Everything you want to know about planning your FIRST Disney Cruise Line vacay!
My Top 5 things to think about when booking with DCL
Honestly guys, in the past 4 years, we have started to become one of “those” families. You know the kind. They wear Ears on vacation, they do extensive research on park peak times, base all customer service interactions off of the standards of the “Mouse”, and really see the value in vacations that put families first.
In 2016, my husband was getting ready to live away from our family for a year as part of his training with the Canadian military, so we decided to surprise our girls, who were almost 4 & 6 at the time, with a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. We had the BEST time! It was a sneak peek into what some of our best memories would look like in the years to come.
After my hubby’s year long stint in Alaska, we moved to Southern California, and only a 3 hour drive to Disneyland! Since our move we have been to Disneyland numerous times, Disneyland Paris for 5 days and we just came back from our FIRST every cruise and of course, we chose Disney Cruise Lines!
I have spent countless hours over the last year and a half researching, planning, asking questions, gathering intel and making choices about how to make our cruise perfect. And you wanna know what? The damn vacation was just that! It was as close to PERFECT as I think we can get.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few “lessons learned” along the way but we truly had a spectacular week that was both relaxing and full of fun!
My Number 1 first time Disney Cruisers tip would be to put down the Google machine for a minute to really map out, and decide clearly, what you and your family want to get out of your cruise. Think about where you want to cruise from, and where you want to cruise to…Mexican Riviera, Caribbean, Europe?! Set your budget, and check to see if there are any promos/deals offered you can cash in on. For instance, when we booked our cruise, there was a 50% off your deposit offer so we jumped on it! There may also be discounts depending like if you are Canadian, active duty US Military, or if you are looking at travel dates during a slower vacation time versus a holiday timeline. Also think about what size ship you might feel most comfortable on and the types of port excursions you are interested in. I say dream big, and then see what you can make happen!
Also, in this pre booking phase I would ask the “experts” all the questions. Do you know anyone who has sailed on Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) recently? Do you follow any frequent DCL cruisers on social media (if not you should!)? Have you looked on Pinterest? Are you still looking on Pinterest?! Ha!Ha! There are endless Pins about DCL dos and don’ts so this can be both helpful and overwhelming.
One of the biggest untapped resources in the planning phase, in my opinion, is Disney Cruise Line Customer Service! And, that’s is actually my number 2, first time tip! Don’t hesitate to call or use the online Chat feature to speak with a DCL rep to talk about any questions or concerns you may have about cruising! In my experience, Disney customer Service is bar none, so this may be your best starting point for current and factual information. Frequent cruisers may talk about Customer Service “secret keeping” but at this point you are just trying to decide on whether or not to book, not in the weeds of planning things like, what movies are playing on board.
So, now that you have all of the information you needed to make the decision on which cruise to book, and you have booked the itinerary that speaks best to you and your family, the fun REALLY begins! Before I jump into my 3rd tip, you MUST download the Disney Cruise Line app, plug in your sail away date and start your countdown! Ours started at over 400 days when we booked, but it was AMAZING to watch our countdown during our planning!
So, my first timer tip Number 3 is, get on social media and find the Facebook group for your Cruise date! No, this is not officially endorsed by DCL however I feel 100% confident that you have read, during your initial research, about these Facebook Groups and the, ever so popular, Fish Extenders. Whats the big deal in joining a Facebook group 400+ days before you even sail you ask?! Well, let me tell you why?! It is like having a group of Disney pros helping you navigate the more delicate details of your cruise experience, like how to do online check in, what sail away day will look like, why they ONLY sail DCL, the ups and downs of cruise life, and a MILLION other things you didn’t even know you wanted to know! And the best part, you get to make friends along the way!
The absolute BEST part of my DCL Facebook page, even more than all of the extremely helpful information, was that we actually connected there with another family who live fairly close to us and we now have friends for life! Our kids are similar ages, we have a million things in common, we had familiar faces on a cruise that held 2500 vacationers, and now we have these beautiful cruise memories that will last a lifetime! We even spent a part of our “pre-vacay” vacay together near the port! How cool is that?!
I bet you’re thinking, ok now that I have paid all this money for this cruise, what is actually included?! First timer tip Number 4: know whats included with your vacation! Disney prides itself on having many of the amenities, that you think you may need to pack, ready for you on board! Additionally, It is one of the only cruise lines that has life jackets for kids! All you can enjoy soft drinks, coffee, tea and hot chocolate & soft serve ice cream, many quick service and snack stations, an included room service menu, Disney Character Meet & Greets and amazing Entertainment including live Broadway-style productions and Disney movie classics and current first-run films at the Buena Vista Theatre! But wait, here is the BEST PART! For children ages 3 and up, their amazing kids clubs are available at NO EXTRA COST!
Lastly, my Number 5 first time DCL Cruise tip is to be prepared to have your expectations matched and exceeded! Our family had read all the Pinterest info we could find. We watched more YouTube tours of the ship and reviews of the restaurants than I can count. We talked to tons of people about what to expect and how to best prepare. I was honestly worried we would feel underwhelmed or that the Cruise would under deliver but that was far from the truth.
From the familial feel of the staff during our rotational dining, and the motherly attention from our cabin attendant, Dolly, to the high level customer service and the fact that this vacation allowed us to have quality family time as well as time doing our own things, like Kids Club and Adults only Cove Cafe, it was the trip of a LIFETIME! We were already planning out next DCL Cruise before we even got off of the ship!
Over the next little while, I will be blogging about all aspects of our Disney Family adventures both on the Cruise Line and at Disney Parks! For now, check out a few of the photo highlights from our time on the Disney Wonder!