Tips about Disney Cruise Line

Having just returned from a Disney cruise, I wanted to share a shopping tip. If you are serious about shopping in the ports of call, make sure to talk with the shoppers on board the ship and get VIP cards. A group of us in St. Thomas were trying to negotiate a fair price on several items and when the store manager said that was it, we pulled out the VIP cards and mentioned the Disney Cruise Shoppers by name. A further discount followed! - Deb Wills
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AllEars.Net Team Member Gloria recently returned from a family cruise on the Disney Dream -- with a party of 12! Here are some of her tips for "cruising by the dozen" -- and just on Disney cruising in general:

-- If you have your own transportation, get to the port early, as early as 10:30 or 11 a.m. The line to register the kids for the Oceaneer's Club activities can get quite long and they begin boarding the ship right about noon. If you're in the first few groups, you can go directly to Cabana's and have a leisurely lunch while you wait for your room to be ready.

-- You have two options for parking at the port: in the garage ($90) or on a surface lot ($110). We chose the surface lot because we were told the lines to get out of the parking garage can get pretty crazy. We walked off the ship, over to the car and were on our way with no wait at all. Well worth the extra $20 if you're in any hurry (and we were since we wanted to go to WDW for the day). Got to WDW right at 9 a.m. for park opening.

-- Read the directions to use the Wave phones. We didn't, and couldn't figure out why they weren't working! You must dial a 41 first if you're going phone to room or room to phone. Phone to phone, just dial the phone number. Wave phones work on Castaway Cay.

-- It is futile to try and limit soda and ice cream for the kids. Just explain to them that the cruise is special and regular rules apply once back on land.

-- It's hard to find 12 seats together at the buffets. Stick to the table service dining when possible.

-- Take an iPod with soft music or white noise. It is VERY quiet at night (except for kids [not ours!] running down the hallways).

-- We stored lots of "junk" in the coffee table. The top opens and there's lots of room for things you don't need, but don't want to lose. Just don't forget to empty it when you pack the last night.

-- Try to schedule a short nap (or at least an hour of relaxing time) each day if you plan on any of the late-night adult activities. Morning comes very early on the ship and you don't want to be dragging all the rest of the day.

-- Remy is awesome, but only worth the $75 up-charge if you truly enjoy food and food preparation as an "art," and understand that this is an "experience" and not just another great meal.

-- The second family beach (near Pelican Plunge) on Castaway Cay is much less crowded than the one near Scuttle's Cove.

-- Cookie's BBQ on the island is outstanding! Get off the ship if for no other reason than to have lunch, and don't pass up the ribs!

-- Bring a couple bottles of pump/foam soap for the bathrooms. It's much less messy than those little bars of soap.

-- Be sure to keep your smart phone on airplane mode (except when using it to access WiFi is you purchase a package). Otherwise, texts, "push" messages and e-mails may come through at international data rates.

-- Lost Key to the World cards are not a problem; just get a replacement from Guest Services. You WILL need your Key to the World cards to debark on the last day, so don't pack it in your luggage.

-- Bed rails are available. Think about doing without a porta-crib. It makes your room much less crowded to just use the bottom bunk with a rail for a little one if at all possible.

-- Don't forget that Disney will let you bring aboard wine in your carry on luggage (NOT in your checked luggage!). You cannot carry an opened bottle around the ship. If you take an unopened bottle to dinner, there might be a corkage fee.

-- If characters are scheduled to appear twice during a day (around 4:30 and 7:15 usually), go to the earlier appearances and get there a bit early. The lines are MUCH shorter than the evening appearances.

-- Don't wait until the last night to go to Shutters (for your photos). It's a zoo! Same advice for any souvenir shopping. The stores are really crowded on the last night, so shop earlier in your cruise.

