Tips I'm Glad I Listened to + Some of My Own : My Experience from My Alaskan Cruise

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Forum' started by Larissa, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. Larissa

    Larissa Mouseketeer

    May 31, 2011
    Last summer my family and I went on a Disney cruise to Alaska in late July. It was the first cruise that most of us had been on and easily my best vacation ever. :goodvibes

    For months before we left I scoured the disboards for hours each day (it could be called an unhealthy obsession) and made colour-coordinated lists of tips and tricks gleaned from various posts.

    Obviously one trip by no means makes me an expert, but nevertheless here are a few of my favourite disboard tips, plus some of my own. I may add more later as they come to me.

    Things I Heard but am Glad I Did Not Heed.

    1. Bring snacks. – I cannot count the number of books and posts I read that advised me to bring snacks on board. Reasons for doing so varied – to have something to munch on in theatres, at port, or to feed picky kids seemed to be the most popular. I am a notoriously heavy packer and cannot understand why someone would waste room in their suitcase to bring food on a Disney Cruise. In addition, why waste money to bring something you’ve already paid for? If you want something to munch on in the theatres, the cookies from Beach Blanket Buffet or room service are fantastic (the latter are wrapped in plastic, too). If you want food for port, order room service the night before, put it in a container in the carafe, and bring it the next day. If you’re worried that it won’t be kept cold enough overnight, you can pick something up from the buffets before you go and bring it along in a container. My family did not do this as be feasible. Just bring some ziplock bags and a container with you and you’ll be golden.popcorn::
    2. Bring an over-the-door shoe hanger – I read this one on virtually every cruise tip thread but did not heed it because I didn’t feel like I’d need it. I am glad I didn’t bring it. I am sure many will rise to defend the idea, but this is just my experience.
    3. Bring a nightlight – Unless you have kids that are afraid of the dark I don’t see much of a reason for this one. Mind you, we had a fairly sunny cruise and a veranda, so we did have light coming in during the mornings from there. We wanted there to be enough light for my grandmother to find her way around during the night so we just left the lights on in the split bathrooms and shut the doors. It worked just fine.
    4. Remove the table – for some people, especially those with young children, I can see why this would be a good idea. For us, the table came in handy every day. We dumped our shopping bags all over it; we ate midnight-snack-pizza at it; and wrote in our travel journals on it.
    5. Bring plastic water bottles – not only is this bad for the environment, it is also unnecessary. Bring a metal bottle and fill it up at the buffet before you go. Do NOT fill it up directly from the fountains as it is unsanitary. Fill up a glass and pour it into your bottle.
    6. Bring an alarm clock that you can see at night. – Perhaps this is an old tip, but our room had a digital alarm clock that we could see in the dark. We never used it for an alarm, though. We got a wake-up call from Mickey every night (it’s not just for kids, even my grandmother loved it!)
    7. Bring shampoo and conditioner – Unless you are super, super picky about what you use, do not bring this. We had three girls in my room and used a lot of shampoo and conditioner. They always brought more if we needed it. Besides, the stuff they have onboard is divine.


