By Leah Zanolla
One of the most exciting days on a Disney Cruise is embarkation day. You’re filled with a nervous anticipation, yet looking forward to a fun and relaxing vacation. I’m going to share 6 tips to make your embarkation day go as smoothly as possible.
1) Complete online check-in
The first tip begins before you even leave home. Do your online check-in, including registering your kids for the kids’ clubs. When you get to port, after you get your family checked in (which will happen really smoothly since you’ve already completed your paperwork), you can head over to the Check-In desk for the children’s activities. You’ll be able to bypass all those people who are filling out paperwork, because you did it several weeks ago! Your kids will be assigned a Mickey band to wear and you’ll have a chance to ask any questions that you might have about how the kids’ clubs work. Anyone who doesn’t get this done in the terminal will have to make their way to the club onboard and complete the process there.
2) Arrive at the terminal early
When completing your online check-in, you will be asked to pick a Port Arrival Time. This is meant to control the traffic flow in the terminal. Our advice is to choose an arrival time as early as possible as it may increase your chances of boarding the ship earlier. If you do end up having time to kill in the terminal though, you can get your photo taken with Captain Mickey or First Mate Minnie and check out the amazingly detailed model of a Disney Cruise Line ship. If you know you’ll be waiting awhile with children, consider bringing a snack. There is a vending machine, but no other options are available. I normally grab an extra banana and apple from our hotel before we leave for port.
3) You’re onboard. Now what?
Getting onboard early will allow you time to wander the ship and get familiar with its layout. You will be able to tour the kids’ clubs, something that you can’t do once the cruise gets underway and the clubs have “opened for business.” This is a great time to get photos of your kids in the club, a place in which most will end up spending the majority of their time. Speaking of photos, boarding early also gives you a chance to get photos in the atrium and in other high-traffic areas before the ship becomes crowded with excited cruisers. We also like to head up to the buffet and enjoy our first lunch onboard, preferably at a table out on deck so we can watch the action at the port. We figure, why pay for a fast food lunch, if there’s a “free” lunch waiting on the ship for us!
When you arrive at port, you will drop your luggage with a porter and you may not see it again until early that evening when it appears in your stateroom. Because of this, you will need to bring a day bag onboard with you that has anything you might need until you get your luggage. This should include medications, passport and identification, any pertinent travel document and any laptops/electronics you’re bringing onboard. It might be helpful to use a small rolling suitcase as your day bag, because staterooms are not typically ready until around 1:30 (we were lucky enough to get in at 1:00 on a couple of our cruises!). Depending on the weight of your laptop and other carry-on items, this bag could start to weigh heavy on your shoulders before then.
5) Go swimming
One of our favorite things to do on embarkation day is to go swimming! We wear our swimsuits under our clothes when we board, then head straight to the pool deck after lunch. Since luggage isn’t delivered yet and staterooms aren’t ready, the pool and splash area will be fairly empty. On our last cruise, we were able to get several rides in on the AquaDuck (water coaster on the Dream and Fantasy) with no lines – something you won’t find often once the cruise sets sail. There are bathrooms available on the pool deck if you need to change again before you can get into your stateroom.
6) Unpack right away
My last tip for a smooth embarkation day is to unpack as soon as you can get into your stateroom. Since you boarded early, you’ve already had time to tour the ship, eat lunch and go swimming. Unpacking doesn’t sound like fun, but if you get it done and out of the way first thing, then you can enjoy your first evening onboard without worrying about having to get it done before bed that night.
Hopefully these tips will get you onboard and on the right track to a wonderful, relaxing vacation with Disney Cruise Line. Happy Sailing!