Quick Guide to Your First Disney Cruise

Congratulations! You’ve decided to book your first Disney Cruise. Now what? At DCL Prep School, we believe strongly in the 6-step planning process. It works.

However, if this is your first Disney cruise, especially if it’s your first cruise ever, this guide is for you.

6 Step Planning Process at a Glance

With so much information available, where do you start planning and booking a Disney cruise? Start with Step 1 and work through the steps with us.

  • Step 1: Select a Date: This is where you select where you want to go, when you want to set sail and on which ship.
  • Step 2: Once you’ve selected your sailing, you pick your stateroom. DCL has 4 main categories: Inside, Oceanview, Oceanview with Verandah and Concierge staterooms.
  • Step 3: Make a daily Plan: During your cruise, in addition to embarkation and disembarkation days, you will have days spent at sea and days in port. We’ll help you make the most of all of them.
  • Step 4: Make a Dining Plan. Cruise ships are famous for the amount of food available. With DCL, you’ll need to choose a dinner time, then you can focus on all of the great dining available during the rest of the day.
  • Step 5: Plan Daily Activities: Now that you know which days will be at sea, and which will be in port, it’s time to plan Port Adventures and spa treatments. But try not to pre-plan more than a two to three activities per day. Once you board, you’ll be able to see what activities are planned on a day by day basis.
  • Step 6: Add Extra Magic: This is where you make your cruise unique. Joining a Fish Exchange is my favorite way to add magic, but you can personalize your cruise in so many ways.

Click to learn more about my 6 Steps to Planning Your Cruise.

Beyond the 6 Steps

Planning the details of your cruise is just the beginning. DCL Prep School is all about educating yourself on what Disney Cruise Line has to offer. Each ship in the Disney’s fleet was designed with families in mind. The DCL philosophy is this: There are other cruise lines that offer entertainment. Disney is an entertainment company with a cruise line. That means when they say there is something for everyone, they mean it. Here is just a sample of what awaits you when you step out of your stateroom each day.

  • World-class kids clubs.
  • Adults Only pools, lounges, restaurants, cafe and spa.
  • Pools, waterslides and splash zones
  • All you can eat dining
  • Broadway-style shows
  • Variety acts
  • First run movies, some in 3-D
  • Deck parties
  • Disney’s signature FIREWORKS at sea!

DCL Prep School Fun Fact: Did you know there are NO casinos onboard any Disney ship? Disney took the space most cruise lines dedicate to casinos and built the largest themed secured kids programming at sea!

Taking Care of Business


Just booking the cruise may be a big step. Do you book it yourself, or do you use at travel agent? There are great reasons to go each route. We’ll talk about them. If you do want to use a travel agent, we recommend Prep School Travel. Our agents are dedicated to Disney travel, and they are all very knowledgable in guiding clients through the process.

Also, when you submit a request for a quote through the DCL Prep School web site (the form is on the right side of this page) your request directly to my desk where I can help you plan the practically perfect cruise of your dreams.

Request a Quote

If you are the type of traveler who likes to take the reigns and book yourself, you have options, too. The Disney Cruise website was redesigned about a year ago – and luckily many of the initial bugs have been worked out. It is intuitive and lays out booking options.


You a deposit of 20% is due at the time of booking. This holds your stateroom. Final payment is due 75 days before you sail. You will not be able to reserve any Port Adventures, adults only dining, nursery time or other scheduled activities until your final payment is made.

Disney Cruise Line only accepts US Dollars. You can pay via any major credit card, Disney Gift Card or Disney Visa Rewards Card.

Onboard Account

If you’ve ever vacationed at Disney World and used your Magic Band to charge your purchases to your room, then you are familiar with how this works.

DCL uses an almost cashless model for onboard commerce. Use your Key to the World Card (room key) to make purchases at:

  • Gift, coffee and photo shops.
  • Theater concession stands.
  • Lounges.

Services charged to your onboard account:

  • Nursery time.
  • Spa treatments.
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique services.
  • Laundry (both self and full service).
  • Gratuities (unless paid prior to boarding).

Additionally the following will be charged to your onboard account:

  • Port Adventures booked through Disney Cruise Line.
  • Purchases and rentals on Castaway Cay.

Though this isn’t an all-inclusive list, it covers most of what you can charge to your room. You can see a detailed account of your ledger on your stateroom television or go to the Guest Services desk at anytime and ask for a printout. A final printout of charges will be delivered to your stateroom after midnight on the last night of your cruise. Read it carefully before disembarking.

I hope this guide helps you with the basics. If you have any additional topics you would like to cover, please leave a comment or email me at [email protected].

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