Your first day on a Disney cruise is arguably one of the most exciting days of the entire trip!
There’s a lot of excitement, and the feeling of finally being done with all the planning and saving is one of the best in the world. You are finally on your vacation and you can relax and enjoy every minute!
But, there’s also a lot to do and remember on your first day. Embarkation day can be pretty stressful if you don’t know these 15 important tips I’m going to share with you today!
Before we start, you need to make sure you’ve read over your entire planning booklet from DCL that you should have received in the mail (if you’re close to your trip date). This booklet will explain everything you need to know about the boarding process, what you need to bring (and not bring), and where you need to go when you arrive at the port.
Now, onto my important tips!
15 Important Tips for Your First Day on a Disney Cruise
1. Complete the online check in as soon as you can
The goal is to complete this form as soon as it becomes available so you can pick the best port arrival time, as well as make your check-in at the port go smoother. Depending on how many Disney cruises you’ve been on, your check in date will vary:
- First time cruisers: 75 days before arrival date
- Silver Castaway Club members: 90 days before arrival date
- Gold Castaway Club members: 105 days before arrival date
- Platinum Castaway Club members/Concierge: 120 days before arrival date
Most people would say that you should pick the earliest port arrival time possible so you can have more time on the ship before the crowds come in. While that is true, I believe this is different for every family. In our family, we prefer a later arrival time (although not the latest) because we prefer to sleep in and rest up from the long drive/flight we had the day before. Our toddler is also a late sleeper, so we never know when she will wake up and we don’t want to disturb her. If you want to get to the pools before they get crowded, you need to visit guest services for any reason, OR you’d like to ride the Aqua Duck or Aqua Dunk, I definitely recommend getting an early port arrival time because everyone heads to those locations first. But if you don’t care about any of that, I wouldn’t worry about getting a super early port arrival time.
2. DON’T try to fly in or drive in on the day of your cruise
You never know what could happen. Even if you are only a few hours away from the port, don’t take the risk of driving in or flying in on embarkation day. A flight could be delayed or you could run into major traffic, and you DON’T want to miss that boat – because it ain’t waitin’ on you! It would be a huge bummer to have to tell your kids you won’t be going on your cruise because you missed the boat. Just be on the safe side and get a hotel the night before your cruise.
Most hotels around the port will most likely have a “park and cruise” package that you can take advantage of. When you stay at that hotel the night before your cruise, you can keep your car parked there and the hotel will provide some kind of transportation to bring you to the port – usually a shuttle. When you book your cruise with us, we will help you arrange those pre and post-cruise stays at no extra cost to you! Our services are completely free and we help you with all aspects of planning your cruise vacation. If you’d like to learn more about our services, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
3. Have your day bag/carry on bags packed and ready to go
When you arrive at the terminal and hand your bags over to the attendant, you won’t see them again until 2-3 hours after the ship sets sail. So it’s very important to have a carry on bag with you for any important things you may need. Disney allows one carry on bag per person. We recommend bringing a rolling bag as it will be easier to bring around the ship. Here are the important things you’ll need to make sure you pack in your carry-on bag:
- Important medicines (dramamine included!)
- Bathing suits
- Phone chargers/camera chargers/batteries
- 2 changes of clothes (one casual, one for dinner just in case your luggage is late arriving to your stateroom)
- Shoes for dinner and poolside
- A few travel size toiletries – just in case you would like to freshen up for dinner and your bags have not arrived yet. I usually like to take a shower after I’ve been in the pool, so I always pack travel size shampoo/conditioner, body wash, and the things I need to do my hair and makeup for dinner.
- Important documents (passports, birth certificates, planning booklet, travel insurance documents, etc.) We recommend putting these in a folder so they won’t get bent.
- Refillable water bottles (like Yeti cups)
- Stateroom door magnets
- Fish extenders/gifts
- Alcohol (if you choose to bring any on board – there are restrictions)
4. Arrive at your port arrival time
While it is true that you can arrive after your port arrival time and you will still be able to get on the ship, I highly recommend that you board on time. This will keep you from waiting in long lines and will give you more time to explore the ship.
