So you’ve booked your Disney Cruise Line sailing, you’ve packed, and you’re ready to “sail away.” But first, you have to actually get on the ship! Embarkation day for any cruise can be long, complicated, and tiring. Here’s a breakdown of every step for embarking on your Disney Cruise Line vacation.
Disney Cruise Line Embarkation Day Guide
Online check-in is available about a month before your cruise departs. Online check-in is not required but strongly recommended. When you can check in depends on your Castaway Club membership status (how many Disney Cruise Line sailings you’ve been on).
For guests who have never sailed before, check-in is available 30 days before your sailing. Here is the breakdown for Castaway Club members:
- Silver Members: 33 days before
- Gold Members: 35 days before
- Platinum Members: 38 days before
- Pearl Members and Concierge guests: 40 days before
Check-in opens at 12 a.m. ET. It’s available on the Disney Cruise Line website or in the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
During the check-in process, guests must confirm their citizenship with pictures of their passport or other citizenship documents. They must also upload a “security photo.” This is a photo you take yourself. It should resemble a passport photo: shoulders up and in front of a blank background. This is the photo Cast Members will see on their computer when you disembark at ports of call, so they can correctly identify you.
After uploading these photos, guests must put in the credit card that they would like on file for stateroom charges.
The last step is to select a port arrival time. This is why early check-in is a perk. The earlier you can check in, the more port arrival times are available to choose from, so you can choose the best time for your schedule. Most guests want early arrival times so they have time to explore the ship before it sets off.
Port arrival times are in 15-minute increments, usually beginning when the terminal opens at 11:15 a.m. and ending in the afternoon. If you do not complete the online check-in or otherwise do not have a port arrival time, you can arrive after 2 p.m. Cast Members will verify your citizenship documentation at the terminal.
Transportation & Parking
Disney Cruise Line buses are available to transport guests from Walt Disney World Resort hotels to Port Canaveral. If you want to travel via Disney Cruise Line bus, you’ll need to arrange this before your sail date. In this case, a port arrival time will be chosen for you based on the bus schedule.
Of course, if you aren’t sailing out of Port Canaveral, there are no Disney Cruise Line buses available. However, most cruise ports have local transportation.
You can also drive your own car and park at the port. At Port Canaveral, parking is $17 per day plus tax.
Disney Cruise Line sails out of Cruise Terminal 8 at Port Canaveral.
Before sailing, guests will receive luggage tags, along with other cruise information, in the mail. These paper tags come in different colors and feature different characters. There will be two per person in a party, listing their name, ship name, stateroom number, sail date, and reservation number.
With these tags, you can drop off your luggage before boarding the ship, and porters ensure the luggage makes it safely to your stateroom. This way, you don’t have to worry about dragging around suitcases during the boarding process, or on the ship if your stateroom isn’t ready yet. You should put the tags on your luggage before heading out on the day of your cruise.
If you’re traveling by Disney Cruise Line bus, transportation Cast Members will take care of your luggage. If you drive yourself, or take some other form of transportation, you can drop your luggage off with porters before boarding.
At Port Canaveral, luggage drop-off is before parking. There are bus stop-like stations where porters can help unload your luggage. If your luggage tags never arrive, you can ask these porters for tags.
You should keep medication, valuables, and your passport on your person or in a carry-on.
Your luggage will usually be available at your stateroom in the afternoon, but it depends on when you boarded, where your stateroom is, how much luggage your party has, etc. When your luggage is ready, it will be sitting outside your stateroom door in the hallway.
Arrival & Boarding
You should plan to arrive precisely during your port arrival time window. If you’re early, you’ll have to wait outside. If you arrive late, your boarding might be delayed.
Once you’re inside the terminal, you will go through a quick check-in process with a Cast Member, showing them your passport or other identification.
You then go through security. This is just like airport security — there is a conveyor belt for your carry-on items and you step through a metal detector.
At this point, guests are called to the ship by boarding groups. Your boarding group time may be different from your port arrival time, as there can be delays for various reasons. Usually at Port Canaveral, your boarding group will be called almost immediately upon your arrival.
When in line before boarding, there are photo backdrops and photographers. These photos will be available with any other photos you take on the ship — but you can always also ask Cast Members to take a picture with your own phone or camera, or skip the photo op altogether.
Then you receive your Key to the World cards, which will work as your stateroom keys and can be used to charge purchases to your stateroom. DisneyBand+ can also be used in this way, but all guests still receive a Key to the World card. At this point, the Cast Member will be able to tell you if your stateroom is ready or not.
Finally, it’s time to get on the ship. Cast Members will be at the doors to ask the name of your family. Then as you step into the atrium or Grand Hall, they announce your arrival.
Once on the ship, you’re able to connect to the local network and access the sailing’s full schedule of events via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
The sail-away time, i.e. when the boat actually sets off, is usually between 4 and 5 p.m. The exact time will be in the itinerary you can see before arriving. Barring emergencies, this is the time the ship will actually leave, and if you aren’t on board, it will leave without you.
As the ship begins its journey, a sail-away party will take place on the stage of the pool deck. On the Disney Wish, this is “Set Sail on a Wish.” Watch our video of the show, featuring Mickey & Friends, the Fairy Godmother, and several Princesses and Princes:
Also read our breakdown of Disney Cruise Line ships, full guide to Castaway Cay, and guide to Disney Cruise Line rotational dining and restaurants.