Stay tuned for a series of posts about how to make the most of your Disney Dream Cruise! We’re happy to have one of our parent travel experts give us the scoop on what parents need to know about booking, arrival day, what to do on the ship, and even debarkation. Happy sailing!
Disney Dream Cruise booking tips for parents
There’s actually a lot you can do before your sail date on a Disney Dream Cruise. If you have booked one of the Concierge cabins, some of this won’t apply because you’ll have access to dedicated group of concierge hosts whom you can email or call directly, beginning 120 days before your cruise. The concierge staff will take care of just about everything for you, including reserving shore excursions, securing tickets for activities on board, booking spa appointments and dinner reservations at the adult-only restaurant, and locking down private cabanas on Castaway Cay, among other things.
If you aren’t in a Concierge cabin, make sure you take note of these tips! Beginning 75 days out, you’ll be able to make reservations for certain things and check-in online through the Disney Cruise website. This is a must! I have heard that some people do this at 12:01 a.m. of the 75th day out, so make sure you’re ready to take advantage of the time frame. At this time, you can reserve spa appointments, book excursions, and importantly, register your kids for the Kids’ Clubs. This will save serious time when you get to the port terminal on your sail date!
The most important thing though, is to book your port arrival time. In my mind, there are two options — either arrive as early as possible, or as late as possible. Either way helps you avoid the crowds… remember, there are 4,000 passengers on the ship, all checking in on the same day! For what it’s worth, I think early arrival is best, because it gives you time to explore the ship before it leaves port.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have a way of getting to the Port – it’s about 45 minutes from MCO. There is a Disney Cruise Line bus that leaves from area B1 in MCO. The buses start leaving around 9 a.m. and if you’re staying at the Hyatt Regency in the airport, they’ll take care of your bags right from the hotel, which means you just have to show up at the bus check-in with a carry-on bag. Make sure to put bathing suits, sunscreen, sunglasses, and anything else you need for the day in that carry-on because you won’t see your luggage until late in the afternoon. If you’re on-board early, you can take advantage of the pool deck and the Aqua Duck water coaster ride when there are less people!
You’ll also want to choose your dinner seating as soon as possible. There are two choices: 5:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. There are advantages to both. If you are going to attend the evening shows in the Walt Disney Theater (worth doing!), keep in mind that they are timed around the dinners. So if you’re in the late dinner seating, you’ll go to the early show at 5:30 p.m. and if you’re in the early seating, you’ll go to the late show at 8:30 p.m. The shows last about an hour.
There are three main restaurants on the Disney Dream: Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace and Animators Palate. You’ll have the opportunity to experience each of them during the cruise, with the same table number and waitstaff every evening. Your dining rotation is printed on your room card — AER means Animators Palate the first night, Enchanted Garden the second night and Royal Palace the third; EAR is Enchanted Garden, Animators Palate and Royal Palace, etc. Of the three, Animators Palate is the one you don’t want to miss. Without giving anything away, there is a fun interactive premise behind it, which the whole family will enjoy. If you’re going to book one of the Adult Only Restaurants (Remy or Palo) do it on one of the non-Animator’s Palate nights. We didn’t dine at Remy or Palo, but I hear it’s worth it… especially if you have someone to look after your kids! Again, if you’re not traveling Concierge, you’ll want to book your reservation for Remy or Palo as early as possible because slots fill up quickly.
Another fun thing you can do pre-cruise is to schedule a call from Mickey Mouse for your kids. You can do this through the Disney Cruise website. Obviously, it’s a pre-recorded message, but you set the date and time a few days before you leave and sure enough, the phone rings and the message plays, inviting you to join the gang for a cruise. This was a huge hit with our 3-year-old. He talked about it non-stop!
I would also recommend pre-booking the cruise photo package. The ship photographers will take lots of photos of your family over the three days and you save money by buying the USB key of all the photos before you leave.
Also, make sure to download the Disney Cruise App before you leave home. You’ll want to have it on your phone because it will be a great way to send text messages when you’re at sea. It also has all the information on what’s happening on the ship at any given time. Note that you’ll basically be “off the grid” when you’re not in port, unless you’re willing to pay very expensive roaming charges. The App uses the ship’s intranet and allows you to send texts to other passengers for free.
Finally, another thing you can do is bring your own alcohol on board. They let you bring a six-pack of beer or two bottles of wine (carry-on baggage only). We didn’t do it, but a lot of people seemed to and planning ahead to bring these items with you as you board is essential.
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