Stay tuned for a series of posts about how to make the most of your Disney Dream Cruise! We’re happy to have one of our parent travel experts give us the scoop on what parents need to know about booking, arrival day, what to do on the ship, and even debarkation. Happy sailing!
Disney Dream Cruise: Embarking tips for parents
You’ve made it! You’re at the ship… now what?
Once you get to the port, you’ll go through an airport-type security line and take an escalator up to the main terminal. If you are traveling Concierge, you’ll have a special area for check-in where process is expedited. If not, simply get in the line and wait for an agent. They’ll check your passports and take photos of everyone in your party. They’ll use these check-in photos for facial recognition so when the ship photographers take pictures, they know which cabin to file them under. They’ll also review all the documentation you filled out online before you left home and your kids will receive their special wristbands that they can use to enter the Kids’ Club. Finally, you’ll get a boarding group number.
They will start boarding the ship around 11 a.m. — Concierge level travelers and frequent cruisers will be in the first group. It moves fairly quickly.
While you wait, there are opportunities to meet a few of the Disney characters. However, don’t fuss about this too much, because you’ll encounter them many more times over the next three days. There’s also a viewing area hat has some nice perspectives of the ship, which is really incredibly large.
You’ll also get a “Personal Navigator” newsletter that has a comprehensive look at everything going on at any given time. Don’t get too overwhelmed… there is a lot of stuff offered! This information is also available on the cruise app to keep it handy when you’re on the ship
Time to board
When your boarding number is called, you’ll walk across the ramp and there will be a lineup to take a souvenir boarding photo. This is worth waiting for — you’ll be glad you did it later!
Now, you will actually board the ship. This is a real highlight and the first of many special Disney touches that you’ll encounter. Someone will ask your family name and they’ll announce it over the ship’s PA system: “Welcome aboard the Greenspoon Family!” and you’ll walk through a receiving line of applauding, white-jacketed crew members and directly into the ship’s atrium on the third floor. If you want to capture this moment on video, make sure your camera is ready before you walk on!
You are on your own to explore the ship! If you’re in the Concierge cabins, a crew member will take you up to the Concierge lounge on the 12th floor, where there are light snacks and drinks, and a member of the team will go over your itinerary for the next three days. If not, the very first thing to do is to make whatever reservations you need to… as quickly as possible.
Get booked… ASAP
If your kids want to see the Disney princesses or the Frozen characters, you absolutely need to go to the guest services desk on the third floor (right where you enter) and get tickets. These are among the most sought-after events on the ship, so do it early. If you’re in Concierge, they will book these for your ahead of time. The Princess Greeting is in the atrium and you can watch it easily, but you can only get in the line to meet the characters if you have tickets, of which there are a limited number. The Frozen Meet and Greet is even more popular and is actually hidden at the Animators Palate restaurant. The guest services desk is also where you can make changes to any of your other activities, including your adult only dining reservations, spa appointments, and Castaway Cay activities.
While you wait for your cabin
The next order of business is to get some lunch. The buffet restaurant, Cabanas, is on the 11th floor and you should make your way there as soon as you can because people will start lining up like they’ve never seen food before and it will be difficult to find a table. This is actually a really good buffet — the selection is impressive and everything is very fresh.
After lunch, you have all afternoon to explore the ship. The cabins are not ready until about 1:30 p.m. or so (unless you are in the Concierge cabins on decks 11 and 12, which are ready pretty much when you board). If it’s a nice day and you’re early, this is a good time to check out the pool deck on 11 and even ride the Aqua Duck water coaster. There is also a sports activity deck on 13 with basketball and a mini-golf course. The Kids’ Club areas are in “Open House” mode, which is the only time adults are allowed in. There are two clubs on deck five — The Oceaneer’s Club and the Oceaneer’s Lab. It is definitely worth checking these out as your kids will be really into them. They have different play areas, including a replica of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. The ship has something like 80 counselors who you can meet and have them explain what they do. Our 3-year-old loved the Oceaneer’s Club so much that we could hardly drag him away from it. They even group the kids according to age range, so there will be no shortage of other children to play with.
Another fun thing to do is to play the “Midship Detective Agency” game, which you can do at midship on deck four. You’ll see the kiosk, which explains the rules and gives you a barcode detective badge that you hold up in front of special pictures located throughout the ship. When you do this, the pictures come to life with animation and give you clues to solve a mystery. The game takes you to most of the ship’s decks and is a great and entertaining way to get your bearings.
Rooms are ready at 1:30 p.m., so most people tend to disappear for a while to check them out around that time. The cabins are small, but well designed. Basically, think of your cabin as a sitting room by day and a bedroom at night, when your cabin host will make the beds magically appear out of the wall or the ceiling. The cabin host/hostess is a great resource and we found ours went above and beyond for us (even getting special Frozen sheets for our son’s bed, when she found out he liked the princesses). Bathrooms are split, meaning there’s one with a toilet and sink and another with a tub and sink, which is a thoughtful touch that allows two people to get ready at the same time.
The lights in the cabins are a little tricky to figure out. You need to insert your room card into the slot beside the door in order for the lighting system to work. In order to avoid forgetting your card when you leave, a neat trick is to use a different key card (e.g. the one from your hotel room the night before) instead. Any card will work.
Tip: Your luggage will arrive between 1:30 and 4:00 p.m., outside your cabin door.
At 4 p.m. you’ll have to attend a mandatory lifeboat drill. This requires you to show up at a specific assembly area, which is clearly marked on your room card. Don’t go too early… but also don’t be late. You can expect a 15-minute lecture, which they take attendance at, so you don’t want to be the one who’s holding the rest of the ship up.
Once the lifeboat drill is over, there is the “Sailing Away Party,” which begins around 4:30 p.m. on the pool deck. It will get quite crowded, so a good option is to watch it from up above on deck 12. No matter where you watch, this is a not-to-be-missed event that’s a lot of fun with high-energy music and the first of many appearances by Captain Mickey Mouse and the rest of the characters. It all leads up to the blast of the ship’s horn (“When You Wish Upon A Star”) and the boat heading out toward open water.
Early seating dinner is about an hour after the Sailing Away party, so if you’ve chosen that seating, you might want to freshen up at this time. Dining attire is informal, but the meals are an adventure in themselves and quite elaborate. The waitstaff is also incredible with the Disney touch very prevalent in everything they do!
M-I-C… see you real soon!
Before you know it, the three days are over and on the last morning. You will have breakfast on your last day at the restaurant you were assigned to for dinner the night before. If you have the early seating for dinner you’ll have an early breakfast (6:45 a.m.). There are options for leaving the boat, including one of putting your bags out the night before and collecting them after you get off the ship. For what it’s worth, we preferred to do the “Express Walk-Off,” carrying our own bags off the ship early at 7:30 am. This is a good option if you have an early flight leaving MCO and want to get to the airport as quickly as possible. You’ll also have less of a line to get through U.S. customs, because you’re off the ship before everyone else. The crew wants everyone off the boat by 8:30 to 9:00 a.m., at the latest, so you’re not missing anything by staying on board that extra time.
Another thing to consider is when your flight home leaves. If you take the Disney bus from the port to the airport, you might have to wait until it’s full before it leaves, which could take some time. It might be better and faster to arrange for private transportation to the port, so that an SUV or minivan is waiting for you after clearing customs.
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