Ultimately, packing for a Disney Cruise Line trip is a lot like planning for any other vacation. There are some unique wrinkles, and we offer tips for additional items you’ll want in your bag, along with hacks and other things that will improve the quality of your DCL experience.
Before we get to that, there are the essentials. No, we’re not talking about underwear (although you should probably pack that, too–your call), we’re talking about your personal documents: passports, government-issued photo IDs, and your cruise documentation you receive from Disney Cruise Line.
Then, there’s the second-most important item (no, still not underwear): BOOZE! Disney Cruise Line has changed its rules on how much alcohol you can take aboard DCL’s ships in your carry-on bag (nothing is allowed in checked luggage), but it’s still one of the most relaxed cruise lines in terms of allowing alcohol. Depending upon your level of interest in boozin’ it up, you should familiarize yourself with current policy to determine what’s allowed. If you’re only going to have a drink here or there, you’re probably better off just buying them aboard the ship.
In addition to those items above that are at least somewhat unique to cruising, you can find a “basic packing checklist” that includes clothing (UNDERWEAR!), toiletries, and other essentials in our What to Pack for Disney: Checklist. None of these basics differ from what you’d need for a Walt Disney World vacation, so consult that checklist for the more pedestrian items you should pack.
That also provides some good ideas of unique things to pack, many of which are specific to theme park vacations. In this post, we’ll cover some of the unique and more clever (in our opinion) items you should pack for a voyage aboard Disney Cruise Line…
Olympus Underwater Point & Shoot Camera – We are big fans of the Olympus TG line of underwater cameras, which are highly regarded as offering great bang for buck. The image quality is very good, as is the feature-set (burst shooting, a variety of intelligent auto modes make it an easy to use camera with lots of bells and whistles). For an underwater camera, it has solid image quality, especially with that a high-quality and fast lens.
Frogg Togg Super-sized Chilly Cooling Towel – This is like the regular Frogg Togg Chilly Pads that we recommend for the parks, but a larger size for putting on your lounge chair to keep cool around the pool or on Castaway Cay.
Quick-Drying Water Shoes – More like a hybrid between a cheap-o aqua ‘sock’ and a traditional shoe, we are fans of these shoes because they offer more support for when you’re out of the water. We use them at the beach in California, and they work well for that, too. (Here’s the women’s shoe.)
Sea-Band Anti-Nausea Gum – In a perfect world, you’d consult with your doctor before cruising if sea-sickness might be an issue, following whatever recommendations they might have. Realistically (speaking from experience), this may not happen. Sarah has used this gum several times “in a pinch” and she has found that it does the trick. (There are also bracelets, but Sarah found these don’t work for her.)
USB Wall Charger – Bad news: Disney Cruise Line staterooms don’t have many power outlets. More bad news: DCL does not allow power strips. Good news: they do allow usb chargers, and we have found more and more that we charge devices via USB rather than standard outlets, anyways. Whether it’s our phones, external batteries, or even cameras, many devices charge via USB nowadays.
Awesome Travel Mugs – One of the big upsides to Disney Cruise Line is that unlimited, self-service fountain drinks are included. The downside is that the provided cups are like 10-12 ounces, which is barely anything once you factor ice into the mix. While you must use these cups to refill your travel mug (to prevent the spread of germs, and in turn, illnesses), you can use the travel mug. (Note: this is something you can buy once you’re aboard the ship–DCL has some great Tervis Tumblers.)
Anker “Pocket Sized” Battery – This charger is smaller than an iPhone and is approximately 2 full phone charges, which should be more than enough for an average day in port or at Castaway Cay. This is best if you want something light and compact for your pocket.
Pirate Costume for Kids – We did not do this, and the two of us spent ~$40 on random pirate stuff in the gift shop that we will probably never wear again. It was fun for photos and to just get us in the mood for the party, but lesson learned on that one.
Beach Toys Travel Set – Toys are prohibitively expensive at Castaway Cay (captive audience!) and this 16 piece sand beach toy set includes a variety of shapes and molds in the shape of animals (DINOSAURS!!!). It also has castle molds, a sand sifter, watering can, rake, and shovel.
