Planning a Disney Cruise doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, one of my favorite parts of taking a Disney Cruise is the ease of planning the vacation. (The hardest part will be picking where you want to sail!) But if you’re new to Disney Cruise Line or cruising in general, here’s your ultimate guide to planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation. (And if you’re unsure if cruising is right for you, here are four reasons to consider it for your next Disney vacation!)
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**Disney Cruise Line is back to sailing all four of its ships in the United States, but restrictions are in place and vacations have been modified for safety. Be sure to visit our reopening guide for Disney Cruise Line for updated information to guide your vacation planning!
1) Choose Your Itinerary
This is honestly one of the most difficult aspects of planning a Disney cruise… there are so many amazing options! Currently, the Disney Cruise Line has four ships, and three more are on the way. They offer 3-15 night cruises to some amazing places including (but not limited to) Alaska, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe.
One thing to consider when choosing your itinerary is the cruise’s embarkation point. Most cruises are “round trip” in that they start and finish at the same port, but Disney does offer several “repositioning” cruises per year that allow you to start and finish at different ports. (Disney moves their ships to new locations depending on the season.) These cruises are unique and can even be less expensive.
2) Select Sail Dates
School breaks, major holidays, and special sailings will make for more crowded ships. But you’ll also want to take notice of the weather. While you may have smaller crowds and cheaper prices during the rainy season, you’ll have to take the risk of sailing during less than perfect weather. (You may also run the risk of having your vacation canceled or postponed due to hurricanes.) Weigh the pros and cons, and decide what’s best for you and your family.
3) Pick Your Room
This step could literally make or break your vacation. Take it from someone who has learned the hard way… the location of your stateroom (along with its amenities) is more important than you may realize. Here are some things to consider when picking your room:
- Motion – If you are prone to seasickness, the location of your room on board is really important. One of the most popular suggestions for dealing with motion sickness is to stay in a lower-level stateroom. (Although I personally found that my motion sickness was better on upper floors.) Mid-ship is also a popular place to stay if motion is an issue for you. In the front of the ship, you will feel more movement, but in the back, you may feel more vibration… especially at night. This makes mid-ship a popular option.
- Proximity – If you know where you will be spending most of your time on board, this should also play a part in making your room choice. For my family, we try to have easy access to Cabanas in the morning for breakfast. We also like to be near the elevators, but not so close that we hear a lot of noise.
- Amenities – Do you want an inside stateroom? An ocean view? A verandah? Are you traveling with others and need connecting staterooms? These are all things to consider when picking your family’s stateroom.
4) Reserve Your Cruise
There are several ways to book a Disney Cruise… on their official website, over the phone, or via a travel agent. I personally love using the website as it’s the easiest way for me to see all my options in one place. But I have booked over the phone with ease as well. I also know that travel agents often offer incentives and promotions to book through them. So in the end… you can’t go wrong with any of these options.
5) Book Travel Arrangements
This is where you book your airline tickets (if necessary) and a hotel stay before or after your cruise. You’ll also want to arrange your transportation to and from the port. If you are cruising out of Port Canaveral and staying at a Disney hotel, you can arrange to have the official Disney Cruise line transportation take you to the ship. Our family has used this option several times now, and we have enjoyed the ease of it.
6) Make On Board Reservations
Once you’ve paid for your cruise in full (and you are within your activities booking window listed below,) you can complete your online check-in and make reservations for various cruise activities. This includes spa reservations, adult dining options, port adventures, nursery reservations, and other onboard fun such as beverage tasting seminars, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, character greetings and breakfasts, and the Royal Court Royal Tea. (Be sure to check out our Disney Cruise Line dining guide as you plan your days onboard and make your reservations!)
- First-Time Cruisers: 75 days prior to sail date
- Silver Castaway Club Members: 90 days prior to sail date
- Gold Castaway Club Members: 105 days prior to sail date
- Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Members: 120 days prior to sail date
7) Let the Countdown Begin!
Once everything is booked for your cruise, you can sit back, relax, and countdown the days until your adventure begins!
One thing we love to do as a family is to plan our attire for the cruise. There are many special activities and evenings onboard where you may want to dress up a little (or a lot!). Many cruises offer formal nights and themed parties. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Disney Cruise passengers LOVE to go all out with these festivities! We’ve dressed in our finest for formal night, as pirates for Pirate Night, and even as Star Wars characters for Star Wars Day at Sea. So be sure to check out your cruise’s special activities so that you can be prepared!