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updated: 3/1/2013 11:04 AM

Learn the lingo before casting off on a Disney cruise

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  • A Mickey pool makes it all the more fun to relax poolside.

      A Mickey pool makes it all the more fun to relax poolside.
    cindy richards/

  • It's always fun to dress up on a cruise, and the Disney Cruise Lines is no exception.

      It's always fun to dress up on a cruise, and the Disney Cruise Lines is no exception.
    cindy richards/

  • If you forget where you are on the ship, helpful signs will help guide the way.

      If you forget where you are on the ship, helpful signs will help guide the way.

By Deb Steenhagen

Cruising is one of the fastest-growing family vacation markets and, while nearly all cruise lines are adding kid-friendly entertainment and dining options, some are adding family suites and nearly all have some kind of kid-focused activities onboard, no cruise line does it as well as Disney Cruise Lines.

The company invented family entertainment and then took everything it learned along the way and packed it into four cruise ships -- the small, more intimate Disney Wonder and Magic, which are best for younger kids, and the huge new Disney Fantasy and Dream, which offer never-ending fun for older kids.

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When you embark on a Disney Cruise Line ship, you enter a world where pixie dust truly does make everything seem magical. From innovative water rides to Broadway-caliber theater productions, imaginative dining experiences, and the serene beauty of the Castaway Cay beaches, there's really nothing that can compare. But for those who haven't cruised before, especially on a Disney ship, it can be somewhat confusing to understand where things are on the ship and how to find your way around.

If you want those around you to think that you're a Disney cruise expert, rather than a newbie, learn the language of cruising before you board.

To begin with, you are crossing the gangplank onto a cruise SHIP -- not a boat. This one is important, especially if you don't want to see crew members wince or shudder when you ask them where to find something on the boat ship. OK, so the Disney staff is unlikely to actually wince or roll their eyes or do anything obvious on the outside; they certainly are wincing on the inside.

To find your way around the ship, you need to remember that FORWARD refers to the front portion, MID is the area in the middle of the ship, and the area in the rear is called AFT. So when you see that the Animator's Palate restaurant is located on Deck 4, aft and your stateroom is on Deck 6, forward (for example) -- you'll know to wear comfy walking shoes to dinner.

Along with understanding where you are from front to back on the ship, you also need to know which side you're on. There's no "right" or "left" on a ship. Instead, you need to remember that PORT is the left side of the ship and the right side is called STARBOARD. The easiest way to remember the difference: "Port" and "left" both have four letters and both end with the letter "T." Since both sides of the ship tend to look identical on decks where the staterooms are located, remembering if yours is on the port or starboard side is definitely helpful.

Now if you booked a stateroom with one, you may already know that the outside space is a VERANDAH, not a balcony. Why? I'm not sure -- but that's what it's called on a Disney cruise ship. However, I do know that it's my absolute favorite place ever to enjoy breakfast or watch the stars at night.

And oh yes, here's a bonus for you if you're sailing in the Bahamas and stopping at Disney's own private island -- it's called Castaway Cay, and that's pronounced "key" (as in rhyming with "bee"), NOT "kay" (as in rhyming with "may").

• Deb Steenhagen is the social media manager for and the mom of three beautiful girls. You can also find her on Twitter -- she's @DebMomOf3.

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