The Things No One Tells You Before Your First Disney Cruise


Disney fans have plenty of options when it comes to a magical family vacation. From theme park fun on a Disneyland or Walt Disney World vacation to a trip with Adventures by Disney, there is something for everyone’s taste and budget.

And one aspect of the Disney company that really ticks the boxes for luxury, service, and food is Disney Cruise Line. With five ships (soon to be seven), a private Caribbean island, and a myriad of destinations from Norway to Alaska, Disney Cruise Line has become one of the most prestigious cruise companies since its launch in 1996.

After experiencing Disneyland in California, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Adventures by Disney, and Disneyland Paris, it was only a matter of time before we booked our first Disney Cruise – and wow, did we love every second! From the exquisite dining, incredible theming, and wonderful Guest service, we couldn’t have asked for a better first Disney Cruise Line trip.

But there were definitely some tidbits and secrets no one told us about before our first experience on DCL, including checking in, ship navigation, and our experience on board.


Credit: Disney Tips

Guests’ experiences aboard Disney Cruise Line ships are unique when compared to other cruise companies. Disney Cruise Line, of course, owns Castaway Cay, a private island in the Bahamas designed as an exclusive port of call for Disney’s ships. A second private destination, Lighthouse Point – a 700-acre property on the southern end of Eleuthera, Bahamas – is set to open in late 2022 or early 2023.

We have previously been on cruises run by Carnival and Princess, and so these were our markers for comparisons between Disney and its competitors in the cruise market. We were on the five-day cruise onboard the new Disney Wish, and so certainly peaked when it came to our first Disney cruise!

The Disney Wish is Disney’s most elegant cruise ship to date and features a number of brand new experiences — including the first-ever “attraction at sea”, the Aquamouse, as well as a Frozen dining experience, and a gorgeous, enchanted forest-themed Walt Disney Theatre. This all-new luxury liner also has a first-of-its-kind Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge, a Toy Story splash pad, and an incredible Marvel dining experience that has Guests part of the MCU itself.


Credit: Disney Tips

Immediately, we realized this was no ordinary cruise. From the magical decor, the scents, the music, and the warm welcome onto the ship, we knew that we’d entered a different realm of cruising. But there are a few little things we wish we’d known about prior to boarding the ship:

Mickey Premium Bars

Now we’ll start with a big one for us. We had no idea that you could get these iconic Mickey-shaped desserts on the DCL ships!

We knew that the ships had ice cream machines with cones at the ready, but what a happy surprise it was when our server let us know we could order a Mickey Bar for our dessert in the restaurants each night.

Back in January 2022, the price of Mickey Premium Bars in Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom went up from $6 to $6.25. Having the opportunity for unlimited ice cream bars on the ship was certainly a welcome surprise, and one we definitely utilized!

Mickey Ice Cream Bar

Credit: Disney Tips

The Guest Service Gives Walt Disney World a Run For Its Money

Every single crew member we encountered on our first cruise, from those at Port Canaveral to everyone on board was a dream.

We had always raved about the Guest service at Walt Disney World (especially as a previous Cast Member, seeing first-hand the amazing Guest service training received), but on the Disney Wish it was another level. Whatever we needed was always anticipated and Cast Members approached our issues with incredible solution-based tact. The entertainment was phenomenal, the character encounters were magical, and our room attendant was always visible outside our room. The entirety of the ship was pristine and we never encountered a spilled drink or a dirty bathroom – which unfortunately can’t be said lately for the theme parks. 

Just remember to bring some extra cash for tipping these wonderful Cast Members who spend months at sea creating our magical memories!


Credit: Disney Tips

Soda Is Included

Yes, this is detailed on the Disney Cruise website, but we didn’t quite comprehend how much this little “extra” would impact our trip – and our budget. On our previous cruises with Carnival and Princess, soda was not included and a “soda package” had to be pre-purchased to access anything other than water, tea, coffee, and juice at breakfast.

On a Disney Cruise, you can get soft drinks in all restaurant and bar locations as well as at fountain dispensers on the main pool deck. Just as with the Disney theme parks, Disney Cruise Line only serves soft drinks in the Coca-Cola family. Most soft drinks are free at the pool deck dispensers, in the buffet restaurant (Marceline Market on the Wish, Cabanas everywhere else), and in the main dining rooms. You’re welcome to get free refills at these locations as often as you want in whatever quantity you desire.

