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Bring some Sharpies for the best DIY Disney souvenirs ever
First up: An autograph book filled with the signatures of your favorite Disney characters makes a swell keepsake. But these Disney fans take DIY souvenirs to a whole new level by expanding the possibilities of autographed items.
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Pack homemade costumes for theme nights
On every Disney cruise, there is always a pirate night with big Pirates of the Caribbean deck party. You can buy pirate gear at the ship's gift store or bring awesome homemade outfits that cost a lot less, as explained on the mom blog Foster2Forever.com.
Don't be surprised to see passengers, especially kids, wearing Disney-themed costumes at all times during the cruise—so if your kid lives in her Elsa dress, she'll fit right in.
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Arrive the night before
Cruise ships are not like busses. If you miss your sailing, you can't just hop on the next one. "I always recommend arriving the night before sailing if you are flying into your port of call. That will help avoid the potential of flight delays," recommends Family Travel Magazine.
Another advantage of arriving the night before is that you can board the ship early and start having fun.
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Book an early arrival
On embarkation day, the early bird catches the worm, rightly declares PopSugar Moms. Your ship may not set sail until the afternoon, but there are advantages to boarding early. The sooner you board, the sooner you can enjoy the ship.
If you choose the earliest port arrival time (PAT) possible, you'll add several hours of fun to your cruise. Even if your ship doesn't depart until mid-afternoon, you'll be able to start enjoying many of the ship's features from the moment you board. As a bonus, you'll enjoy a shorter boarding time, to boot.
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Personalize the outside of your stateroom door
Cruise ship corridors tend to be very long and monotonous. Every door looks the same, which can make finding your stateroom a little tricky for kids. Since stateroom doors on cruise ships are made of metal, a fun solution is to use magnetic decorations to personalize the outside of your door.
You'll find lots of suggestions for decorating a Disney stateroom door at Family Travel Magazine. The possibilities are endless, from banners and posters to dry erase boards. Don't have time to do it yourself? Customized cruise door magnetic decorations are a booming cottage industry on Etsy.
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Use magnets to turn your door into a command center
Speaking of magnets, experienced cruisers put their doors to work as a an HQ for all the invitations, maps, schedules, lanyards and other essentials you will collect. This photo by Flickr user aznaphrodite shows off how magnets can help organize all your cruise flotsam and jetsam.
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Snag a free ticket for a coveted meeting
As The Mouse for Less notes, Disney Cruise Line allocates free tickets for the most popular character meet-and-greets as a way to control crowds. Much like a FastPass at Disney World, the ticket is free and guarantees entry at your allotted time. Be sure to pick up a ticket soon after boarding at the Port Adventures or Guest Services desk.
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Ask the ship's photographers to use your camera
There will be many Disney character meet-and-greets during your sailing, and the ship's photographers are always on hand to snap a portrait that you can buy later. But they'll gladly use your camera if you just ask, points out PopSugar Moms.
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Wear a wristwatch and set it to ship time
There's ship time and there's local time, and the two are sometimes not the same. Your cell phone's clock will automatically update to local time, which can cause great confusion since shipboard activities and port departures will be on ship time.
When you board the ship, set your phone to airplane mode in order to use Disney Cruise Line's Navigator app without data roaming. Ignore your phone's clock. Instead, pack a wristwatch and set it to ship time.
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Change your phone's lock screen
If you lose your phone on the ship, how could a Good Samaritan or the ship's crew return it to you quickly? SmarterTravel recommends changing your phone's lock screen to an image that displays your emergency contact information, including your name, email address and an alternate phone number.
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Join the ultimate Disney gift swap at sea
If you're the kind of family that loves goodie bags, Secret Santa, cookie swaps and grab bags, listen up. Disney Cruise Line passengers can participate in an entirely optional group-participation phenomenon known as fish extenders.
What on earth are fish extenders, you ask? Think of it as the ultimate goodie swap for Disney superfans. Family Travel Magazine gives a detailed lowdown on how this grassroots gift-exchange works.
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Pack your carry-on for fun from Minute One
On embarkation day there's often a lag of several hours between when you board the ship and when your bags arrive at your stateroom. Cruise Critic's nifty infographic highlights how you can start having fun from Minute One if you've got your swimsuits and workout gear with you. That obviously also applies for essential medications and baby supplies.
