We went on the Disney Wish Cruise Line over the summer and truly had such a great experience! I wanted to write a post to share all of my Disney Wish Cruise tips and tricks for anyone planning their own vacation. Keep reading for my review on what to pack, book ahead, the food on board, wifi, and other tidbits you might find useful.
Sidenote: If you have been following for long you know that we have three kids. For this trip, we opted to only take our two older kids (6 and 4 years old) and leave our 18-month-old at home with my parents.
Disney Wish Cruise Tips for Planning
My first tip when you decide to go on a Disney Wish Cruise is to use a planner – it’s a free service! We used Rachael from Rachael Plans Disney. We had a few zoom calls leading up to the trip and did the actual booking for us. She made the whole process much easier and was who I went to for questions. She also helps with Disney World and Disney Land vacations too.
A few weeks before the cruise, you get an email asking you to “check in”, similar to a flight. I recommend doing this immediately when you get that notification because that is how you get your boarding time to get on the ship. An earlier time allows you to get on sooner and enjoy the ship more on that first day.
If flying, I recommend flying in the night before your cruise ship leaves, just to give yourself some cushion in case there are delays or travel hiccups. If you are cruising out of Port Canaveral like we did, I recommend staying in Orlando instead of Port Canaveral. In our experience there is not much to do (or many quality places to eat) in Port Canaveral. Orlanda has Disney Springs, which would be a great place to check out the night before your cruise. Orlando is about 50 minutes from Port Canavral.
On the Ship
I know this might not be the right choice for everyone, but we chose to not get off the ship in the Bahamas. Our main reason was the cruise was so short (only 4 days, 3 nights), and we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the ship. On the day we stayed on board, we had a slow seated breakfast, swam in the pools, checked out the inflatables in the gym, and were able to meet a bunch of characters without terribly long lines!
One of my best planning tips is to make sure you sign up for the Royal Gathering. Our planner made this reservation for us, but you can read here how to do it yourself. This was a short 30-minute opportunity to see a handful of princesses back to back, without waiting in a long line. You HAVE to book this ahead of time. You are not able to even get in the line without a reservation.
Disney Cruise Packing Tips
The kids did lots of swimming on the ship and Castaway Cay. So don’t forget all your swimming gear especially goggles for the kids. They used them on board but especially needed them for the slides at Castaway Cay. Ditch your purse and just bring some sort of tote bag to carry around the ship.
For the adults: If you plan to enjoy adult beverages, bring all the alcohol you can because it is very expensive on board. Each adult can bring two bottles of wine or 6 beers. I would just plan to buy the alcohol in Orlando as opposed to flying with it. We found the beers to be crazy expensive (although if you order 6 they do come with a cooler). Wine was more reasonable. You can also hold onto your wine glass (or just ask for one!) and keep it in your room to drink the wine you brought on yourself.
Don’t forget koozies for beer!
Pirate costumes! They have a pirate night on the ship that people love to get dressed up for. Here are some of the simple pirate outfits we brought with us. Some people went all out though! There were also fireworks off the ship that night – definitely don’t miss this deck party after dinner!
Since it is a Disney cruise, it’s fun to get into the spirit with themed outfits. Here are some cute ones I found for the whole family. You can shop all the outfits here.
Disney Cruise Food Tips
There’s an earlier and later dinner seating. If you are not happy with your seating time go to customer service right when you get on the ship and request to change it. They were able to change us from the late to the early seating, which was a better fit for our family.
There are also amazing broadway-style plays each evening! The Little Mermaid and Aladdin ones on our ship were truly remarkable. These show times are opposite of your dinner seating – so if you eat early you go to the later show and vice versa. If your kids can stay up, I would NOT miss these!
Most of the food on board is included in your price of the cruise, but popcorn was an add-on. However, it was actually decently priced. We paid $8.50 for a popcorn bucket and then got $1.50 refills the rest of the cruise. We would go get popcorn during our quiet time/shower time and enjoy it in the room!
We found that choosing to eat a la carte breakfast made for a more elevated experience. I would ask your dinner servers on the first night which restaurants are open for breakfast. We dined at 1923, and it was very nice.
A little pro tip: Order Mickey bars from room service. They are not on the menu, but they do have them! They were a fun treat for the kids.
Disney’s Private Island – Castaway Cay
We started the Castaway Cay day with room service (you put your order in the night before), so we would be some of the first people off the ship! I recommend going to Cookies Too/Pelican Point on Castaway Cay. This is the second of two family beach areas. There is a trolley so it’s no big deal to go to the next stop. It is less crowded because most people stop at the first one, and it’s closer to the slides!
A nice thing about Castaway Cay is because it is Disney’s own private island, it is basically an extension of the ship. It’s clean, feels safe, and the staff are all Disney employees. Lunch is included at their buffet-style eatery and there are alcoholic beverages for purchase. Towels and lifejackets are also provided on the island!
Disney Cruise Wifi
There is an on-board network to access the Disney app (with in-app messaging) but Wi-Fi packages are available. We paid around $108 for both of us for a three-day cruise. The Internet was still slow on some site, however checking email/social media was fine. You can message on the Disney Cruise Line app for free with people in your group.
The Disney Cruise Line app also shows the itinerary for the day, menus for the different restaurants, where certain characters are going to be on the ship and much more. I recommend everyone with a smartphone downloads it.
42 inches is the minimum height to ride the big slide on the ship, and 38 inches is the minimum for the smaller slide. They are pretty strict on these. There were also two slides on Castaway Cay with a bit shorter requirements. Kids under 3 and/or not potty trained can’t go in pools, but there is a splash pad for the littles.
The lines for the big slide were very long, so if that’s really important to you I would try to go during an off-peak time, or expect to wait 30-45 minutes. It’s super fast and fun, though!
More Disney Wish Cruise Tips
Personally, I think this cruise is best for kids aged 4 and over because of the jam-packed days (not ideal for napping) and later nights. However, there were plenty of babies on the ship!
As a rule of thumb, I would shoot to be 15 minutes early to everything if you want a good seat or don’t want to have to wait in long lines.
We chose to get a blank 5×7 photo mat for character autographs instead of an autograph book. I think this was a great choice because the kids can see the signatures anytime (along with a sweet picture from the trip) instead of a book that will get put on a shelf or lost. I got a plain one on Amazon, but there are lots of options on Etsy that you can customize for any type of Disney trip.
Overall we had an amazing trip with our two big kids and would absolutely recommend it. If you are looking for the Disney experience and maybe aren’t ready for the full-on parks, this is a good option! There was plenty to do but it still felt like a vacation to Marcus and me.
If you have been on the Disney Wish or another Disney cruise, let me know what tips and tricks you would add to this post. And if you are looking for more Disney planning tips, I have also shared a blog on Five Mom Hacks for Disney as told by a Disney travel agent.
You can also see more of the highlights from our trip over on Instagram, where I share more of our daily life and adventures as a family of five in Houston. Come follow along!