Many people ask me what they should plan to do the first day of their cruise and what to expect from the embarkation process. If you are new to cruising, you probably have realized there is a certain cruise lingo you need to pick up to understand what is going on and where you are on the ship. Lucky for you, I wrote all about it last year in my blog post for first time Disney Cruisers, so hop on over to this blog post first if you need a refresher. OK, now that you know what embarkation means – let’s talk about it!
So, embarkation day! It’s VERY exciting and I want it to be stress-free for you. After all, you are about to embark on a true, relaxing vacation where you can sit back and just enjoy the magic and enchantment of a Disney Cruise Line Vacation!
· Complete online check-in. You can log into your reservation on the Disney Cruise Line website to do this. You will need to print a few documents to bring with you and you can also go ahead and set up a credit card to use for charging privileges and start the paperwork to register your children for the kids clubs…this will save a lot of time on embarkation day…and you want to get on the ship as soon as possible to start your vacation!
· Whether you are driving or flying, arrive the night before the cruise if possible. This will take SO much stress out of trying to make it to the ship on time when there are so many factors beyond your control like delayed flights and/or traffic. If you MUST arrive the day of, your travel agent will help you plan your flight and arrival times based on your port. A good rule of thumb if traveling by air is to choose an arrival time as early as possible in the AM.
· Parking-If you drive, park at the port. It may be a little more expensive but the convenience is SO worth it. Talk to your travel agent ahead of time to get to scoop on parking at the port for your cruise (costs, tips on where to park etc.) If you are sailing out of Port Canaveral I recommend either parking on the 3rd floor of the garage so that you are at the walkway that takes you into the terminal OR spring for priority parking (which is what I do) since it also makes it a lot easier when you disembark after the cruise.
· Eat Breakfast the morning of but NOT LUNCH. There is a fabulous Bon Voyage lunch prepared when you board the ship. Do not miss it (after all, you DID pay for it) and it’s such a fun and delicious way to start your cruise.
· Download the Disney Cruise Line app. There isn’t a lot to see on it before the cruise but once you board the ship and log in there is a map of the ship, daily activities, character meet n greets etc. It’s basically the daily navigator they give you when you check in but easier to carry around and access while on board instead of keeping up with a paper pamphlet. The wifi is free when you are using the app….just make sure you are on airplane mode so you don’t use expensive international data rates/roaming while at sea.
· Pack a day pack- Since your luggage will not be in your room and your room will not be ready right when you board, pack a day pack with the following items.
o Snacks /water bottle for the terminal. There aren’t any refreshments available except a vending machine in the terminal, so pack a few LIGHT snacks and some water (in a reusable cup or bottle to use later at the drink stations on the ship). Make sure the snacks are light because the lunch that is available once you board is AMAZING and all you can eat.
o Swimsuits/sunscreen/sunglasses. This is a great time to swim and try out the water slide since most people are eating or checking out the ship. So, if you want to swim without the crowds and/or check out the slide with a short line, do it when you first board and THEN eat that fabulous Lunch.
o Camera/Phone-There are some great photo ops in the terminal with Characters and out on the terrace with the ship in the background. But when you first board the ship, you will also see many great photo ops of the ship without a ton of people in them. So, wander around and get some great shots of the atrium, decks, etc. before it gets too crowded. This is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the layout of the ship and how to get around.
o Highlighter-for those of you who want to use the paper navigator, read through it in the terminal and highlight the activities you want to make sure not to miss.
On The Ship
Oh! This is the best part! There is just nothing like walking onto the ship knowing you are about to have the time of your life. Here are some tips for what to do when you first walk on. Some of these will require you to check the navigator (paper copy or the app on your phone) to find out specific locations and times.
· Tour the kids clubs. This is the only time you can do so. If you want to see your kids enjoying the clubs and take a few pics, do it now.
· Spa Raffle. Take a quick tour of the spa and stick around for the raffle. They give away some free spa services and usually offer a special just for those in attendance. It’s worth the time!
· Sign up at Guest services for events and activities that have limited space (such as wine tastings). You can also go ahead and sign up for the free Castaway Cay 5k if you plan to do that.
· Palo/Remy reservations. If you haven’t made reservations for one of the adult only restaurants or need to change your plans, check out where to go (sometimes it’s the restaurant, sometimes guest services) on the navigator and see what is available. Even if nothing was available ahead of time they can often get you in due to cancelations.
· Change your dining rotation. If you want to change your dining time or the nightly rotation order (maybe to accommodate a Palo/Remy reservation) check at Guest Services to see if they can accommodate. This also goes for any seating preferences you need to update.
· Walking Tours. Usually offered on embarkation day. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the ship and learn some interesting facts about your new home away from home.
· Unpack. Once your room is ready, go ahead and unpack and settle in so you won’t have to do it late at night or the next day. Iron any clothes that need it (irons and ironing boards are available in the laundry rooms)
Sounds like a lot to do already! The first day is so much fun as you explore your new surroundings, enjoy a great meal, and settle in for an amazing journey that you have probably been planning for and counting down the days for quite some time. I hope these tips help you as you plan for your next or first Disney cruise.
If you are considering a Disney Cruise and need help with the initial planning, check out my blog about Choosing Your Cruise! I would love to help you plan the perfect vacation with your family or friends. Contact me at Aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com or give me a call (toll free) at 1-800-670-4312 ext. 139.
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line.