-- If your gratuities are not pre-paid, go to Guest Services the second or third night of the cruise to take care of it. If you wait until the last day, you will have a much longer wait in line.
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We just completed the 7-day Eastern Carribean Cruise onboard the new Disney Fantasy (which of course was amazing). I'm a vegetarian who is trying to go vegan and discovered that at Tow Mater's Grill and/or Fillmore's Food on Deck 11, you can ask the counter person for a veggie burger. It turns out that not only do they have them on hand, but they are grilled and ready to serve as well. These appear to be a hand-made variety (not like a Garden or Boca Burger) and they are not posted on the regular lunch menu. I was also able to request these at the BBQ at Castaway Cay. It made lunches much more enjoyable! No other cruise line handles people with special diet considerations better than Disney! - Sharie Van Wells
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Regarding last week's passport photo tip: Be very careful if you plan to take your photos at home. There are very specific requirements for clothing, hair, jewelry, lighting, size of photo -- some you may not expect. For example: no white shirt, or any shirt with a white collar or edging! If your photo doesn't meet the requirements to a "T" your application may be rejected. And, with the regular passport processing time, you don't want to find yourself with immediate international travel plans and no passport... Also, if you are travelling right away and can produce proof that this is the case (an airline or hotel reservation), it is possible to get a same-day passport at any number of regional passport offices. There is an expedited fee of course, but it isn't unreasonable given an "emergency" passport situation. The website is for all information on passports. The folks at the toll-free number indicated on that site are terrific. - Donna
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My family is getting ready to apply for passports for our upcoming cruise aboard the Disney Dream. While researching the application process, we came across some upsetting information about getting passport photos. The post office in out hometown DOES take photos but charges $15. You can get passport photos taken at various stores, but not for much cheaper -- all for them to print out four photos, chop up two of them to the appropriate size and toss the remainder of the sheet in the trash. FOR FREE, the U.S. Department of State has a photo cropping tool on their website! You take your photos with a white backdrop (my family used a white shower curtain draped over a door), upload them on your computer and make sure they're the perfect size at home, and then print them wherever you prefer to get your digital prints! It was exceptionally easy! Just go to, click on passports, click on photo requirements, and scroll down to the photo tool! It cost the three of us less than $1 to get all of our passport pictures printed rather than the $30 it would have cost at the drug store or $45 at the post office! - Tonya
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I've had a few friends in the past ask me for advice on Disney cruises (since we've been on a few). I always tell them to take a small bag of sand toys with them. I wish I would have known this the first time we went. They do sell sand toys on Castaway Cay, but they are very expensive compared to what you can bring from home. A friend who is recently planning a cruise told me this was a great idea. She's looked at a lot of websites and hasn't seen that posted anywhere, so I thought it might be worth sharing. Oh, you might also want to bring pirate stuff so your kids can dress up on pirate night. Very fun! - Esmeralda Corral
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We had a fantastic trip aboard the Disney Fantasy with our young sons. We brought our own sand toys and snorkel gear on the trip to save some money. Also, if your itinerary has Castaway Cay as your last stop, keep in mind that your beach gear and swimsuits may not have time to totally dry before you need to get your luggage packed and in the hallway for collection on the last night. It is also hard to get the sand completely out of everything. Bring zipper-top or plastic bags to wrap those items in before packing in your suitcase. - Heidi G.
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We just came off an 11-night Disney Mediterranean cruise. What a blast! One quick tip... the Cove Cafe has frequent buyer cards. If you buy five specialty coffees, you get one free. They don't seem to promote them or display them (why would they... they have no competition) so you have to ask. - Dan Cheresna
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For a special treat order cookies and milk or a Mickey Ice Cream Bar before bed time from Room Service. You will get a choice of how many cookies and what kind you would like (based on availability).
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A lot of people do not realize that once you unpack [on the Disney Cruise] you can actually store your empty suitcases and other luggage. The Disney Dream and Fantasy have storage space under the bed. If you are on the other ships, you may be able to ask your cabin steward to store your luggage for you. This is not guaranteed, but it never hurts to ask!

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We've become hooked on the Disney cruises, and subsequently, we always book our next cruise while on the current cruise. We get a 10 percent booking discount (discount not valid for concierge room/suite), a shipboard credit and the comfort of knowing that next year's vacation is confirmed. It makes the ending of the first vacation less difficult, knowing that you're coming back for sure. And then, while on the ship, we buy albums, post-its, note pads, pens, etc., because we don't pay any tax on the ship. I also buy my new 16-month Disney calendar, and start filling in important dates, such as the newly planned trip, Advanced Dining Reservation call times, Castaway Club Member booking dates, and whatever else I may need. For us, Disney is our "home away from home." - Jackie Psarianos

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you normally book with a travel agent, just tell the cruise reservation specialist to transfer the reservation to them! Or once you get home, call your travel planner and request to have the booking moved. DCL only allows 30 days for you to transfer.

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I think it's really important to let your readers know that the Disney Cruise Line will let you build up your own onboard credit before you cruise. Just call the Disney Cruise Line with you confirmation number and credit card. This is a great way to save up for the special things you want to do on the cruise or even for necessities that you know you will encounter, like end-of-the-cruise tipping. If you booked your cruise a year in advance like I did, you'll have several months after your final payment to call in and add some cash onto your account. And if your family or friends want to give you a gift they can call the Disney Cruise Line with your account number and make a contribution to your onboard credit! My family always gives us cash for Christmas, so I plan to take that money and invest it in my cruise! There's no limit on the amount. As the Cruise Line representative I talked to said with a laugh, "You can give yourself as much money as you want!" - Buffy
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My wife and I recently returned from our honeymoon aboard the Disney Wonder. We did a 4-Day Land/3-Day Sea travel package. Here are a couple of things that will work for either the Wonder or the Magic ships that may be useful to other travelers:

1. Use the luggage tags in your cruise booklets! We didn't, and getting our luggage was a bit of a problem. It took the Disney Magical Express baggage handlers longer to get our luggage, which in turn took the hotel longer to deliver our bags. We arrived to the hotel around 12:30 p.m. EST and our bags didn't get to our room until approximately 4:30 p.m.!

2. If you or your kids want to get pictures with the characters, read your Navigator (which you receive every day) to find out the times. Since the characters are only out for 20 minutes at a time, time is of the essence. Once you know what time they are arriving, head to the atrium on Deck 3 at least 10-15 minutes early. Once kids start to see the characters, lines get really long. Disney Cast Members will have a cut-off and you might not get in. - Sean Mc.

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We just got off the Disney Magic cruise ship this past Sunday. As usual, Disney showed other cruise lines how to do it! Just a tip for what you should not pack and/or try to bring on board, though. My wife decided to buy a steamer to take care of any wrinkles (I'm not talking about my face!) on clothes. It was refused. So was the heating pad for her back. We did get these items back on debarking, but I thought I'd pass this on so you leave those items and at home. It will give you room in your luggage, or possibly help you avoid paying luggage overweight charges. Happy cruising! - Dan Cheresna
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Our family went to Cozumel and Costa Maya on the Disney Magic in September 2004. We wanted to go to the beach in Cozumel. The Disney staff only recommended private beaches to us. Thanks to our taxi driver, we went to Mr. Sancho's Beach, which is a public beach -- which means no admission fee. It's a beautiful beach with water activities. Also in Costa Maya, we didn't take the taxi anywhere, but later talked to someone who said she paid $3 to go to Tequila Beach. Feel free to talk to the locals when you're in Mexico since they can recommend great places to visit and sight-see. - Janine Ho
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