The following has been compiled over the past several years from a wide range of sources, including family and friends. Please feel free to share your own tips! Special thanks goes to mkraemer for her input.
Must Pack Items:
- Small roll of duck tape. You can find mini-rolls at most drug stores you may not need it, but they can be used to repair damaged luggage, etc., and it is one of those things that if you don't have it, you will need it.
- Small magnets allow you to hang schedules, navigators, etc on the back of the door so that the whole family can see it.
- Rain poncho for everyone in your group. The Caribbean can be an unpredictable place.
- 2-3 medium or large binder clips or clothes pins. These can be used to keep the curtains shut in your stateroom
- Shout wipes for those inevitable spills. Spray-n-Wash stick for stains that wont get laundered for a few days
- Ziplock Bags small and large. To help organize the little stuff and for packing wet items the last day.
- Pens & Highlighter A multi-colored highlighter is very useful. A Sharpie pen (or two).
- Suntan Lotion / Aloe available on the ship, but a lot more expensive there.
- Wide-mouthed water bottles. (Nalegene, etc). The ship provides free sodas, tea, etc, but, outside the main restaurants, they are only available from the beverage station on Deck 9, and the 8oz cups just don't cut it. If you have your own bottle, you can fill it up there, and carry it with you. We generally bring one for each of us. We wrote our name/stateroom on our bottles with Sharpie pens so wed get them back if the kids lost them anywhere.
- Pre-printed address labels. You will want these for the luggage tags used at the end of the cruise. It will save you a ton of time in filling them out at the end. You might also want to preprint address labels for people who youre going to send postcards.
- Business Cards Even make up a few personal ones using the blanks you can buy at Staples. If you have kids, make up some for them that you can give to the parents of new friends that they make onboard.
- Post-it notes, or a magnetic whiteboard with pen You can use these to leave notes to the rest of the family on their door. You can also use a notepad, left on the desk.
- Charger for Digital Cameras / Camcorders. If you don't remember to bring them, you will be out of luck. Bring spare batteriesonboard, they are expensive!
- Small bills tips for room service are paid in cash when the food is delivered. Plan $1 for 1-2 items, $2 for more, and increase as appropriate. We always bring $2 bills with us specifically for tipping. Some have had trouble getting the $2 bills, but $1 bills work just as well.
- Small sewing kit, including several safety pins!
Other items to consider packing:
- If you plan on snorkeling, and have your own mask, and snorkel, bring them. You can rent just the fins at Castaway Cay and save $16 in the process.
- Bring any film (including waterproof cameras with youhighly recommend waterproof cameras!!). While they are available onboard, they are pretty expensive.
- If you plan on doing laundry on board (7 day cruise or longer), bring your own dryer sheets. The ship sells Tide for $1/box (individual load sized), so if you need something different, bring it along. You can prepackage your own detergent in baggies (we took more than we needed, and our stateroom hostess was happy to take our extra packages when we offered them to her) or find the all-in-one detergent-softener packs. When you do laundry, get there early! And keep a close eye on the timing because other people will dump out your clothes, wet or dry!
- We never have dry cleaning done before the trip. Instead, we bring the clothes with us and have it done as soon as we get onboard. That way everything is perfectly pressed and clean. The price is only slightly higher than what you would pay for your local dry cleaner.
- Earplugscan be great if youre in a noisy stateroom, and theyre also really good for kids who have sensitive ears at the deck parties.
- Glowsticks or glow-bracelets. You can get them cheap online, and theyre great for deck parties (or just letting the kids play with them in the evenings on deck). A lot of people wanted them at the Pirates party and we shared a lot with kids!!
- Get those waterproof boxes on a lanyard for kids who have free range of the ship. They can keep their room key and any arcade cards safely in there. The ones sold onboard have the DCL logo on them, and are a bit more expensive.
- If you are the type that needs a clock next to the bed that you can see at night, bring a battery powered one along. There is only one clock in the stateroom, (the infamous analog propeller clock) and it is not visible in the dark.
- Kleenex if you prefer a special type, etc, bring it. There is some in your stateroom, but it is institutional quality. Even a couple of the travel packs are a good idea.
- Scissors bring a small pair (in your Checked luggage if you are flying)
- Eyeglass lens cleaner you will not believe how dirty your eyeglasses and sunglasses can get, especially when onshore.
- Tea bags If you prefer your own, bring them along. There is a good selection of regular teas, but the only herbal available is Peppermint and Chamomile.
