14 Tips for a Magical Disney Cruise

Last summer we had the absolute pleasure of taking a magical cruise on the Disney Wonder to Alaska. It was my second cruise and my children’s first. Of course we are die-hard Disney fans, so this cruise was just perfect for us.

There are so many things that make Disney, “Disney,” and a Disney Cruise is no different. There are special magical touches everywhere you look. There are also tons of ways to make your vacation even more special that you may not know about. Even though our cruise went to Alaska, these tips are relevant for any Disney Cruise. Here are 14 tips for making the most of your Disney Cruise.

14 Tips for a Magical Disney Cruise to Alaska

1. Stay a night or two in your port city.

Unless the port where your ship docks is close to home, consider adding a couple of days either before or after your cruise to explore the port city. We stayed in Vancouver two nights before and two nights after our cruise. It’s a fun way to extend your trip and view some sites you may not have seen otherwise.

Vancouver vacation
Downtown Vancouver

Plus, it keeps you from having to run to or from the ship to the airport, which can be difficult if you’re traveling with  young kids and a bunch of luggage, especially if your flight is delayed. Flights get delayed but the ship typically can’t wait.

Vancouver Park Vacation
A gorgeous garden located in Stanley Park in Vancouver
Vancouver vacation children's museum visit
Visiting the Vancouver Children’s Science Center

2. Book character meet and greets in advance.

There are lots of opportunities for character meet and greets aboard your cruise, and these visits are so much better than the quick pic snaps you get at the resort parks. Characters take a few moments to talk to your children, allowing you to take a bunch of photos while the cast members snap some photos as well. You can book these meet and greets as soon as you board the ship at the Guest Services counter. Plan to do this as soon as possible, as the times do fill up. Don’t forget to bring your princess dresses or other character costumes. The characters definitely do a little gushing over these outfits! You can buy them on board, but picking them up at the Disney Store or even ebay can save a ton of money!

We had two separate meet and greets – one with the princesses (we saw Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle and Cinderella) and a second, separate meet with Elsa, Anna and Olaf.

Character Meet and Greets Aboard the Disney Wonder Cruise to Alaska

There are lots of other character meet and greets daily. You’ll find them listed in the daily Personal Navigator delivered to your stateroom each night. Some require tickets (similar to a fastpass at Disneyland) and some just pop up around the ship. We were taking a break and enjoying the view one afternoon and happened upon Tinkerbell.

Tinkerbell meet and greet

3. Plan to enjoy a character breakfast.

When anyone asks me what are the best things to do when visiting a Disney park for the first time, I always recommend a character breakfast. Character breakfasts aboard Disney Cruise Line are similar to those you can enjoy in the Disney parks. You get to enjoy a great meal (Mickey waffles anyone??), but best of all you get some quality one-on-one time with some classic Disney characters. We got to visit with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto, and they spent a lot of time at our table playing with the kids (and the grown-ups).

Disney Cruise Line Character Breakfast 2

Disney Cruise Line Character Breakfast

4. Plan around your children.

There is so much to do on a cruise, between the shows, the activities and the excursions, but if you know your little one has a difficult time deterring from his or her schedule, don’t force it. I decided on an early dinner time because I know my son has to go to sleep by a certain time. He won’t sleep past 6:30 a.m. if you pay him, regardless of when he goes to sleep. So that’s what worked for us. Just be sure to think about your kids specific needs and personalities when planning your day.

5. Reserve excursions in advance.

You can book or change excursions on board the ship, space permitting, but if you have something that you really want to do, make sure to reserve it in advance. Also, don’t be afraid to split up. I took my son on a rainforest and whale watching excursion and it was fun to do something that was just us.

We enjoyed each of our excursions

Alaska Whales & Rainforest Trails and Alaska Whales & Wildlife

Disney Cruise Line Whale

White Pass Railway & Trail Camp in Skagway, AK

Skagway Alaska Whitepass Railway

Skagway Alaska Whitepass Railroad

Bear Country & Wildlife Expedition in Ketchikan, AK

Disney Cruise Line Ketchikan Bear and Wildlife Excursion

Disney Cruise Line Ketchikan Bear

6. Take a self guided tour of the ship.

As soon as you can, take a tour of the ship. You’ll want to get yourself acclemated to your surroundings, since you’re going to be there a while. This is also a good time to show kids where the elevators are, and of course, the free soft-serve ice cream station! Be sure to also download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app to your smartphone BEFORE boarding the ship. This will have maps, as well as shows, meet and greets, restaurants and daily menus.

Self Serve Ice Cream Station on the Disney Wonder. Photo from The Kitchen Magpie.


