Beginner's Guide to Planning a Large Family Disney Cruise Vacation

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Advisor - Marilyn Fay
Curated By

Marilyn Fay

  • All-Inclusive Travel

  • Cruises

  • DIsney

A picture of Disney Castle during the fireworks during the night.
Curator’s statement

All aboard! Set sail on a magical voyage unlike any other – A Disney Cruise. It's a dream come true. Imagine a breathtaking view of the Caribbean sea. Disney extravaganzas like movie nights under the stars, themed dinner parties and Disney entertainment to ensure the little ones are never short of magical moments. A Disney Cruise promises magic infused with unforgettable memories. A Disney Cruise isn’t merely a vacation. It’s a magical journey, an escape into a world of wonder. The memories you create...well, they're priceless. An adventure, an experience, and a holiday all rolled into one. Here is everything you need to know to get started planning your Disney wonder-filled cruise.

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Where to stay on a Disney Caribbean Cruise

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Things to do on a Disney Caribbean Cruise

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Each Disney Caribbean Cruise has so much to see and do. The best part of a cruise is waking up in a different country to explore — from historical relics in Basseterre, St. Kitts; delving into the lush rainforests of Castries, St. Lucia; turquoise water in Bridgetown, Barbados; the natural beauty of Roseau, Dominica; to relaxing on the pristine beaches of St. John's, Antigua, every island has a unique something to see and do.

Itinerary: 10-Night Southern Caribbean Cruise from Port Canaveral:

  • Ports of Call: St. John's, Antigua Castries, St. Lucia Roseau, Dominica Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point and Disney Castaway Cay.

Itinerary: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise:

  • Ports of Call: Tortola, British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands and Disney Castaway Cay.

Itinerary: 7-Night Western Caribbean Cruise:

  • Ports of Call: Cozumel, Mexico George Town, Grand Cayman Falmouth and Jamaica Disney Castaway Cay.

Itinerary: Southern 7-Night Southern Caribbean Cruise from San Juan:

  • Ports of Call: Basseterre, St. Kitts Castries, St. Lucia Bridgetown, Barbados Roseau, Dominica St. John's and Antigua.

  • Ports of Call: Oranjestad, Aruba Willemstad, Curaçao Roseau, Dominica Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Fun for the whole family. Mom and Dad get a vacation, too.

Disney Kids Club

“It's a Small World" Nursery!"

This nursery is available for children aged six months to three years. It is rated extra well because of the gentle care offered. The nursery caregivers provide age-appropriate activities like reading stories, toys, games, crafts and even Disney movies. Rooms are split into an acclimation zone, main play area and the quiet room for naps. It's not included in the cruise fare, and reservations are required due to space limitations.

Disney's Oceaneer Club

The Oceaneer Club is targeted towards children between three and twelve years old. This club is a child's dream come true, spotlighting multiple themed activity centers where children can venture into magical realms of exploration — from a Toy Story-inspired area to Marvel's Super Hero Academy. Each themed area designs the activities based on their theme, and Disney-trained counselors facilitate all activities, ensuring a learning and fun environment.

Disney's Oceaneer Lab

Similar to the Oceaneer Club, the Oceaneer Lab caters to kids between three and twelve years old. The lab is more focused on educational opportunities fused with entertainment. Its programming varies from hands-on science experiments, art projects, computer games to themed parties. Also, it houses an Animator's Studio and a mini sound studio for budding artists and musicians.

Edge

The tween children specific hangout spot caters to kids aged 11 to 14. This 'cool' lounge is full of fun, interactive experiences that include video games, arts and crafts and age-specific activities such as scavenger hunts.

Vibe

Teenagers between 14 and 17 have exclusive access to Vibe, which is an adults-free zone. Designed like a loft, Vibe offers indoor and outdoor space, including a private deck area. Inside, there are a number of amenities like video screens, video games, a dance floor, a bar for soft drinks and comfy seating to relax or get to know other cruisers. It's transformed into a nightclub in the evenings, complete with dance parties and games.

