Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Disney Cruise Line 101: Pre-Planning

I am super stoked!  My Disney Cruise Line vacation aboard the Disney Dream is just a little over a month away! (Well, if I'm being technical, it's 36 days and counting...) This will be my third cruise on this glorious ship and so I wanted to start this little Disney Cruise Line 101 Series by taking a look at some of the things you should think about with pre-planning. 

By now, you've already booked the cruise and you have made your final payment. (For those who don't know, final payment is dependent on the number of cruises you've taken.  The more cruises, the sooner you can pay off your'll see why that matters in a minute.)

First things first...make sure you have a valid passport. I know that when you cruise via a U.S. port like Port Canaveral you technically can use your birth certficate still, but please don't!  Spend the money and get a passport.  It makes life a whole heck of a lot easier. (Plus, a friend of mine didn't actually have the correct birth certificate for her daughter...didn't have a raised seal...and they weren't going to let her cruise. Luckily she rectified the problem, but don't let that be you!)  So, go do it for each member of your family!

Ok...that's my PSA for the day.

The next thing you want to do, after paying off your cruise is to log in to and compete your cruise documents and forms online under My Online Check-In. (Which is found at You will need to make sure to print off these documents and bring them with you to the Port. 

Disney Cruise Line guests have a unique reservation making process.  It is as follows:  
  • Platinum Castaway Club members (repeat Disney Cruise Line passengers who have been on 10 or more previous Disney cruises) and those who are staying in Concierge cabins can make their online reservations up to 120 days prior to embarkation.
  • Gold Castaway Club members (repeat Disney Cruise Line passengers who have been on 5 or more previous Disney cruises) can make their online reservations up to 105 days prior to embarkation.
  • Silver Castaway Club members (repeat Disney Cruise Line passengers who have been on 4 or fewer previous Disney cruises) can begin making reservations 90 days before embarking.
  • All others can go online and make reservations 75 days in advance of departure.
This is something to keep in mind because it will impact things as we move forward.

You'll first want to schedule your Port Arrival Time.  This will be the time when you will be permitted to board the ship.  Make sure that you arrive on time, and while Disney says that early arrivals may have to wait, I can honestly say I've never had to wait to enter the building once. 

A couple of exceptions on scheduling a port arrival time:
  • If you are staying at an official Walt Disney World resort the night before your cruise and you are utilizing Disney’s bus service to take you to the port, you do not choose a port arrival time during online check-in. You will typically arrive at the port at around 1:30 p.m. Your embarkation group number will be assigned based on when you arrive.
  • If you are a Platinum Castaway Club member or staying in a concierge level stateroom or suite, good news! You are automatically in embarkation group 1!

In addition, if you haven't already, take a look at the Shore Excursions and Port Adventures that you can take part in while cruising. (The earlier you can make online reservations, the better shot you have of getting the harder to get choices ahead of your vacation.) Now is the time to sign up for whichever options you think best suit your vacation needs. You'll also want to make sure to sign up for any spa treatments you're thinking about.  You also will be able to make babysitting reservations for those with little bitties. Finally, if you are wanting to experience Remy or Palo, make sure to sign up for that too. Don't worry if all the spots are filled for these things.  A lot of times Disney will hold back reservations for those who haven't made them prior to boarding the ship, or for those who were unable to obtain the reservation that they desired, so if you can't get what you want, make sure to head to Guest Relations when boarding.

To start making reservations online, register at You’ll need to make sure you know your cruise reservation number. Reservations open at midnight EST, the exact number of days in advance listed above.

If you will be celebrating something special, you'll want to make sure to order that merchandise to be delivered onboard ahead of time.  To choose your in-room gifts, visit and select "In-Room Gifts and Shopping."  

This is the time to think about where you'll be staying the night prior as well, if you haven't already made arrangements.  You never want to fly in the day of departure on the cruise (because what if something goes wrong?) so, it's always smart to arrive at least the night prior.

This also means that if you are staying on Disney property the night prior and haven't set up ground transportation to and from the ship, and you want to utilize that option, you'll want to take care of that now too.

About 45 days out from your vacation, you'll receive a booklet in the mail filled with all the last minute information that you should be thinking about leading up to your vacation. Make sure to take a look at it to familiarize yourself with anything you may be missing.

Whew!  While it sounds like a lot, it really isn't too terrible.  Trust me...this is probably the most "stressful" part of your trip!  Once you get onboard, you'll be able to relax with ease.

Next up in this series will be things to think while packing for your Disney cruise.

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