Recently I posted the top reasons why I loved taking a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic in October. I got a lot of responses from readers and friends who want to experience the same magical moments and have booked a Disney cruise after the new year, but now want tips about what to bring!
Hopefully after reading my list (and because of the great specials they are running right now like kids sail free) you are inspired to take a Disney cruise with your family soon as well.
If so, then you’re likely to have several questions about what to pack and how to prepare for a magical experience at sea. Below are some of the things I’m glad a friend told me (or I wish I had known before boarding). I truly believe you could show up on board with only a toothbrush and a bathing suit and have a spectacular time; however, there are some things that made our trip even better. Here’s the skinny!
Note: these tips were compiled from our experience aboard The Disney Magic to the Western Caribbean which is currently running out of the Port of Galveston; however, I believe most (if not all) could apply to any of Disney’s four ships and their many destinations.
- Bring an underwater camera- We used a disposable camera for our port excursions at the beach and snorkeling and were so glad to have it. Even if you don’t take it in the water with you, you’ll be happy that you didn’t bring along your expensive camera because it could get wet, lost or stolen while you are enjoying the different activities off the ship.
- Pillowcase for character signings- This is a great inexpensive yet memorable souvenir for the little ones. Buy and bring pillowcases for your kids. You can have them monogrammed or embroidered with the trip date or child’s name or they can just be plain. Drop the pillowcase off at guest services the first or second day of your cruise along with sharpies (just black or several colors) and they will get the characters to sign them and then deliver to your stateroom by the end of the cruise. How cool is that?!!! When your kids get home they can rest their heads on their signed pillowcases and have sweet dreams about their magical Disney cruise!
- Trading pins- If you have been to a Disney park, you probably know about this popular activity that they also do on the Disney cruises. People buy different Disney lanyards and get Disney themed pins to put on them and then they trade pins with other guests and Disney employees. On the cruise, they had a Captain’s pin trading event and my kids really wanted to participate; however, we hadn’t brought anything with us. So we purchased a new lanyard and several pins at the gift shop on board. This can be a pretty pricey way to do it if you are just starting out because pins typically start at $9.95 each (although they did have some starter kits and pin sets that were a bit less expensive). I recommend you go online (ebay has them for sale in big lots for less than $1.00 a pin!) and put something together to bring with you. This could be a great way to tell your kids about the adventure they will be taking…present them with their “starter” trading pin collection! *Worth the spurge – a special Disney cruise pin you can ONLY get on board – don’t let your kids trade this one!
- Special events on board- Every day you’ll get a new “Navigator” delivered to your room with the next day’s activities listed. Almost everything is open for everyone but there was one event, Tea With Alice, that you had to RSVP ahead of time for as space was limited. When we learned about the event we went to guest services to sign up, but it already had a waiting list. We ended up getting in (YAY!) but I recommend that when you visit guest services the first day to give them your pillowcase, ask them about special events and sign up right away.
- Book port excursions through Disney – There are many different excursions you can select from in each port and sign up for through Disney. While you can hold off and sign up on board OR go about it by yourself and find an excursion on your own ahead of time or when you get to each port, I highly recommend that you book it through Disney ahead of time. Here’s why. 1. Many of the popular excursions will fill up quickly 2. If you book your excursion through Disney, they’ll refund your money if your visit to the port or that specific excursion cancels due to weather (we had two of ours cancel because of a tropical storm) 3. The crew knows who is going on an excursion booked through them and will make sure you are back on board. *Be looking for a review of the port excursions we did in Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Costa Maya in a separate post soon!
- Dress up for formal night…it’s worth it. – My family is very casual and it took some creativity to get us all formal outfits for formal and semi-formal dining nights on board. We borrowed some ties, belts and jackets, we got one of Annie’s dresses at a second-hand shop and we splurged on a couple new items to get us spiffied up! We joked about the hassle (and how funny it was that we mainly just have shorts, t shirts and flip flops in our closets – but hey, we live in Houston and my husband and I both work from home so we don’t get gussied up very often!) But that made it all the more special when we did. Seeing us all dressed up made my heart happy and it made my list of top ten moments! (And we have a Christmas card picture…bonus!)
- Bring your work-out gear. What?! I’m supposed to be on vacation, right? Well, I threw my running gear in the suitcase anyway and I’m so glad I did. I ate a lot of great food (including decadent desserts!) during the week and I felt a little less guilty because I worked out each morning. But really, working out in the exercise room was a lot of fun (the treadmills look out over the ocean!) and watching the sunrise on deck 4 while I ran first thing in the morning made my list of top ten moments. You never know what will turn out to be the highlight of your trip!
- Bring a highlighter (for your daily itinerary), tape (to hang things your kids make in kid’s club on door) and plastic ziplocks(for keeping track of small stuff you collect while on vacation.) Again, I’m on vacation! Why am I packing a mini office?! If you like to stay organized, the highlighter is important! You have so many activities to pick from, I would highlight those we absolutely didn’t want to miss on the daily navigator each day. We wish we had packed tape. The kids made a lot of cute art in the kid’s clubs and it would have been perfect to have been able to put them on our stateroom door. Many people actually bring decorations WITH them to put on their door and I would have made two black circles with each of the kid’s names on them to make Mickey Mouse ears on the front door had I known (the stateroom number is the perfect Mickey head shape!). Taping up their art throughout the week would have been so cool and would have helped kept the stateroom more organized as well! We used ziplocks to bring home some beach sand (I’m making a Christmas ornament with it!) and other small souvenirs that could get lost.
- Pack Costumes/Outfits for special theme nights like Pirates In The Caribbean. – We went on our cruise right before Halloween, so they had a costume party one night. They also had Pirates In The Caribbean night where everyone dressed up like pirates (even grown-ups ya’ll!) And if you have a little girl, princesses costumes are a must for character encounters (I love the pictures of Annie dressed up as Jasmine with all the princesses!) and just about any day on the ship. It’s super fun to participate in these dress-up moments…you’ll be glad you brought the costumes along – even if it’s just an eye patch and bandanna!
- Don’t skip the evening shows – You’re likely to be extremely tired by the end of the day but if you can make it, the Broadway-style Disney shows are so worth staying up for. Give little ones a nap earlier in the day or have everyone take a mid-day rest so you can see for yourself why shows like Twice-Charmed, Villains Tonight and Dreams – An Enchanted Classic are so awesome (fireworks on stage? yup – that just happened!) The actors are extremely talented, the sets and costumes are beautiful and the music is…well – don’t be surprised if you start singing along.