    1. Know that you have to order breakfast the night before if you want room service. This is written right on the breakfast card so it may seem obvious, but I woke up late one morning, decided I didn’t want to hurry down for breakfast and had to anyways because I hadn’t ordered the night before. In hindsight I probably could have ordered something off the regular menu or just eaten on deck nine later, but I didn’t think of it at the time.
    2. Bring something to Guest Services to get signed by the characters soon after you board. I brought some vinylmations and pillowcases. I wasn’t sure if they could use the vinylmations as they are pretty small, but they turned out great! I got one with just Mickey and his friends and one with ALL the characters onboard. All on that tiny little figurine! It was fantastic. Another member of my family brought a matte for a frame and that worked out well too.
    3. Do bring a highlighter for the navigator. I brought a few so we could colour-coordinate who wanted to do what. It worked like a charm.
    4. Stock up on one-dollar bills – I don’t live in the states so we don’t have dollar bills, but I went to Seattle a few months before we left for the cruise and kept every single one I got there. Came in handy when tipping for room service.
    5. Take a cardboard drink carrier – We didn’t actually do this but certainly will in the future. Every night I went up to get pizza and tea for my grandmother, sister, and I and had a heck of a time carrying it without help. Having a carrier would have been fantastic.
    6. Shop right away – My family is full of shoppers. We easily spent a minimum of an hour a day shopping in the two tiny ships aboard the Wonder. Maybe that makes us crazy. If you collect something specific I would head to the store on the first night and pick it up for sure even if you are not sure that you want it. They are pretty good with returns there and anything considered collectable runs out FAST.
    7. Sign up your kids for the clubs online – I heard the lines on embarkation day would be long, but I was amazed at HOW long. It was pretty easy to sign up online – I am glad we did it.
    8. Eat lunch at Triton’s at least once – Beach Blanket Buffet is great if you’re looking for quantity, crowds, or a view, but Tritons is fantastic for quality and relative quiet. There is no searching for tables or fighting through lines to get to your table. Even if you are looking for quantity, let’s face it, that’s something that is in abundance anywhere food is found on a Disney Cruise.
    9. Take advantage of all the activities – We thought this trip would be all about rest and relaxation, but we are true Disney commandos at heart and that isn’t an instinct that is quelled easily – even at sea! We ran non-stop from activity to activity the whole time – and I didn’t regret it for one second. That doesn’t mean that I am advising everyone to do this, there is certainly plenty of time for onboard relaxation. In my case, that time was from midnight to 7 (hahaha) but for my grandmother there was time for an hour in our room to nap or relax otherwise each day.
    10. Bring a camera charger – you’ll need it.
    11. Bring a journal – Take time each day to journal whether you want to or not. I was really good at this for the first half of my trip but (being a commando) found myself starting my writing later and later each day and ended up writing less and less as the trip went on. I did carry my journal with me a fair bit because that is where I got autographs, so line-ups were a good place for me to catch up on the days events. I also kept a journal for my grandmother and got autographs in it as well. I was fairly tiny and had just enough pages to write about the week and make a list of highlights and souvenirs at the back. She likes it. This might be a good idea for young children as well. If you are a scrapbooker, you may want to bring a notebook with pages that you can tear out and put in their scrapbook.
    12. Keep everything (if you scrapbook) – ship maps, navigators, extra luggage tags, brochures from port, these all make great scrapbook additions. I am torn about whether to get autographs in my journal or on autograph cards for my next trip as the former worked well last time but the latter seems like it would work beautifully too. If you scrapbook I would advise you to look into autograph cards. There are some fantastic disigners on these boards with a variety of adorable cards, many of which are cruise-themed.
    13. Dress up for the pirate party – it was fun. It was also windy - I'd suggest you clip your bandanas to your hair. SO MANY flew overboard. pirate:

    Alaska Specific Tips (as per request):

    1. It may not be that cold. – Bear in mind two things though before you continue reading. One, I don’t live in a place that is very hot. Two, I read on the disboards that the cruise I was on had very good weather. These things may render this tip useless, but I’ll say it anyways – it’s not that cold! I had been expecting to wear jeans and sweaters, but I don’t think I wore a sweater once (I would have gladly slipped one on had I been offered one during the Pirate Party, however, it was SO windy that night). I also wore shorts and t-shirts almost every day. We went in late July.
    2. Collect coins – There are little flyer-books EVERYWHERE full of coupons. Of course, most of the stuff in them is junky, but it’s not worth disregarding entirely. My sister and I enjoyed collecting the coins at port, and she also enjoyed collecting charms (and a charm bracelet). Sometimes you had to do a little searching for the jewellery stores, but the coins and bracelets make great souvenirs for kids (I saw a lot of adults with the coins too, actually). Sometimes the kids got more charms than the book promised, so that was cute. Be forewarned, however, that I believe they have a one-per-adult limit (sometimes they say one-per-cabin) and you may have to show your room key and try on some jewellery.
    3. Don’t get too caught up in collecting free junk – Every port is full of offers of exactly that, free junk. Somethings, like the coins, may be worth collecting. Others are not. For instance, my dad excitedly picked up a free Ulu with a minimum purchase. A year later it’s still sitting in the box on the counter.
    4. Clip your pirate bandana to your head – I saw so many bandanas blow off that night. Perhaps it was extraordinarily windy that night, like I said, this was my first cruise. (Note, I heard a rumour that there may not be a pirate night this year)
    5. Get to Beach Blanket Buffet early the day you visit Tracy Arm – If you get a good spot you can stay there for hours (weather and kid-permitting). The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. However, if you do not get a table, it is worth coming in late because a lot of people vacate their spots when they finish lunch but the deck is left open.
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  3. DisSarahK

    DisSarahK Missing Mickey...

    Apr 30, 2007
    Ahhh, LOVE this, thank you!
  4. Floridagram

    Floridagram DIS Veteran

    Dec 12, 2006
    Good post, thanks. I have only used the door hanger once but I plan to take it this time. It helps me stay organized, I have a hard time with that. However I hear it may not work on the Fantasy so I may not get to use it any way.

    I was going to take a nightlight because I do not like the bright light in the bathroom at night. But I do not think there is any place to plug it in is there? Isn't the only plug in the bathroom for a razor? I think I will get on of those that you push on and off and is battery operated.
  5. Ltl Mermaid

    Ltl Mermaid <font color=darkorchid>Spreading Disney Magic with

    May 12, 2006
    Great ideas! Your post about midnight pizza made me smile. Maybe I am a little piggy but on our last cruise I had a midnight panini and cookies almost every night. I lovingly refer to my midnight paninis" as one of my fondest memories from the cruise...and am looking to more midnight paninis in about a month!
  6. lucky1

    lucky1 Face Character

    Aug 21, 1999
    I agree with you. for our first cruise I got a basket delivered and they had snacks in it and unfortunately most of them went unopened because we were enjoying the food on the ship.

