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How to do embarkation day on Disney Cruise Line

How to do embarkation day on Disney Cruise Line

The day you’re boarding the ship for your Disney Cruise Line vacation is very exciting, but there are several things to remember to do on this day before you get settled in on the ship.

Here are things to do on a Disney Cruise Line embarkation day.

1. Arrive at least the day before

Your embarkation day success actually begins the day before the cruise by arriving at least 1 day prior to the cruise beginning.

You don’t want to risk flight delays, flat tires, etc. and have the ship leave without you.

Not sure where to stay?

Most ports have lists of hotels with easy access to the cruise terminal. Some hotels may also include parking and shuttles.

For any departure ports that aren’t listed above, search “[departure port] cruise port hotels” to get ideas on where to stay.

2. Fill out the health questionnaire

The morning that your cruise is scheduled to depart, you’ll get an email and push notification in the DCL app asking you to fill out a health questionnaire.

These questions are asking you to verify that the members of your party haven’t experienced recent symptoms.

3. Tag checked bags

Before your trip, DCL will mail you some bag tags, and this is the time to apply them to the luggage you’ll be checking at the cruise terminal.

If you don’t have them or need more, they’ll be able to help you at the port.

Tip: when using sticker-style tags like these, you don’t need to remove the whole back, just the part that says to remove it. That’ll make it easier to remove later.

4. Pack drinks in carryon bags

While you’re in packing mode, be sure any drinks you brought are in your carryon bag. I like to use a beach bag for this.

Disney Cruise Line allows you to bring a 6-pack of beer per person OR 2 750 mL bottles of wine/champagne per person. You can do this not only on embarkation day but also at each port.

5. Go to cruise terminal

Plan to arrive at the cruise terminal just before the time indicated on your Port Arrival Form.

How will you get to the cruise port?

Almost every port will have these options:

  • Drive yourself. Be sure you understand the parking rates and setup at the cruise port before heading there.
  • Take ride share. When requesting a car to pick you up, you might want to check which port the Disney cruise ship will be coming into because sometimes there are multiple drop-offs depending on the cruise line.
  • Disney transportation. Many people like using Disney transportation as it can feel safer, plus it will sometimes allow you to get checked in before your Port Arrival Form time indicates. However, it costs per person rather than per ride which can often make it more expensive. It can also take more time since there’s often a wait to depart and/or multiple stops along the way.
  • Private car service. This is definitely my preference when going in/out of Port Canaveral. We partner with Quicksilver Transportation and would recommend using them.

6. Drop checked bags with porter

Once you arrive at the cruise terminal, you’ll want to leave your tagged checked bags with the porter who will transport them for you.

If you happen to arrive earlier than your boarding time, it’s no big deal to the porter who won’t be checking that at this point.

We always recommend tipping $1-2/bag to anybody who handles your luggage, including the cruise terminal porters.

7. Get checked in at the cruise terminal

When it’s close to the time on your Port Arrival Form, you’ll be able to go through the steps in the terminal.

(Looking for your Port Arrival Form? It’s a PDF attached to an email sent after your online checkin is complete. Email subject is usually “Online Check-In Complete.”)

You’ll be asked to show your Port Arrival Form several times. Many people print them, but you can also save them to your phone’s wallet or as a PDF to your phone files.

You’ll also go through security and need to present your passport at the registration desk.

8. Board ship

Once you’re through all of the check-in steps, you may have to wait in the terminal for your group to be called.

Once your group is called, you’ll proceed to board the ship. They’ll ask you for your name to announce as you board, so be prepared with what name you want to give!

9. Connect to the ship’s WiFi

Now that you’re on board, you can connect to the ship’s free DCL-Guest WiFi that’ll be necessary to make the DCL app switch into onboard mode.

Tip: if you’re waiting at the terminal for a bit before your group is called, you can sometimes connect from there.

10. Handle any miscellaneous tasks

There may be several different kinds of things you’ll want to do as soon as you board.

  • Check out the kids clubs
  • Go to Guest Services if you have any issues or want to check on openings for things you weren’t able to book beforehand
  • Head to the spa open house where they often have raffles to win things

11. Eat lunch

Since your stateroom likely won’t be ready for a little bit, you’ll probably want to take your carryon bags to 1 of the dining options for lunch while you wait.