7. Try everything.

One of the best experiences on a cruise is getting to try new foods, or enjoy foods you wouldn’t typically order at home. Both of my kids were adventurous, trying new things like polenta and elk, among other things. If you want to try both entrees, go for it! Want all three desserts, no problem! The dining room cast members are extremely accommodating when it comes to bringing your food just how you like it and after the first night or two they even bring it before you ask!

Disney Cruise Line Food

Disney Cruise Line dessert

8. Decorate your door.

This is something I didn’t know about until we were on the cruise, but my mom had planned for it and had cute little signs with our names on them. Some people really went all out decorating their doors with photos, birthday and anniversary signs and even dry erase boards for leaving messages. You never know who you’ll get a message from!

Disney Cruise Line Door decorating

Disney Cruise Line Door decorating 2

9. If you’re not a DSLR camera owner, consider renting one. And if you are, consider renting a premium lens.

I knew there were going to be so many things I wanted to photograph on our cruise. I took my DSLR and two of my own lenses, but I also rented a fancy-schmancy extra zoom lens for capturing some great shots of the nature around us. It came in really handy, getting some great shots of whales and bears from our excursions. I wouldn’t have been able to get the photo below of a mama bear enjoying her freshly caught lunch without it! You can look into renting at your local camera store.

Disney Cruise Line Ketchikan Bears

In case you’re wondering, THIS is my camera, and THIS and THIS are my lenses that I brought with me. I rented THIS LENS. (affiliate links)

10. Attend the castaway party.

Each cruise line has a castaway party of sorts, but of course Disney does it best. There are characters galore, plus great music, dancing and ways for kids to get in on the fun. Try to get there early because it does fill up fast.

Disney Cruise Line Tips & Tricks Castaway Party

11. Bring your swimsuit.

Even us So Cal wimps enjoyed a little time in the pools and spas on board the ship. My daughter, who usually complains she’s cold when it’s 70 degrees, went in the pool almost every day, rain (really) or shine. The pools are heated  and are very nice and warm, and the slides are definitely worth braving the cold.

Disney Cruise Line Tips & Tricks 2

Disney Cruise Line Pool and waterslide

12. Check out the kid’s clubs.

Children ages 3-12 have their own special place on the Disney cruise ships. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are included in your cruise. Operating hours vary but you’ll find it listed in your Personal Navigator. The fun includes storytime, movies, character visits, computer game stations and fun-filled scheduled daily activities. If you have late dining the staff even comes to the dining room to collect kids who want to go to the Club while parents enjoy the rest of their meal. My daughter would have spent all day, every day, enjoying what was offered. (Adults and teens have their own private areas too!). It’s completely secure, with only authorized adults able to pick up and drop off children, wristbands are worn by each child and there is a “secret word” that you have to use to check them out. Get more information HERE.

A special moment with a Disney princess comes to life when children meet Snow White at Disney’s Oceaneer Lab. On the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, this wondrous play area is designed like Captain Hook's ship.
A special moment with a Disney princess comes to life when children meet Snow White at Disney’s Oceaneer Lab. On the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, this wondrous play area is designed like Captain Hook’s ship.

Disney Cruise Line Kids Club

13. Any excuse to dress up.

Be sure to plan for formal and semi-formal night! My kids each got some fancy new clothes and really had a blast dressing up and eating a fancy dinner. The captain will be available for photos, and you can also get some great family photos as well. My son had a bit of a meltdown so it turned out my daughter was the only one to get photographed in her evening wear.

Disney Cruise Line Formal Night

14. Tell them about allergies in advance.

Disney has always been amazing about accommodating my son’s allergies at any of the table service restaurants. This was especially true on our cruise. Since breakfast and lunch are not at specific restaurants/tables all you need to do is ask to speak to the chef if you have any questions. At the nightly dinner service the wait staff was phenomenal at making sure both of my kids had what they liked waiting for them before they even sat down. They were able to bring my son special ice cream and cookies so that we could be sure they were safe for him. The only downfall was that we had to place an order for my son’s dinner earlier that day, or even the night before, in order to assure that it was free of any of his allergens. Really though, that’s a small price to pay to make sure his food is safe, and that he didn’t have to wait a long time to receive his meal. He loved the steak and had it four out of the seven nights, complete with a baked potato with the works. The Head Server personally brought his meal to him each night to ensure that it wasn’t cross-contaminated, and even cut his meat for him at the table! The service we received from the cast members all week was really great, but the dining service was exceptional.

Disney Cruise Line wait staff

There are so many ways to enhance your cruise, but don’t forget to just enjoy the sites from the ship as well. There are so many spectacular views from the ship as you sail through the Inside Passage and the Tracy Arm Fjord. You won’t regret taking this cruise!