Places to eat & drink on a Disney Caribbean Cruise

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Triton's

This is a Main Dining restaurant offering an American menu for breakfast and lunch, while for dinner, the menu takes a slight turn towards continental cuisine. It's named after the powerful ruler of the sea in The Little Mermaid.

Tiana's Place

Another Main Dining restaurant, this eatery emulates the charm of the South with a New Orleans-themed menu. Based on the film, "The Princess and The Frog," you will adore the fun atmosphere and live jazz.

Animator's Palate

Offering Pacific Rim and American cuisine for dinner, the entire family will enjoy dining among scenes from classic Disney films. The restaurant itself changes color over the course of dining.

Cabanas

This casual dining option offers indoor and outdoor seating with an incredible ocean view. Here, you can enjoy a buffet-style breakfast or lunch, and an à la carte dinner.

Royal Court Royal Tea

An interactive dining experience where you are invited to mix-n-mingle with Disney Princesses who visit guests at their tables during tea time.

Palo

For adults seeking a more intimate and romantic setting, Palo offers Northern Italian cuisine for dinner, in an upscale dining ambiance. They also host a popular brunch on sea days.

Room Service

The 24-hour room service offers a menu of American classics as well as some unique selections.

Preludes

It's a quick-service restaurant offering light snacks and refreshments, typically open during live show performances and movie screenings.

Daisy's De-Lites

This quick service on deck offers healthy fare like sandwiches, salads and fruit — perfect for a light lunch or snack.

Pete's Boiler Bites

Here you'll find classic American fare like hamburgers, chicken tenders and tacos.

Pinocchio’s Pizzeria

Offers a variety of pizzas throughout the day, serving up slices near the pool area.

Eye Scream Treats

Inspired by Mike Wazowski from the Disney-Pixar film "Monsters, Inc.," this food station serves soft-serve ice cream.

Need to Know

Motion sickness

Motion sickness occurs due to a conflict between what your eyes see (which might be the relatively stationary interior of the ship) and what your body feels (which may be the movement of the ship). This uncomfortable effect can really take the wind out of your sails during a cruise vacation!

To avoid motion sickness, go for the midship cabins.

Here's why:

  • Stability: Midship areas of a cruise ship ordinarily experience the least amount of motion because they're centrally located along the ship's length and width. So, the midship section is where you'll find the most stability. It's kind of like being at the apex of a seesaw, where you won't swing as hard as on either end.

  • Lower Decks: Coupling a midship location with a cabin on one of the lower decks is an even better choice. The physics are pretty much the same as above— just as you experience less motion in the center of the ship’s length, you also feel less motion in the center of its height. Plus, this location is closest to the ship's center of gravity.

  • Interior Cabins: Interior cabins located midship on the lower decks are thought to be the best rooms for those who suffer from motion sickness. As there are no windows, your eyes aren't at odds with your physical sensations, which can help alleviate symptoms.

Unique Perks Sailing with Disney

  • Broadway-Quality Shows
Pools, Waterslides & Recreation
Spacious Staterooms
Upscale, Casual & 24-Hour In-Room Dining
Adult-Exclusive Activities
Clubs for Infants, Kids, Tweens & Teens.

Here is the Breakdown of Disney Perks:

  • Inclusive pricing: Your cruise price includes almost everything you’ll need — stateroom, food, entertainment and activities! There are additional charges for specialty dining, certain beverages, spa services and shore excursions, but budgeting is more straightforward with most costs upfront.

  • Split Bathrooms: Many staterooms have split bathrooms — one half contains a sink and tub/shower, and the other, a sink and toilet. This can be a major plus for families with kids when multiple people are getting ready at the same time, making your stay smoother and more comfortable.

  • Spacious Staterooms: Staterooms on Disney Cruise Line typically are larger than average in the cruise industry. Many can accommodate up to five people for larger families or those traveling in groups.

  • Round-the-clock Entertainment: Disney Cruise Line offers Broadway-style stage shows, first-run films in 3D, Disney-themed trivia, character experiences, deck parties and much more! Many of these offerings are included in your cruise fare.