    Any tips from what you experienced in Alaska? We have a cruise this July to Alaska and can't wait!
  7. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

    Oct 28, 2006
    Technically (legally) you can't do this. Most ports you go to you are not allowed to take any food in an un-sealed package off the ship (and ziplock bags don't count.) These rules are set by the countries you're visiting. If they notice you doing it, they will take it. So that's one reason folks recommend bringing packaged snacks, because that's the only thing you can legally take off the ship with you.

    ETA: OK, never mind, I take this back. In your case, this was an Alaskan cruise, and it's still the US. D'oh. But you can't do it, say, in the Bahamas.

  8. mgmcpa

    mgmcpa Disneyland Lover

    Oct 11, 2008
    What night do they do the pirate cruise on the Alaska cruise? I keep seeing write-ups about it on the Caribbean cruises, but few details about the Alaska cruise party. Details! :)
  9. PrincessShmoo

    PrincessShmoo DIS Veteran

    Feb 12, 2009
    The party on the Alaska cruises, is a bit smaller in scope. They do it inside and there's no fireworks.

    You still have the Pirate menu, AFAIK, and the show.

  10. CaliforniaGirl09

    CaliforniaGirl09 DIS Veteran

    Dec 4, 2009
    I'm on the Alaska cruise this summer and this was what I was able to find about the dining schedule for 2011. Since we have a slightly different port schedule than they did last year, I suppose it could change.

    Day 1: The restaurant menu (Island Dinner for Parrot Cay, French
    Dinner for Triton's and Show Dinner for Animator's Palate). Dress
    is Cruise Casual.

    Day 2: (At Sea) Formal Night, with the Golden Mickeys menu.

    Day 3: (Tracy Arm) The restaurant menu, Cruise Casual.

    Day 4: (Skagway) The new Taste of Alaska Menu, Cruise Casual.

    Day 5: (Juneau) Restaurant menu, Pirate Attire or Cruise Casual.

    Day 6: (Ketchikan) Captain's Gala menu, Semi-Formal attire.

    Day 7: (At Sea) 'Til we Meet Again menu, Cruise Casual.
  11. Pesky

    Pesky "Who's the monkey?!"

    Apr 9, 2012
    Thanks! This was actually really helpful as I am imagining my suitcase overflowing with shoe organizers and such!
  12. valley_gurl

    valley_gurl Earning My Ears

    Mar 4, 2011
    I love your post! Such great ideas!

    I was able to get a cardboard drink carrier at the Cove Cafe on the Wonder, back in February. We used it over & over. Saves packing one from home.

  13. All American

    All American DIS Veteran

    Aug 6, 2006
    Thank you!!!

    We don't set sail for a very long time, so I thought I'd start a planning notebook to help organize thoughts and ideas. One of the things I wanted to include was a tips/tricks list, and your post will be very helpful.
  14. MinnesotaMouseketeers

    MinnesotaMouseketeers DIS Veteran

    Oct 25, 1999
    Great post, love the cardboard carrier idea. I would go up to the drink station in the morning and get drinks for everyone while they were getting ready for the day.
  15. PrincessBelle39

    PrincessBelle39 DIS Veteran

    Mar 6, 2007

    What an awesome idea. We could really have done with this last time. There were a couple of occassions DH was trying to bring back drinks for 4 to our cabin and struggled. I'm putting this on my packing list now.
  16. chrisrunty

    chrisrunty DIS Veteran

    Mar 12, 2007
    I agree with you completely with your do's and do nots.... we are about to go on our 6th Disney cruise you couldn't be more right!
  17. kcashner

    kcashner DIS Veteran

    Dec 4, 2003
    I agree with most of what you've said. I do like the over the door shoe holder for toiletries and such.

    The decent clocks in the rooms are a recent improvement. In years past, the lighted clock was a big deal to us--fortunately it is another thing we no longer need to pack.
  18. WiscBill

    WiscBill Mouseketeer

    Oct 27, 2005
    Pirate party is outside if it's not raining. The pirate menu is replaced by a taste of Alaska menu. There are no fireworks
  19. sdmom3boys

    sdmom3boys Earning My Ears

    Apr 17, 2012
    Thank you! Going on my first cruise next week. Great tips!
  20. DizDays

    DizDays DVC & D23 Member

    Jun 6, 2009
    Thanks for the great tips. Subbing in case any more are added. I look forward to contributing my own wisdom after our September Alaska cruise. Thanks for making ours better!
  21. LynneyPooh

    LynneyPooh Mouseketeer

    Feb 14, 2011
    Can I ask where you got this info? From DCL? or last year's navagators? Been wondering this myself and hoping my Palo ressie is not Pirate Night. THANKS!

    ETA: Oops! Disregard- I missed the 2011 part- so I'm guessing last years naviagator :)

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