I don’t know about you but I had two major stresses when it came to our cruise. The first was what to pack. And the second was the process of boarding the ship. Where did I need to go? What time should I arrive? Did I forget any documentation? I am happy to say all of those worries were unfounded. Because of course DCL has it down.
If you followed the tip to register early and get an early check-in time, then you are all set. Try to arrive at the Port no later then 11am. The earlier you arrive, the earlier you will get onboard. This allows you to have lots of extra time to enjoy the ship, beat the lines for lunch and make all your remaining reservations.
There are many options on how you can proceed to port. These are tips that are specific to Port Canaveral. Be sure to do your research and price out your options.
- The Disney Cruise Line bus system will transport you from the airport to Port Canaveral. The cost of this is $35 per person one way. $70 per person can add up quickly, so this may not be the best option for you. Especially if you are heading to a WDW resort before or after your cruise.
- Renting a vehicle is an option. We came in a couple days early to enjoy WDW first and there are many rental car companies that you can pick up at MCO and drop off at Cape Canaveral. They typically offer free shuttles to the port. My husband dropped us off at the terminal with our luggage and then rode the shuttle back to meet us. We felt it was easier then transferring all our luggage into the shuttle and then off again.
- Town cars/limos are another option. This is not something I have done, but I have read many people having success with it. It works especially well if you are in a large group, or can coordinate with other groups on your cruise.
- Parking at the terminal is expensive, last I read it is a $75 flat fee. There are other places to park, but again require a shuttle.
The carry-on bag is always important. But it is even more so when you are boarding a Disney cruise ship. If you don’t read any other part of this post be sure to keep in mind that you will not be allowed into your stateroom until at least 1pm, and you will not receive your luggage until at least 3pm. Which tells you why your carry-on is so important. You need to pack everything you will need from 11am at port arrival up until dinner, if you are the early seating. This should include:
- Swim wear, to take advantage of the pools. They are nearly empty until mid afternoon.
- Your camera
- All documentation for check-in purposes
- Your two items per stateroom for character signatures
Lines are very clearly marked and there are dozens of cast members waiting to answer your questions. Be prepared for the lines, and be patient. There is no hurry because boarding does not start until noon, get all the standing out of the way before the doors open.
- Line #1 – gets you checked in. You will receive your key to the world cards, boarding group and navigator (the end all be all schedule and information for each day of your cruise). **Tip: in this navigator there is a promo code for free Wi-Fi. It is a small amount, but enough to get you all check in for your flight home.
- Line #2 – at the very end of the terminal you can check for discounted upgrades to your current room.
- Line #3 – if you have children, this is a great time to get them registered for the kids club. You can fill out the paperwork ahead of time but they will need their magic bands. There are other opportunities to register your little ones. So if you have to pick between line #3 and #4 skip this line.
- Line #4: Pictures with Mickey!
To Do List Once Onboard
There are a few very important things to do once you are on board. Unfortunately there are two more lines to stand in.
- Head right to Guest Services, this is typically where the Meet and Greet tickets are handed to you (ask a cast member to be sure there is not another venue for these tickets). You must have a Meet and Greet ticket for both Anna and Elsa, as well as the Princess Gathering. These tickets work like Fastpasses in the park. They tell you when and where to come and line up for your Meet and Greet.
- At Guest Services you will also give them your two items to be signed by characters. This is the only time they will accept your items.
- Head over to the Bon Voyage desk if you have any questions about your excursions or want to add any additional excursions once on board.
- Lunch is next, either at Cabana’s (the buffet) or there is typically another restaurant open serving lunch. Because we are early we typically opt for the buffet and snag a table by the pool.
- Swim! If you did not wear your suit, you can change in the pool restrooms. There are even lockers in there for rent if you want to use them.
- Once the pool starts to fill up we like to walk around the ship. Typically the rooms are finished being cleaned and we can unload our carry-ons and change back out of swimsuits. This is a great time to take your little one to the kids club. It is open house and touring this awesome space with them makes them incredibly excited to hang out and will put you at ease.
- Don’t miss or try to skip the mandatory lifeboat drill. It is a legal requirement. Please do not make the crew chase you down.
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