Waterproof Case Bag for Phones – I consider the phone bag a must, particularly if you plan on getting selfies of yourself sitting in the pristine waters of Castaway Cay or while chilling in the pool aboard the ship. It’s surprisingly useful, and the first time you drop your iPhone in a hot tub because you weren’t using one, you’ll wish you spent the few bucks on this.
Dry Bags – This can be nice for putting backpacks or other beach bags inside, but it’s overkill for a “normal” visit to the beach. Rather, this is more of a niche product if you’re doing an aquatic activity as part of a Port Adventure, in which case, it can be a great thing to have. It also includes a free phone case, so you can kill two birds with one stone that way.
Travel Sunscreen Packets – For your arms, legs, neck, etc., we recommend these sunscreen packets. If you’ve ever had a tube of sunscreen spill in your luggage or backpack (we have…many times), you know how inconvenient it can be. These individual travel packets take care of that problem, and are also much easier to put in your pocket or in a bag. They’re a perfect solution!
Dinosaur Floatation Devices – This is a your mileage may vary type of thing. On our last cruise, we were told personal floatation devices were not allowed at Castaway Cay–only rentals. We don’t know how/if this is enforced, and we didn’t hear of any such prohibition at other ports. Even if you don’t use it on the cruise, a T-Rex pool float is really one of those everyday essentials that you should always have on hand.
UltraSlim Travel Umbrella – For cruises, we favor travel umbrellas to ponchos. Part of this is because you’re mostly going to need an umbrella at port, and in the “real world” umbrellas are far more common (and accepted?) than ponchos. I don’t know–perhaps that’s just us. This particular “UltraSlim” umbrella is compact, windproof, and has a lifetime guarantee.
Athletic Attire – Your mileage may vary on this one, but we find ourselves doing primarily “outdoorsy” activities as Port Adventures. What you’ll actually need depends in large part upon the destination (for Norway, we needed multiple layers including GORE-TEX; for the Caribbean…not so much), but we’d always recommend some sort of moisture-wicking base layer. For me, this almost always means an old runDisney shirt as it’s “on-theme.”
Neck Wallet – Many ports at which Disney Cruise Line stops (including Nassau, Bahamas) have huge problems with pick-pockets who prey on disoriented tourists. It could be devastating to lose your wallet, credit cards, and even passport, so even though this looks pretty dorky, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.
Yankee Candle Room Spray – This is something we recommend for Walt Disney World vacation to give a “scent” to the trip. (When we return home, we forever associate that scent with our Disney trip.) In the case of Disney Cruise Line, it’s more an essential since staterooms are small, have minimal ventilation, and…well, you get the idea. 😉
Hidden Mickeys Go To Sea: Field Guide to Disney Cruise Line’s Best Kept Secrets – This is a great guide to spotting cool details aboard the ships. Hidden Mickeys can be found aboard every Disney Cruise Line ship, from the Disney Magic to the Disney Fantasy, and in all areas of the ships–even the bars & lounges. For Hidden Mickey hunters of all ages, we recommend it!
Discounted Disney Pins for Trading – Yes, pin trading is a “thing” on Disney Cruise Line, and as with the parks, we recommend pre-purchasing pins for trading with Crew Members so you don’t overpay aboard the ship. The usual caveat here applies that these pins may be “scrappers” (read about that in our other Disney Pin Trading Tips post), but given how much money you’ll save, we still recommend it.
SPF Sun Hat – Sarah has 4 (no joke!) different colors of this same cheap and fashionable sun hat, and wears them in the parks to keep the sun off of her face, and to stay cool. They are breathable and lightweight. The only downside is their large size, which makes them difficult to pack (we recommend carrying them on).
Planning to set sail aboard one of the Disney Cruise Line ships? Read our comprehensive Disney Cruise Line Guide to prepare for your trip, plan entertainment and other activities, and learn what to expect from your Disney cruise!
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Do you agree or disagree with our packing advice for Disney Cruise Line? Any cruising aficionados have tips or ideas of your own to add? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!