- If youre picky about your coffee, bring along your own instant; you can have room service bring you hot water and milk/half & half in the morning. Theyll also bring Danishes/croissants/cereal, if you order it (get the order out on your stateroom door by 3 am). That way, you dont have to get up/dressed to go to breakfast. The kids think room service is the ultimate luxury, and because it doesnt cost more (except for the tip), its a perfect time to indulge in it.
- For longer cruises (7+ days) or if you have a lot of people or shoes, bring an over the door shoe hanger. ($10 @ Target). These will keep you from tripping over all the shoes on the floor, and you can use the extra pockets from things like suntan lotion, hair brushes, etc. We bring these on any cruise longer than three nights and swear by it. We also brought collapsible shoe hangers that go over the rod in the closet; we used those for shoes and we used the over the door hanger for miscellaneous things like sunglasses, sunscreen, goggles, brushes, cameras, etc. A mesh over the door hanger lets you see whats in the pockets easilywe put ours on the bathroom door.
- Handful of clothes pins for hanging clothes from the retractable line in the shower. You could also use them to close the curtains rather than binder clips.
- Cable ties. Bring along a few. They can be used to secure your luggage, fix things, etc.
- Suction cup hooks. We used these things in the shower to hold wet things when our laundry line was full. We also used them on the walls of our verandah to dry things outside. We used them on flat wooden surfaces (such as the side of the closet) to hold hats, lanyards, etc). VERY useful!! Take a bunch.
- Take feminine sanitary supplies just in case you have a surprise. There is some stock onboard in the gift shop, but theyre expensive and might not be what youd prefer!
- A small mailing tube to roll up and save your Pirates dinner menu.
- Water shoes or sandals
- If your kids (or you!) like to play in the sand, bring cheap sand toys with you. They are a lot more expensive if you buy them from the Mouse.
- Ask your stateroom host in advance to leave extra copies of the daily Navigator. Especially if you want to keep them for a scrapbook.
- Don't bother ordering the cases of water from room service, or bringing your own on board. The water from the sinks in your stateroom, and throughout the ship is excellent. It is desalinated/purified/reverse Osmosis sea-water, and tastes as good as anything available for sale. Everyone we have spoken with who is picky about water has agreed.
- You can hand-carry your own wine & booze on board. They usually charge a corkage fee in the dining room, and if they don't - be sure to tip your servers extra, since that is part of their income. Bear in mind that you cannot carry open alcohol off the ship, and that, even if originally purchased in the US, unopened alcohol counts against your customs limit. You can also drink alcohol purchased in a port onboard, however alcohol purchased at the Duty Free onboard will be held and delivered to your stateroom on the last night.
- If you have passports, bring them. Even if not required for your sailing. If you have time, get them before your trip. They will make clearing customs and immigration much easier compared to using birth certificates.
- The staff in the Kids and Adults programs are not tipped. If you want to give them a nice thank you, try pre-paid phone cards that they can use to call home, etc. If possible, try to find ones that can be used in Mexico and the Caribbean.
- Bring some reading material, but not tons. Both of us are voracious readers, and we only got through a couple of books each on the 14-night cruise. We read nothing on our 3-night trip, and only a small bit on the 7-night. If you bring reading material, look at bringing books you don't mind leaving behind. You can give them to your stateroom host, who will take them to the crew library.
- There is Internet access available on-board, but it is very limited (the entire ship shares a 500kbps satellite connection) and very expensive. You cannot upload files or images using the computers provided by the ship. There are computers available at the Internet Caf on Deck 3, and also in the Cove Caf upstairs in the Deck 9 Adults area. You can also connect your laptop or other WiFi enabled device, at the same price.
- Consider bringing a laptop or plenty of extra memory cards if you are shooting a digital camera. You can also take memory cards to Shutters (the onboard photography store) and have them transfer the images to CD for you, but at a price. If you bring the laptop, you can keep a journal going faster/easier than hand writing it.
- Bring along a backpack they can be very useful for shore excursions. Having a few carabineers attached to it can also be useful for carrying items on the backpack.
- Consider getting FRS radios. You can get them for a reasonable price at any electronics store, and they will let you keep in touch with the rest of the family onboard ship.
- Parents will be issued a pager when they register their kids in the club/lab. This allows them to reach you if there is a problem or a need to pick up the kids. Pagers work only onboard the ship, in the immediate vicinity of the ship, and anywhere on Castaway Cay.
