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My Disney Cruise Tips: 31 Time & Money Saving Tips We Learned Firsthand On Our Disney Dream Cruise To The Bahamas

Hubby and I recently returned from a Disney cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream ship.

It was a 3-day cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida.

We went with our good friends Cori and Terry — and their 5-year-old son, Cam.

Cam's first Disney Dream cruise dinner photo with his Aunt and Funcle. (Yes, Jim is definitely a Fun Uncle!)

Here are some of the things I wish I’d known beforehand, and I’m happy to share with others who are planning on going on a Disney Dream cruise…

My Disney Cruise Tips

#1 – Disney character phone calls

Before you leave home, you can schedule a Disney character to call your family on the telephone… it’s FREE!

This pre-recorded phone call from select Disney characters will wish you well and encourage you to have a fun time on your cruise vacation.

#2 – Checking in / Scheduling excursions

You can start your online check-in 75 days before the cruise.

That’s when you can book these things ahead of time:

  • Onboard activities
  • Port excursions
  • Spa treatments
  • Meals at the adults-only restaurants (Palo and Remy)

BONUS TIP: If there’s an activity that you’re really looking forward to, you should do the online check-in as early as possible — because some activities sell out!

A look out of one of the large porthole windows on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

If you go to check-in earlier, you have a chance at upgrading your room for a discounted price. This however, does not apply to those of us who need connecting rooms! ~Fun with Mama

#3 – Boarding time

Even though you have to select a specific boarding time (a 30-minute time slot beginning at 12 noon on the day of departure), you can get there early and board anyway… just not before 12 noon.

We had a 2:30 p.m. boarding time, but we arrived around 1:45 p.m. and they let us board without any questions. I’ve verified that the Disney cruise line will always let you board earlier than your assigned time.

BONUS TIP: Since most people do board early — expect a bigger crowd at the terminal if you choose one of the early boarding times. At 1:45 p.m., there was hardly anyone boarding and we got through the terminal and checked in really quickly. (So that’s one benefit of boarding later.)

Once we got on the ship, we were surprised to see so many people wearing their swimsuits — and either swimming in the pool or sipping on drinks while lounging in chairs at the pool deck. (Next time, we might check in a little earlier!)

On the first day of the cruise, people swarm to the swimming pools!

BONUS TIP: On our drive to Port Canaveral, we thought we’d get something to eat at the last exit before the terminal — but there weren’t any restaurants near there. So we were thrilled to learn that the buffet on the ship is open until 3 p.m. even on the first day. The buffet at Cabanas restaurant made a great first impression, too… because all of the food was delicious!

#4 – Parking

If you want to save some money…

You can make reservations with Park N’ Cruise to park your car for $11 a day ($33 total) instead of the $68 total (which amounts to about $23 a day) to park in the terminal itself — which, of course, is super convenient.

We paid the extra money to park close.

NOTE: At the parking area is where they take your bags. Your luggage will show up in the hallway in front of your room by the time the ship sails.

The Disney Dream terminal in Port Canaveral is extremely organized, I think this is my favorite port ever. It is just a painless and very relaxing process to check in. ~Cruise with Gambee

#5 – Electrical outlets

As soon as we got to our rooms on the ship, we (and our friends) went into panic mode trying to figure out how we were going to charge our phones and electronic gadgets in what appeared to be foreign outlets (220-volt instead of 110-volt).

We figured that we were all going to have to buy outlet adapters in the gift shop in order to use our electronics on the ship.

After some trial and error, we learned that even though the outlets onboard the ship look unusual — they will charge standard U.S. electronics just fine!

NOTE: The only catch to using the Disney Dream cruise ship’s outlets is you may be taking a chance with some electronics. Case in point: our friend’s headset stopped working after he charged it in the room — and it never worked again after leaving the ship. Also, powerful items (up to 2000W) can only be plugged into the outlets that are labeled for hairdryers and shavers — otherwise they won’t perform at full speed.

All staterooms are equipped with multiple 110V outlets — which are standard in the U.S. and Canada. Staterooms on board Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are equipped with a combination of 110V and 220 outlets (European). Small electrical appliances such as electric shavers, curling irons and flat irons with standard North American plugs will function on board. 110V items should not exceed 1500W and 220V items should not exceed 2000W. A hair dryer is provided in every stateroom for your convenience, but you may bring your own as long as it meets the guidelines above. ~Disney Cruise Line

#6 – Sail away party

We enjoyed watching our ship set sail for the ocean seas from the comfort of our balcony.

In addition to watching the seagulls fly on and off our balcony during the Sail Away Party, we also saw jellyfish, stingrays, turtles, and a dolphin right near us at our balcony!

First, we interacted with the seagulls while we watched another cruise ship set sail from Port Canaveral — moments before ours departed.

Then, we spent about 30 minutes looking at all the jellyfish in the water (literally thousands of them) right below our balcony. We also saw some turtles, a large stingray, and even a dolphin right below us — near the ship’s hull!

Of course, there is an official Sail Away Party on the Disney Dream cruise ship that takes place on the pool deck (Deck 11) — but it’s very crowded there.

BONUS TIP: For a great view of everything that’s going on during the Sail Away Party, go to the deck above the pool (Deck 12) instead. You can see everything that’s happening on the stage and on the jumbo LCD screen, without people standing in your way. Plus, Deck 12 has a much better view of the ocean — so you can watch both: the party that’s happening and the shore that’s getting farther away. (You can’t do that on the pool deck, Deck 11.)

