Five Ways to Ruin Your Disney Cruise

A photograph of a docked Disney Cruise ship. Instead of throwing themselves a big bash to celebrate their 50th Anniversary, my parents-in-law generously took us all on a Disney Cruise over Thanksgiving week. The sixteen of us, eight adults and eight children, have looked forward to this trip for three years. The Disney Wonder did not disappoint. What a magical time!

We were already armed with lots of information even as first-timers, but we still lived and learned. I think we did most things right, but there were some things we would do differently. So, if you’re thinking about your own Mickey vacation on the high seas and want to avoid some of the pitfalls, read on for five ways you can potentially ruin your Disney cruise.

Tip #1: Delay your planning

A Disney Cruise Line Happy Holidays card with three children posing with Daffy Duck.

Three years ago, my in-laws told us of the plan. This gave us ample time to do research, teach everyone to swim, and make sure potty-training was complete. Part of the fun was the anticipation of the big event, like that one night where we ALL met at my brother-in-law’s house until 10 PM, making excursion plans and designing our family T-shirts. The major players that evening included my sister-in-law, the family T-shirt maven, a dry erase board, the Disney Cruise website and Pinterest pulled up on the smart TV, and a bunch of delirious children. Good times!

Disney releases some cruise itineraries up to 18 months before sailing so when it was time for us to book our cruise, we were ready. The sooner you book, the better chance you’ll have for your choice of staterooms. You’ll also pay less because prices increase the closer you get to the sailing date.

Savings tip: We used Costco Travel to book our Disney cruise for almost an additional 10% in savings. There is a learning curve to booking a Disney cruise so if you feel overwhelmed by the process, you might want to use an authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Tip #2: Neglect transportation details to and from the cruise terminal

A photograph in a Castaway Cay frame of a mother, father and son all wearing Castaway Cay 5 K medals.

Lucky for us Houstonians, we have a port an hour or so away from us. {And even luckier for a Disney fanatic like me, Disney has now signed a 10-year deal with the Port of Galveston.}

On the morning of our cruise, we drove through heavy rain to get to Galveston’s port parking lot. Once parked, we had to take our children and our luggage in a downpour onto the shuttle that would take us to the cruise terminal. What we should have done is have my husband drop me and the kids and all our luggage off at the entrance of the Disney cruise terminal before going to park the car. Lesson learned.

For those who might have family or friends joining them from out of town and are flying, consider scheduling a later flight on debarkation day. We were delayed by several hours as we neared the port due to heavy fog. I heard some passengers missed their return flights.

Tip #3: Trust your own photography skills

A photograph in a Disney Cruise Line frame of a mother, father and three children posing with Mickey Mouse all wearing formalwear.

Sporting an iPhone 11 doesn’t make you a photographer. The photo package may sound pricey, but it was money well-spent. A professional photographer was stationed at every character greeting, at Castaway Cay, often in the beautifully decorated lobby, and even during certain mealtimes. We now have so many wonderful and special memories of our family’s time together beautifully captured in high quality photos.

Savings tip:: We booked our digital unlimited package online before boarding the Disney cruise, which gave us a 10% discount. Then once we were on board, we headed to guest services and added photo packages for the other staterooms in our party for 50% off each additional one.

Tip #4: Forget to download the Disney Navigator App

A photograph in a Disney Cruise Line Happy Holidays frame of 8 adults and 8 children posing with Santa.

Once you leave the port, you won’t have an internet connection. If you didn’t already download the app beforehand, you’ll be missing out. Right before we boarded, we realized someone in our party didn’t have the app so we had to rush to get it downloaded before stepping onto the ship.

The Navigator app has a messaging system you can use with others on the Disney cruise. The eight adults in our party had a big group text going for all the important communications. {ie. “Mickey is in the lobby! Hurry up!”}

The app also lists the activities, movies, and shows available each day as well as all the extra activities and excursions you booked as part of your personal itinerary. If you have kids in the kids’ clubs, the staff there can communicate with you through the app.

I also liked that the app lists our dining restaurant for the evening as well as what’s on the menu. This helped me to plan what the kids should order so that they didn’t hold up the process at the restaurant since we were such a big party. {They ordered Mickey Ice Cream Bars. Lots of Mickey Ice Cream Bars.}

Tip #5: Get carried away

Yes, there is a lot to do. You can choose from seemingly endless activities like silent disco {so fun!}, special royal princess tea parties, wine tastings, port excursions and more. Don’t get caught up in planning every single minute. Relax!

Some of us skipped spending time at Nassau, instead opting to put the kids in the Oceaneer Club so that we can enjoy time at the adults-only pool and hot tub, which was especially quiet on port days.

We wished we had carved out even more time to just walk around the ship, lounge in the deck chairs, and just do nothing.

Each evening during the last half of our trip, my husband and I would get our tea and wander around the outdoor decks for a little while. We would soak in the quietness and enjoy a moment’s peace together, even talking about how next time, we would be able to avoid any rookie mistakes. I wonder, is it too early to start planning our next Disney cruise?


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