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Disney Dream Cruise: First-Timer Tips to Make The Most Of Your Sailing Experience! #travel

The Disney Dream ported at Castaway Cay.

Disney Dream Cruise First-Timer Tips

In September we sailed away on one of Disney’s newest ships, the Disney Dream. It was our first cruise on any of their ships and while we made sure to do our research before embarkation, there’s nothing like actually experiencing it when you get there. After having sailed, I feel that our next cruise will be even more of a breeze!

A Few Must Things to Pack:
  • Bathing suits.
  • Water shoes.
  • Dressy clothes for adult dining.
  • Golf or Hawaiian shirts for dinner. (For Men)
  • Dress or more dressy clothes for dinner. (For Women)
  • Costumes. Pirate or Princess for Pirate Night.

The Disney Dream is absolutely beautiful, it is well-maintained, perfectly decorated and has superb service. I’ll share the beauty and fun and give you some tips that we learned on the way! Your adventure begins far before you reach the ship and you can plan it all online. You can also get a DVD to help plan your cruise, here.

A little girl stands in the Disney Dream and holds her hands up in the air. The lobby is visible in the background.

The Lingo

A few things, to begin with, are the terms you will hear on a regular basis throughout your cruise. Embarkation is when you first board the ship at the beginning of your cruise. Debarkation is when you get off of the ship at the end of your cruise. It’s also good to know what part of the ship you are going to be staying at and learning the terms. This makes it easier to navigate and not get lost.

Port is the left side of the ship when you face forward, Starboard is the opposite and is right when you face forward. Aft is the back of the ship and forward is, well, forward.

Also, when you port at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay–make sure you refer to it as Castaway KEY. That is how it is pronounced. Don’t ask me why but, that’s how it is!

A look of the lobby inside the Disney Cruise, decked out in Halloween decorations.

Rock the Boat

If you’re worried that you’ll have to hold on to stay aboard the ship, you don’t have to worry about that at all.  You may think it’s funny but, I thought we would be rocking. As soon as you embark, you’re greeted by Disney Cruise Cast Members and they will announce your family via microphone as you walk in.

TIP: Prior to boarding, make sure to check out the Port Canaveral terminal. There are character photo ops and cool Disney Cruise Ships replicas.

It feels like a hotel resort and you don’t feel like you’re on a boat. Embarkation begins around noon and it’s best to try to get on earlier as it’s less busy! You can pick your embarkation time when you do your online check-in, so try getting the earliest. If you’re a part of the Castaway Club, you’ll get first dibs. After your first sail, you become a member.

Two girls and her dad pose inside the pool on the Disney Dream.

Prepare Ahead

You can board and head right to lunch, most people do. But, if you arrive early you can take advantage of the pools. After that, you can head up to Cabanas for a buffet lunch and then wait until your room is ready. Your bags will be waiting for you at the front of your room so. Make sure you head up as soon as it’s ready so that you can put your belongings away.

TIP: Make sure to wear your bathing suit underneath your clothes since you won’t have your bags and your room will most likely not be ready when you embark. Head to the pool, ride the Aquaduck (transparent tube waterslide that goes around the ship) or grab some lunch before the crowds come.

We grabbed some lunch, went to our room, safety drill then we did some swimming!

Disney Cruise Sailing Away Party about to start.

Safety First

Around 4:00 PM, you have to attend a mandatory drill for safety. They show you how to properly use a life jacket (you don’t have to bring them with you) and where to go in case of an emergency. It’s only about 25-30 minutes. After that, you’re free to go to the Sailing Away party. Be ready to dance, see characters and have fun!

TIP: Shut your phone off completely while at sea. Unless you have International roaming, you don’t want to get those insane fees.

If you need to stay connected, Disney provides Wave Phones. You can use this to stay in contact with other people in your party. Plus, Disney Cast Members use it to get a hold of parents with kids in the Kids Clubs or Teens/Tweens Clubs.

If you need to check your emails or get online you can purchase WiFi time. I believe at this moment (it can always change), it cost us $40 for 100 minutes. It was worth it for us and we had some minutes to kill by the last night.

The girls stand on a staircase aboard the Disney Dream with their dad. A collage of the girls and their dad enjoying the Sail Away party. A little girl dances with her dad at Disney Dream Sail Away party.

Sailing Away

The Sailing Away party was awesome! If you don’t know, Disney Cruises only take credit as currency on board. Meaning that everything is charged to your room. Your room is tied to your credit card. You don’t have to cover that balance by credit if you don’t want to though. Before the end of your cruise, you can head over to Guest Relations and tell them you’d like to cover your balance in cash.

TIP: Come early to get a good spot on the deck. If you’re not into the whole dancing thing, go on the upper deck to get a great view.

They had drinks available during the party. Mickey and the gang came out and all the Cast Members were bustin’ a move. We sailed away and ended it with a burst of confetti. It truly is a celebration. One of those magical Disney moments. The ship begins to move and you can barely feel it. This is where I confirmed what I already knew, I do not get seasick!

Disney-Dream-57 A collage of the girls enjoying dinner aboard the Disney Dream cruise.