#7 – Cruise photos

Our friends picked out a couple dozen photos at the end of the cruise, and they ended up paying a little bit more than they would have paid for ALL of the cruise photos (the “unlimited digital photos package”) had they prepaid before the cruise instead.

So… one of my best Disney Cruise tips is if you purchase the Cruise Photos package before the ship leaves port (up to 2 days before), you’ll save money!

Yes, it’s hard to commit to spending a little over $200 on photos before you even set sail, but it really is the best deal.

#8 – Disney cruise app

The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App is super handy… and it’s FREE!

This is a screenshot of the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app on my phone - it only works while you're on the ship.

Download it onto your smartphone before you board the ship. Then, after you’re on the boat and you log into the ship’s wifi (it’s FREE, but it’s only used to power this app), you’ll have access to all of your cruise information, including:

  • On-board entertainment schedules — and details about each activity that takes place on the ship
  • Restaurant menus and hours (see my tip below for ordering dinner food from the ship’s many restaurants)
  • Any charges you’ve accrued — for the previous day’s excursions, alcoholic drinks, etc.
  • Pop-up notifications for upcoming activities that you’ve personally signed up for (or that you’ve starred, thinking that you might be interested in participating)

BONUS TIP: One of the best parts about the Disney Cruise app is the fact that you can send messages to others who are on the cruise via your smartphone without any international phone charges. Since your phone remains in Airplane mode at all times, no cellular roaming fees are accrued. It’s like texting on the ship… for FREE!

#9 – Cruise card

Interestingly, your personalized Cruise Card is what activates the lights inside your stateroom! You have to slide it into a slot on the wall (by the door) and leave it there if you want the lights to stay on. Otherwise, they’ll turn off automatically in a matter of minutes after you remove your Cruise Card.

You will need to show your Disney Cruise Card a lot — for cruise photos, any time you buy an adult drink, whenever you buy a souvenir, every time you leave the ship, every time you get back on the ship, on port excursions, etc. (Whenever you’re getting on & off the ship, you actually have to show it several times in a row!)

This is my Disney Cruise Card. You show it at your first dinner, whenever you buy a drink or spa treatment, every time you get on and off the boat, whenever you have your picture taken with a Disney character, any time you play Bingo on the ship, whenever you buy a souvenir.

BONUS TIP: Bring (or buy) a lanyard for your Disney Cruise Card. Many people buy one, but personally I would just bring one that I’ve received from a previous event or conference  I’ve attended. If you do buy one, you might want to choose a waterproof pouch (or dry pouch) with lanyard that you can even wear it in the pool and during your excursions. I saw several people — adults and children alike — wearing theirs in the pool.

You need to carry your room key [aka Cruise Card] most of the time, and this is one thing I wish I had brought with us. You have to remove your card frequently to have it swiped, so try to find a pouch that is over-sized. ~Mama in the Now

#10 – Buffet

The Disney Dream ship has an excellent buffet (that is only open for breakfast and lunch) called Cabanas.

Try the restaurants instead of the buffets for breakfast and lunch. You can always go to the buffet also! ~Mama in the Now

Inside the Cabanas boardwalk-style restaurant, there are at least 10 different food stations all in a row — and you can help yourself to as many different foods and as much as you’d like to eat. All of the food is really fresh… and tasty!

The only bummer is the buffet closes at 3 p.m. every day. I wish it was open 24/7 — because sometimes you just want to grab some fruit or something quick before the show… or the late dinner.

You always hear that you can eat at all hours of the day and night on a cruise because there’s food galore everywhere you look. Not so on a Disney Dream cruise! While the pizza food station stays open until 12:30 at night, the only food that’s available 24/7 on Disney Dream is from room service. All of the other food stations and restaurants have very specific hours of operation.

BONUS TIP: Bring Ziploc bags with you on the cruise and take a few with you every time you go to the buffet. That way whenever you see something at the buffet that you want to save for later, you’ll have something handy to pack it in! (This is a great idea for poolside snacks, fruit, or toddler treats. However… they make it very clear that you cannot take fresh food with you any time you leave the ship.)

There was a lot of talk among our group about the eggs on the Disney Dream. They were so runny that we didn’t dare eat them. As it turns out, many people like the eggs on a Disney cruise.

Interestingly, on our last day there, we saw 2 separate signs placed next to the eggs at the buffet which made no sense… together:

  • “We purposely undercook our eggs.”
  • “Do not eat undercooked eggs.”

After the cruise I found this online, but I’m not exactly sure what it means:

Many ships will also use pasteurized shell eggs (I don’t know how they pasteurize the eggs in the shell), as this removes the necessity of warning guests about eating undercooked eggs. So, even a shell egg may not be “fresh” depending on your definition or dietary requirements. ~Cruise Critic

#11 – Dinners

There are no formal dinners (or formal evening events) on the Disney Dream cruise ship — and therefore, no special dining attire required except for in the adults-only restaurants. Personally, I like dressing “cruise casual” for the entire duration of the trip — so I didn’t miss the formal nights at all.

The only time we wore something “special” was on theme night — which was Pirate Night. Our friends even bought personalized Disney pirate shirts on Etsy for us all. They were perfect since 5-year-old Cam loves to wear “matching outfits”.

Speaking of fun t-shirts for a cruise… the FUNCLE shirt I bought on Etsy for Jim to wear on the first day of the cruise was a huge hit! So many people stopped him to say how much they like his shirt… need to get one just like it… and how it’s perfect for a cruise. (It says “FUNCLE… like a dad, only cooler.”)

