What to know what embarkation day is like? Read on. When we took our first Disney cruise, I tried to be as prepared as possible. I joined message boards and facebook groups. Looked through a million blogs. Checked out books from the library. Yet, nothing really prepared us for what it was really like walking on the ship, that very first time.
Depending on your port and situation, you may arrive at the cruise terminal by Disney’s Magic Bus (only for Port Canaveral departures), by taxi or your own car. You’ll be assigned a check-in time for the terminal and will want to be on time. When you arrive you’ll check in and then be assigned a boarding group. This will let you know when you can actually get on the ship. At check-in they will take a photo of each person in your group for their computer system, will give you your Key to the World card and a lanyard. You can also sign your kids up for the kids club at this time as well (if you hadn’t done so online earlier). The Port Canaveral terminal is by far the nicest as it is a dedicated building just for DCL. There is just more pomp and circumstance involved and I would suggest sailing out of this port for your very first cruise with Disney, just for this experience.
Once your boarding group is called you can head towards the gangway to the ship. Anytime you go on or off the ship they will scan your KTTW card. Next, you’ll have the chance to have your family’s photo taken. Do it. It is always fun to have that moment captured. Side note… Photographers are wandering the ships all day every day. Anytime you have a chance, let them take your photo. You’ll have a chance to purchase them later (some or all) and it is worth it. Will talk more about this in an upcoming post.
You will enter the ship into the atrium where crew members will announce your family. The first time we gave our real family name but on later cruises, we have given fun, fake names. One time we were the ‘Stroopwaffles’ (a tasty dessert by the way). Don’t judge us. We were on vacation! Now you are officially on the ship and there is no turning back. Important to note, by this point Disney will have your luggage and they will deliver it to your room. I suggest having a small backpack or day bag to carry on with you. You can’t go to your room until 1:30 so if you arrive any earlier, you’ll have time to spare, so make the most of it. A lot of people throw their bathing suits into their bag and head straight for the pool when they arrive. It may feel all overwhelming but here is my list of what I’d suggest you do on embarkation day.
- Snap a Photo. When you first enter the Atrium, soak it all in. The first thing we do is head immediately to the statue by the stairs for a family photo. There are tons of staff on board ready to snap a pic with your camera, so let them.
- Eat. If you board the ship around lunchtime, I’d make getting food one of your top priorities. You can head up to the buffet restaurant for lunch or head to the main dining room. Both will have a lunch buffet but the dining room will probably be quieter if your kids are feeling a little overwhelmed.
- Visit the Kids Clubs. This is one of the few times that all the kids’ clubs are open for anyone who wants to wander. You can’t drop your kids off during this time but it is a good way for everyone in your group to see what they have to offer. As a parent, it is great to know where your kids will be when you check them in so that everyone feels comfortable. Plus they are pretty darn cool and I can usually sneak in playing some games with the kiddos.
- Walk around the Ship. Just like the Kids Clubs, everything is open. Take this time to wander around the ship. Go into all the bars, clubs, restaurants. Take photos, let the kids explore.
Advice from my 11 yr old to other kids:
Just explore the boat and get used to where everything is.
If you haven’t noticed, my kids like to make goofy faces! Get used to it.
What Comes Next
After 1:30 we head to our room to freshen up. Walking into your stateroom for the first time can be very exciting. Your luggage may still not be there yet so don’t panic. It can take a few hours. Just relax, check out the room, look out the window or go on the balcony. Enjoy!
In the afternoon on embarkation day, usually around 4 pm, you’ll have to do a mandatory muster drill. This is where everyone on the ship assembles in designated areas in case of an emergency. For someone afraid to cruise, this can seem a bit scary because the last thing you want to think about is any sort of emergency. But it can also be reassuring as well. The crew is well-rehearsed and everything is organized to ensure everyone’s safety. So if you keep this in mind, the 15 minutes or so that the drill takes, will go by in a flash.
After the drill, there is a Sail Away Celebration on the top deck. There is music, dancing, and all the Disney characters you’d expect, decked out in their sailor outfits. It can get crowded but it is fun nonetheless. The kids love it and have a blast.
By this time you’ll either be ready for dinner or your first show. When you book your cruise you can request a dinner seating; early or later. The early seating is usually 5:45 while the later seating is 8:15. While half the ship is at dinner in one of the 3 restaurants, the other half is watching one of Disney’s shows in the Walt Disney Theater. The shows are typically Broadway-style productions but also include comedy or other entertainment. Since we have always had young kids, we do the early dinner. Most people with younger kids do. The later seating tends to be mostly adults with older kids or no kids. Choose whatever works best for your family. So for us, we go to dinner at 5:45 then afterward, head to the theatre for the evening’s entertainment.
When all of this wraps up, you’ll either be ready to retire to your room for a good night’s sleep or drop the kids off in one of the clubs and wander around to some of the adult-only locations on the ship. The great thing about the cruise is that there are so many options. You simply can’t go wrong.
Part 3 coming soon. Check back soon.
Interested in booking a Disney Cruise? I’m now a licensed Disney authorized travel agent. My services are 100% complimentary and I am more than happy to help you plan your cruise. Visit my travel site Adventures by Kelly.