My family is planning our third Disney cruise, and we are beyond excited! It’s not for another 6 months, but it’s never too early to plan, right?! Here are some tips for embarkation day that we have learned along the way.
1. Before You Go
Read the rules and regulations on the Disney website. Do this before you even start planning the finer details. This will give you an idea of what is allowed on the ships and what documentations you will need to bring with you.
Sign up for the boarding time as soon as your online check-in window opens.
Many cruises are starting to make passengers pick a check-in time to avoid crowding the terminals. So, as soon as your window opens up to do the online check-in (I’m talking midnight on the day you can check in; otherwise all the early times will be reserved), go on the website and pick the earliest port arrival time that you can. I recommend doing the earliest time available, even if you aren’t sure if you can make it because you can always get in late, but if you get there earlier than your boarding time, you will have to wait.
Have your documents ready and filled out.
Have all of your forms that you filled out during online check-in printed out and ready to turn in. Don’t worry if you forgot these, though, as there are extra ones at the terminal you can fill out. But to save yourself time and trouble, I would make sure those documents are ready to go.
Call your credit card companies and let them know you are going to be out of the country.
Once, when I was young and inexperienced, I went on a cruise (not Disney) and forgot to call my bank to let them know I was traveling out of town. When I went to pay for some souvenirs, my card was declined. Luckily, my husband was home in the states and was able to call them to tell them they were legitimate purchases. But, save yourself the trouble and time by making sure you take care of this beforehand.
Sign up for character meet and greets.
In order for you to get a chance to meet certain special characters (namely, the princesses), you have to have a ticket for it. They’re free, but you can’t meet these characters on board without one. You can always sign up before the greet, but chances are, they’re all booked up. So, I recommend looking into it and booking as early as possible (during online check-in), especially the princesses. We did get lucky on our last cruise as Cinderella was leaving her meet and greet, she stopped by and visited with my son for a moment even though we didn’t sign up for it, but that is not very common.
Schedule a character call.
If you want, you can schedule a character to call you ahead of your cruise to welcome you to the cruise and get you pumped and excited. I can’t remember, but I think you can pick between Mickey, Mickey AND Minnie, Goofy or Donald. These are pre-recorded of course, but the kids don’t seem to mind or even notice. My kids were a little young to really understand what was going on; they didn’t have a good concept of time yet so it was hard for them to process that it wasn’t happening that day. So if you have really young ones, you might wait until the very last minute or even as you are on your way.
2. What To Carry With You On Embarkation Day
Like I mentioned previously, make sure you have your IDs. You cannot board the ship without them. Also, I recommend bringing your documents from when you checked in online to make the process faster.
You might consider bringing a swimsuit and sunscreen with you in your carry-on. The luggage and your state room may not be ready right away so if you can bring your swimsuit, you can hit the decks while you are waiting. The pools may not be open right away, but you can always lay out and relax. Just make sure you head there first as the chairs fill up fast.
3. What To Expect Once You’re There
You will have to go through security before you get into the terminal. That’s standard procedure, and it goes by pretty quickly.
Once you get into the terminal, there are characters hanging around that you can get pictures with. There’s also a miniature version of the ship that you can look at. Other than that, it’s pretty boring. So, if you don’t have an early boarding time, don’t get there too early or you’ll end up waiting around.
At check-in, you will get your Key to the World card, which will act as everything on board. It is your room key and also, you will use it to charge certain things to your room. They will take a picture of you that is tied to that card, and that is how you will get on and off the ship at ports. (So, if you are anything like me, make sure you don’t look like a hot mess when you show up! Haha)
After you check in, you will go on the ramps up to the ship, and there will be a photographer taking group pictures. There will be a ton of people waiting there, and the photos will cost money to purchase, so if you don’t want to do that, you can just walk by.
As you walk into the atrium onto the ship, there are a ton of cast members there to greet you on board. There will be an announcer that asks your family name to announce it as you walk in. It’s a fun red-carpet experience. You might want to video record that moment. It’s officially the start of your amazing cruise vacation!
4. After You Board
Go to member services to sign up for last-minute activities.
Luckily, if there are any activities and excursions you forgot to sign up for online, you can do it once you board the ship if there are any openings. Just keep in mind, the line will be LONG, and there’s no guarantee you will get in. This is also where you will sign up for the Castaway 5k, which is free to do!
Head to the buffets.
If you board early, you probably haven’t eaten lunch yet so you’ll be pretty hungry. The buffets will be open, and this is good opportunity to explore the varieties of food Disney has to offer. It can get really crowded, though, as this is usually the first stop everyone makes.
Explore the ship.
Since your stateroom won’t necessarily be ready yet, this is a good time to walk around and get acquainted with the ship. Although there are maps everywhere, the ship is big, and it’s nice to know exactly what you can expect in each area. We have been on two cruises already, and have yet to make our way to the adults-only area or the spa.
Settle in and unpack.
By this time, your stateroom should be ready. The staterooms on the Dream are really spacious and has lots of storage areas. I recommend unpacking everything so you’re not tripping over luggages as you move about your room for the next few days.
There will be a mandatory life boat drill.
Once everyone is on board and before leaving the dock, there will be a mandatory safety drill. There is no way out of it as they count everyone and take roll. Thankfully, it’s not too long, and Disney is really good about making it as painless as possible.
Go to the sail-away party.
Kick off your vacation with Disney’s over-the-top sail away party. There’s music and dancing, and it just really gets you pumped up and ready for the activities coming up in the next few days.
Hope this helps you out and if you have any tips/advice yourself, please share below!