You can order a Shirley Temple (Sprite with cherry) or Roy Rogers (Coke with cherry) for FREE with dinner. If you love cherries, your assistant server will bring you a bowl full of cherries! ~Mama in the Now

Although you are assigned a set dinner time (either 5:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m.), your 3 evening dinners will take place in 3 different dining rooms on the ship — which is a neat way to ensure that you have a completely different dining experience each night. For what it’s worth, most families with children prefer the early dinner time. (Hint, hint… if you prefer a quieter dinner without a lot of kids!)

BONUS TIP: Dinner is one time that it makes sense to arrive fashionably late! There is absolutely no need to rush to dinner — because you’ll just be waiting in a long line with a lot of impatient children. But if you show up just 5 minutes after they’ve started seating everyone, you’ll be able to walk right in.

Without a doubt, our favorite dining room was the Animator’s Palate! There are large movie screens all around the room so that each table has an unobstructed view at all times. These screens display themselves as one huge underwater aquarium and characters from the movie Finding Nemo swim around — from one screen to another. It’s a really clever dinner show where the Disney characters inside the aquarium interact with everyone at your table! (The other 2 dining rooms are traditional formal-looking rooms.)

This is the amazing Animator's Palate restaurant / dining room on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

At your assigned dinner each night, you will always have the same server (person who takes your food orders, addresses special requests, and cuts your child’s food) and assistant server (person who takes your drink orders and delivers the food to your table). They both try hard to get to know you and what you like.

Like most of the servers on Disney Dream, ours performed several different mind-boggling magic tricks at the table each night that amazed us all — adults and children alike.

5-year-old Cam trying to repeat the magic tricks we learned at dinner on Disney Dream cruise.

BONUS TIP: Our friend is a meat and potatoes guy, so he wasn’t into all the fancy dinner options each night. Instead… he would order 2 of whatever steak item was on the menu, along with a caesar salad (even though that type of salad wasn’t on the menu) and no side dishes. The chef and your server are always more than happy to give you whatever you want! Hubby and I also enjoyed one of the appetizers so much that we ordered a second helping of it — at the last minute. They happily brought us each another serving!

You can order off of any of the restaurant’s menus! If you loved the chateaubriand from Royal Court so much that you want it again the next night in Animator’s Palate — even though it’s not on the menu — chances are, your server will give it to you. ~Reader’s Digest

#12 – Room service

Complimentary room service is included for the duration of your cruise.

The room service food is FREE — but soda pop, bottled water, and snacks are an additional fee.

The only bummer about room service is you can’t decide at the last minute that you want breakfast in your room. You have to place a card on your door by 3AM in order to request breakfast on that day. (Room service breakfast is served from 7AM to 10AM. After that time, you can order room service for lunch or dinner food at any time of the day or night.)

BONUS TIP: I’ve heard from many people that you can get Mickey bars (Mickey Mouse head shaped ice cream bars) and Smuckers Uncrustables (packaged peanut butter & jelly sandwiches) from room service — even though they’re not on the menu. You can also specifically request other items from room service that are not on the menu, as long as they are relatively basic food items.

Order free cookies and milk from room service at night before bed. Did I mention that it is FREE?! (Don’t forget to tip though.) We ordered cookies and milk before bedtime every night, and thereafter we had a peaceful sleep while being lulled by the oceans waves. ~Fun with Mama

#13 – Staterooms

Designed for families, the rooms on a Disney Dream cruise have about 25% more space than typical staterooms. They’re well-designed rooms, too — with plenty of storage space. There’s even a wide open space underneath the bed to keep your luggage and other large items completely out of the way!

BONUS TIP: You can read reviews of Disney Dream staterooms to see what other cruise guests have to say about the exact room you’re staying in!

In addition to “privacy curtains” that can be used to close off a portion of your room from floor to ceiling, Disney Dream staterooms also have a “split bathroom” concept that makes it so much easier for multiple people to get ready at the same time. The bathroom area in your cabin consists of 2 separate rooms:

  1. A fairly large tiled bathroom room with a shower, tub, sink, mirror, storage, and 2 pull-out clotheslines for drying wet clothes
  2. A decent sized tiled bathroom with a toilet, sink, mirror, and storage (An air freshener would have been nice — in addition to my homemade Poo Pourri — because the toilet emits some rather strange smells at times.)

We were in stateroom #5034 and our friends were in #5036 — so we had adjoining rooms and could open a door in between the 2 rooms to visit with one another.

BONUS TIP: We had what’s called a whitewall veranda. While there is a divider separating the 2 adjoining rooms’ balconies, it’s easy to use a car key to “unlock” and slide the white wall divider out of the way — giving you one extra-large balcony space to share together.

Ideally, you want your room to be as close to midship and as near the water line as possible — for the smoothest (and quietest) ride. Our stateroom was a little more forward than midship. (That’s where the largest balconies are located on the Disney Dream cruise ship.) Even though we were a little farther away from the pool area and the food, we were closer to the dining rooms and activities — so for us it was a great choice.

NOTE: If we follow through with our plans to sail on a Disney Dream cruise again, we will probably get a 5th floor room again with a balcony / veranda — as close to midship as possible.