5. Visit guest services immediately to book any needed reservations, dining, or excursions or ask to make changes
If you still have anything you need to book, go to guest services immediately upon boarding the ship. You will probably have to wait in line for a good bit, but if you don’t go immediately there will most likely not be availability for anything you want and/or you won’t get to make any changes.
6. Grab something to eat
By the time you finish the boarding process and get things settled at guest services, you’re bound to be starving! There are many dining options you can take advantage of on board. You can go to the main buffet (Cabanas), visit the quick-service locations on the main pool deck, or visit one of the table service restaurants on board (if they are open – ask a cast member to be sure). Cabanas is always our favorite, but it can be hectic on embarkation day. So if you aren’t looking to fight the crowds, you might want to pick another dining location. Anywhere you pick, the food will be AMAZING!
7. Visit the pool
This is one of our favorite things to do on embarkation day! Change into your swimsuits and hit one of the many pools or hot tubs on board. If you’re on an adults-only vacation, head to the adult-only areas of the ship for a quieter retreat. If you’re on the Fantasy or Dream, head over to Cove Cafe and grab a coffee or treat.
If you’re a thrill seeker and you’re on the ships that offer them, head to the Aqua Duck or Aqua Dunk. My husband and I LOVE the Aqua Duck and rode it about 17 times on our last week long cruise, ha!
8. Attend the muster drill
Before you set sail, you must attend this mandatory safety drill. The whole family is required to attend, and Disney will know if you skip it and you will have to make up the drill if you do. If you have babies who might be ready for a nap by this time, I would definitely put them down early as soon as you get into your stateroom. During the drill, you’ll be either standing on the deck or in the Walt Disney Theater as the Cast Members go over necessary safety regulations and procedures.
9. Attend the sail away deck party
This celebration on the main deck is all about getting you pumped up for your magical cruise! There will be music, dancing, and your favorite characters will even show up – Mickey Mouse included! We highly recommend you watch the show, especially if you’ve never been on a Disney cruise before. It’s sure to get you in the magical cruising spirit!
10. Go to the top deck and watch the ship take off if the sail away party doesn’t interest you
If the sail away party doesn’t interest you or you’ve been on multiple cruises and seen it already, go to a high deck and watch the ship go out of port. My husband and I do this all the time and it’s so nice! It’s not near as crowded as the main deck, and you get to take in a beautiful view.
11. Download the Disney Cruise Line App
This app is extremely important! It provides everything you will need during your cruise, including dining and show times, onboard activity times, and special announcements. You can even text your family members while you’re onboard – and this is all for free! No internet required! Ask a cast member to help you set it up or look for directions on your personal navigator – as you’ll need to do this before you set sail in order for it to be free.
12. Tour and check in for the kids clubs
If you think your kids might be interested in being part of the kids clubs on board, now’s the time to go check them out. DCL has amazing activities for kids, tweens, and teens – and they are all free! An added bonus is that the adults get some alone time!
- Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are for kids ages 3-12. These clubs provide kids with character experiences, multiple magical lands, dancing, crafts, and a whole lot of play. Oceaneer lab helps kids learn through imaginative play/games.
- Edge is for kids ages 11-14. Tweens can come hang out with other cruisers, watch movies, dance, sing, do arts and crafts, and just chill.
- Vibe is for teens ages 14-17. This is a space for them to just hang out, meet other teens, dance, sing, watch movies, etc.
13. Explore the ship
Disney ships are huge, and it can take some time to get used to. On the first day, it’s good to explore and familiarize yourself with the ship!
14. Turn your phone to airplane mode as soon as you leave the port
This one is so important if you want to avoid excessive charges from your cell service carrier. If you want to stay connected while you’re at sea, Disney offers wifi but at an extra price, so be sure to visit the Connect at Sea desk for more information on that.
15. Don’t miss dinner or the show
You absolutely should not miss your first night (or any night) of dinner or the show! This is a great time to meet your wait staff and find out what to expect. The show is amazing – you don’t want to skip it. Every night of your cruise, Disney puts on a broadway style spectacular that is sure to blow you away!
And lastly, RELAX! You’re finally on vacation!