As a Walt Disney World veteran planning my very first Disney Cruise, I was able to find a wealth of knowledge about the Disney ships, restaurants, onboard activities, and what you can expect in your stateroom. The hardest part of my research, was finding information on exactly what the embarkation process is like, especially when traveling from your Disney Vacation Club Resort! Join me as we travel from Disney’s Old Key West to Port Canaveral as I board my first ever Disney Cruise!
First things first, you may be asking “what is embarkation?” and “did you make that word up?” To which I would reply, no I’m not that creative but, I can tell you that embarkation is a fancy Cruise term for the process of boarding a Cruise ship.
Believe it or not, but on this trip, I learned that your embarkation actually begins before you even leave home! Just like with a Walt Disney World resort stay, you will want to ensure you complete your Online Check-in when it opens for you. Online Check-In is tied to your Castaway Club Membership so 75 days prior for first-time cruisers, 90 for Silver Castaway Club members, 105 for Gold Members, and 120 for Platinum Members.
Due to the strict departure time of your Cruise it is highly recommend that you fly in the day before your sailing to avoid any delays in travel that may cause you to miss boarding your ship. We all know there would be nothing worse than having to wave goodbye to your ship as it sails off in the distance.
Thus, our journey began the day before our Cruise when we flew into Orlando for a single night stay at Disney’s Old Key West.
The evening before you are set to Cruise, you will find a notice tucked in the door outside of your room with your departure information for embarkation day, including information for luggage pick up (a helpful thing Disney does so you don’t have to carry your luggage around). Ensuring that all our important items for the morning were packed in our carry-ons, we attached the blue luggage tags from the Disney Cruise Line to our checked baggage and placed them just in the front “hall” area of our resort, for collection.
Beginning at 8 am on embarkation day, Disney Cruise Line will come around and collect your luggage from inside your villa door, and the next time you see your bags will be in your stateroom aboard your Disney ship! You will need to ensure that the blue luggage tags sent in your Cruise booklet are attached to any baggage that will be collected.
You will need to check in with a Disney Cruise Line Cast Member at your resort’s meeting point (per your notice) approximately half an hour prior to your scheduled pickup time. For Old Key West, our meeting point was in Papa’s Den.
As soon as your Motor Coach arrives, the Disney Cruise Line Cast Member will walk you from the meeting point to the Motor Coach, where you will board your Disney Cruise Line bus to carry you to the Cruise Terminal.
Once onboard the motor coach, you will get to sit back and enjoy about an hour’s worth of Disney Trivia, Cartoons and Guess That Character! Trust me when I say the time will just sail by and the next thing you know you’ll be arriving at the Cruise Terminal in Port Canaveral.
Once you arrive at the terminal in Port Canaveral, you will head through security on the first floor; this process is very similar to going through security at any major airport, except you don’t have to remove your shoes! Upon clearing security, you will immediately head up to the second level of the terminal where you will find several different areas for checking in. Concierge guests and Platinum Castaway Club Members will have their own unique check-in area, followed by a separate check-in line for Gold and Silver Castaway Club Members, and a final third line for first-time sailors.
Having completed our online check-in, our last item to complete before heading to the check-in desk was to fill out a health form to verify that we did not have any fever, cough or symptoms of illness. You are required to fill out one per stateroom, and you will be given the form while waiting in line so that as soon as the Cast Member is ready to assist you, you are ready to go.
At the Check-in Desk, you will be assisted by a Cast Member who will require your proof of citizenship/photo ID and you can link any Credit Cards for making purchases on board the ship. You’ll also have your photo taken for security checks should you choose to debark at any of the ports of call.
Once completed you will be given your Key to the World Card which will act as your stateroom key, credit card and well, basically everything for the remainder of your sailing. You will also be given a boarding number, should you arrive at the terminal early you must wait for your boarding number to be called prior to embarking on the ship.
To help pass the time while waiting for your boarding group to be called you can have your photo taken with Captain Mickey or First Mate Minnie if they are out and about. There is also Captain Mickey’s Sail Away Game, which is a virtual scavenger hunt played on the model of the Disney Wonder using your smartphone.
Port Canaveral’s terminal also has a ton of seating area’s with TV’s where you can pass the time.
Since we had arrived a little later in the day, about 1 pm, our boarding number had already been called, and we were free to just head on over to board!
After passing through those golden Mickey Ear arches you will arrive at your final stop prior to actually getting into the ship, and it’s of course, a photo op! This is totally optional, and the Cast Members will gladly accept your own personal phone, should you want a photo of your family in front of the Cruise backdrop.
Finally, it’s time to board the ship! As you step right onboard, you will be asked for your family name by a Cast Member, who will then announce your arrival to everyone on the ship! Here you truly get treated like a celebrity as you walk on to a round of hello’s, waves and cheers from awaiting Disney Cast Members.
Embarkation sounds like a big scary process, but after sailing on my first Cruise, I am happy to say it’s actually a breeze!