Planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation is a lot of fun, and the anticipation of actually getting onto the boat can be great. A lot of people who have never cruised with Disney before may be nervous about what to expect at the port, and how the boarding process works. I am here to put your mind at ease, and help you to have the best embarkation day as possible so you can begin enjoying your cruise instead of stressing about the logistics!


1.) Boarding time: The Disney Cruise Line port in Port Canaveral, Florida opens at 10:30 in the morning. To avoid a mass of people wanting to be the first to arrive and be the first on the ship, Disney started having guests select an arrival time when they do their online check in after final payment is made. Now, when you are checking in online, you can select from several time windows of when you plan to get to the port and check in. If you arrive early, you will still be allowed to check in but you will NOT be given a lower boarding number just because you are there early. For instance, if you arrive at 10:30 and your boarding time you picked at online check in isn’t until 1:30, you can still check in but will be given a boarding group such as 15 or 16, not 1 or 2.


2.) Transportation: There are many different ways to get to the port. Disney offers ground transportation to and from the airport for a per person fee. You may also rent a car, take a cab, or have a car service pick you up at the airport. Keep flight times in mind. I highly advise my clients to arrive the night before a cruise that way if there is a flight cancellation, you won’t miss the ship! Southern Elegance is my favorite car service, and I can book this for you! If you fly in a day early, you have three options: 1.)Take the free magical express to a Disney hotel for a night then go to the port from there. 2.) Spend the night at the hotel inside the Orlando International airport and take transportation the next morning to the port. 3.) Take transportation to a hotel located near the port. Most have a free shuttle to take you to the ship the morning of your cruise.


3.) Check in: So you have arrived! You have either parked your car in the port parking garage, or gotten off of a bus or out of a car and are ready to soak in the magic of Disney. Assuming you arrived at your proper check in time, you will then give your luggage to the porters, head inside, walk though the medal detector, and then upstairs to the beautiful lobby area.


There are wonderful cast members who will direct you where to go to check in. Castaway Club members have a separate line, as do Platinum cruisers (those who have sailed on more than 10 Disney cruises).


You will hand over the forms you were asked to print out during online check in, as well as your passport or an original birth certificate (I highly recommend getting a passport). Your photo will be taken, and you will be given your ship card and a lanyard. Your ship card will have your name on it, as well as your dining rotation among other things. You will also be given a card with your stateroom number on it. Do NOT put this card in your lanyard. If you were to lose your lanyard with your ship card in it, if you have your stateroom number card in it as well, someone can easily swipe the card to go into your room.


You will also be handed a boarding card with a group number on it. When Disney begins boarding the ship, it will go by group number, and you will not be able to board until your number is called.


Personal side note: it does you no good to crowd the boarding area if you are in boarding group 18. It just makes the area congested and very difficult to get to when your number is called. Go take a seat on the comfy couches and relax, you will be onboard soon enough!


4.) Navigator: You will probably see cast members handing out this pamphlet looking sheet, this is called your personal navigator, and you will get one every night in your room for the next day. Bring a highlighter in your carry on and take some time looking through the navigator and taking note of things you want to do that day. If you are interested in changing your dining rotation or signing up for an adults only dinner or the Castaway Cay 5k, there will be instructions in the navigator on when and where to do these things.


5.) what to pack: You will note in your navigator that it tells you that you will NOT have access to your room as soon as you get onboard. Don’t go sit in the stairways until the rooms are ready. It’s a fire hazard, and it gets very warm and crowded very quickly. Even when you are allowed in your room, your luggage will most likely not be there yet, so best to go enjoy the ship! Please remember to pack all medication and other personal items you may need for the next several hours in your carry on since your luggage may take hours to get to your door. Pack swimsuits and an extra change of clothes in case you have early dinner and your bags don’t arrive in time for you to get ready. We also bring sunscreen, sunglasses, phones, chargers, etc. so we can begin enjoying ourselves even though we can’t get to our rooms. There are plenty of bathrooms to change clothes in if you want to hit the pool. This is a great time to ride the aquaduck on the Dream and the Fantasy without long lines!


6.) what to do onboard: As soon as your number is called, heard towards the mouse ears, hand over your barding card number to the cast member, and walk on through! Your ship card will be checked, you will have the option to take a family photo, and then you will be steps from the ship!


A cast member will ask for your family name, and then over the loudspeaker, they will welcome your family aboard as you walk through a row of officers and other crew members all clapping for YOU!


On one trip my dad decided to stand with the crew members to welcome people onboard for a few minutes. Oh yes, that is my family.


We always head for the food first. The buffet is always amazing, and it’s a great time to sit down, relax, and realize, you are here! It’s vacation time! While you are eating, people will come around and discuss things with you like water or alcohol packages, offer you the drink of the day, etc. Remember, you can’t use cash so your ship card will be swiped for these types of purchases.


After we eat, we usually walk around for a few minutes taking pictures of the beautiful ship, go grab adult dining reservations or sign up for the 5k, and then change clothes, grab a cocktail, and hit the pool.


Later in the afternoon there will be a mandatory muster drill, so make sure you head back to your room in time to change before the drill. They will remind you over the intercom when it’s almost time. We spend that time unpacking if our luggage has arrived, saying a final farewell to family back home since we won’t have cell service, etc. After the muster drill, the sail away party will follow immediately up on the pool deck. GO have some fun! Dance! You are on VACATION! After the sail away party there are a plethora of things to explore, so be sure to check your navigator. Congratulations, you made it on the ship and it’s time to relax and have some fun.


I would love to help you plan your family vacation to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or on the Disney Cruise Line. You can contact me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at