No matter how long your cruise experience may be, streamlining the process to truly maximize your time which means, starting before your departure. Here is how my family streamlines our cruise line experience and what we’ve learned in our previous experiences.
Pack smart. Don’t worry about shoving too much into a single suitcase (an asterisk to this statement if you have to pay for your baggage with your preferred airline). I prefer to use cubes bring hangers for anything that will eventually be hung in the closets. So how do we pack? Stock up on inexpensive wire hangers prior to your trip. I hang ALL of my clothes on hangers and outfit them together so the morning is as simple as pulling the next hanger out of the closet and I’ve got everything I need to get ready in the morning.
My cubes have undergarments (my husband’s also has undershirts for his dress clothes for dinner). Those get pulled right out of the suitcase and into one of the drawers.
I have separate cubes/containers for all toiletries – one that goes inside the bathroom and one that stays outside of the bathroom (sunscreen, aloe, lotion, etc.)
For my daughter’s clothes, all of the clothes she needs for the day is packed in zip lock bags and labeled with the day. Before I pack the bags, I pull the schedule from the DCL web site so I have her formal dress, semi-formal, pirate night, etc. noted on the correct bag. These bags are saved in the suitcase between trips and I use labels to adjust the date. This also makes things easier if my husband is getting my daughter dressed in the morning. Then he doesn’t have to worry about matching something or grabbing something that I had slated for another day.
Be aware that if you are scheduled for the first dinner seating, you may not see your luggage before it’s time to eat, so bring any attire you may want for dinner on the ship with you. Our luggage did arrive in plenty of time for me to unpack, but I never want to run the risk of not having the clothes I want for dinner!
Use your luggage tags. Your Disney Cruise Line documents come with two luggage tags for each member of your party. This is used for any luggage you don’t want to carry on the ship with you. There are different instructions depending on how you are arriving at the port.
- Flight arriving same day as your cruise departure: Put luggage tags on prior to checking luggage and the bags will be brought directly to the ship – skipping baggage claim.
- Staying at the MCO Hyatt (Port Canaveral only): Notify the front desk at the time of check in that you will be departing on a Disney cruise the following day and they will give you instructions on what to do with your luggage. It’s magically taken away from your room, so very easy! Make sure your luggage tags are on your luggage they are taking.
- Staying at a Walt Disney World resort the night before: The night before your cruise, you will be given instructions on when to have your luggage ready and when the bus will depart. Typically luggage is picked up early – around 8 or 8:30 am from your stateroom but your departure is often around or after 12 pm. Keep this in mind as you use this option.
- Arriving in your own vehicle or via car service: This is actually a very common option. If you arrive by this method and have your luggage with you, ensure that it is tagged prior to arriving in port. Once you arrive, porters are available to help “guide” your luggage in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to use their help. A few dollars goes a long way and it’s less time you have to drag your luggage around before dropping it for delivery. If you’ve got kids, this is worth it’s weight in gold!
Unpack Everything. We’re generally unpackers when we travel but I realize many people are not. On a cruise, you don’t really have the option to do anything but unpack as there is no space to leave open suitcases unless you are just 2 adults traveling and you can leave your suitcase open on the bed. Your space is truly best used by unpacking your luggage and storing it under the bed. The queen bed in your room is meant to have luggage storage and you can easily fit 4-6 suitcases depending on the size of your suitcases and your level of Tetris skill!
What to bring onboard. Your carry on luggage must fit through a x-ray scanner so think the same size as a carry on in an airport and is subject to search for items that cannot be brought on board. It does not follow the same food and drink rules as the airport so please make sure you know what can and can’t be brought through each type of location and Disney’s rules on alcoholic beverages and other drinks.
Plan on packing clothes for dinner if you have the first seating (just in case as mentioned above), anything of value like cameras, computers or other electric devices. As you pack, know that your room will not be available to you until approximately 1:30 pm, so anything you bring on board you’ll need to carry with you until that time. I get a lot of questions about swimming and using the pool deck on the day of embarkation. All of the public spaces are available to you, but consider what you’re bringing on board and who is going to watch all of your valuable items while you’re in the pool or waiting for a water slide (name varies by ship so I won’t make a blanket statement on which one). While we prefer an early boarding time to get on the ship more quickly to beat the rush of Disney resort buses, we often take time to take photos and eat lunch prior to our room being ready. Once our room is ready, we do hop into our swimsuits and head to the pool deck.
Prepping for departure. This is the saddest time of our trip. 1-2 nights prior to your departure, you’ll receive instructions in your stateroom of where and when to put your luggage prior to your disembarkation. You will also receive luggage tags to put on your bags so you may find them before you clear customs.
Begin packing your bags BEFORE dinner that evening and only leave out items you will need for the following day. You may choose to carry your own bags off the ship (or maybe you leave one suitcase behind to carry off the ship for your toiletries, PJs from the night before, etc.) We brought a carry on bag for just this purpose and left all of the big suitcases with the crew
members to take for us.
Breakfast is EARLY! Coming from central time zone and not being an early riser to begin with, the 6:45 am departure breakfast was not thrilling. If you have a first dinner seating, you’ll also have an earlier breakfast. Later breakfast seating will have an 8:30 am breakfast seating. If that’s too early for you, go to your chip’s buffet location and stock up on items you can eat in your room before your departure allowing you sleep in a bit more. Your beverage cooler in your room will hold milk overnight if you are ok with cereal in the morning. The paid coffee bar is also available the morning you disembark if you need a little caffeine to send you off the ship!
Disembarking the ship. After breakfast, it’s time to leave the ship, likely your new home away from home. There will be announcements when the ship has cleared and you’ll see guests with their luggage waiting to be the first guests off the ship. These guests likely have earlier flights so they are hand carrying their luggage. Once the ship is cleared, you may disembark at any time. Each guest must have his or her key to the world card with them to be allowed off the ship and then it’s time to find your luggage and clear customs.
You should have already filled out your customs forms the night prior (it will be left in your room with your luggage tags). Each guest will also need their form of identification – the same ones you needed to board the ship. Have these handy as you get ready to disembark the ship.
If you are disembarking after the first breakfast seating, you’ll see a long, snaking line throughout one of the least exciting rooms you’ll ever seen with tables full of luggage (no photos are allowed in this area similar to TSA screening areas in airports). You will go down an escalator and be greeted by several porters who will ask if you’d like some help with your luggage. Again, if you have more than one piece of luggage per person and/or have children in tow, this is well worth the few dollars in tips for their assistance. We got in the long line while our porter found our luggage, loaded it onto his trolley and worked with us through the entire line and all the way out to the rental car pick up location. Something we would have never been able to do on our own with 4 bags with wheels plus a 3 year old who was not interested in a line that long. Be prepared to see people just jump in the middle of the line after they grab their bags. Yes it’s rude and frustrating, but truly it’s not going to add a lot of extra time so don’t stress over it!
Once you clear customs, you’ll be on your way outside and done with your cruise adventure. Disney crew members are available to help answer questions on transportation to get you to your final destinations. If you are renting a car or taking Disney transportation, the doors you exit will lead you right to those queues.
I hope this makes you comfortable and excited about your Disney Cruise! The process of booking a Disney cruise can be VERY confusing, so let a professional help you! Please contact me at any time for a free quote.The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation! Plus you won’t have to watch for any possible rate drops, research everything there is to offer, or keep track of milestone dates for any “extras” you want during your voyage. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your cruise planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!