#14 – In-room extras

The rooms on Disney Dream come equipped with:

  • Hair dryer
  • Refrigerator
  • Desk and chair
  • Comfy sitting area (sofa that pulls out into a bed)
  • Large footstool with storage inside
  • TV (that gets full ABC programming 24/7, and the full library of Disney movies On-Demand)

Their TV system really shines with FREE On Demand movies. They offer all the Disney movies ever made — it is just incredible. The best thing is that the TV system recalls the movie and the time you stopped watching it, so you can come back and continue watching your movie. I was very happy with the TV system on the Disney Dream, this has to be my favorite cruise TV system ever! ~Cruise with Gambee

The staterooms are cleaned twice each day — which is actually quite nice, because it’s refreshing to always come back to a clean room.

As a result, you will probably cross paths with your stateroom host (aka housekeeping attendant) at least once each day — because they are almost always busy cleaning the 11 other rooms next to you.

NOTE: Interestingly, your stateroom host actually knows which activities are on your personal schedule for the day. Ours always asked how we liked XYZ, or how the show was, or whatever else we had just attended. I guess they are made aware of the guests’ schedules so that they can better time the cleaning of the 12 rooms they’re assigned to.

The stateroom doors are metal. You can stick Disney magnets on them to decorate your door, and it makes it easier for your children (and you) to identify your room. Don’t bring anything you can’t bear to lose — these do get taken sometimes. Please note that you are not allowed to use any type of adhesive on your door, including removable gel adhesives that supposedly come off clean. You will be charged for any damage to the door. ~Mousesavers

#15 – Beds

The bed and pillows on the Disney Dream cruise ship are super comfortable! I never had a difficult time falling asleep.

BONUS TIP: I slept with the balcony door open one night when the seas were particularly rough — not because I was afraid of getting seasick, but because I love the sound of the waves at night. It was such a peaceful way to fall asleep. (They do say that having the balcony door open dramatically affects the air conditioning in the room — which it did. By morning, it was rather warm inside the cabin, so I got up and closed the balcony door.)

Cam slept on the sofa that pulls pulls out into a bed. On the last night, the housekeeping attendant changed his sheets and pillowcase to a dinosaur theme. He loved it!

Kids love the extra touches that the stateroom host leaves behind... like these dinosaur bed sheets!

BONUS TIP: If you need to use the pull-out sofa bed and it feels too hard for your liking, you can request an egg crate mattress topper from your stateroom host.

#16 – Rough seas & seasickness

Having been on 2 other cruises before (both of which had very rough seas and lots of people got sick), we came prepared for seasickness.

Neither of us got sick on this cruise.

Here’s how we prepared ourselves for motion sickness:

  • We started the cruise by taking 2 tablets of Dramamine right after we got on the ship (which was about and hour before we set sail) — never took anymore Dramamine.
  • Hubby has the weakest stomach and has always had good luck wearing the Seaband wristbands for motion sickness. I bought a pair for each of us at Walmart (1 gray pair, and 1 black pair).
  • I also bought some anti-nausea gum by the same manufacturer (Sea-Band), but never even opened the pack.
  • We occasionally sucked on Tummy Drops ginger lozenges — mostly just as candies, rather than to prevent seasickness. (They’re made from 100% natural ginger powder.)
  • Finally, I also had a small bottle of Motion-Eaze with me at all times — for immediate relief, should anyone start feeling nauseous. (It’s 100% natural essential oils consisting of lavender, peppermint, frankincense, chamomile, myrrh, ylang ylang and birch — you simply put a few drops on your wrist, behind your ear, or just inhale deeply the scent of the oil in the bottle for it to have an effect.)
We didn't use much of it, but I made sure that we had every possible 'convenient' method of preventing seasickness on this Disney cruise to the Bahamas.

If you do get queasy, the ship’s health center or the guest services desk will give you FREE over-the-counter medication (generic meclizine, the ingredient in Bonine or non-drowsy Dramamine). If you get super-queasy the health center can get you prescription medication (for a fee). ~Mousesavers

BONUS TIP: While we’re talking about medications, I recommend bringing common over-the-counter medicines with you (like nighttime cold medicine, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Imodium, and allergy meds) — because if you go to the ship’s doctor and they think you are sick, they might quarantine you!

#17 – Port adventures

These are the excursions we chose at port in the Bahamas:

NOTE: Both of our excursions included 1 FREE digital photo of your party participating in the adventure. (The photo is emailed to you.) At the Dolphin Encounter, you can also buy additional photos if you want to.

Both of these excursions included a 40-minute cruise on a double-decker ferry through Nassau Harbor to the private island of Blue Lagoon. While on the island, you are free to enjoy the beach, the shops, and the restaurants until you decide to go back to the ship. (You can choose to spend 3.5 hours or 5.5 hours on the island before taking the ferry ride back to the ship.)

Interestingly, people from other cruise ships (that are docked in the Bahamas at the same time as the Disney Dream cruise ship) are also on the ferry ride and the excursions that take place on Blue Lagoon island with you.

BONUS TIP: They say you must wear close-toed shoes in order to do the Segway tour, but this was not required on our tour. Several of us had flip flops on, and we did just fine. I will say, after riding Segways 2 different times nowyour toes and arches will get the biggest workout on a Segway. Hubby and I both had sore feet after this 1-hour Segway ride wearing flip flops, but it wasn’t unbearable. (We definitely wanted to wear comfy shoes for the rest of the cruise though!)

#18 – Spa services

My husband and  I both splurged and took advantage of some Spa treatments.

  • I got a pedicure (which lasted about 1 hour and included a soothing eye gel application and some cool-feeling Arnica gel on my shoulders) and a 50-minute massage (which included extra attention in the specific areas I asked the masseuse to focus on: lower back/sciatica, shoulders, and neck).
  • My husband got a facial and a shave. He was a little bummed that they didn’t shave his entire head (he’s a bald guy with a goatee), but I think they would have if he had specifically asked them to.