Bring Your Appetite

I think one of the best parts about cruising to the Bahamas besides the white sands, and clear blue waters is the food. There’s never a shortage of food. By checking your daily Navigator, you’ll be able to know where to go if you’re hungry. For lunch and breakfast, there’s always a couple of restaurants open for a sit-down breakfast or lunch. You just need to check your Navigator for availability. Cabanas is usually open and it’s a buffet-style.

TIP: Pay your gratuities before you get on the ship. That way, you can just give your servers and attendants their tips on the last night. Disney will print it out for you and have envelopes.

Also, room service is available until 1 AM and mostly everything is free. Alcoholic beverages and sodas are charged. You can order sandwiches, basic soups, select salads, a cheese plate, a fruit bowl, wings, burgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and pizza! The girls especially loved ordering cookies and milk at any given time. There is no charge besides a tip.

You can also get ice cream, milk, juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, lemonade, and soft drinks for free at all times. Grab these at the self-serving station at the main deck by the family pool.

TIP: Order room service and ask for the “Dessert or Cake of the Day” or opt for cookies and milk. The kids will LOVE IT!

Your seating rotation depends on when you’ve chosen it. There’s first seating and second seating. We opted for the second seating and it worked for us. I know the popular choice is first seating. You get the same two servers throughout your cruise. Ours were magnificent and our kids still talk about them until this day. I hope one day to run into them again on our Disney Cruise adventures. (Update: We did twice on our cruises after this one.)

The pool, slides, and Nemo's Reef are shown.

Family Fun

One of the coolest things on the ship is the AquaDuck. The clear and transparent water coaster that will give you a nice tour around the ship and of the port. We decided to take advantage of no lines after arrival at the port. We got to ride the AquaDuck tons!

Also, make sure to ride it at night as the strobe lights are awesome and it’s a crazy experience! There’s also Nemo’s Reef for the wee ones that aren’t potty trained. The family pool only allows kids out of diapers. Either way, it’s a fun little place to get wet and have some fun.

There is an adult-only pool that is blocked off and separate from the family pools. There’s also a bar and showers available there.

Kids dance with Snow White and dwarves on stage aboard the Disney Dream.

Live Entertainment

Every night there is a live show that will blow you away. In true Disney standard, you will not be disappointed. Showtimes start at 8 PM with second seating and earlier for first seating dinner times. The shows are The Golden Mickey’s, Villains Tonight and Disney’s Believe.

TIP: Arrive 30 minutes prior to showtime to begin lining up, it gets packed!

Gabby got selected out of the crowd to be an honorary dwarf at The Golden Mickey’s. In true Disney fashion, she got to meet Snow White and Dopey. A certificate commemorating her participation was delivered to our room. A nice little memento that she can treasure forever. Our favorite show was Villians Tonight. It had our favorite villains doing comedy. It can be a bit scary for wee ones but, once the jokes start coming–they’re hooked!

The girls and their dad enjoy the beach at Atlantis.

Make the Most of Your Ports

If you haven’t booked your excursions online prior to boarding, you can do it on board! There’s plenty to do such as dolphin, sea lions, and manta ray experiences. You can also book jet skiing, snorkeling and so much more!

We decided to spend the day in the Bahamas at the renowned Atlantis resort. The day was spent soaking in the sun, eating great food and riding the waves. Plus, we had access to their Aquarium.

The Atlantis Resort was absolutely beautiful. Since our kids were still too young to do most excursions, this one was a great fit. We also did some shopping at the Bahamian port and picked up some really cool souvenirs.

A collage of Castaway Cay and the girls posing with Daisy and Goofy.

Meet Your Favorite Disney Characters

When you port at Castaway Cay, on your way towards the beaches, you will find a few characters along your way. There are plenty of photo opportunities. Bring your smile and autograph book!

There is a family beach, a private beach for adults only, a tween/teen area and a splash pad. You also eat a delicious BBQ-style lunch when you’re ready. The beach itself is calmer, no waves and there’s plenty to do such as stingray adventures, water skiing, para-sailing and more.

Check out how you can make the most of your day at Castaway Cay! If you’re going without the kids, you can read how we enjoyed our time at Serenity Bay at Castaway Cay.

TIP: Check your Navigator for times where you can see your favorite characters on board and off the ship. They are scheduled throughout the day, arrive early –the lines get long! Some people suggest to bring a pillowcase and put it in a Ziploc bag marked with your room number and drop it off at Guest Relations for the Princesses to sign or Mickey and Friends. You’ll get it back on the last day of your cruise.

I didn’t personally try this but, I thought it was neat when it was suggested to me and may do it next time.

The girls pose with Captain Mickey.

Smooth Sailing

These are just a few tips to make your cruise a breeze! A few things to remember is that pre-planning helps tons. You can do most of it online. We didn’t get the chance to take advantage of the kids clubs or the adult-only areas but, that will be for another adventure. On another cruise, we sure did discover why a Disney Cruise for adults is the perfect getaway.

We did watch the movie Planes in Disney’s HUGE movie theatre. This was AWESOME as it was still in theatres when they showed it.