- There are no irons in your stateroom, and they ask that you not bring your own, for safety reasons. There are irons available in the laundry room, but there is generally a line to use them. Pack as wrinkle free as you can. For items that must be ironed, use the laundry service onboard. The approx $1 to iron a shirt is worth it after all, you are on vacation! To cut down on wrinkles, pack each item you would normally iron in a dry-cleaners plastic bag. That can make a huge difference. Just ask you cleaner for a few extra.
- Most suitcases can fit under the bed, to give you more room. You may need to lift the bed to slide it under. We also put most of our clothes into duffelbags that could easily go under the bedone of them even had wheels.
- In general, the drinks on board that are carried by waiters (outside of the dining rooms) are not free. They will bill them to your stateroom. When in doubt, ask. Gratuities are automatically added to all purchased beverages.
- If you do not want your kids to have charging privileges on their room key, be sure to go to the Guest Services desk on Deck 3 and have them turn it off. We have watched kids comparing notes to figure out whose parents have not turned off charging, and that kid starts buying smoothies and snacks for all their friends. You do NOT want to see the bill when that happens!
- On the other hand, DCL makes it really inconvenient for kids to use cash! My son could *not* use cash at the arcade, and when he went to Guest Services, they told him that they wouldnt issue him an arcade card without having room charging privileges. So, after the run-around, he came to me, and I had to go to Guest Services. They credited our stateroom with the money for the arcade card, and then charged our stateroom for it, on my card. Go figureDisney turning down an opportunity to take cash! Anyway, a good idea might be for you to buy whatever arcade cards you want your kids to have (they come in increments, so you can decide how much). Id recommend getting several $10 cards rather than their whole trip allowance for video games, so that if they lose it, they havent lost too much money.
- The spa is expensive. Figure 50-100% more than what you would pay at a spa on land. They do offer a number of European services that are not legally available in the US, but be suspicious of claims that seem too good to be true you know the rest. They will also try to hard sell the cosmetics, skin care, etc. The rainforest room is very nice, but don't do the unlimited use package. It is usually cheaper to pay for it on those days you want to use it. If youre keen on it, book early.
- If you burn easily, try finding Rit Sunguard Wal-Mart generally carries it. This adds an SPF protection to your clothes.
- If you buy the photo package from Shutters, you can exchange any photos that you took early in the cruise for ones taken later, that you like better. KEEP YOUR RECEIPT AND TAKE IT WITH YOU TO EXCHANGE PHOTOS OR GET NEW ONES (if you lose the receipt, youre outta luck). If you want to have reprints of photos done after the cruise, ask for a Photo Release that you can use with your local photo company. This is especially popular if you want to use your pictures for Christmas cards.
- Every time a photo is taken by a ship's photographer, you can also ask that they take one with your camera. This can save a lot of money.
- There are a total of three US electrical outlets in your stateroom. (This does not include the ones in the bathrooms, but those are designed only for razors). Two of the plugs are next to the desk, and the third is behind the television. If you need more (for cameras, phones, etc), bring a power strip with a 6-foot cord. You can plug this in behind the TV and put the strip on the desk.
- Most staterooms include a split bathroom. This means that there are two separate rooms one with a sink and toilet, and the other with a sink and shower. They are TINY barely enough room for one person to stand in and turn around, but having two makes it easier for everyone to get ready.
- The toilets. They use a vacuum system for the toilets, and it is impressive when you flush. There are a couple of fun challenges with this. Firstly, when you push the button to flush, it doesnt always work. If the system is under a heavy load, it wont respond. Just leave the lid closed. Once the system load lightens, it will flush.
- A couple of families mentioned that the toilets caused some challenges with younger kids. Some kids get very frightened by the noise. If your younger ones have problems, you may need to tell them not to flush.
- Try a wakeup call on the phone rather than an alarm clock. You get a fun wakeup call from Mickey when you do this.
- If you like to swim, pack swimsuits,goggles, and sunscreen in your carry-on luggage. After you board, even before your stateroom is ready and while you are still tied up to the dock, you can be in the pool relaxing. Most people pack their swimsuits in their luggage, and then have to wait until 5 or 6pm to get them.
- When you board, head for Parrot Cay (Deck 3 Aft) for lunch. They tend to direct people upstairs to Topsiders/Beach Blanket Buffet on Deck 9. But if you go to Parrot Cay, you get the exact same buffet, but in a nicer environment where they seat you and bring your drinks to the table. Much better than trying to fight for a table and hauling your carry-on luggage while you walk down the buffet line.