The only time you have to pay for soft drinks is at the bars and from room service. Basically, if you’re getting soda in a sealed can or bottle, you have to pay for it. If you get it from a fountain or you’re in the main dining rooms, you don’t.

This unique DCL tidbit saved us money, peace of mind with what we were opting to drink, and showcased why Disney Cruise Line does it better.


Credit: Disney Tips

The Restaurant Theming and Entertainment Surpasses All Expectations

Each of the five Disney Cruise Line ships has three main dining rooms, which Guests rotate around during their stay.

On the Disney Dream, Guests can enjoy Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, or Royal Palace. On the Disney Fantasy, it’s Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, or Royal Court, while on the Disney Magic it’s Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s, or Rapunzel’s Royal Table. On the Wonder, it’s Animator’s Palate, Tiana’s Place, and Triton’s, and on the new Wish, Guests can eat at 1923, Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure, or Worlds of Marvel.

It is difficult to describe just how amazed we were at the quality of the theming and entertainment on a Disney ship. The level of detail and production in the shows is awe-inspiring. Our favorite dining experience (and we feel like “dining experience” isn’t quite enough to describe it) was Worlds of Marvel – which houses Avengers: Quantum Encounter, hosted by Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp. We don’t want to spoil too many of the MCU surprises in this immersive dining show, but while eating, Guests watch a presentation of amazing hero technology, including the Quantum Core led by Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne. Not everything goes according to plan, and soon, chaos ensues with some fun Marvel cameos.

And don’t get us started on the sticky toffee pudding!


Credit: Disney Tips

Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure was also full of incredible singing, dancing, music, and the best live violinist we’ve ever seen! We were also overwhelmed by how many character meet and greet opportunities there were onboard, from inside the lobby, to in the restaurants, to on deck!

A Disney Cruise first-timer like us is also going to be blown away by just how amazing the stage shows are. On each of the Disney ships, there is the Walt Disney Theater, with 2 showings of either a headline performer, a movie, or a production show. If you are sailing on the Disney Fantasy you will get to see FrozenL A Musical Spectacular and Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular. On the Disney Wonder, the shows include Frozen: A Musical Spectacular, and The Golden Mickeys. The Dream also has Golden Mickeys as well as Believe, while on the Disney Magic, you can see Tangled: The Musical, Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic, and Twice Charmed An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story.

For us on the Wish, we got to enjoy An Embarkation Celebration — ‘Disney Seas the Adventure’, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and a reimagined version of Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular. We honestly did not expect such Broadway-style show productions, and we will admit we may have shed a little tear during the performance of Disney Seas the Adventure. Lesson? Bring tissues and high expectations!

Disney Cruise Line theater

Credit: Disney Tips

Ports of Call

Our ship docked at Nassau in the Bahamas and the iconic Castaway Cay, but there are plenty of itineraries to suit any Guest’s bucket list.

There are a couple of things that struck us as first-timers. The first was that we didn’t realize how touristy Nassau was as a town and that we’d actually prefer to stay on the ship! With a five-day trip, we figured we had plenty of time to explore, but boy, were we wrong! After venturing to one of the lovely forts in Nassau, we reboarded the Wish and set about ticking off places we hadn’t experienced off our list. We needed that extra half-day onboard to play trivia, go to the Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge, and enjoy the pools!

The second was that we hadn’t quite pictured Castaway Cay correctly in our heads. Castaway Cay is a 3-mile long, 1000-acre island used exclusively by Disney Cruise Line Guests and Crew Members. DCL’s ships dock right on the island,  but we didn’t expect the trek to get to the main beach and attractions. Don’t get us wrong – we love walking, and actually hired bikes on the island to explore – but in our heads, we got off the ship and walked straight onto the bay. Probably a silly assumption, but there were other Guests in the same boat (excuse the pun!).

Serenity Bay is about a 20-minute walk from the ship. There are a couple of trams on the island that provide an easier, faster route to the beaches. We recommend walking to Serenity Bay and taking the shuttle back at some point during your day at Castaway Cay, so you don’t miss all the little Imagineering details and fun Disney story items.


Credit: Disney Tips

So, were any of these Disney Cruise Line tidbits and tips a surprise? If you’re heading off on your first (or tenth) Disney Cruise soon, we hope you have a magical adventure, wherever your cruise ship is heading! Be sure to check our guide to Disney Cruise lingo to further help your vacation.

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who has worked at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Adventures by Disney! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her husband, an Air Force pilot. Find her children's book at