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Outsmart those smart light switches
Every Disney cruise ship stateroom features an energy-saving main light switch that requires you to leave your key card in a slot in order to power the cabin. The idea is that it will prevent you from wasting power, but it's problematic if you want to charge electronic gadgets when you're out of the room.
No problemo, says Cruise Critic. You can outsmart the power police by putting any other similarly sized loyalty card, library card, or business card in the slot as a place holder. Just remember to switch the lights off when you step out.
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Multiply your outlets
There are never enough outlets inside any cruise ship stateroom, and that's even more true for gadget-loving families. This inexpensive Belkin power strip and surge protector features three electrical and two USB ports. It's a godsend when you've got multiple gadgets to recharge at once.
Need another USB port? You'll find one on the side of the flatscreen TV.
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Pack a dry bag for a day at the beach
Going ashore for a day on Disney's private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay? Or maybe you've signed up for a snorkeling or keyaking excursion? You'll need to bring your stateroom key card and a photo ID (to get back on the ship), and you'll likely also want your phone and, for most ports, a credit card and some cash. (You won't need the latter two on Castaway Cay.) Ditch your wallet in your stateroom safe in favor of a small, waterproof, floatable dry case on a lanyard. This one is designed for paddlers and runs about $15 on Overtons.com.
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Bring a few dollar bills to Castaway Cay
A Disney cruise is largely a cash-free vacation. You won't need any greenbacks on the ship or while on Castaway Cay, with the exception of the island's tiny post office. (Get oriented with these maps of the island.) If you want to send a postcard to yourself or a friend with the Castaway Cay postmark, you'll need a small amount of cash. The post office can't break anything larger than a $20 bill.
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Booking an interior cabin? Pack a night light
Many families opt for value-priced interior cabins. At night these cabins become pitch black, which can be unnerving for kids who wake in the night. Packing a night light is an alternative to leaving on a muted TV all night.
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Find peace and quiet on Deck 4
On Disney ships, my favorite place to steal away with a good book is vintage-style Deck 4, a low-key haven with mahogany loungers and shuffleboard courts.
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Choose a stateroom with a view
If you're choosing an exterior stateroom, consider the ship's route so you can enjoy a view of the sunrise on your first morning at sea and the sunset on your last evening, suggests The Travel Bite.
You might also think about views while in port. For example, when Disney ships dock at Castaway Cay, staterooms on the starboard side are typically treated to a sweeping view of the island, while those on the port side overlook the dock.
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Use a collapsible closet organizer for extra storage
Even in the most cleverly designed cabin, there never seem to be enough hangers or storage space. An inexpensive collapsible closet organizer with shelves doesn't take up much room in your suitcase yet adds significantly more room for everyone's belongings.
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First-time cruiser? BYO lanyards
Each repeat guest on Disney Cruise Line receives a lanyard to hold the stateroom key card, which also serves as a shipboard charge card and ticket for getting on and off the ship at each port. Wearing the card around your neck is super handy for parents and kids alike, since the card's magnetic strip works through plastic so you never have to remove it. First time sailing with Disney? Simply bring an inexpensive lanyard with a clear card holder for everyone in your party.
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Bring coins to make pressed-penny souvenirs
Sailing out of Port Canaveral? The unofficial Disney Cruise Line Blog reminds us to bring coins to make pressed-penny souvenirs. Pressed pennies are a popular collectible in the Disney parks. While there are no machines on Disney's ships, there is a pressed-penny machine in the cruise terminal at Port Canaveral.
There are six Disney Cruise Line designs in all: one for each of the four Disney ships, one for Castaway Cay and one general Disney Cruise Line penny. You'll need one penny and two quarters to create a pressed penny. Want the whole DCL collection? Bring 12 quarters and six pennies.
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Enjoy Disney and Pixar movies on demand
The entertainment on the ship is truly wonderful but, as PopSugar points out, fans of Disney and Pixar films can also get a fix in the comfort of their stateroom with in-cabin movies on demand.
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More Disney Cruise Tips
- Disney Cruise Planning Guide
- Dos and Don'ts on Your Disney Cruise Embarkation Day
- 5 Ways to Get Oriented on Your Disney Cruise Ship
- Dos and Don'ts for Dining on a Disney Cruise
- Taking a Disney Cruise? Download the Navigator App Before You Go
- What's Included in Your Disney Cruise Fare?
- Cruising Out of Port Canaveral? Stay Here the Night Before
- Free Printable Packing List for a Disney Cruise