BONUS TIP: When you’re signing the receipt for the Spa services you’ve received, don’t forget that an 18% gratuity has already been added onto the bill. (Yes, they add a 15% gratuity for other things purchased on the ship, but it’s an 18% gratuity for Spa treatments!)

It’s best if you know this ahead of time…

The Spa attendants are hopeful that you’ll buy products while you’re there (the very high-quality ELEMIS brand). Hubby actually bought what they recommended on the spot, and I ended up buying what they recommended from Amazon after we got home.

These are the products we bought after our Spa treatments on the Disney Dream cruise ship. Jim bought his directly from the Spa. I bought mine on Amazon after we returned home.

They like to mention an ELEMIS product that is targeted for the specific type of skin issue you’re having:

And… even though they are trying to sell you a product that will help with your particular skin issue, I actually do agree with the following quote, because the Spa staff was prompt to put the products away after I said, “No, I’m not interested.” They never asked twice, and they didn’t frown or roll their eyes. They are very understanding when you respectfully decline the products.

The product is there for you to buy it, but they will never push you into it. They will just offer you the information you need to make an informed decision. Nicely done, Disney! ~Cruise with Gambee

#19 – Disney’s private island (Castaway Cay)

Even though Disney’s Castaway Cay has been voted best cruise line private island for 3 years in a row, we skipped Disney’s island experience altogether.

I’m sure we missed out on a lot of things that Disney does differently from what other cruise lines do on their private islands, but we opted instead to have the pool (and the 2 waterslides) to ourselves on that day. This was pure heaven for the 5-year-old, and a peaceful day for us adults as well. (Hubby and I also had our Spa treatments on this day.)

Compare this pic with the pool pic above and you can see that we pretty much had the pool to ourselves on Castaway Cay day.

BONUS TIP: Unless there is something specific that you look forward to doing on Castaway Cay (like participating in the 5K, snorkeling around Mickey’s sunken treasure, or sinking your toes in the sand at the beach)… if you want to avoid the crowds and have a relatively quiet day on the ship, I highly recommend staying on the boat that day!

For those who like the adventure, spending a full day off the ship at Disney’s private island includes these things for FREE:

  • beach chairs
  • towels
  • umbrellas
  • waterslides
  • lunch (at your choice of 3 different full-service food stations)
  • all-you-care-to-eat ice cream
  • tram transportation to all parts of the island
  • hiking trails
  • island entertainment

Of course, there are lots of other fun activities on Castaway Cay that you can also enjoy — for a fee.

Snorkeling is fun — you don’t have to reserve the stuff ahead of time. You can also bring snorkeling stuff with you, but it takes a lot of room in your suitcases. (Look for the sunken Mickey stuff!) You can also bring cheap sand toys to use at the beach. (They sell stuff there, but it is expensive – try to buy stuff off-season.) Then you can just leave the toys there and you’ll have more room for souvenirs! ~Mama in the Now

#20 – Interacting with Disney characters

Anyone with a child will tell you… Take the time to have pictures taken with as many Disney characters as possible!

Sometimes, the lines for Character Greetings may seem long — but they actually move rather quickly and there are usually other things to watch nearby while you’re waiting.

BONUS TIP: In addition to having photos taken with the Disney characters onboard the ship, there are lots of other ways to interact with the characters. These meet-and-greet opportunities are called Character Experiences on the Disney Dream cruise.

#21 – Midship Detective Agency Game

This is a really cool interactive adventure for kids of all ages!

Disney's Midship Detective Agency Game is a really cool interactive adventure for kids of all ages!

There are 3 different versions of the Midship Detective Agency Game that you can play. (Many play a different version each day that they’re on the ship.) If you wanted to play each one quickly, you could probably finish each detective “case” in about 1 hour.

To solve each case, you use a kid-friendly map of the ship to locate approximately 20 magical pieces of framed artwork that are cleverly disguised as ordinary pictures on the walls of the ship. (You will be visiting just about every floor of the ship — exploring the front, middle, and back of the boat.)

When you find one, you hold up your personalized detective badge to activate a special effect in the LCD screen that magically brings the artwork to life! Follow Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck’s instructions to move your detective badge around in front of the screen, and you’ll unveil your next clue.

BONUS TIP: We didn’t start this game with 5-year-old Cam until the very last night of the cruise. It would be best if you start playing this game on the very first day of the cruise — that way, you will naturally become familiar with everything that’s on the ship while you’re searching for clues!

#22 – Adult games

There are no casinos on any Disney cruises, however there is Bingo!

You don’t use Bingo markers (or Bingo daubers). Instead, you simply flip over the cut-out tab for each number that’s called on your Bingo paper cards.

In addition to using the paper Bingo cards, you can buy several cards that come preloaded on handheld electronic Bingo machines. All you do is keep an eye on the screen, and it will notify you if and when one of your electronic cards has a Bingo! (Most of the time, it was the handheld electronic cards that won… but not always.)

The electronic cards literally play themselves. Although there are several buttons on the devices, you do not push anything. All you do is watch the screen while it displays your best card, tells you how many you are away, when you are one away and then alerts you once you have a bingo. This is definitely the no-stress way of playing bingo and is perfect for newbies, kids and people just looking to kick back and relax. ~Touring Plans

Kids are allowed to play Bingo, as long as an adult accompanies them. Plus, the Bingo games go quickly enough — so any kids who are not playing don’t get too bored.

