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. 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. 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. Tips 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. 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.