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We get a lot of questions about taking a Disney Cruise. On our cruise, we did a lot of research, we wanted to be prepared because that is something that helps us to travel well is being prepared and knowing what we are doing and where we are going. One thing that we realized very quickly once we boarded the ship, no one really talks about embarkation day and tips to helping make embarkation day less chaotic and more relaxed.
The best way to get your cruise off to a great start is to have a great embarkation day obviously. So, we are going to talk about my tips for you so that you can have a smooth embarkation day and kick start your Disney cruise the right way.
If you are interested in even more about embarkation day, check out our post cruise report that details embarkation day from our last cruise HERE! Now, let’s get started!
Bring a Day Bag
There will most likely be several hours between the time that you board the ship and the time that your luggage arrives in your state room. The weather can be finicky so it may be windy, gorgeous or chilly. We always like to be prepared so we each take a backpack on board. In mine there is a swimsuit, cover up, makeup, a hairbrush, sunscreen, a jacket or sweatshirt. Be sure to have your government issue id, passport and any other documentation you may need ready and in that bag not in your checked luggage. In addition, be sure to have your cruise spiral notebook that was sent to you by Disney a couple of weeks prior to setting sail.
If you have any important medications, be sure to pack those in this bag as well so that they are accessible to you and don’t forget that camera and cell phone charger just in case.
Prepare Yourself for Embarkation Chaos
There will be people who will say that I am being dramatic. I disagree. Every vlog, blog, article we watched or read said that the moment you step on a Disney cruise, you can relax and enjoy and find serenity and… we experienced none of that.
Let’s just be real with each other. You are getting on a ship with a whole lot of people in a small window of time. Many of them have never been on a cruise before, many of them have no idea what to expect, where to go and when to go there. There are a lot of excited kids and stressed out adults. Does that sound relaxing to you?
Disney knows what they are doing especially when it comes to guiding people along their vacation. When you first board the ship, you have the option to stop and take the embarkation cruise photo in front of the cruise backdrop. I never turn down a photo opportunity so we stopped for the photo.
Because we took the Magical Express from our Disney Resort to Port Canaveral, our cruise port, we were some of the last people to board the ship so the line wasn’t long but if you aren’t interested in the photo and you just want to go straight onto the ship (that background will most likely be out again during one of your cruise nights), you can bypass the photo opp and go straight onto the ship.
Once onboard you can either get into the one rotational dining restaurant that is open during this time for lunch or you can head up to Cabana’s. If you wish to do so, the sit down restaurant will be a much more relaxing experience but if it is full or you prefer the buffet, try to grab a table outside away from the noise.
When you first walk into Cabana’s there are parents wrangling kids, kids running, adults running, teenagers running, everyone trying to get as much food as possible because… well, no one really knows because there is certainly no shortage of food available on the Disney Cruise. Take your time, take a look at all of the food that is available and if you have the weather for it, grab a table outside and enjoy the view. It is quieter outside and you can really start to enjoy your time on the ship.
This time is also an open house so adults are allowed in the kids spaces and kids are allowed in most of the adult spaces One exception is Cove Cafe, the specialty coffee shop. This is a great place to get a tasty drink and relax.
The only reason that the safety drill takes so long is because people don’t show up until they are dragged kicking and screaming (or called out over the loudspeaker) because even though they tell every single guest on board the ship over and over that this is a mandatory drill, people still think that they don’t have to go.
You do. You have to go to the safety drill. The giant letter on your Key to the World card indicates where on deck you will go for the drill. If you don’t go to the drill on the first day, you will be required and I mean required to attend it the next day when you could actually be enjoying your vacation.
Go. Put your phone away because they will make you do it anyway. Pay attention and it will not take an hour. If everyone showed up on time and paid attention, this entire process would take twenty minutes, not an hour.
Sail a Wave Party
As soon as the safety drill is over there is a mad dash to the sail a wave party. If you want an up close to the stage spot, you will want to hustle to get there. We found a spot on deck 10 off to the side and it was a perfect spot to watch for us. We had a great vantage point and it wasn’t nearly as crowded. You will want to get up there relatively quickly to get a spot by the railing though.
Take a Break
Once the Sail a Wave party is over it’s a great time to grab a deck chair and relax. There are castmembers wandering around to serve drinks, you can head to the adults only area and grab a drink, go into Cove Cafe and get a coffee or grab some of that all you can eat soft serve you’ve heard so much about. You are now underway, headed out of port towards open sea. There are some awesome chairs on almost every deck of the ship.
If you want a little more action, you can find something near Funnel Vision (the giant movie screen on one of the funnels near the family pool). For something adults only, head to that area and grab one of the round deck chairs looking out over the water. For something a little different, head to one of the other lower decks and grab a deck chair there… you can even take your ice cream.
Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App
You will want to do this as soon as possible. It is a great way to countdown to your cruise and then once you board the ship and connect to the wifi, you don’t have to buy a wifi package for this, you can download the free 50 MB package which will be enough for you to download the app. This will allow you to see all of the on board activities for the cruise, you can “like” the ones you want to remember and you can even get a reminder of those “liked” items through the app fifteen minutes prior to the start of the event.
Important to note that if you have cruised previously and remembered getting the paper navigator, this will no longer be provided by your stateroom host or hostess the night before.
Sign up For Activities, Port Adventures and Kids Club
Oftentimes some port adventures are sold out online but are available when you board so if there is something that you are really wanting to do, check with guest services once you board. Same goes for dining reservations. If you are wanting to book Palo or Remy, the adults only additional charge restaurants, check once you board the ship because often times there are reservations available on board.
Additionally, if you are nervous about the prospect of sending kids to the kids club, they are all open for viewing for everyone the first few hours of the cruise. So, anyone can wander in and check them out. They are awesome though, be prepared to not see much of your kids because I would want to spend all of my time in there if I could.
Take a Walking Tour
There is a caveat for this tip. If you are only on a three night cruise, I don’t necessarily recommend this simply because your time on the ship is so limited, you really don’t have a ton of time to get the lay of the land of the ship and if this isn’t something you are really excited about doing, skip it until your next, longer cruise.
If you are on a longer cruise, this is a great way to get a good feel of the ship. Where things are, where things will be, and some awesome behind the scenes info on the ships. It is a lot of great information in about 45 minutes.
This can really help you to relax and know your way around. One of my biggest sources of anxiety on embarkation day was not knowing my way around and having no idea where anything was. Take a walking tour and get the lay of the land and boom! Problem solved.
Those are are top tips for embarkation day. Most of all, just enjoy the start of your vacation and know that the calm and relaxation will come. The first few hours are for everyone to get their bearings and get settled and then your vacation can truly begin.
What are some of your tips for Disney cruising? Will these help you to relax on your next Disney cruise? If you are planning a cruise, which cruise are you going on?
Thank you for stopping by and for the love of the mouse, never forget, that it all started with a mouse.