18 secrets Disney cruise line employees won’t tell you

Keeping the Disney magic going while at sea takes more than a few tricks. These are Disney Cruise Line's best-kept secrets.

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Secrets about Disney cruises

The cast-to-guest ratio is impressive

With 1,250 staterooms, the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream can each accommodate 4,000 guests—and each ship has 1,450 cast members (Disney's name for its parks' employees). That means that when the ship is at full capacity, the ratio of cast members to guests is 1 for every 2.76 guests.

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Cast members come from all over the world

Just like in the Walt Disney World parks, cast members on the cruise represent almost every nation around the globe. On a recent sailing, there were cast members from 66 different countries, ranging from Poland and Serbia to Indonesia and Jamaica.

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Your server will speak your language

Those international cast members come in handy when it's time to order dinner. When you register for the cruise, you'll be asked which language you speak. You'll then be paired with a server who speaks the same language. And if you're American? No worries. All cast members, no matter from which continent they hail, are required to speak English. These are the three words Disney cast members can't say (in any language).

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Your servers will rotate through the restaurants with you

Don't be surprised to see a familiar face or two each night at dinner. Your head server, server, and assistant server rotate through the three main restaurants—Enchanted Garden, Royal Court, and Animator's Palate on the Fantasy—with you each night. "That helps us get to know your likes and dislikes," says a head server. "For example, if you like lemon with your water or your child wants apple slices, we can have it waiting at the table when you arrive." Heading to the park? These are the 10 new foods at Disney World you must try.

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Tipping is optional

On the Disney Cruise Line, tips are automatically added for dinners, beverage purchases that aren't included with your fare (alcohol, specialty coffee, fresh juices at the spa, and smoothies), room service, and spa treatments. In addition, your stateroom host will be tipped at the end of the cruise. Even though the tips are automatically included, guests can opt to have that amount lowered or raised at guest services at any point during the sailing. Don't miss these 14 ways to save on your next Disney trip.

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Your server is a wealth of info

Because tipping is optional, a good server will go out of his or her way to find helpful tips to share with you. "We know where the best spots on the ship are to view the fireworks on Pirate Night (always on the starboard side) and which of the shows are worth catching (Don't miss Aladdin on the Fantasy or Frozen on the Wonder)—or skipping," says a cast member. Here are 12 etiquette rules Disney employees need to follow.

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The ship's decor is a secret code

Not sure if you're on the starboard or port side, or facing forward or aft? (That's boat speak for "left," "right," "forward," and "back.") Look to the doors and the carpet. The staterooms on the starboard (left) side have fish sculptures as door markers, and those fish are swimming aft (toward the back), while the staterooms on the port side has seahorse sculptures that are also facing the rear of the ship. As for the carpet, the point of the star and the North point on the compass are pointing to the ship's front. Speaking of secrets, discover the hidden spots you never knew existed at Disney.

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The kids' clubs are a hot spot for unique character spotting

If your children are big fans of a Disney movie or show, including Toy Story, Star Wars, or Doc McStuffins, make sure they're in Disney's Oceaneer's Club or Edge during the activity corresponding to the movie, like Space Ranger training or Jedi recruitment. Beloved characters will often make a surprise appearance, so your little one just might get to be face to face with Toy Story's Jessie or Star Wars's BB-8. Unfortunately there are no autograph books or cameras allowed, so this is one experience at Disney that will live on only as a happy memory.

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You can skip the photo package

At $149 for ten photos, the professional photos the ship's photographers take are one of the items on the ship with the biggest markup. Instead of shelling out for the official photo of your child meeting Anna and Elsa, stand behind the photographer and take the exact same shot with your camera or smartphone. Learn what else you should skip (or splurge on) during Disney cruises.

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We get eight weeks vacation

The majority of crew members are on a four-to-five-month contract, after which they must take a mandatory eight-week vacation. "Let's face it, it's hard work being 'on' six days out of seven. It's good to go home and see our families and recharge our batteries," says one crew member. They do also work on different ships and might be asked to change ships at a moment's notice.

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They eat a lot of chicken

Each week before setting sail, the ship is loaded with about 12,000 pounds of chicken, 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of beef, and 10,000 to 12,000 bottles of wine, according to Disney Cruise Line hotel director Alberto Boscoe.

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You can order off any of the restaurants' menus

If you loved the chateaubriand from Royal Court so much that you want it again the next night in Animator's Palate, even though it's not on the menu, chances are, your server will give it to you. Check the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app to get a preview of the nightly menu.

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Working in a specialty restaurant is a coveted job

With only 12 servers each, Palo or Remy (on all four of the Disney Cruise Line ships) are the most desired restaurants for servers, but the job does come with an added challenge. "Because there are only 12 of us, it can be hard to get along," says one Palo server. "The benefit of being in the larger dining room is that if you don't like someone, you don't have to work with them."

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Your opinions count

On the last day of the cruise, guests are asked to rate all their servers and stateroom attendants on a comment card. "Our managers really do read all of those, and if we've made a guest unhappy, we'll definitely be reprimanded," shares one cast member. On the other hand, share if they did something that made you happy, because praise counts too.

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White uniforms don't signify we're steering the boat

Unlike on many other ships, wearing a classic white uniform doesn't mean staffers are the captain or even first mate; it means that they're managers, explains one cast member. The epaulets hold a clue as to which department they're in: theatrical masks are for entertainment, a propeller is for traditional ship crew, and an oval means they're part of the deck team. Learn about 10 dress code rules all Disney employees have to follow.

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Skyline Bar holds some surprises

The backdrop of the bar Skyline changes every 12 minutes, rotating through the European cities where the Disney ships have port calls, including London, Paris, and St. Petersburg. If you look closely, you'll see that the people on the city streets are actually characters from Star Wars. "My favorite is London, where Darth Vader has the flat above Mickey Mouse," shares a cast member. Check out these other awesome perks adults will love about Disney cruises.

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Even we don't know about the next top-secret ship launch

Only very senior cast members know the name and itinerary of the ship that will be launched in 2019—and they're very tight-lipped! "I'm hoping for Japan," shares one server. Only time will tell. Don't miss these other 23 secrets Disney employees won't tell you.

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