“Would you come back to the castle with me to look after my flower garden?” Alannah, aged 8, was starry-eyed after this conversation with Belle on our Eastern Caribbean Disney cruise. “What sort of flowers should we plant? We must have roses of course, but what else?”
The meet and greets with Disney Cruise characters are not the quick photo opportunities that you have in the Disney parks, as fun as they are. The characters make you feel like the only people in the room. And how thrilled they are to meet you!
Belle was completely in earnest discussing her flower garden with Alannah as if she was the only little girl in the world who could help her. Alannah knew she wasn’t really going to the palace with Belle, but she still felt that the princess was relying on her advice.
Cruising is the best way to meet characters
Disney World vs Disney Cruise
We had similarly amazing character interactions at Disney World when we booked character meals, but you pay a huge premium for these. Read about our energetic Tusker House brunch at Animal Kingdom with Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey, our adorable Crystal Palace brunch at Magic Kingdom with Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, and our elegant Cinderella’s Royal Table brunch at Magic Kingdom with Cinderella and four other princesses.
But on a Disney cruise the characters are a fabulous bonus! You’re already on the best cruise line in the world enjoying all the food, facilities and entertainment of your ship and exploring fascinating ports, but on Disney you have the constant presence of characters making your experience so much more fun.
Free and easy entertainment
If your kids are into the characters then it’s free entertainment for the whole family! You may have to queue for up to 15 min if you don’t get there before the scheduled time, but it’s fun watching the characters interacting with other people and general people-watching is good value too. There’s always plenty going on on a ship!
You can easily use up a lot of time with characters, which is particularly handy on sea days or if it’s not pool weather. One morning in between breakfast and pool time we popped down to a specialty coffee shop where I liked to buy a coffee (one of the very few things I chose to spend money on onboard). Sofia the First started a meet and greet nearby while we were there and Alannah adores her so we joined the queue. While waiting we discovered Jake would be out next, so Hamish wanted to wait for him.
The kids had already met both of these characters at the Character Breakfast, but that just increased their confidence. There were more characters scheduled after Jake, but we started to wonder whether we would ever make it outside!
Where to find Disney characters
Characters hang out in the cruise terminal before you board, at meet and greets around the ship, at character dance parties, in the kids clubs, at free ticketed character events, in the evening stage shows and on Castaway Cay.
You’ll become so used to seeing them around that you’ll just give them a wave as you walk past.
Find more information about onboard characters here.
8 tips for meeting Disney Cruise characters
1. Study your Navigator
Your Navigator daily cruise schedule will be delivered to your stateroom every evening. This will detail the next day’s activities including many character meet and greets around the ship.
The characters have a variety of costumes, so you could easily meet Mickey four or more times, each in a different outfit. A tux for formal night, beach wear at Castaway Cay, a pirate costume for Pirate night and his captain outfit as he welcomes you onboard the ship.
2. Get the app
The Disney Cruise Line app is the best source of info on the go. You can have your phone in Airplane Mode and get access to the ship’s wifi for free (just for that app). It will even set alarms 15 min before any meet and greets or other onboard events that you don’t want to miss.
3. Check in early
When you arrive at the cruise terminal to check into your cruise, Mickey and Minnie will welcome you in their smart nautical outfits.
Make sure you check into your cruise online as soon as possible to nab an early Port Arrival Time. This will allow plenty of time to go through the check in process in the terminal before this meet and greet begins. You will already be in the Disney spirit before you even board the ship!
4. Make the most of scheduled meet and greets onboard
Everyday there are many scheduled meet and greets around the ship. The busiest times are before and after dinner, but if you’re onboard during the day, then you can enjoy a quieter environment.
You could easily attend at least 4 meet and greets a day, but they can be hard to fit in when there’s so much else to do, so make a list of your top priority characters.
I’m not sure Alannah has ever seen The Princess and the Frog, but she had no hesitation approaching a super friendly Princess Tiana with only a couple of people in line before her. Coming from Australia is a huge novelty for the characters and they had a lovely conversation about how far Alannah had travelled to meet her.
Our photos from lots of other meet and greets are further below.
5. Hit the character dance parties
There are several character dance parties on in the Atrium throughout the cruise. The music is great, the vibe is joyful and you can stay in one spot while the characters rotate around the room.
These are often on in the early evening so are super child-friendly. While you won’t be posing for photos, you can get some fun action shots.
Get in on the dancing yourself or be entertained watching the characters and the kids.
6. Pre-book the free ticketed character events
Before you board your cruise you can book to attend a variety of free ticketed events.
Many cruises have a Character Breakfast in Animator’s Palate restaurant. Ours had Disney Junior characters, Jake, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, but different cruises have different characters.
There’s also a Princess Gathering in the Atrium where you can efficiently meet four princesses in one session.
The Frozen Meet and Greet held privately in a restaurant is also very popular, but the kids weren’t interested in booking that one. Note though that this is the ONLY way you can meet the Frozen characters on board. All other characters are available at regular meet and greets throughout your cruise, but not Anna and Elsa.
7. Get photos early at Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Caribbean, is perhaps the most popular port of them all. Many characters will head to the beach too, so you can get photos with them in their bathers. Captain Hook looks a trifle overdressed!
The characters are usually available at Castaway Cay first thing in the morning. Conveniently this is the best time for a photo before you get wet!
Characters also regularly go into the kids clubs and read stories or do craft with the kids. I was so jealous!
Most of the evening stage shows also feature the characters. There will be one or two which have the big guns – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, etc. Then another one or two will tell Disney stories like Tangled: The Musical and Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story.
8. Buy the official photos or use your own camera
Wherever you find a character you will find an official photographer. The official photos are reasonably pricey to buy, but are such a special memento of your cruise. We chose to buy 20 photos on a USB, which was much easier to pack than physical photos.
But the official photographer will also happily use your camera. So much more economical!
Find more information about buying photos here. You need to choose a ship and sail date to view prices, but for our upcoming cruise 20 digital photos costs USD 249.95.
They are adorable with the various borders around them don’t you think?
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