Top 10 First-Time Disney Cruise Line Tips

Article Contributer Tom Bricker

These first-time Disney Cruise Line tips are designed to help you with things you might not know about Disney Cruise Line. If you’re planning a 2017 Disney cruise, these updated tips should come in handy.

Fortunately, setting sail on the Disney Cruise Line is a far less complicated experience than visiting one of the theme parks, so there’s not a ton you need to know to “do it right.” These 10 tips should at the very least set you on the right course! Note that these tips all cover the experiences aboard the Disney Cruise Line ships themselves. 

Let’s take a look at the tips for having a great time your first time setting sail aboard the Disney Cruise Line…


One of the selling points of Disney Cruise Line is that soda is all-you-can-drink and there are places to grab food throughout the day without a surcharge. (As a point of clarification since we’ve met many people who call this “free,” it’s not free–it’s built into the cost of Disney Cruise Line, which costs more than other cruise ships in its class.) However, many people don’t know that meals at rotational restaurants are all-you-can-eat, in a way.

At these restaurants, you can order as many appetizers, entrees, and desserts as you want, make substitutions, etc. If you really like a particular appetizer or entree, order another! Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility. We don’t recommend ordering so much food that you only eat half of what’s on each plate. Ordering a half dozen lobster entrees for yourself might seem like a good idea, but it’s wasteful and probably won’t endear you to your server.


 Basically, your onboard stateroom account is automatically charged a set amount towards the end of your cruise for housekeeping, your server, your assistant server, and the dining room manager, with envelopes also provided for the same so you can leave additional cash should you believe they deserve more. 

Should you want to tip less, you can go to Guest Services to change the amounts. You will notice fairly long lines at Guest Services the last night of Of your  cruise, and you can assume this is  why.  In the cruise industry, these tips are customary, and these positions in the crew depend upon them. If you vehemently disagree with the concept of tipping these positions, maybe you shouldn’t take a cruise. I know I wouldn’t take a cruise if I hated being on a boat, and this type of tipping is as much a standard of cruising as cruises taking place aboard boats. Personally, I’m not a fan of the social construct of tipping (I feel that what’s now “standard” gratuity should be built into certain wages, as they are in most of the civilized world) for a variety of reasons, but until I can convince the rest of society to agree with me, I uphold my social obligation to tip.


This one varies widely depending upon the Disney Cruise Line ship you’re sailing, and how full your cruise is, I think.  After Hours is pretty much a ghost town every night after 11 p.m. This is partly to be understood. Unlike other ships, Disney Cruise Line caters to families, precluding many parents from participating in the night life scene.

Still, we highly recommend checking out the night life. You will find that, while sparsely attended, the clubs can be highly entertaining. Perhaps not in the way you’re thinking, though. While it can be fun in itself, what we found more fun was people watching.  Some of the guests who have the most fun in the clubs presumably haven’t been on the party scene in a while. Pour copious amounts of alcohol on that, and you the fuel for an awesome fire. You can have a blast just watching the partying, and we are 100% certain the partiers had fun doing the party. Regardless of whether you want to be a party animal or a creepy lurker  we bet you’ll have a good time.


If you’re comparing them to the fireworks at Walt Disney World, the fireworks on the Disney Cruise Line are going to disappoint you. They are relatively short by comparison, and not as large in scale.

But take a step back for a second. Walt Disney World fireworks are launched from the land. On Disney Cruise Line, you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, with a private fireworks show over the water. That’s pretty impressive, and watching them explode over the water as other ships blast their horns in the distance is a pretty cool experience.


Frequent cruisers are very particular about their room, and for good reason: not all of the rooms in the same class are the same! At first blush, choosing a room seems pretty easy, since there’s inside, oceanview, and verandah. However, there are actually several “secret” verandah and porthole staterooms, as well as mini-suites and oversized rooms, all of which are priced in a lower tier.

In our case, we didn’t have the ability to pick a room, as we booked a last-minute, restricted fare “verandah or better” (VGT–there are also IGT and OGT restricted) room. The benefit of this was saving money during the off-season (since the ship wasn’t full, last minute deals were offered) and guaranteeing ourselves a verandah view room. As a side note, you also should give serious thought to which class of room to you want, and whether it’s worth the money to splurge and upgrade. While a verandah is probably nice on longer cruises, we learned that it was an unnecessary luxury on a short cruise. By contrast, we’ve heard that a verandah is pretty much a must-do on an Alaskan cruise, due to the view of whales it might offer.


Some guests are likely to balk at the cost of Palo, wondering why they should pay extra for a meal when their normal rotational dining is “free.” Well, again, those meals aren’t free, they’re built into the cost of the cruise. Instead of looking at those as free and Palo as $25 per person, look at Palo as costing about 2% the total of your cruise (give or take depending upon the cruise’s actual cost). For a 2% increase in cost, does it not make sense to upgrade to a superb fine dining experience?!

We have a full Palo Dinner Review you can read if you need further convincing, but suffice to say, we fully believe that Palo is well worth the additional cost and highly recommend it for any couple looking for a romantic meal or foodies wanting a fine dining experience. The incredible service, atmosphere, and cuisine are all virtually unparalleled, and we now cannot imagine doing Disney Cruise Line without a meal at Palo.


If you look at reviews of the nightly shows, they vary widely. On the Disney Magic, Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story, Villains Tonight!, and Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic.  Twice Charmed is very good, Villains Tonight! is a mess, and Disney Dreams is excellent. If you look around the internet, you’ll find reviews even more all-over-the-place than. 

The point is, it seems that no one can agree on which of these shows is awful, good, or great, and the only one who can determine whether you will like the shows is you. That requires you going to see the shows. Besides, if you’re going on a Disney cruise, you really ought to see the Disney entertainment on that cruise. The good news is that, regardless of what you think of the story of the show, production values and acting are top notch in all of the shows.


If you’re like me and think your main option for entertainment on a cruise is lying around reading a book (more like falling asleep with a book on your face), boy, are you wrong! There are multiple, simultaneous options pretty much all day long. Granted, not everything is going to appeal to everyone, but you’ll probably never be wanting for anything to do while you’re on the cruise.

You’re provided a Personal Navigator each day with the schedule of events on it, but we recommend downloading the Personal Navigator App and using that. Even though you can’t use yourvphones on the cruise, youstill should’ve carry  them for the clock (who wears watches these days?!) and other apps. Of course, if you’re going to be in the pools a lot, maybe carrying around your phone isn’t such a good idea.


The Disney Cruise Line ships are seriously beautiful. Seriously. Each of the ships has its own distinct features and design, but they’re all basically modern luxury ocean liners in the style of Art Deco or Art Nouveau. The details are stunning, from gorgeous chandeliers to handrails, the design of these ships is very thoughtful and meticulous.

If you’re a fan of these styles of architecture or themed design, take some time to explore the ship. Go in the movie theater when it’s not in use, wander around the main lobby, stare at that handmade chandelier. A big draw of Disney is in the parks’ highly immersive environments, and while Disney Cruise Line doesn’t isn’t necessarily thematically transportive (although it is literally transportive), the ship itself does make you feel a bit like you’re aboard a ship during the golden age of cruise ships.


This is one of those seemingly obvious ones, but it’s clearly not that obvious given that the ship is particularly deserted in the early morning hours. I know I often harp on being up for the sunrise, and I realize people take cruises on vacation, but get up for the sunrise at least one morning!

There are very few people around, and seeing the sunrise on the open water is really a sight to behold. You can see and do a lot without worrying about other people in the early morning, so why not get up early during your day at sea, and go back to your stateroom in the middle of the day to take a nap?

Ok those are the tips!!