10 In Cruising/ Disney/ Family/ Travel

Disney Cruises for First Timers (or Those Afraid to Cruise)

Guide to first time cruising for Disney Cruises and for those afraid to cruise. A rare occurrence - Two Disney ships (Wonder & Dream) at Castaway Cay together.

Does the idea of a Disney Cruise overwhelm you? Are you new to cruising in general or just simply afraid to cruise? Fear not, In this multi-part series will cover all the basics so keep checking back for more posts.

Throughout the first 41 years of my existence, I never had a desire to cruise. Never. Not even a little bit. The thought of being “trapped” in the middle of the ocean was terrifying. While I didn’t think we’d end up like a scene from The Posiden Adventure, my fear was more based on just general anxiety about the unknown and the thought of being stuck with nowhere to go. I didn’t want to be stranded at sea with no working plumbing while rescue helicopters flew in pallets of spam for us to live off of. I’d heard ALL the stories!

In late 2013 my in-laws decided they wanted to go on a big family trip with their kids and grandkids. It would be a trip that ranged from age 22 months to mid 70’s so we had to do something that could accommodate a lot of different activity levels, interests, and also diets. (My husband and I along with our two kids are all vegetarians. Depending on where we go, that can be an issue at times.) Since I am a research addict, I took on the job of finding us the perfect vacation. We talked about inclusive resorts, just renting a house somewhere, taking a road trip and then the dreaded ‘C’ word – cruising. The more this came up in conversation, the more people seemed to be leaning towards cruising. I, on the other hand, was starting to panic. When my father-in-law seemed settled on the idea of a cruise, I reluctantly started researching every cruise line I could. I looked a the food options, the itineraries, the kids’ clubs. I scoured through books and cruise-dedicated message boards. If I was going to be dragged onto a boat it was going to be the one I picked. In the end, a Disney cruise just seemed to check all the boxes for the entire group. Even though none of us were really “Disney people” at the time, it sounded like it had the best amenities for our group of 10.

Guide to first time cruising for Disney Cruises and for those afraid to cruise. Family photo on the Disney Fantasy.

We booked a 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Disney Fantasy for June of 2014. We would leave from Port Canaveral in Florida sailing first to St. Maarten, then St. Thomas, and finally Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) before heading back to Florida. We would also have 3 full days at sea in the mix. The first thing I did was create a spreadsheet that would outline every day, the dinner options, evening shows, and our special activities. It worked really well and I actually do this for every cruise we take now (Spoiler alert… we got hooked).

During my research, I came across A LOT of weird and confusing terms. Some I didn’t find out about until we got on the ship. So to wrap up part one of this guide, I want to introduce you to some (Disney) cruising basics.

Learn the Lingo:

It is important to know some basic terms. These will come up while booking your cruise and you’ll want to be prepared.

Cruise jargon:

  • Forward = front of ship
  • Mid = middle of ship
  • Aft = rear of ship
  • Port = left side of ship
  • Starboard = right side of ship
  • Cabin/Stateroom = your room
  • Decks = basically the different floors of the ships. So Deck 7 is essentially the 7th floor/level of the boat
  • Embark/Debark = getting on/off the ship
  • Muster Drill = a mandatory safety drill at the beginning of each cruise
  • Port of Call = one of the stops along the way
  • Veranda = a room with a balcony
  • Tender = ships aren’t able to dock at all ports. Some ports require the ship to anchor offshore and ferry people to the pier from small tender boats

Guide to first time cruising for Disney Cruises and for those afraid to cruise. Family photo on the Disney Wonder in Alaska

Disney specific terms:

  • KTTW (Key to the World) = is a card that each person carries on board. It acts as your room key, your credit card, your ID. It is the only thing you need to carry
  • Wave Phones = wireless phones in each room that you can bring with you around the ship. We prefer to use an app on our mobile phones. More on that later
  • Port Adventures = organized excursions you can go on during a stop at a port of call
  • Personal Navigator = a printed guide that is delivered nightly to your stateroom that outlines the following day’s activities. Think of it as your master schedule of everything the ship has to offer on board. There is also an app version for your phone that is very handy. I highly recommend you download it before your cruise.
  • Castaway Cay = Disney’s private island in the Bahamas
  • Castaway Club = When you take your first Disney cruise you are automatically enrolled in Castaway Club which is a repeat cruisers program with perks
  • Pirate Night = Select cruises have a themed night where cruisers transform into swashbucklers for dinner and a deck party complete with fireworks at sea. Other cruises include a Frozen night, Star Wars Day at Sea, or Marvel Day at Sea
  • Placeholder = Putting a small deposit down towards a future cruise that will grant you a discount on that trip. You have up to 18 months to book and go on the trip and if you change your mind, the placeholder is refundable.

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon where I will discuss what happens on the first day.

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Traci
    07/18/2019 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you for this. We’ve thinking of doing a cruise some day, but we’ve never been and we’re not sure how it would work with kids. This is great info!

    • Reply
      Kelly
      07/18/2019 at 1:55 pm

      I’ll be posting part 2 and 3 soon so check back.

  • Reply
    Cathy Creech
    07/18/2019 at 1:46 pm

    We have cruised before but I’m curious to see what makes Disney so special? it costs quite a bit more than the others.
    I’m going to check out the other posts related to this. Very interesting so far! you have me hooked!

    • Reply
      Kelly
      07/18/2019 at 1:58 pm

      I totally get it. We were NOT cruisers OR Disney people and honestly, I can’t imagine doing another cruise line. It really is the service that is amazing as well as just the attention to detail. The thing we love the most is that you rotate between three restaurants for dinner each night and your waitstaff follows you. So for the entire trip you have the same 3 servers. You get to know them really well and it is like a little family. Plus, unlike other cruislines, sodas, room service… its all included. If you want to have a warm chocolate chip cookie delivered to your room at midnight…. go for it! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Kate Green
    07/18/2019 at 1:54 pm

    This was a very informative blog! I am excited to take a Disney cruise sometime soon!

    • Reply
      Kelly
      07/18/2019 at 1:58 pm

      Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 soon.

  • Reply
    Danielle
    07/18/2019 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you for this post! I would love to do a Disney cruise someday – maybe when my baby is a bit older. Bookmarking this for future reference. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Carol
    07/18/2019 at 5:28 pm

    I really want to do a cruise with our family but my husband has that same fear of being trapped in the middle of the ocean. Excited to read about the first day. Hopefully I can convince him.

  • Reply
    Marin
    07/18/2019 at 5:36 pm

    I’ve been on three Disney cruises and this post is so accurate! The jargon was definitely something that needed to be included.

  • Reply
    clotilde
    07/19/2019 at 4:29 am

    I’ve just started considering a disney cruise and this post is helping me to definitely understand a bit more of this world! waiting for next parts!

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