[Updated June 2016]
We'd be lying if we said we didn't keep an eye out for freebies on a Disney vacation. They just make the whole trip a lot more, well, magical. We already gathered some tips for what you can nab gratis, like pins, birthday cards, and more. But when we recently sailed aboard Disney Cruise Line, we discovered even more opportunities for more free goodies on the ships. Here's what you can find and where:
1. 5k Medal (or Bib)
Get those running shoes ready. Guests aboard any of the ships that make a stop at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, are invited to participate in a free early morning 5k run on the island. (You’ll receive instructions for how to sign up on embarkation day.) Pre-race, you’ll be given a nifty bib emblazoned with the runDisney/Castaway Cay 5k logo -- and once you cross the finish line, there will be a rubber or plastic medal waiting for you, too.
In your Personal Navigator daily schedule, look for the several craft sessions offered to adults, often on offer during sea days. You can get your creative juices flowing as you assemble, among other things, your own scrapbook pages and tile coasters. Tip: To complete your tile coasters, give them a quick coat of acrylic paint when you get home.
3. Pirate Night Bandana
On many Disney cruises, there's an entire night devoted to the pirate life. On Pirate Night, you can look forward to a specially themed menu, music, deck party, and fireworks. To further get you into the buccaneer spirit, your stateroom host or hostess will leave a Pirate Mickey bandana for you to don during the night’s celebration. If you haven’t received one by evening turndown, make sure you stop by Guest Services and ask for one.
While you’re at Guest Services, there's usually a display of plush Disney characters out on the counter surrounded by gold treasure -- chocolate gold coins -- for you to take. (The stateroom host or hostess is supposed to leave some coins in your room, but hey, who’s going to refuse more chocolate?) Turndown service in the staterooms might also bring you some additional chocolate. Design lovers will appreciate that these treats feature Sleepy (of the Seven Dwarfs) on the wrappers.
Pop open the desk drawer in your stateroom and you might find a couple of Disney Cruise Line postcards, perfect for sending home to yourself or to friends. We’re partial, however, to setting them aside to put in a photo frame.
6. Disney Vacation Club Swag
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) representatives are out in full force on the Disney ships, hoping to find new members for the company’s timeshare program. Fortunately for guests, they’re armed with loads of free merchandise -- think: baseball caps, drawstring bags, and the like. Many sailings also have at least one DVC info-session in one of the adult venues, where participants are given free padfolios with pens and sometimes a pin or bracelet. Whether or not you intend to buy, come thirsty, because alcoholic beverages are usually served during the event.
7. Food & Drink Samples
Want to learn how the chefs whip up some of the cruises’ most delectable dishes? Disney cruises have a handful of cooking demonstrations, called Anyone Can Cook, led by a couple of members of the kitchen staff. After they go through the step-by-step process of how to make popular items, like lobster ravioli and apple strudel, audience members get a small sampling of what’s being prepared. If you're lucky, you might even get a small glass of wine to wash down the bites.
8. First-Run Movies
At a time when tickets to the movies can easily run as much as $14.50 a pop, it’s nice to know that you can watch a first-run Disney movie right on the ship, in one of two theaters, for free. Into the Woods, Big Hero 6, and Cinderella are some of the movies that recently ran onboard, and we’re pretty sure that the highly anticipated Tomorrowland starring George Clooney will play on Disney's four ships once it debuts in May. (Tip: Save money by skipping the concession stand outside the theater and bring a free beverage and snack from the pool deck with you.)