise Line on their website.
Important tip: It is absolutely necessary to download the Disney Cruise Line app. This will show you the daily activities, including anything you’ve booked, and included experiences like Disney Trivia, animation classes, movies, showtimes, and other fun activities.
Note that itineraries are subject to change. I suggest booking a shorter cruise, such as a 3 or 4 night Bahamian Disney Cruise during our current global landscape. Longer itineraries that head to multiple ports are at risk of being rerouted. We’ve seen multiple cruises change itineraries due to rapidly changing COVID-19 environments at each port. With a shorter cruise, and one that includes Disney’s private island, there is less risk involved.
What to Pack for a Disney Cruise
- Multiple bathing suits, since drying them can be difficult (there are laundry facilities on board that do require payment)
- A pirate outfit or accessories for pirate night
- One nice outfit either for adult-only dining if booked, or for the “dress up night”
- Some cruises include a “Star Wars Day at Sea” or a “Marvel Day at Sea” and themed outfits are strongly encouraged
- A refillable water bottle is a good idea to help with hydration
- A day bag for any essentials like medicine, swim suits, and change of clothes if you are going to check your luggage at the port to be brought on board by porters.
- Bring some cash. Gratuities for dining staff and your stateroom staff are added to your folio while on board, but having cash for luggage porters and other personnel is helpful
- Comfortable shoes for walking in the sand, there is a tram on Castaway Cay but there is still plenty of walking
Tips For Traveling With Kids Aboard Disney Cruise Line
In the past, kids clubhouses and child care aboard Disney Cruise Line could be used at anytime, during operating hours. Now, reservations for the kids’ activities are required.
You can begin checking in for your cruise online 30 days in advance. I recommend setting your alarm and doing so first thing in the morning. You will need to upload your travel documentation and a photo of yourself. Once this is done you can begin booking activities, including reservations for the kids clubhouses aboard Disney Cruise Line.
Booking the kids clubhouse activities is found under the “On Board Fun” category. It took me a moment to find it. You can book one timeslot per day, each timeslot is 2.5 hours.
Once on board you can book additional timeslots for kids activities. Arriving early before the reservation time will require you to wait until the precise time due to staffing requirements and COVID-19 precautions.
I found some helpful pointers in this blog post on the current state of the kid’s clubs on Disney Cruise Line from Pack Your Pixie Dust.
Dining aboard Disney Cruise Line
Each night you’ll dine at one of the three main restaurants that are included in your cruise, and your servers will stick with you. Dining aboard Disney Cruise Line is very kid-friendly; each restaurant has some form of entertainment and Disney decor.
If you miss dinner for whatever reason, room service is included and available 24 hours a day. There are also multiple casual dining options on the top decks of the each Disney ship.
If you wish to enjoy adults-only dining on Disney Cruise Line, such as a Palo or Remy, or any of the specialty drink tastings, you’ll need to book as soon as the 30 day booking window opens. And, you’ll need to be mindful of the kids activities reservations you’ve made.
When we began booking activities at the 30 day mark, all the adult-only dining options were booked up. At the 14 day mark I signed in again and found a dinner at Palo, and booked it sucessfully!
Important note about Castaway Cay
Kids activities on Disney’s private island of Castaway Cay is first come, first served. You cannot book reservations in advance. I’ll report back on how this goes for us once we’ve completed our cruise.
Information About NEW Disney Wish Cruise Ship
The newest Disney Cruise ship is named the Disney Wish. It begins sailing in Summer 2022. To start, it will sail from Port Canaveral on 3 and 4 night Bahamian itineraries.
There will be brand-new restaurants with some of the most immersive entertainment ever offered on Disney Cruise, and that’s quite a feat. Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar characters and settings are brought together in ways not currently offered on Disney Cruise ships. This includes an adults-only Star Wars lounge and a Marvel themed main dining room for families.
A new water attraction will feature Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and a new nighttime spectacular will enchant families. Plus three new live shows including “The Little Mermaid.” Created exclusively for the Disney Wish, dazzling special effects, artistic choreography and a reimagined script and score are sure to dazzle guests.
Other original shows include “Disney Seas the Adventure”—an embarkation celebration that provides a fabulous musical voyage into some favorite stories—and the always-magical and often hilarious “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular.”
There will even been to movie theaters, instead of just one like the other Disney Cruise ships. And all of this is just the beginning.
NEWS Pixar Day at Sea on Select Disney Fantasy Sailings in 2023
Coming soon is the all-new Pixar Day at Sea aboard special sailings on the Disney Fantasy in early 2023.
Featuring one-of-a-kind experiences, this day-long celebration on select seven-night voyages will bring to life the beloved Pixar tales of “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo” and more exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests.
Themed dining, character encounters, dance parties and a theatrical musical experience await families on this fun-filled day at sea that culminates with a deck party of incredible proportions.
Pixar Character Encounters
- From morning until night, guests will dance, play and interact with their favorite Pixar pals, including Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Bo Peep from “Toy Story”; Mike, Sulley and Boo from “Monsters, Inc.”; Joy and Sadness from “Inside Out”; Dug and Russell from “Up”; and everyone’s favorite supers – Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone from “The Incredibles.”
Pixar Immersive Entertainment
- A new nighttime spectacular will call upon Disney Cruise Line guests to help the Incredibles save the day.
- A first-of-its-kind theatrical experience will bring to life the beloved story of Miguel and his family from “Coco” through live music and puppetry.
- Families will be able to join their favorite characters from the beloved Pixar films for a dance party bash.
Dining Filled with Pixar Characters
- A new, interactive character dining experience hosted by Sheriff Woody, Jesse and Bullseye will kick-start the day with sing-a-longs, cowboy serenades and all the country breakfast fixins.
- Families will enjoy a Pixar-themed dinner with dishes inspired by the Pixar Animation Studios’ California locale.
- Guests will immerse themselves in undersea magic while dining in Animator’s Palate with visits from some of their favorite “Finding Nemo” friends, including interactive conversations with Crush.
Once we have returned from our four night cruise aboard the Disney Dream I will share our family’s experience so you can see what it is like on a Disney cruise with a young child. Sea ‘ya real soon!