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Embarkation Day on a Disney Cruise – Making it count!

The cruise vacation that may have been months in the planning has finally arrived and you are officially on board. So once you have scrutinized your stateroom, tried to figure out how to use the “wave phones” and checked out the welcome on-board pack, what else is there to do on embarkation day? Is it merely a day set a side for unpacking and mandatory fire drills? Well, for some it may be a time to chill and recuperate after a long day of travelling. For others, those first few hours on board can be some of the most anticipated and exciting, simply because they have begun their cruise and they want to start experiencing it straight away! So whether you are on a 3-night cruise to the Bahamas or a 7-night to the Caribbean, it is important to make each day count and that includes embarkation day! So here are my top 10 suggestions that you could do on embarkation day to really make those few hours count…and truly start experiencing all a Disney Cruise has to offer.

1. Character Meet and Greets. The opportunity to meet the Disney characters is one of the ways that makes a Disney cruise special. So if you have grown up with Disney and these wonderful characters, then this could be a magical way to start your cruise vacation! They will happily pose with you for a family photograph and they are usually also happy to give their autographs! The Disney ship’s photographers are always there to take a professional photograph with the character, which is great if you want a high quality family photo! However in addition, they will also happily take your photo with your own camera or phone, ideal if you perhaps don’t want to purchase every professional photograph taken. Trust me, there will be a lot! Embarkation day can usually be a great time to meet the characters because many other passengers may be busy doing other things and the lines are sometimes shorter than they will be in coming days. For all the details of the characters available on embarkation day, check out your cruise navigator which will give you the location and times of the characters available. On the first afternoon they also distribute tickets for special character meet and greets that will be happening throughout your cruise so if this appeals to your family check out all the details in your cruise navigator (you can also sign up for these ahead of time, but they are available onboard as well).  However the majority of the character meet and greets through out your cruise will have standby lines only. So if you are interested in meeting the characters, then this is a great embarkation day activity! It will add some ‘pixie-dust’ to your day and who wouldn’t want to be welcomed on board by the famous Captain Mickey himself!

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 2. Take a Walking Ship Tour. If this is your first cruise aboard a specific ship, then a walking ship tour may be both practical and exciting. The tour is guided by a member of the cruise staff, who will be able to tell you more about the wonderful ship that will be your home for the next few days. They will also be able to answer any questions that you may have about the ship or her facilities and venues. For details of when the tours begin, check out your cruise navigator when you board. On embarkation day many of the ship’s entertainment and recreation venues operate open house hours that day. This means you can tour the facilities, talk to the cruise staff and find out what each has to offer during your cruise. If you happen to miss the guided tour or you prefer to do things at your own pace, you can still walk the ship by yourself and really explore. Whichever way you choose to do it, it is still really exciting to check out your lovely ship and find your favourite areas on board!


3. Tour the youth facilities on board. This could be put into the ‘practical must do’ category if you are travelling with children. On embarkation day, all of the youth facilities will operate open house hours. This is to give you and your children the opportunity to come and participate in a variety of activities and free time in all the facilities which include ‘It’s a small world nursery’ for the under 3’s, Oceaneer Club and Lab for the 3-12 year olds,  Edge for the 11-14 year olds and Vibe for the 14-17 year olds. It is a chance to meet the youth activities team, ask any questions you may have and complete the on board registration for them if you have not already done so.

Andy’s Room in Oceaneer Club

 4. Watch a Disney Classic in the Buena Vista Theatre. This could be a perfect way to chill and unwind into your cruise, especially if you are already a fan of Disney movies! The cruise navigator will give details of which movies are being shown and the start times. This is especially good for anyone that wants a more relaxed way to begin their cruise but still with a Disney feel to it. So go on, pick a comfy seat, get the popcorn in and enjoy your time at the movies!

