I had the opportunity to go on my first ever cruise this past month. As part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration event, I took a 3 night cruise on the Disney Wonder. It was fabulous! I wish I had had a list of tips for first time cruisers before I went. I love to travel, but cruising is a little different than any other kind of travel. So today I'm sharing with you what I learned. It's a great experience which requires very little effort once you're on the boat and there are so many fun things to do! I think most of these tips would apply to any kind of cruising.
Tips for First Time Disney Cruisers
I relaxed, I ate a ton of different foods, I explored the private island (Disney's Castaway Cay) in the Bahamas and I enjoyed the adventures unique to cruising. I had a great time and all the little things I was unsure of were easy to get over. The staff was super helpful and the experience was fantastic.
First, here's how hopping on a cruise worked for me…
12 tips for Disney Cruise first timers
- Bring your passport and your signed cruise travel info pages as required.
Check in for the cruise at the port. Go through the check in and boarding area. Take a quick “yay I'm here” photo. Head to your room. Easy peazy.When docking at a port, you need an id and your room key to leave the boat and to reenter the ship.Getting off the boat at the end of the cruise. With Disney, there was an express option which would allow you to leave your bags ready to go the night before and the cruise line would then check the bags into the airport. Another option was to leave the bags the night before and they would be ready at customs when you get off the boat, you just pick your bags up yourself. The third option was to take bags with you when you get off the boat.
- Pack light and organized
You don't need a ton of things on a cruise. Cruise ship accommodations, aka cabins, are not big. Think of your favorite hotel room and cut it in half… if not down to 30% the size. That's how I relate a cruise ship cabin. It's big enough for getting the rest you want, but not to accomodate your 4 over packed suitcases. You don't have a ton of room to stash a bunch of stuff nor do you have a ton of room to get ready. So pack light, bring just what you need. No, you don't need 6 pairs of shoes. Bring comfy clothes you can layer and enjoy your extra space by not bringing a giant suitcase. That said, my room did include space under the bed to stash all my suitcases and bags along with a small closet and a dresser. Don't forget your swim suit and flip flops!
- Explore the ship to get the lay of the land
Before you get too far on your journey, take the time to explore the ship and get familiar with not only where everything is, but what's available. You don't want to spend half your cruise vacation looking for things… you'd rather enjoy all the things, right?
- Drink plenty of water
As with any travel, it's easy to get dehydrated. So make sure to drink lots of water. I found myself loading up on coffee and soda with all the free drink stations. Remembering to grab a cup of water from time to time is really important.
- Wash your hands often/carry hand sanitizer
Keep in mind that while on a cruise, you are surrounded by a bunch of other people. Keeping your hands clean is a key to preventing any unexpected illnesses. Bring your own hand sanitizer if you'd like. I always carry a little bottle of pre-diluted Thieves essential oil (you can also get Thieves hand sanitizer). Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before eating.
- Enjoy the ride
I spent some time walking around the decks of the ship and really enjoyed the view. It was fun to watch the ship head out of the ports and it was just as fun to watch the ships dock. I loved seeing the water from my room. A verandah is well worth the expense to be able to watch the water go by as you sail to your next destination.
- Find a different view
If you feel the movement of the boat, I found that looking around and finding something different to look at helps. For me, feeling the movement but not seeing anything else really move made me think I was dizzy. So I'd look around the room or go watch the water or even walk around. At night, when the boat was moving a little more, I found that hanging a small piece of jewelry from a dress drawer allowed me to see some movement rather than just feel it.
- Experience the clubs, entertainment and extra activities – there are all kinds of entertainment on a cruise ship. Spend some time enjoying the different clubs and the fun they offer. From a small bar to enjoy a drink to a large comedy club, there's plenty of activity to make you smile.
You'll also find plenty of character meet and greet opportunities along the way. I didn't bring any kids on this trip, so I planned other activities. But there were a ton of fun characters to say hello to every day. The ship also offers plenty of activities like game tables, basketball, and don't forget all the swimming and hot tubs!
- See the shows – I loved the full shows available on the cruise. On the Disney Wonder, our 3 day cruise offered 3 full broadway quality shows. Each one was fantastic. These are free to enjoy as part of the cruise experience, so if you like live entertainment, definitely don't miss the shows!
In addition to the theater shows, the Disney Wonder hosts a variety of parties on the upper decks. From the send off party to the fun Pirate party, complete with fireworks, there's always fun to be had after dinner. I didn't even have to bring anything for the party, my room host provided me with a pirate bandana.
- Try all the food – oh my goodness, the food! From full dinners to big fancy buffets, cruise ships offer a wide variety of dining options. Try to enjoy each of them at least once. You can have a small breakfast or hit up a little cafe for an afternoon snack. Move from restaurant to restaurant for different dinner experiences. I found that “nice dinner attire” was as fancy as you wanted to make it, so make sure to check with the cruise line dress code before you go.
If you need a beignet fix, I came up with this easy beignet bites recipe. It's just as yummy and only takes about 20 minutes to make. You're welcome!
- Plan time off the boat
If you're on a cruise that offers ports of call, stops along the journey, make sure to enjoy what each port has to offer. On the Disney Wonder, we stopped at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. I didn't reserve any extra excursions or upgraded activities. However, I did enjoy walking along the beach, the free BBQ lunch and the adult only beach. I also took time to stroll through the different gift shops and even grabbed a delicious fruit smoothie. I never pass up a smoothie!
- Don't forget tips and comments
You'll be asked at the end of your cruise to fill out a comment card. Be prepared to rate your room host, head server, server and assistant server along with a variety of other cruising experiences. You'll also want to make sure to be prepared to tip all of these servers. The rate, as I understand it, is $12 per cruise guest, per room (this part still confuses me). Also, you can charge your tips to your room by going to guest services and then they will give you a little ticket you can put in the gratuity envelopes. I've also heard that including the names of the staff that really made your stay enjoyable on the comment card, gives them an opportunity for an extra day off. So make sure to take the time to fill out your comment cards.
Most importantly, have fun!
As with any travel, fun is the best part, right? Whether you're a cruising newbie or a cruising expert, don't forget you're there to have fun. Say hello and chat with the people at your dinner table. make friends up on deck. Join in the dance parties and play some games. Unlike any other travel experience, cruising is full of easy access activities and entertainment all in one place.