Disney Wonder
The Disney Wonder
Disney Cruise Line Glacier
Cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord up to Sawyer Glacier

Want to know how big this glacier is? Check out the fishing boat in the bottom right corner.

Alaska Glacier and Boat
“Sawyer Glacier” in Tracy Arm Fjord
Disney Cruise Line Alaska Waterfall
Hole in the Wall Waterfall | Tray Arm Fjord

If you’re just starting to plan your cruise, or if you’re heading out on one soon, I hope these tips will help to make your experience even more magical. If you have any questions, or tips of your own, please leave them in the comments or feel free to email me.

Here are some more Disney Travel Tips:

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Packing Tips for family vacations

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14 Tips for a Magical Disney Cruise to Alaska

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. Hi great web site. we will be on the Wonder in August, its not clear to me if the Frozen party takes place during the day (when we might be out on an excursion) do they post the times. Also can you come and go on the ship during the days in port?

    1. The Frozen party is at night – actually fairly late in the evening, but not during any excursions. You can come and go as you wish during port days, and some actually never leave the ship!

  2. Kristin, we have our Disney Cruise booked for September 4th. Is it still considered summer for Alaska and do you have any idea about the weather? Also, I haven’t read anything about laundry facilities on the ship. Is there more than one and will they require cash or do you put it on your card? Also, I’ve been reading a lot about fish extenders. Did you see much of this on the Alaskan cruise?

    1. Hi Barbara! Does Alaska really have a summer? LOL! It will be chilly…I’ve been that time of year and it is colder and rainier than the actual summer months. However not enough to make me not want to go back! There are laundry facilities on the ship and you can use your key card for them. I don’t recall the cost but it wasn’t too outrageous. I would take some detergent with you. You can sometimes request samples from websites like Tide or All. Don’t forget the dryer sheets if you use them. I did see Fish Extenders, but not a ton and we didn’t participate. Considering it for our next cruise in May though!

  3. Getting ready to book for 2017. Late May cruise is considerably cheaper (by $4k) than late July. Any pros/cons to May vs July?

    1. Hi Tara, If I had to choose, I’d go in May. The weather will be cooler, but it probably won’t be as crowded in May.

  4. I just found this post on Pinterest and it was so helpful! We leave for this cruise in August. I was curious if your Anna & Elsa meet and greet was the same day as the Frozen Deck Party at night? Ours Frozen Deck Party is scheduled for when we are in Skagway and I was going to book a port adventure that morning but I don’t want to miss the Anna & Elsa ticket meet and greet (we have twin daughters :)). Also, was the character breakfast a special ticket event? Do you know if it was offered on more than one day or just one day, port day or an at sea day? Sorry for all the questions, I’m just trying to figure out what to book for port adventures but don’t want to miss those special ticket events either. We board the boat at 11:30 am so I’m hoping to get some special event tickets. Last time we didn’t get to board until 1 pm on our last cruise and were only able to get one special event ticket as all the others were out. Any help appreciated.

    1. The meet and greets are going on every day during the cruise. We reserved the tickets for a day that we were at sea. Just make sure to go to guest services and grab them as soon as you board for best pic! The deck party is at night (starts around 9 pm I believe) so it was pretty late for us and we didn’t go. I’d love to hear what you think of it. I believe the character breakfast was the same – you have to get tickets early. But it’s offered on several days, if not all of them. Have a wonderful trip and feel free to ask more questions! Good luck!!!

  5. Can you tell me some details about the “Alaska Whales & Rainforest Trails” tour. Are there any activities for kids on the boat portion of the tour? I am trying to decide between that and the science tour. Thanks! Looks like you had a great trip!

    1. Hi Sharon, Yes it was a GREAT trip! They weren’t activities on board the boat, although they had a book we could look through with pictures of the local whales and the captain let the kids “drive” the boat. The rainforest portion was pretty but a lot of walking. My son was done about 3/4 of the way through. If I had to do it again I’d probably choose the science one.

  6. I’m sold, when can I leave?? Great post. Thank you for all the information. Sounds amazing. I love the photo of the gorgeous garden!

  7. What an amazing way to experience Alaska! Vancouver is one of my favourite cities, love that it’s a port for the cruise. You guys look like you had a great time!

  8. Wow, I mean Wow!! What a trip. And I didn’t know there was even an Alaska Disney option. Great tips, and post.

  9. We’ve never done a cruise, but are interested in a Disney boat. We have a 13 year old and will probably go in the next year or two. Are there activities for teens? Thanks for your post!