Last Minute Cruising - A Crash Course



By JeniLynn Knopp

You put it off. A fantastic rate was just announced. Last minute peer pressure to do a group trip got the best of you. Whatever the reason, you have decided to go on a Disney cruise, but you have minimal time before embarkation day. How do you prepare for such a big deal with such little time? Where do you even begin? Let’s walk through the most basic steps to get you on that ship.

embarkation day


You aren’t going anywhere without these, so you need to make sure you actually have them.

passport and birth certificate

  1. For sailings that leave and return to the same port (known as closed loop sailings) you have a choice of bringing either a passport or a state certified birth certificate. If you are not a US resident, then you need to check with your local government agency or consulate to find out which are the appropriate documents in your situation. Everyone in your traveling party has to have one of these.
  2. It is recommended that everyone, including infants, have a passport as opposed to a birth certificate. The reason is that if an emergency occurred, necessitating a flight back to the states, birth certificates are not accepted documentation for entry back into the country when flying. Yes, even infants have to have a passport to fly in and out of the country.
  3. For everyone traveling over the age of 16 years old, a government issued photo ID is also required (i.e., a driver’s license). You need to have a passport/birth certificate AND another government issued photo ID.
  4. Particular cruises may vary in other documents that are needed. Depending on the ports of visitation, additional papers may be required. For more information about this, you may find some helpful information at I would like to suggest, however, that it is always best to check with your travel agent for the details, and that brings me to the next step of the crash course.


This can’t be underemphasized in this situation, so I will say it again. BOOK THROUGH A TRAVEL AGENT! The travel agent is your key to making sure you don’t skip a beat. While your time and knowledge about this experience is limited, your travel agent is very well-versed in what needs to be done. Use this to your advantage. They want you on that boat as badly as you want it yourself, so they are going to prepare you, check on you, work things out for you, and make sure that you are set to have the vacation of your dreams. They will also inform you of any current discount packages of which you might not be aware. You already are at a disadvantage due to lack of time. A travel agent will help expedite everything. Please take this step seriously.

There is an additional benefit for booking through a travel agent with Dreams Unlimited Travel. Anytime you book with a Dreams agent, you receive "shipboard credit." Let me explain. A specified amount of credit from Dreams Unlimited Travel is given to you to use while you are onboard. This amount is added to your shipboard account when you book your trip, and it is ready to be spent at your own leisure for the duration of your cruise. The best part is that it doesn't matter when you book. You will still receive the credit regardless of your embarkation date. It's an incredible perk and serves as the icing on the cake for booking through a travel agent.


There might be moments when you have questions and don't want to trouble your travel agent. Let's say you need some suggestions on what to do while you are onboard, which cruise merchandise isn't worth it's price tag, or which shore excursions have the best track record. There is another fantastic resource for finding answers quickly, the Disney Cruise Line forum. This is the place where people just like you have already asked the questions, and the answers are all right at your fingertips. Use the "Search This Forum" button to get down to the very specifics of what you need to know without any hassle. If you still are having difficulty digging up the information that you need, you can bet that posting your question in the forum will bring you answers (usually within minutes) from many different people who have already "been there and done that." COMPLETE YOUR ONLINE CHECK-IN It will be to your advantage to visit right after booking your cruise and register for the site. There are many benefits in doing so such as:

  1. Booking and modifying shore excursions
  2. Reserving and revising spa treatments and fitness activities
  3. Making and updating dining reservations at the onboard adult restaurants
  4. Registering children for kids clubs
  5. Reserving babysitting

But more importantly, there is an online check-in to be completed at the site where you can find all the forms that must be filled out prior to embarkation. Pay particular attention to the Minor Authorization Form and Signature Form. Taking the time to print these forms and fill them out before reaching the terminal will save you time, ensure that your information is accurate, and it will simplify your boarding process when you arrive at port. PACK


This one is somewhat straight forward. For the sake of staying basic, the things you NEED to pack are what you suspect you need to pack: casual clothing, bathing suits, sunscreen, sandals and toiletries. If you want to plus it, pack some formal wear, business casual clothing and a pirate get-up. There is a plethora of thorough packing lists to be found online, but be assured that whatever you might forget can be purchased on the ship. There is no need to panic over the idea of leaving something behind. Finally, once those bags are packed, it is important to remember to put the luggage tags that the cruise line provides you with on your bags prior to arriving at port.

Something you might not realize is that you also need to pack a “day bag.” Before you even get onboard, your luggage is checked-in; however, your room won’t be ready immediately, and your luggage won’t be delivered until early evening. You will need a few things in duration. This is where the day bag comes in handy. Pack things that you need such as medications and valuables. It’s also a good idea to pack swimsuits and a change of clothes. Basically, if you can’t live without it for a few hours, it goes in the day bag, and the day bag stays with you.


This seems slightly obvious, but it needs to be stated nonetheless for smooth entry to your ship. You need the cash to tip the people checking your bags. Even if you have opted for “pre-paid” gratuities, the luggage folk are not benefactors of that. Have some cash on hand for this reason. Also, have the necessary documents readily accessible. Your passport, driver’s license, Signature Form and Minor Authorization Form (if applicable) are all things that you will be expected to present, so don’t pack them away. Keep those with you. Lastly, that day bag…don’t leave home without it. You’ll thank me later.

If you can cover these bases, you’ll be in pretty good shape for your cruise. Don’t sweat the fact that you are throwing this together last minute. You’ve got down what you HAVE to know. The rest will fall into place. And whatever doesn’t, just know that you will catch it next time around.