5. Sail away celebration deck party. The sail away celebration deck party is a fun way to start your cruise and get you into the party mood. It is hosted by the cruise entertainment team with special appearances from the Disney Characters – Captain Mickey and his pals. It usually begins shortly after the mandatory fire drills have been completed and once the ship is about to set sail for the first port of call. So if you want to be entertained, head to the upper decks to join the party and be officially welcomed on board by Captain Mickey himself!

6. Visit Spa Senses, Salon, and Fitness Center. This is your opportunity to see the what the Senses Spa, Salon and Fitness center really have to offer you and how they can enhance your cruise. So use this opportunity to tour all the facilities, ask the staff about Spa Treatments available, fitness classes scheduled and other seminars that are planned for your sailing. On Embarkation day the Spa facilities will usually also operate open house hours. This means like the rest of the facilities with open house hours that they will be open for you to see everything and staff available to book appointments and answer any questions you may have. Getting a Spa treatment or a arranging time in the hair salon could be just one of the ways that you get to properly relax and possibly an ideal way to spend part of your sea day!

Senses Spa Aboard the Disney Fantasy

7. Enjoy the pool and slide facilities. Embarkation day can actually be a great time to make use of the pool facilities on board or have a few rides on the AquaDuck water slide. Many of the passengers will be busy elsewhere around the ship so the open decks and the pool areas are often less crowded than they will be once your cruise gets under way. Take this opportunity to have a relaxing swim in the Mickey pool or squeal your way round the AquaDuck and start enjoying your cruise. Just remember one very important thing: If you want to have a swim on embarkation day, bring your swimwear with you in your carry on, as your luggage may not have arrived in time for pre-dinner swims. The swimming pools and slides will be open for the majority of embarkation day but they will be closed during the mandatory fire drills.


8.  Play the the Midship Detective Agency. This is an interactive detective game that is played out by means of the cleverly disguised works of art around the ship. It is designed for guests 9 and older and it can be played solo or as a family. It could be a great way for you to get to know your ship and get your bearings because the game will literally take you all over the ship! It can also be stopped and started so you could start playing on embarkation day and then continue playing through out your sailing. If you want to play, simply visit the self service kiosk located at the Midship Detective Agency to get your debriefing instructions from Mickey and pick up your detective badge and casebook, then you are ready to start investigating! This is a really fun game and if you think this is more for kids, think again! We saw adults thoughout the cruise racing from painting to painting so it really will entertain all ages.

9. Visit the upper decks and play some sports – real and interactive! On board there will be a sports deck for playing basketball or soccer and sport simulators suitable for playing basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and football.  There will also be areas to practice your golf swing and a golf simulator. If you would like to book a session on any of the simulators, it is always best to book early as slots can often fill up. Reservations for this can be made at the simulators or at the port adventure desk. So you can use this time to tour all these facilities and make any necessary bookings if you are interested in sports. You may even have time to play!

10. Visit the port adventures desk and book a tour excursion. If you haven’t already pre-reserved your tours that you want to do at each port, this would be a good time to stop by the port adventures desk to see what is available. The staff will also be able to assist you if you have any questions about the places you are visiting or advice on popular tours and places of interest. Some port adventures have limited capacity so it is important to book as soon as you know what your plans are.


So once you have boarded your magical ship, unpacked your luggage and are ready to begin enjoying your cruise, then why not try some of these suggestions to really make your embarkation day count! There are of course many more things that you could do, and this list doesn’t include all of the dining options, entertainment and theatre shows that will be on offer once you set sail. So whatever you choose to do, have a fun time, make every moment count and bon voyage!

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I live in the UK with my husband and little boy. As a married couple we have enjoyed many trips to Disney World over the past 10 years, experiencing it through the eyes of adults.

More recently we have enjoyed many more trips to Disney World from a new perspective as parents to a happy little boy who seems to love Mickey Mouse as much as we do!

Our travel background includes travelling to Australia, New Zealand and parts of Asia along, with cruising to the Caribbean with Disney and Royal Caribbean.

When not dreaming about or planning our next Disney Trip our family enjoys living in the country, looking after our small farm, and growing our own vegetables.


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