  • Kid's Clubs: Supervised activities are available for Kids, Tweens, Teens and infants in thoughtfully themed spaces featuring Disney storytelling. Trained Disney staff are always on hand to ensure children are having a fantastic time.

  • Adult Spaces: While there's a lot for kids, adults also get pampering with adult-only pools, bars, lounges and a place to relax: Senses Spa. The nighttime entertainment district is also adult-exclusive after 9 pm.

  • Disney Magic: Expect top-notch service, incredible attention to detail and the magical touches that Disney is known for — from fireworks at sea, to your favorite characters roaming the deck and themed dining.

  • Diverse Dining: With rotational dining, you move through different restaurants on your cruise, but your wait staff travels with you. Not only will you get to try different cuisines, but your servers will know your likes and dislikes, creating a personalized experience.

  • Private Island: Most Disney cruises in the Caribbean and the Bahamas include a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which is an exclusive paradise with all the Disney magic.

  • Connectivity: The Navigator app lets you access daily schedules, keep in touch with other members aboard, view menus and even watch Disney movies on your device.

Things to Bring:

  • Magnetic Clips: Given the metallic nature of cabin walls on most cruise ships, magnetic clips can be a lifesaver. Use them to pin up daily itineraries, important reminders or your souvenir postcards right on the wall.

  • Non-Surge-Protected Power Strip: With limited power outlets in the cabin, an approved power strip can help you charge multiple electronic devices simultaneously. Always remember to check with cruise line guidelines to ensure what type of power strip is allowed.

  • Highlighter Pens: Keep everyone's plans well-organized by using different color highlighters for each person in your group. It makes it easy to mark up the complimentary newsletter with the daily activities each of you fancy.

  • Portable Fan: If you like a gentle breeze to lull you to sleep or just prefer a fresh circulation of air in your cabin, a small portable fan will come in handy.

  • Portable Speaker: For music lovers, a compact portable waterproof speaker can allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes, whether you're getting ready for dinner or relaxing on your balcony.

  • Spray Bottle: A small spray bottle can be filled with water to mist your face on those warm Caribbean days. It's also handy for wetting your hair or freshening up your clothes.

  • Hanging Organizer: A simple over-the-door organizer can make a world of difference in maintaining an orderly cabin, especially for large families. It offers a handy storage option for your smaller items.

Choosing The Best Cabin:

Cabins away from the elevators tend to be quieter as it's away from the frequent foot traffic and people gathering.

Deluxe Inside Stateroom: Decks 5 to 9.

The Deluxe Inside Staterooms are located, tucked away from the highly frequented areas, and these staterooms offer a quieter location.

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom: Decks 1 and 2.

These rooms, situated on the lower decks, tend to be quieter due to their distance from pool areas, restaurants and deck activity venues.

Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom: Decks 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

These rooms are known for their peaceful ambience since they are quite a distance away from primary areas of activity on the ship.

Deluxe Inside Stateroom with Verandah: Decks 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

These staterooms give you the privacy of a verandah and are strategically located to minimize noise further.

Concierge Stateroom: Decks 11 and 12

Placed on the highest levels of the ship, the concierge staterooms often provide the quietest accommodations.

Bonus for Large Families

Disney Cruise Line ships feature a variety of connecting cabin options that can be linked via an internal connecting door, allowing families or larger groups traveling together to move between rooms easily. These connecting staterooms are available in multiple accommodation categories — from Inside staterooms to Verandah staterooms. Some Concierge-level cabins on Disney ships can connect. Do keep in mind that availability of connecting cabins can sometimes be limited. If you're interested in booking connecting cabins, it's recommended to book as early as possible. Cabins accommodate up to five and the bathrooms are split so more people can get ready at the same time.

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, 3 Days to Relax, Restore, Renew in Tuscany, Italy. This guide is part of our ongoing series on Cruise Travel.

Advisor - Marilyn Fay

Travel Advisor

Marilyn Fay

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on Cruise Travel.