- If you do a lot of swimming and hate wearing a cold damp suit, consider bringing two. They don't always dry quickly hanging in your stateroom.
- When you take your camcorder or camera outside from the ships interior, be prepared for the lenses to fog over. They will generally defog in about 30 minutes (although camcorders can take up to an hour). Wiping the lenses does not work, since the problem also occurs on the interior of the lens. If you have a balcony, put your camera out there about an hour before you head out, and it should be fine.
- Make copies of all passports, credit cards, drivers licenses, etc that you take with you. (Front AND back). Leave a copy behind with a trusted friend or relative, and keep a copy with you. Put that copy in the safe in your room. In the unlikely even you lose something, you will have all the information you need to deal with it.
- Call your credit card companies before you leave the states, and let them know that you will be traveling. If they put a fraud alert on your card while you are outside the country, you will have a nightmare trying to get it cleared.
- The ship departure times are firm. DO NOT BE LATE! At almost every port, someone gets left behind the ship will not wait for you. However, if you are on an official shore excursion that is delayed, the ship will wait.
- If you tend to get cold easily, bring a sweater or jacket with you. The theaters are kept cool, and it can be cool on deck in the evening.
- The AC in your room, at full blast, will keep your room at about 66 to 69 degrees. It does not get cooler than that in the staterooms. If you have a balcony, keep the door closed to ensure the best performance. If you need to keep the door open for some reason, use the curtain to cover the doorway that does help quite a bit.
- The Adults Only areas are just that. Adults ONLY. That is generally enforced. Also, the Kids Only areas (the lab, the club, Scuttles @ Castaway Cay, the slide at the Mickey pool) are strictly enforcedThis is for the safety of the kids. If you have children in the programs, you can join them at almost any time, but, don't plan on them wanting you there!
- Be sure the kids participate in the kids program and presentation the final day. And go to their show early for a good seat (view for your video camera) you won't want to miss it! They get graduation ears and a teeshirt!
- If you want other adults to be able to check the kids out of the club/lab, be sure their names are noted in the computer. If you are not in the computer, they won't get to pick the kids up.
- While tipping is listed as recommended, plan on tipping. In general, expect outstanding service, and the staff really works hard for it. You should tip the same for kids as you do for adults. For servers, you might cut the tip in half for babies, but for stateroom attendants, don't skimp.
Your room will be made up twice a day, with towel animals left nightly. Your server and assistant server will be very eager to please if you want or need anything, just ask. If you have a server who you dont like (or who doesnt like your kids!), IMMEDIATELY ask for another onedont stew over this!
- All food is included (except for the snack bar outside the Walt Disney Theater). On menus, feel free to shuffle things around, order extra, or even several different entrees or appetizers. If you don't like something, feel free to send it back and order something else.
- There is typically a pirate themed night when onboard. You can bring costumes to dress up in, if you wish it is a lot of fun. There is also a Deck Party that night, with a fireworks display. Disney is the only cruise line in the world that offers this.
- Dress code is pretty casual. During the day, pretty much anything goes. At night, Dinner involves long pant or dresses/skirts. Capri pants and jeans are fine. Shorts are not appropriate. (However, for the under-10 set, dress shorts are acceptable). If you dont own a tux, the prices to rent one onboard are competitive, and the convenience cant be beatits delivered to your stateroom, has two shirts (so you can use it twice), and you leave it in the closet when you go.
- Palo, the Adult's Only restaurant has three different opportunities. We strongly recommended booking online before your trip.
The most popular is Dinner which is Italian themed.The Chocolate Souffl is to die for absolutely fantastic.
The Brunch is, in our opinion, the best. It is an interesting mix of formal presentation buffet, and cooked to order items. Most people rave about the Desert Pizza (though it is not Tony's preference). Adrienne really likes to order one of the Eggs Benedict, served over a Portabella mushroom, rather than the English muffin. There is all you can eat shrimp and king crab legs, with a very potent cocktail sauce. Brunch is only available on Sea days.
High Tea is also served on Sea Days it includes tea sandwiches, scones (Fantastic!) and loose leaf tea brewed in a pot at your table. In our opinion, of the three, this is the most miss-able.
