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On my first Disney Cruise, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. There is so much information out there about how to have the “best” cruise possible. Obviously, any vacation is subjective to the vacationer. If you’re like me, however, being prepared for what lies ahead may help ease your stress just a bit. Here are my top things to know before you go with Disney Cruise Line.

Heading out on your first Disney Cruise? Check out this list of some of the most important things to know before you go on a Disney Cruise! #disneycruise #disneytravel #familyvacation #disneytips

Fish Extenders: Participate or Not?

What on earth is a Fish Extender? Well, it’s something devised by Disney guests, not sanctioned or promoted by Disney, that helps to spread a little pixie dust for guests cruising together. Each sailing (most likely) has a Facebook page dedicated to it. Guests can get to know each other before they cruise and sign up for a Fish Extender group.

Twin girls putting gifts in a fish extender hanger on the Disney Magic.

Fish Extenders are a little “gift” exchanged with your fellow passengers to share in the fun of your Disney Cruise. What is the “gift?” Well, that’s up to you. Fish Extender gifts come in a variety of forms. There’s no wrong way to do it!

Book Excursions and Cabanas at Castaway Cay

We are going to take it easy on our short cruise on the Disney Magic. We had not planned to do any excursions. Prior to our cruise, I had been hearing through the grapevine of the internet that all the cabanas on Castaway Cay were already booked anyway.

We were 77 days away from our sailing! As with any Disney vacation, the name of the game is “book sooner rather than later,” especially if you want to do something popular!

Beach umbrellas and chairs on Castaway Cay

If your Disney Cruise is not heading to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, then you can skip this part of your preparation experience!

Weather Check and Packing List

Less is more when it comes to cruising! Don’t forget to take advantage of laundry facilities on board to pack even lighter. Depending on where your cruise sails to and from, you may want to consider layers.

Family gathered around Donald Duck on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island.

We spent a lot of time in our swimsuits, so don’t feel like you need an outfit for every occasion. To keep your packing light, check out this list of things you don’t need on a Disney Cruise.

Check-in ASAP

Why is checking in as soon as you can important? Checking in allows you to book extras and excursions, so the earlier the better!

Small boats sit on the beach at Castaway Cay.

When can you check in? Silver Castaway Club members (1 cruise) can check in 90 days before sailing. Gold members (5 cruises) can check in 105 days before sailing. Platinum members (10 cruises) can check in 120 days before sailing. First-time cruisers will need to wait until 75 days before sailing.

Disney Dream framed by signage for Castaway Cay.

Passport or Not?

Finally, and maybe most importantly, do you need a passport to sail on a cruise? By current law, if your cruise begins and ends in the United States, a birth certificate will suffice as proof of identification. However, if you choose to embark on a cruise that ends in a foreign country, you’ll definitely have to have a passport to return to the US.

I would strongly advise you to just “bite the bullet” and get a passport. No one wants to risk getting sick or injured while off the ship and having to fly back to the US if the ship has to depart.