So you’ve taken the plunge and are going on your first Disney Cruise! Whether it’s your first time sailing with Disney or your first cruise in general, it can be difficult sometimes to know what to expect, especially on the day that you board. Embarkation Day may be the most exciting day of your Disney Cruise, not only do you get to see your magnificent ship for the first time, but it’s also the day that sets the tone for the rest of your time at sea. Therefore, it’s pretty important to make sure that things go as well as possible. Here are some tips that we thought might be helpful in the lead-in to your cruise. Follow along to ensure that the day you board is nothing but smooth sailing!
Complete the online check-in. When you arrive at your terminal, you may see a lot of guests scurry to fill out last-minute forms and paperwork in order to check-in for the cruise. You can avoid this oftentimes tedious process by checking in online in advance of your cruise. Checking in online also provides you with a chance to address any special requests you have during your cruise and allows you to select your arrival time (more about this in a minute!). Online check-in is available on different dates depending on how many times you’ve cruised with Disney. For first-time cruises, you can do this from 75 to 4 days before your sailing.
Arrive Early. I’m a huge advocate of checking in to your cruise as early as possible. The earlier you board the ship the more you can maximize your first day at sea. You can pick an arrival time when you do your online check-in. Its important to do this well in advance however as early check-in slots can fill up fast. Once it fills up, you’ll have to go with options that are available which are usually later in the day. I also get asked often by first-time cruisers who plan on flying into Orlando the same day their cruise sets sail what time their flight needs to arrive by. The answer that Disney Cruise Line usually gives is that you should land at the airport no later than 11:00 am. This usually provides you with a pretty safe window to get out to the ship even if your flight is slightly delayed. For those early birds at the terminal, there may be some waiting around so I recommend packing a bag with snacks and drinks to hold you over if you do find yourself waiting.
Pack a Disney Cruise day bag. Whether its paying a visit to Walt Disney World or embarking on your first Disney Cruise, I always suggest families compile a carry on a day-bag full of on-the-day essentials. There can be a gap between when you board the ship and when your bags arrive in your stateroom. Make sure you’ve got a change of clothes for everyone in the family as well as swimming costumes and other poolside essentials.
Check for upgrades at the Supervisor’s Desk. If you’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading your stateroom, it doesn’t hurt to check in while you have some time to kill at the port to find out if there might be cheap upgrades available. I’ve had clients report that they’ve upgraded at a deep discount of 25% – 50% off on the day. Guests should note however that this is pending availability and isn’t guaranteed. You should never count on an upgrade but see it as a nice bit of pixie dust if it happens. You can find the Supervisors Desk in Port Canaveral on the far right of the terminal.
Get children checked-in to Kids Club. If you’ve already completed the online check-in process then you can pay a visit to the Check-In Desk to register your kids for the children’s activities aboard on ship. Your kids will be given their bands and you can ask any questions about how the various clubs work. However, if you don’t have time to do this at the port don’t worry. I would head straight to the Kids Club when you board the ship and get signed up there.
Sign up for Activities and Port Adventures. If you’ve not done so already, embarkation day is a great time to sign up for any activities you may want to do with your family. Once on board, visit the Guest Services Desk as soon as possible to get meet and greet tickets (for select character greetings), character breakfasts, teatimes, beverage tastings and even the Castaway Cay 5K. Or if you haven’t signed up for any port excursions yet you can do this at the Port Adventure deck once the ship is departed.
Meet the Characters . If you’re lucky enough to board the ship relatively early, then this is a great time to go character spotting. The ship should be full of a rotating cast of Disney characters. From Mickey and Minnie to Donald and Goofy, you never know who will be just around the corner. Ship photographers should also be out in full force so this is a nice way to start building your photo packages. For specific character photo opportunities be sure to check the Navigator App. Just remember, as the ship fills up, so will the lines for meeting your favorite Disney friends so the earlier the better.
Take a Walking Ship Tour. Nothing is as exciting on embarkation day than walking around in awe of the magnificent ship that you are sailing on. What better way to learn about all of its amazing features than by taking introductory walking tours. Again check your Navigator App as you will usually find a couple of different after-lunch tour times. It’s such an exciting way to get acclimated.
Hit the decks. To swim that is. If you want to enjoy a relatively empty pool, have a fantastic ride or two on one of Disney’s amazing waterslides or soak up the sun from one of the poolside lounge chairs then make a stop at the pool one of your first priorities when you board. Again, as the ship fills up the heavier the poolside crowds get. If you want to enjoy a bit of quiet time or a family dip, embarkation day is a great time to do it. This is where those day bags come in handy so there’s no need to wait for your luggage to arrive.
Enjoy lunch. The quick service locations on each ship will be serving lunch buffets from the time you board. It’s good to bring your appetites and have a nice relaxing meal while the dining rooms remain relatively empty. It’s easy to find seating and you rarely have to wait in line. This is a sensible way to tide yourself over until your dinner later that night.
We want your first day aboard your cruise to be as magical as possible. Hopefully, these ten embarkation day tidbits will help. Happy sailing.
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