NOTE: Several times, kids actually won the Bingo games. Their parents collected the prize money which ranged from $100 to $150, on average, per game (split if there was more than one winner).

#23 – Entertainment theaters

There are 2 large theaters with stadium seating (even balcony seating and side balconies — like in a classic theater) where Broadway plays take place on the stage and recent releases of Disney movies are shown on the big screen. We watched 1 movie in one theater and saw 2 plays in the other.

BONUS TIP: To see what movies will be shown on your cruise before you get on the ship, call (888) 325-2500. The information is updated about 2 weeks before each Disney Dream cruise.

For what it’s worth, people come and go a lot while the movie is playing. I think it’s because no one actually plans to spend their time watching a movie when they’re on a cruise. So watching a movie is often used as a way to pass the time until the start time approaches for something that you’d rather do.

BONUS TIP: Food and soft drinks are NOT FREE at the snack stations located outside of the 2 theaters! Freshly popped popcorn, candy, and canned sodas are quite expensive there. I recommend filling your own water bottle with the beverage of your choice from the FREE Beverage Station on Deck 11 before you head to the theater to watch a movie or a play. Outside of each theater, they sell popcorn in refillable popcorn containers (for $7.50) — and you can refill them as much as you like during your cruise for just $1.50 each time.

Enjoying popcorn from our refillable popcorn bowls on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

We thoroughly enjoyed the 2 live shows: Beauty and the Beast and Believe. This adaptation of Beauty and the Beast recently won an award for best live production on a cruise ship!

These videos will give you an idea of what both of the live shows are like: (yes, the 2nd video works)

#24 – Swimming pool & waterslides

The pool deck on Deck 11 is the most popular spot on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

NOTE: Disney staff members cover the family swimming pools with wooden decking whenever there are themed parties on the pool deck — like the Sail Away Party, Pirate Night, and the Fireworks Show. (By the way, the best place to watch the fireworks on Pirate Night is on the starboard — right — side of the ship.)

The pool deck is the hub of entertainment on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

There is 1 large swimming pool for adults-only near the bar called the Quiet Cove pool — and there is a hot tub for adults-only there as well.

BONUS TIP: While children are not allowed to hang out in the adults-only areas, they are welcome to pass through those areas. In fact, to get to the main pool deck, you pretty much have to walk right through the adult pool area!

In addition to splash zones and water play areas for little kids, the family pool area also includes:

The Disney Dream pool towel system is just like the one on Celebrity. You can grab as many towels as you want and just return them into a towel place or leave them anywhere. No need to worry about someone stealing your towel, and then you having to pay for it later on. I have to admit, this is something that really bothers me about the other cruise lines. ~Cruise with Gambee

BONUS TIP: The water slides are super popular during the daytime hours, but not so much in the evenings — especially the 2-person AquaDuck slide that goes above the swimming pool area. (It’s a water coaster, similar to a log ride found at amusement parks, only you’re on an inflatable raft that holds 2 people and floats through a clear tube above the pool area.) The other waterslide at Mickey’s Pool is a child-sized slide with a few twisties.

There is also a separate swimming pool (accessed through the Vibe Teen Club) and 2 hot tubs on the sun deck at the front of the ship just for teenagers:

#25 – Jumbo screen

There’s a jumbo LED screen (24 feet wide and 14 feet high) located atop the ship’s Forward funnel — where Disney movies, popular TV shows, and major sporting & broadcast events are shown throughout the day on Deck 11.

I must say, the sound quality is excellent. And there are plenty of poolside chairs to sit in — all with a great view of the screen.

This jumbo screen also provides a close-up view of what’s happening on the small stage just beneath it — to accommodate the hundreds of cruise guests who attend parties on the pool deck. That way everyone can have a front row seat and see the action that’s taking place on the stage!

BONUS TIP: There are very few clocks in plain site on the ship. Most people carry their phones and use that as a clock. I happened to notice that there are 2 small clocks on both sides of the jumbo screen on the upper pool deck railings.

#26 – Snacks & beverages

There is an all-you-care-to-eat Ice Cream Station that’s available 24/7 for FREE. There are several flavors of soft-serve ice cream and kid-sized cones to put it in.

TIP: For what it’s worth, I didn’t see any cups or spoons near the Ice Cream Station (nor did I see any ice cream toppings that are shown in their advertising for the Ice Cream Station). But… if you prefer your ice cream in a cup, the Beverage Station is located near the Ice Cream Station on Deck 11 — so you could use one of those cups. (You’ll still need to bring your own plastic spoon though.)

There’s also an all-you-care-to-drink Beverage Station that’s available 24/7 for FREE and includes milk, juice, hot tea, iced tea, coffee, hot chocolate, lemonade, and soda pop. This was a pleasant surprise to us — because most cruise lines don’t provide soft drinks for free.

BONUS TIP: Bring your own large water bottle to refill on board with FREE soft drinks or water. Heck, you can even bring your own 3-day supply of bottled water on board — so you don’t always have to make your way to the Beverage Station. We saw several people carrying 12-packs of bottled water onto the ship. Otherwise, if you want bottled water in your room, Disney charges $21 for a 12-pack of bottled water. They deliver it to your cabin when you’re not there and put it in the refrigerator for you. (Included in that cost is a really nice Disney insulated cooler tote bag — which makes it convenient to take some water bottles with you whenever you’re at the pool and when you leave the boat.)

Each guest is allowed to bring 6 bottles of beer onto the cruise and 2 bottles of wine or champagne — in your carry-on, not in your checked luggage.

