When talking to people who haven’t been on a Disney cruise before, some of the most common questions I get are around embarkation day. When should we arrive at the port? When can we board? Will our rooms be ready? Even though Disney does a pretty good job giving you the information you need for that day, I thought I would answer some of those common questions for anyone who may be traveling on a Disney cruise soon.
When should I arrive at the port?
Typically, embarkation doesn’t start until 1pm or so, so it’s important to understand that if you get there early, you’ll be doing some sitting around until they start calling people. On the other hand, there are some benefits to getting there early. First, if you’re looking to possibly upgrade your cabin, it’s always good to get to the port as early as possible, because upgrades are on a first come, first serve basis, and they go fast. Second, if you’re not staying in a concierge cabin, you’ll be put into a boarding group based on when you check-in. So, again, the earlier you’re at the port to go through the check-in process, the earlier you’ll be able to board. One thing to keep in mind, if you’re using Disney transfers to get to the ship, you’ll probably arrived around 1 or 1:30.
What happens during check-in?
There are separate lines for concierge, Castaway Club return cruisers and new cruisers, but other than lines that may be shorter or longer depending on the makeup of your particular cruise, the process is basically the same. You’ll need to fill out a single form verifying that no one in your party has been sick in the last 48 hours and then you’ll stand in line to talk to a castmember.
The castmember will verify the paperwork and IDs/passports for everyone in your party and will confirm your stateroom information. This is the time to check on upgrades to see if they’re available. If they are, you’ll be directed to another castmember who will give you the available options. You’ll get your Key to the World cards here and then move over to the security area where everyone, even the kids, will get their pictures taken.
At this point, if they’ve already started boarding, you may be able to head straight on to the ship. Otherwise, you’ll be given a boarding group number and you’ll be able to hang out in the terminal until your number is called. You also have the option to check your kids in and get their wristbands for the kids club (or you can wait until later in the day). There are also a few visitors who come out throughout the morning/afternoon to make the wait go a little faster
Will our stateroom be available when we board?
It really depends on what time you board, but typically cabins are ready between 2 and 2:30, so often the answer is “no”. While you’re waiting, you can eat lunch in one of the restaurants – typically the buffet on Deck 9 and one other restaurant are open or you can enjoy exploring the ship, taking a swim, or just relaxing on deck. An announcement will be made when staterooms are ready and for the most part, you’ll have plenty of time to get to your room and start unpacking a bit before the lifeboat drill.
Will our luggage be there right away?
Nope, probably not. The stewards have about a zillion pieces of luggage to sort through and deliver so it could be several hours until you’ll see all your bags. Sometimes they don’t show up until after dinner, so keep that in mind. Pack a day bag with the things you will absolutely need, including medication, maybe a change of clothes and swimsuits for the kids. We learned our lesson the hard way and will now be packing toothbrushes and jammies for the kids in our day bag.
What about that lifeboat drill? I heard we have to WEAR our life vests
So this picture of our daughter is one of our favorites from our cruise back in 2010. We’ll be dragging it out to show all her boyfriends when she gets older because it’s just so dang funny. But, the lifeboat drill has completely changed in the last year and now you no longer have to wear your life vests to the drill. Whew! MUCH better now and much less sweaty and hot. Each cabin is assigned to a specific lifeboat area on the boat (it will be clearly communicated to you), so during the lifeboat drill, all the members of your party will need to head to that location. Everyone will be checked in by a castmember and then you’ll basically stand there until you get the “All Clear” from the captain. It’s not the most comfortable time, especially if you’re on deck in the hot sun, but it is a requirement for ALL passengers and is pretty important regardless of how unlikely it is that you’ll ever have to use the information.
Ok, I’ve checked-in, settled into my stateroom and gone to the lifeboat drill…What next?
After the lifeboat drill, your cruise officially starts. All visitors will be politely asked to go ashore and the sailaway party up on the top deck will start. You may want to find a spot along the railing to wave your goodbyes to everyone onshore and watch as the ship maneuvers out into the open water. It’s quite an experience!
That’s about it! It’s a bit of a whirlwind experience unless you’re waiting for a long time at the port terminal before you board, but as long as you have all your paperwork in order and you remember to pack a good day bag, it’ll be smooth sailing!