The 5 most Disney things you'll find on a Disney cruise

The most Disney things you can do on a Disney cruise.
Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

A Disney cruise is like no other. From the moment you are welcomed at the port by ground staff giving high fives with giant Mickey gloves, there's no mistaking whose ship you are about to board.

It may be either completely horrifying or the best thing ever, depending on who you are.

I easily fall into the latter category and even then was unprepared for just how hard Disney goes to Disney-fy its cruises.

Call it marketing or call it magic, here are some of the details beyond the characters and the shows that make Disney cruises unique.

The ships

Each cruise ship in Disney's fleet has some kind of magic-invoking name (Dream, Fantasy, Treasure) and unique decor.

The Wonder, which made its inaugural visit to Auckland in November-December 2023 and will return again in late 2024, features Captain Mickey in its bow logo. Head around to the stern and you'll see a sculpture of Donald and one of his cheeky nephews at work.

Disney Cruise Line Wonder bow.
Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

Even the ship's horn has been given the Disney treatment - it blasts to the tune of the Pinnochio theme song 'When You Wish Upon A Star'. Dockside spectators might also be lucky to catch a glimpse of Donald waving goodbye from one of the upper decks when the ship leaves port.

The distinctive Mickey-emblazoned funnels on deck 10 are an Insta-worthy photo op and inside a statue of Ariel presides over the atrium in front of her father's namesake restaurant, Triton's.

Food and drink

Beyond the themed restaurants, there are plenty of other Disney details in unexpected places. The Mickey waffles served at the breakfast buffet are the most prominent of these, and they're delicious - a good inch thick (since we're all in on the Americana), and the perfect combination of crispy outside and fluffy in the middle.

If you splurge on an espresso you can request a "character coffee", which comes with specially printed froth. The baristas take requests but they downside is they're too cute to drink.

Branded waffles and coffee on a Disney Wonder Cruise..
Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

The Mickey-shaped ice cream bars sold at Disney's theme parks are also standard on their cruises but were unavailable on all Auckland sailings this season, replaced with mini Magnums which probably taste better but can't replace the experience of chomping into some novelty ears.

Finally, if you are travelling with a child who is a ketchup fiend, watch your server work their magic on your child's plate - because you know they'll be requesting a repeat when you get home.

Door decorations

It's not unprecedented for people to decorate their stateroom doors when sailing with other companies, but - no surprises here - Disney cruisers take this to a whole new level.

We saw doors covered from top to toe with custom pictures, LED lights and whiteboards celebrating favourite characters and commemorating birthdays. The stateroom doors are painted metal so any decorations you bring need reasonably strong magnets to attach - blu tack is not allowed. Cruise groups on Facebook have lots of inspiration and printable resources.

Door deco on a Disney Cruise.
Photo credit: Newshub.

As well as being a fun way to personalise your room, it helps it stand out from the endless rows of identical doors in the long corridors.

Fish extenders and pixie dusting

A sort of Secret Santa gift exchange, these are unofficial activities but very much welcomed by Disney in the spirit of generosity and random acts of kindness.

Fish extender gifts are organised in advance through cruise date groups on Facebook where people are allocated specific rooms to buy for.

The name 'fish extender' perplexed me to no end until I noticed the fish-shaped hook outside each stateroom which participants hang pockets or bags from this hook for their gifts to be put into.

If obligated gifting isn't your thing (I balked at the thought of spending time traipsing up and down the ship looking for specific rooms), you may wish to 'pixie dust' instead; putting small gifts into random fish extenders. If you opt to put your stateroom number on your gifts, many people will reciprocate.

Some gift givers go all out but there's no need to; candy and stickers or handmade gifts are all appreciated. I was truly flabbergasted - and my son was thrilled - at how many times he was pixie dusted during our cruise.

Extra for experts: hidden Mickeys

If all of that isn't enough Disney for you (and I've really only scratched the surface), there are Mickey Mouse Easter eggs all over the ship to hunt for during your cruise.

A hidden Minnie on a Disney Cruise Ship.
Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

Known in Disney parlance as 'hidden Mickeys', these are when Mickey appears in unexpected places, usually in the form of his distinct tri-circle head.

Many of them are hiding in plain sight (on bars of soap, elevator floor indicators and stair railings) but the truly detail-oriented can also find them in various artworks and furnishings around the ship.

Happy hunting!

Kim sailed on the Disney Wonder's inaugural Auckland round-trip cruise as a guest of Disney.