There is an up charge for Palo meals - $15 for Brunch and Dinner, $5 for Tea. This serves as a base gratuity for your server, however, you can always add on to it. We tend to up it by an extra $10-20 the service is that good.
There is a stricter dress code for Palo. Basically, plan on business casual, with a button down shirt for guys at dinner. (Polos are fine for Brunch and Tea). Shorts are prohibited at all times in Palo. Jackets are recommended at night - I usually wear a jacket and tie.
- On night on every cruise has a late-night desert buffet. This is where the Pastry Chefs really get a chance to show their stuff, and it is DECADENT! Be sure to get their early, as the presentations are half of the enjoyment.
- The first night leaving Port Canaveral will be very rocky. At that point in the ocean, you are above a fairly shallow shelf, which the Gulf Stream then passes over. As such, it will roll the ship a lot. If you are prone to sea sickness, take your meds prior to getting on-board, and take them through the first night. If you find that you need meds, there is a large basket of anti-seasickness drugs available on the counter in the Medical Center. After the first night, you generally won't feel much movement.
- A plug-in air freshener is a nice thing to bring along your stateroom is much more comfortable with one.
- The Cheese Plate from room service is nice - great for an evening or even midnight snack. We enjoyed ordering a cheese plate and a couple of the chocolate chip cookies.
- Lunch buffets always have a kids' side, with pasta, pizza, French fries, etc. Adults are generally welcome to eat from there as well, so long as the club/lab have completed their serving process. There are kid-friendly food options that are by the Mickey pool too, and you can get burgers, pizza, etc. almost any time.
- For those traveling with babies and toddlers:
Diaper Genies are available on request.
If your baby uses formula or baby food, you will need to bring on enough for the trip. They are not predictably available for purchase onboard. If they are eating finger food, then there will be plenty for them to eat.
In the same vein, diapers are in limited supply onboard. There are stores in Orlando or near the port where you can stock up if needed.
All baby items should be packed in carryon luggage, since it may take several hours for your luggage to be delivered, and, invariably, a handful of suitcases get lost during the delivery process.
- The crew is fanatical about sanitizing everything. Every food location has anti-bacterial hand wipes at the entrance or counter, and several have dispensers of anti-bac gel as well.
- If you are looking to purchase alcohol, avoid the onboard store. Instead, buy it at a port. It will generally be cheaper (even if it is not 'duty free'). Alcohol purchased onboard is delivered to your stateroom on the last night.
- If you have more than one stateroom, you can get extra keys, as well as one-time-use keys from Guest Services.
- Do not bring knives of any size with you. Even in your checked luggage. They will be confiscated and may be returned to you when you return to port.
- For the adults, the Art of Entertaining series offers cooking demonstrations, and usually includes a wine tasting session at the end as well. This is one of the few times when the alcohol is free.
- Shows and speakers generally are rebroadcast on the television in your stateroom. So if you can't make the live performance, you should still have an opportunity to enjoy it.
- The Beverage Cooler in your room is just that a beverage cooler. It is not a refrigerator.
- Bring ziplock baggies of M&Ms, skittles, etc for the shows.
- You can order Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bars from Room Service they aren't on the menu, but they are available.
- Put blank pillowcase or a frame etc, in a ziploc bag with some different colored Sharpies. Include a piece of paper with the kids names, their ages, and your stateroom number on it. Walked it down to Guest Services the first night. You will get it back signed by all the characters the last night. You can request certain character signatures (princess, etc), if desired, but they may not all be available.
- Don't stuff yourself at dinner on Pirate Night. They put out a pre-midnight buffet up on deck as part of the deck party, and you are going to want room to enjoy it!
- Ask cabin steward for mattress liners (in case of middle of the night accidents from over-tired, over-excited little cruisers)
- If you are full at dinner, ask for your waiter to pack up dessert to go.
- Pack half the t-shirts you think you will need. We bought t-shirts at several places and promptly wore them when we got back to the ship. It made the other t-shirts we packed just extra stuff to carry home.
- The mandatory safety drill at 4pm on the first day is just that. Mandatory. You cannot have one family member attend while everyone else relaxes in your stateroom. Be there, or they will come looking for you. It can be warm up on deck, and the life preservers make a very effective torture device. But, it is only for 10-15 minutes, and it is for your safety.
- Remember: There is far more to do on a cruise than you can possibly do. If you try to do it all, you will become exhausted. Pick and chooseenjoy what you do and dont regret what you didnt do! Youre on vacationenjoy it!