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One of the most exciting parts of a Disney cruise is embarkation day. With this being our first cruise, we were full of butterflies. Did we remember everything? Would we get there on time? What if we had raised our expectations too high and we were going be disappointed? I mean we were really excited about this trip! Three nights on a luxurious ship, amazing food to eat, world-class entertainment, and since we left the kids at home, no one to take care of but myself! I’ll walk you through our embarkation day so you’ll have an idea what to expect and help alive some of those butterflies.
Before You Arrive
I highly recommend staying in Florida the night before the cruise. Too many things can go wrong if you’re trying to fly or even drive in the day of. The Hubs and I have a long history of delayed flights and lost luggage so I know what I’m talking about. Take the stress out and get a hotel. We stayed at an Econo Lodge that had a “Fly, Snooze, and Cruise” on Port Canaveral’s website. I’m not going to go into a full review, but it was clean, plain, had free transportation to and from the cruise port and the airport. The free breakfast was terrible, but I would stay here again. We just needed a place to sleep one night and it works for that. Part of the reason we chose them was their shuttle dropped off at the port earlier than a lot of other lines. We arrived at the port about 10:45. Our embarkation time was 11:00. You can get later times, but we were trying to maximize our time on this short cruise.
At the Port
Once you get there, porters will take your checked luggage, and you will head with your carry-ons to security. Security was similar to that of an airport. Watching other people in line, I think some people didn’t know they had to go through security or thought it would be more like bag check at Disney World. They just seemed surprised and unprepared to send their bags through x-ray machines.
Anyway, once through security, you head upstairs to a large area that houses both the check-in desks and the boarding line. Cast Members are everywhere to direct you. Just go where they tell you. We only waited in the check-in line for a couple of minutes. We showed them our passports, had our photos taken, signed some papers that said we hadn’t been sick in the last week (I wanted to ask what happened if you had been sick, but didn’t) and were given our boarding passes. There is a line to meet Captain Mickey, but we skipped this because by the time we got done checking in they were calling boarding groups and we were one of the first few groups to board.
When our number was called, we joined the hoard of people pressing their way to the front, showed them our boarding passes, and we were on the gangway! When you get on the ship, you are in the Atrium or lobby of the ship. A cast member asks your family’s name and then announces you. It’s so much fun being treated like VIPs. From there you get free run of the ship, but you can’t go to your room for a few more hours.
We headed to the kids’ area. This might seem strange since we left the kids at home, but they have an open house on the first day where anyone can go in. The Disney Dream has a Millennium Falcon you can drive so we had to check that out. After seeing the kids’ clubs, we already knew we had to come back with the kids. A kid could spend hours in there and never be bored. Even the hand washing station was extra fun.
By then we were ready to eat so we headed to Cabanas Buffet. There are almost too many choices! We ended up just sampling a bunch of things. The buffet has three sections. They are all exactly the same. When we first went in, the first section was crowded. We walked down to the other side of the restaurant and had the place pretty much to ourselves. The best part of Cabanas is the view. Windows line one wall from floor to ceiling, and a patio wraps around the outside– just be warned the patio is windy.
When we finished eating and wandered around a bit more, our room was ready! I was really excited about this part, not as much about the room, but about the surprise, I had waiting for Shaun. He kept saying this cruise was for my birthday which was a couple of days before, but his birthday is only a couple of weeks before mine. I wanted to get him a little something too. I had purchased an in-room gift (the Cruise Adventure Bundle) from the Disney cruise hotline.
The bundle included a Disney cruise backpack, water bottle, a baseball cap, and a phone kickstand. The items were all well-made, and I felt the value of this bundle was incredible. Shaun was totally surprised, and it made the room feel personal and special. I wouldn’t do in-room gifts every time, but for special occasions or a first cruise, it’s a really fun touch. We didn’t spend much time in the room. We changed and headed to the pool.
On our embarkation day, it was COLD, but its a cruise so you swim no matter the weather. At least, that’s what we were determined to do. We went to the 18+ pool called the Quiet Cove Pool. It was definitely quiet on this day because we were the only people in it! I’m pretty sure everyone that walked by thought we were nuts, but the water was wonderfully warm. We spent an about an hour in the pool and then the hot tub-which we also had to ourselves. Talk about starting a vacation relaxed!
After another quick change, the Sail-Away Party was starting and we said goodbye to Port Canaveral. Get there a little early because this is probably the most crowded party. For all the parties, I recommend getting close up to the front or watching from the upper deck. If you’re farther back on the main deck, it can get hard to see. The parties all have them same formula-music, dancing, and characters, but I loved them all. The excitement at the Sail-Away party was contagious. You’re off on an adventure! How can you not be excited?
Embarkation Day Overview
Disney makes you feel special from the moment you walk on the ship. Everything is immaculately clean and maintained. It’s tempting to just wander the ship looking at all the details, but this is the best time to hit your must-dos. We had the pools to ourselves, our choice of tables, and even the run of the kids’ clubs. With so many activities at our disposal, we were busy until our first dinner at Animator’s Pallete. To hear more about that amazing experience hop over to Dining with Crush.