You can buy a beer package, or a wine package, or a water package — but there is no liquor package. (To give you an idea of the cost of liquor on the Disney Dream ship, an 8 oz Bourbon & Coke cost $8.)

We stopped by the Disney Dream adult area, and I took some pictures of the drink lists. By the way Disney has the cheapest drinks of any cruise line that I have been on. Not only that but they also offer happy hour. On Castaway Key, I bought 2 drinks for $8 total. ~Cruise with Gambee

#27 – Departure time

Your assigned dinner time — (either early dinner or late dinner, which you can have changed) — also determines the time that you will leave the ship on the final morning:

  • Early dinner guests have to leave their room (and be inside the dining room, if you want to eat breakfast) by 6:45 a.m. on the last morning.
  • Late dinner guests have to leave their room (and be inside the dining room, if you want to eat breakfast) by 8:00 a.m. on the last morning.

On the final night of your cruise, you have to leave your luggage in the hallway in front of your door by 10:30 p.m. That’s when all of the stateroom hosts take it downstairs and into the port terminal for you to pick up when you pass through Customs on your way back to your car.

If you don’t leave your luggage out in the hall the night before, then you will have to lug it around with you through breakfast and during the waiting period until you’re allowed to get off the ship.

It's easier to leave all of your luggage (except for 1 carry-on bag) in the hallway the night before - that way you don't have to lug everything around until you're allowed to leave the ship.

BONUS TIP: Having your bags in the hall by 10:30 p.m. enables you to put the current day’s clothes into your suitcase and leave out whatever you plan to wear off the ship the next morning. You’ll want to have at least 1 carry-on bag with you on the final morning — for all of your toiletries and sleep clothes from the night before.

#28 – Disney Cruise staff

Everywhere you look on board the Disney Dream cruise ship, you’ll find the nicest staff ever!

The entire staff is there to make you feel like you’re the only person aboard that ship. Disney service is on a league of their own. I think this is the cruise were I really noticed the least amount mistakes done. And the entire cruise was full of smiles and friendly staff. This is the way a cruise should be! ~Cruise with Gambee

No matter what you want… when you want it… or where you want it… on the Disney Dream, you’ll always get the response “Yes, of course!” or “My pleasure!”

I personally witnessed their overly accommodating attitude:

  • At dinner each night
  • From the bartenders at the bars and those taking drink orders at Bingo
  • In the Spa while setting appointments and receiving treatments
  • Even at Blue Lagoon island where the staff are local Bahamians and not Disney Cruise staff

Service Rating: 10/10. It is fair to say that Disney’s service is the benchmark for all the other cruise lines that I have been on. NCL should be taking notes and putting their employees through a more rigorous process on how to treat customers. I also spoke to a few crew members that all expressed the same feeling — working for Disney has been their best experience in the cruise line industry. Maybe by taking extra care of your staff that shows in how they handle your guests! We never encountered any issues with the staff at all. I also noticed that this cruise never had a line at the Customer Service desk, and you rarely saw people there. I cannot say enough good things about the crew on Disney Cruise Line.~Cruise with Gambee

NOTE: In case you’re wondering, here’s what it’s like to work on a Disney Cruise ship — with regard to pay and benefits.

#29 – Tipping

Every single receipt you sign for services while on the ship includes a 15% tip. Most people don’t realize this the first time they’re signing the receipt — like the very first day when servers are roaming the ship asking if you want to buy the Bottled Water Package.

BONUS TIP: If you don’t want the additional Disney insulated cooler bag with your Bottled Water Package, then you must specify that — otherwise, they will assume you want it and you’ll pay dearly for it! Also, don’t feel bad crossing out the “additional tip” line on each receipt you sign. Disney makes sure that they automatically get 15% each time!

We messed up a few times and accidentally gave our server — and Spa attendant — another 20% tip on top of the gratuity that was already added to the bill! (Trust me, the one place that this will cost you the most is if you do it on any Spa services that you receive — because those are quite expensive to begin with.)

Some positions are not allowed to accept tips. The main ones that come to mind are the workers in the nursery and kids’ clubs. I have heard that if you try and tip them they will politely decline — and if you insist, they are supposed to turn over the tip to their supervisor. I’m sure there are other positions that will decline tips as well. If you really want to reward one of these people for excellent service, a great way to do that is to mention them by name on the comment card that you will be asked to fill out at the end of your cruise. I have heard that DCL takes these comments very seriously and actually does reward workers based on the positive comments they receive. ~Disney Cruise Mom Blog

If you use this Cruise Tip Calculator, you'll see that the tips that you're encouraged to leave for your cruise servers is really not bad at all!

As for tipping your housekeeping attendant (a.k.a stateroom host) and your dining room servers…

You’ll notice that Disney automatically includes a daily gratuity for the 4 crew members who personally assist you each and every day — it appears in your daily stateroom bill. If you would like to raise or lower any of the gratuity amounts, you can go to Guest Services anytime during your cruise and ask them to adjust the amounts.

BONUS TIP: One way to increase the gratuity amount is to add cash inside the envelopes that you will find in your stateroom on the final night of your cruise. (Your stateroom host will place them there prior to dinner time.) That way, in addition to the slip of paper — stating that you agree with the gratuity amount that has been charged to your account for each crew member — you can add some more cash inside the envelope before handing it to the crew member whose name is on the outside.