TIP: If you’re going to have some adult time, there’s one peculiar thing about Disney. They allow you to bring your own alcoholic beverages onto the ship. Bottles must be sealed and they must be in your carry-on luggage. So, bring on the wine!

We had an absolutely amazing time and we are already looking into our next cruise. If you know me, you know we love Disney. Though I have to say this was our most relaxing and enjoyable Disney experience yet. No rushing, no excessive walking, just pure and utter bliss topped off with Bahamian breezes.

I didn’t need a vacation after this vacation.

If being out in the open seas is not your jam, read my tips on how you can plan your trip to Disney World like a pro. Plus, I’m a big believer of Disney packages and totally think they are worth it.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.
Have you ever been on a Disney Cruise?

Let me know, til then–cheers m’deres!






We sailed away on Disney's newest ship, the Disney Dream. Read these Disney Cruise TIPS to make your sailing a breeze! Great for first-time sailers. #DisneyDream #DisneyCruise #DisneyCruiseTips #DisneySMMC

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  1. We're planning a Disney Dream cruise sometime in the next year or two, so I appreciate the tips. Especially the one about the Port Canaveral photo ops – I had no idea!

  2. Wow, wow, wow, what a wonderful post Nancy!! I don't think you left any stone unturned, LOL. Your photos are beautiful and it is so evident how much fun you had. A Disney cruise is on our family's bucket list for someday… Sigh….


  3. this looks amazing, I'm totally shocked that they allow you to bring alcohol on board! that's awesome! Did you find that the ship was crowded? I noticed you mentioned a few times about arriving early and long lines. are most things and areas really busy with lots of people?

    1. To be honest, I found it packed only when we boarded and during debarkation. The character lines got long but, nothing compared to what you wait outside in the park. It gets busy for the evening shows but, there\’s plenty of room in the theatres but, if you like close seats, you have to arrive early. Other than that the ship is HUGE. You don\’t feel crowded since there\’s so much ship. Only places that get busy are high traffic areas like the buffet and pools. Main deck is always busy. But, that\’s what I loved about this, Disney experience without the walking, HUGE lines and rush. It was chill.

  4. OMG! That looks so amazing! What a dream come true! I haven't been on a cruise before and I haven't been to Disney since I was 8! Both dreams I hope to achieve one day!

  5. 1. Oh GOSH your family is SO adorable hun! <3 They are simply too cute in this post, LOL!
    2. I *really* need to take a cruise somewhere. And that Disney boat looks *amazing*. Love the Hallowe'en decor, so awesome. 😀

  6. Looks like a fantastic time was had by all–haven't had the opportunity to go on a Disney cruise as yet—but its on the list!!

  7. Disney Fantasy is the newest ship. Disney Dream entered service on January 26, 2011. Disney Fantasy started sailing March 31, 2012 😉
    I've cruised on the Disney Magic, these two are on my list for sure. Just got an update from my travel agent at Fairytale Dreams and Destinations that early 2015 cruises are being released for pricing and booking tomorrow!

  8. I love Disney and want so much to take my grandson to Disney World, but this looks like a great alternative. We've never been on a cruise, this looks amazing!

    1. OMG, he\’d love it. It\’s all the Disney experience at a fraction of the cost. 🙂 Though on value times you can get a good deal at Disney World too. 🙂

  9. What a blast! I got excited just seeing the list of things to pack – that feeling of "Let's go!!!" hits 'ya!!! I love that Castaway Cay – what a wonderful trip for both kids and parents – fun, fun, fun!!!!

  10. You took such beautiful photos!! It sure doesn't hurt that you have such a family 🙂 It looks like you had a lovely time.

    1. Thanks Victoria! 🙂 You\’re too sweet. The pictures speak for themselves, it\’s that beautiful. I just snapped.

    1. Hi there Julie, with that statement. As a passenger on the Disney Cruises, you have the option to choose to pay your gratuities prior to embarking (getting on the ship) and not having to worry about paying them when you are on the ship. Everything on the boat is charged to your card/room. Also, all meals are included except gratuities. I paid my gratuities online and on the last night, Disney printed out the amounts on tickets with our 2 servers, our room attendant and manager\’s names on them so that we can hand the envelope with their tips inside. If you choose not to pay prior, you can always charge it to your card and take care of it before disembarkation.

  11. What a great post. We're going on the Eastern Caribbean in April and am so excited. Found your post via a google search. You mentioned that you had second dinner seating. How was that? We're coming from California, so figured that the time difference would put dinner at our usual time. Did you guys like having the late dinner, or was it too late? Thanks!

    1. It was at 5:30 and it was perfect for us. We would finish around 7-7:30 and then we would relax for an hour before the live show. 🙂 It worked for us. It was not too late at all.

  12. Thank you for this awesome tips! We are going for the first time also this summer.
    When I booked, I only got the second dinner seating choice. I read the time for the 2nd seating will be at 8:15 pm You mentioned that shows begin at 8 pm? Will we be able to see the show? Please advice. thanks!

    1. When we were there, we chose the early seating so we can watch the show. I believe that you they have an early show though.

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