Your trip has been paid for, excursions have been booked and adult dining reservations have been made. Your kids have been asking at least twice a day when you leave for the cruise and you have been keeping yourself up at night worrying about what you need to pack. So what exactly do you need to know before you wake up and head to the port?
First and foremost, and likely the most obvious, is that you will need passports or certified birth certificates for everyone boarding the ship. Passports are recommended because if something was to happen while in port and you would need to return home immediately, you will have a very difficult time getting through airport security. However, if you have to travel with a birth certificate, it must be a certified copy with raised seal…do not attempt to bring a copy of your birth certificate if you really want to get on the ship. Also be sure to have your cruise documents including the cruise contract which you will need to print out after completing your online check-in and have everyone in your cabin sign it before getting to the port. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff. **Warning: you will need to consider how you are getting to the port when thinking about the following information as airline baggage fees can add up. **
One of the many Disney differences when comparing to other cruise lines is that Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) will allow you to carry on both bottled water and alcoholic beverages. At the time of this writing, DCL does not have a limit to the amount of either you can bring onboard as long as it fits in your carry-on luggage and an adult is actually carrying it on (which means no using your kids as beverage mules). If you do bring on your own alcohol, you may be charged a corking fee of $20 if you bring the bottles into a dining room. Disney does note that alcoholic beverages that are brought onboard should not be consumed in public areas or lounges although I have not had a problem sharing a bottle of wine with my husband on deck or sitting in many of the areas around the ship, such as the lobby, while waiting for an event to begin.
Another area that is, as far as I am aware, uniquely Disney is cabin door decorations. Because DCL cabin doors are metal, they are a perfect blank canvas just waiting to be covered in magnetic masterpieces. If you are a Facebook user, one of the best places to get ideas and actual designs for your doors is the group, Graphics for All Lovers of Disney. In their many folders, individual artists have created graphics that they will customize for your family for free!! You simply make your request, following the instructions in the design folder you are interested in (because this is a collection of artists, they do operate differently) and within a week or less you will receive a message that your custom design is ready. Once completed you will be able to print your design at home and create a magnet using pre-adhesive magnet paper that can be found in any hobby/craft store. Keep in mind, this site is addictive and if packing wasn’t keeping you up at night, this site certainly may.
Speaking of packing, exactly what do you need for your cruise? The answer to this question depends a lot on your ports of call so for the sake of this blog, I am going to limit it to the things you will need on most any cruise.
Clothing: Bathing suits and flip flops for the pool deck (add water shoes for excursions), casual wear for onboard daytime events and collared shirts and dress shorts or slacks when dining in any of the 3 main dining rooms. No cut-offs or tank tops are allowed in the main dining rooms. If you are dining at Palo, dress pants and a button down for men and a sundress for women is the recommended minimum dress requirements. For a cruise less than 5 nights you will need to plan for one semi-formal evening and for cruises longer than 5 nights, plan for one semi-formal and one formal night. The term “formal” is up for interpretation on a Disney cruise. You will see everything from tuxedos to the same thing you see on any other night of the cruise so I recommend whatever you and your family is comfortable in. I personally love dressing up and formal nights are my perfect excuse. My family on the other hand, not so much, so typically my daughter and I are dressed to the 9’s and my husband and son are in slacks and a collared shirt. What we all agree on however is dressing up for Pirate night. Every cruise, regardless of length, as a Pirate night and most often it will be listed on your Cruise Activities page online. Dinner is pirate themed, the wait staff and crew will be decked out in their swashbuckling best and if you are lucky you may meet a pirate or two as Captain Hook and Captain Jack Sparrow have been known to make an appearance. If your family isn’t the costume kind, there are lots of fun matching family t-shirts that can be made in advance of your trip. A great place to find them is www.etsy.com and www.ebay.com.
Everything else: Disney has a great line of toiletries that your cabin steward will keep stocked in your cabin, but if you have a preference, bring your own. Also bring lots of sunscreen, any necessary medication as well as emergency medication if someone gets sick. I like to bring acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aloe vera and cold medications. If anyone is prone to motion sickness you may also want to pick up some Sea Bands or seasickness medication. These medications are available onboard but at a much higher price. For purchases I recommend credit cards or traveler’s checks. There is no need for cash onboard as all charges can be made directly to your onboard account and gratuities should have been prepaid. While in port credit card purchases will be adjusted to the appropriate conversion rate and, if stolen, can be easily cancelled.
Finally, once you have determined what to bring and wear, finalize your travel arrangements. If you are driving to the port, identify a place to park in advance. Typically you will be able to get a discount if you reserve your spot in advance. Don’t forget to arrange for someone to pick up your mail or schedule a hold with your local post office and let you neighbors know you will be away so that they can be alert for any suspicious activity around your home. Before you know it, you will be arriving at the port to board your ship which we will cover in Part 4: Embarkation.