Said another way:

On the last day of your cruise, your stateroom host will leave 4 small envelopes in your room as well as 4 slips of paper. Each paper will have the name of one of your 4 tipped workers on it — as well as the amount that DCL has charged to your onboard account for that worker. You should put the slips of paper in the appropriate envelopes and take them to dinner with you on your last night and present them to your servers after your meal. For your stateroom host, you should give him/her the envelope next time you see them. If you don’t think you will see them, I suggest leaving the envelope in an obvious place in your room so that they will see it when they turn down your room on the final evening. ~Disney Cruise Mom Blog

Here i a Disney Cruise Gratuities Calculator — so you can get a better idea of what’s expected when it comes to cruise tipping. It’s based on the number of people in your cabin and the number of days for your cruise. (Typically, it’s the same amount for your head server and stateroom host, a little bit less for your assistant server, and a lot less for your head server.)

NOTE: Above, I explained the responsibilities of the dinner server and assistant server. However, the one person that you are also expected to tip (and that you are least likely to have come in contact with) is the head server. They’re the one in charge of your overall dinner experience, special dietary requests within your party, and any special occasions for the people at your table.

Disney ships have almost everything a traveler could need, except ATMs. Everything onboard is either included or charged to your account, so having cash is generally unnecessary onboard. But the Disney bus driver who picks you up at the airport, the porters who haul suitcases, the tour guides, taxi drivers and waiters at the ports you visit appreciate tips, and those can’t be charged to your Disney account. Bring at least $20 in small bills. ~USA Today

#30 – Passports and other documents

We learned that you don’t actually need a passport for this cruise to the Bahamas. A birth certificate is enough because the Disney Dream cruise is a closed loop trip — which means you’re taking off from and returning to the exact same place in the U.S.

NOTE: Here’s more about which documents are required.

#31 – What’s where?

The quickest and easiest way to locate things on the boat is to use the lighted and framed map of the ship that is posted near each elevator throughout the ship. These are the typical “You are here” types of maps. They clearly identify everything that’s on that particular floor — in the forward, mid, and at areas of the ship.

Here’s a quick tip to determine which side of the boat you’re on:

  • The staterooms on the port (left) side of the ship have fish sculptures as door markers, and those fish are swimming aft (toward the back of the ship).
  • The staterooms on the starboard (right) side of the ship have seahorse sculptures as door markers, and they are also facing aft (toward the rear of the ship).

This video reveals another cruise hack to tell if you’re walking toward the front of the boat or toward the back of the boat — just look down at the carpet in the hallways:

Things We Didn’t Take Advantage Of…

There is so much on the ship that we never took the time to explore!

Now that I know the basics of what a Disney Dream cruise is like, I look forward to exploring all of the little (very special) “Disney touches” that have been applied to everything that exists on this ship next year when we return. I can’t stop thinking of all the people who designed and decorated this amazing ship and the many hours they put into creating the most awesome experience for their cruise guests. Most of these little things are far too easily overlooked…

As I’ve already stated, we didn’t leave the ship on the day that everyone else enjoyed Castaway Cay — Disney’s private island — for the reasons mentioned above. However, next time I think I might want to participate in the Castaway Cay 5K (walking, not running!) — just for the sense of accomplishing something meaningful on a cruise where typically all I do is eat and lounge around. (That and for the medal you receive!) As a non-runner, I definitely wouldn’t be alone walking the Castaway Cay 5K — many people admit that this is their first 5K.

TIP: As long as you walk a little beforehand (so you’re comfortable walking long distances), it shouldn’t take much more than 1 hour to walk the Castaway Cay 5K. It’s FREE… and there’s no cut-off time, if it happens to take you longer!

Two other things that we didn’t take advantage of on our Disney Dream cruise are:

  1. Adults-only nightclubs and lounges
  2. Kids-only playrooms and activities

I think those are 2 awesome features that Disney provides its cruise guests. When we return next year (yes, all 5 of us have already agreed to make this an annual vacation), we plan to use them both.

If you even think you might want to cruise on Disney again and you can afford it, go ahead and rebook while you are onboard. You can book a “dummy date” and keep moving it until you find a cruise you want to do. You only have to put 10% down (instead of 20%), you get extra onboard credit and it is 10% cheaper! If you decide to do this, email Carol Davis at [email protected] ~Mama in the Now

Specifically, Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab are wonderful places for kids age 3-12 to spend time with others their own age — and a way for the adults to spend some time alone… or with others their own age.

I’m told that there is, on average, 1 Oceaneer counselor for every 7 or 8 children. The couple that sat at our dinner table brought their 5-year-old grandson on the cruise with them. They (and he) couldn’t say enough good things about the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab!

This video shows you what the Oceaneer Club is like:

Other Helpful Disney Cruise Tips & Resources

A must-read… the ultimate Disney Cruise Packing List! I especially like the tip for using sticky notes to leave messages on the mirror for the room steward (if you need something or want the beds made up differently).

Even though the cruise was only 3 days long, this is my favorite cruise so far and possibly the most memorable one. Disney offers a product that is unrivaled by any of the other cruise lines that I have been on. The problem with the Disney cruise is that it comes at a premium cost –but in all honesty I believe the cost is well justified. To us, Disney offered us a different way of cruising, everything was impeccable, and at the same time it was loaded with a fun factor x 10. No other cruise line has yet been able to deliver that for me. I have a new favorite cruise line, and it’s Disney Cruise Line! Now don’t get me wrong RCCL is still a close second, but Disney just stole my heart. I will be looking for when we are able to do our next Disney Cruise. ~Cruise with Gambee