These are usually available for lunch on embarkation day:

  • Main dining restaurant. There’s likely to be 1 restaurant open (usually the one adjacent to the atrium where you enter the ship) and serving lunch. Here’s embarkation day lunch menus for an idea what to expect.
  • Casual buffet. On most ships this is called Cabanas (Marceline Market on the Wish) and it’s the most popular option for embarkation lunch. Although it is busy, it can be nice to be able to grab food without a wait.
  • Quick service pool options. Just outside the casual buffet is the pool area with quick service options nearby. This is my preference as I like to grab sandwiches, fruit, and soup. If the weather is nice, you can dine right outside or take your food inside the casual buffet seating area.

12. Go to your stateroom

Once the staterooms are open, head there to get settled in.

You’ll find your room keys just outside the room.

Inside, you’ll find onboard gifts you may have ordered as well as Castaway Club gifts such as lanyards and bags for anybody who has sailed previously.

13. Unpack and decorate

Before long, your checked bags should be delivered outside your room so be sure to check periodically if yours have arrived.

Usually this happens fairly quickly, though I did have 1 cruise where it took a few hours for my bags to arrive.

14. Buy internet if you want

At this point, you may want to consider buying internet for your cruise.

The free DCL-Guest WiFi will allow you to use the DCL app, send iMessages, and use WhatsApp.

If you want to do anything beyond that (like check social media, browse the internet, etc.), you’ll need to buy access.

You’ll have multiple levels of WiFi speed to choose from. I always buy the highest speed since I often need to post pics/videos during trips, and even that can be extremely slow so don’t have any expectations of streaming videos or anything that requires high speed internet.

You’ll also have options to buy internet by the day or for the whole voyage.

And you can choose how many devices you want to be able to access the internet at one time.

Tip: If you choose 1 device but have multiple devices that need to access the internet, you can just share the login with each device. Every person/device will have to take turns using that login. Everybody won’t be able to use the WiFi at once unless you purchased it for multiple devices.

If you don’t want to spend money buying the WiFi (it’s expensive!), you can also just use your phone on port days if you have an international plan.

15. Attend required muster drill

Everybody on the ship will be required to attend the muster drill which usually takes place around 3:30 or 4:00 (check the DCL app for the time).

The location of your muster drill assembly station will be noted on the back of your stateroom door and on your Key to the World card. The location could be a restaurant, theater, outside on a deck, etc.

Be sure to take your Key to the World card with you to the station and get checked in. There will likely be some time waiting around as they get everybody checked in, and then there will be some safety information to go over.

16. See the Sail Away show

The Sail Away show usually takes place right after the muster drill. In fact, I often will use the stairs to get there ASAP since the elevators are so busy once the muster drill is over.

I missed this show on my very first cruise and had huge regrets so I make sure to get there every time now.

It’s a super fun way to kick off a cruise. We prefer to find a spot on the deck just above the deck where the party takes place.

For example, if the Sail Away party is taking place on deck 9, we head to deck 10 to be on the railings just above it for a nice view without being in the middle of the people right in front of the stage area.

The ship will usually literally sail away during this party so be prepared to start feeling movement.

Tip: make sure your phone is in airplane mode at this point so you don’t accidentally rack up fees!

17. Note activities you want to do in the DCL app

You’ll have a little time before dinner, shows, and shopping begin so I’d suggest using this time to scroll the activities in the DCL app to heart the things you’re interested in doing during your cruise.

Once you do that, you can click on “My Plans” and it’ll show you a list of things you’ve selected as well as activities you’ve booked previously so you can start to put together plans for your days.

18. Dinner, show, and shopping

In the 6-8 p.m. hours, you’ll have your first main dining meal, your first stage show, and a chance to shop once the ship has pulled away far enough for the shops to open.

Within the DCL app, you’ll be able to see which dining room you’ll be in on your first night (as well as your table number) and which show is in the Walt Disney Theater.

We highly recommend doing both. If you have main dining, you’ll head to dinner first, then a show. If you have late dining, you can do the show first and then head to dinner.

At dinner, consider getting a wine package for the week if you know you’ll be wanting it multiple nights of your cruise with dinner.


And with that, you’re off to a good start on your cruise!

Snag the checklist from below to help remind you what to do on embarkation day.

Let us know if you have any questions on how embarkation day works in the comments.

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