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One thing many first-timers underestimate is the size of Walt Disney World. Covering nearly 40 square miles, Walt Disney World Resort is about the size of San Francisco or two islands of Manhattan. This means that you need to go with an understanding of how to navigate Disney World transportation. It is no different than navigating through the city on the cable cars or subway.

You have quite a few options to get around Walt Disney World – buses, monorail, boats and ferries, gondolas (aka Disney Skyliner), Minnie Vans, Lift/Uber or taxis and even walking.

Buses

Buses will take you just about anywhere you want to go within Walt Disney World. You can catch a bus at any of the Disney World Resorts to the Theme Parks, Water Parks and Disney Springs. You may check bus times for your resort hotel on the My Disney Experience App by going to your resort hotel and tapping on bus times.

Disney Springs does have buses to all of the resorts, but not directly to the theme parks, so you will have to take a bus to a neighboring resort and transfer busses there. If you want to go from a theme park to Disney Springs before 4 pm, you will need to take a bus to a neighboring resort (Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter or Saratoga Springs) and take a boat to Disney Springs or walk over.

Monorail

Guests staying at some of the Magic Kingdom area resorts – The Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian, can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom or EPCOT. If you drive at Walt Disney World, you will park at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) if you are visiting the Magic Kingdom. You can take the monorail from the TTC to get the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.

Boats and Ferries

Guests staying at all of the Magic Kingdom area resorts – The Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge and Ft Wilderness can take a boat to the Magic Kingdom. If you park at the TTC, you can also take a ferry to the Magic Kingdom.

There is also a boat from Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter to Disney Springs. You may also take a boat between Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts.

Disney Skyliner

The Disney Skyliner connects Caribbean Beach, Rivera Resort, Art of Animation, and Pop Century to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. The Skyliner station is at the back of EPCOT and is easily accessible from the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club and even the Swan and Dolphin.

You may also take the Skyliner between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.

Minnie Vans

Minnie Vans are a premium service that costs a flat rate of $15/ride plus an additional cost per mile and provides you with door-to-door service within Disney World.

Lyft/Ubers and Taxis

Lyfts, Ubers and Taxis are readily available throughout Disney World, but note that they do have specific pick up and drop off locations. For example, they cannot take you directly to the Magic Kingdom, you would need to be dropped off at the TTC and take the monorail or ferry, or The Contemporary and walk over.

Walking

There are a few instances where you can walk to get to where you need to go within Disney World. The Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Swan & Dolphin are a short 5-minute walk to EPCOT and a 15 or so minute walk to Hollywood Studios. The Contemporary Resort is about a 10-minute walk to Magic Kingdom. Saratoga Springs is a 10-minute walk to Disney Springs.

Traveling Between Resorts

Traveling between resorts is one of the trickiest things to figure out at Disney World. This can be frustrating if you have a dining reservation at one resort and you are staying at another. The quickest way to get between resorts is by Lyft or Uber, but the cost for these can add up. The better option is to find a connection point where you can transfer. This connection point is going to be the theme park (or maybe even Disney Springs) closest to the resort you wish to visit and catch a bus, monorail, boat or even Skyliner from there to your destination resort.

For example, if you are at The Polynesian and want to get to Animal Kingdom Lodge, you could take a bus to Animal Kingdom and then a bus over to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Or if you’re at All-Star Sports and need to get to Ft Wilderness, you’d want to take a bus to Magic Kingdom and then take the boat to Ft Wilderness.

An important thing to remember is that it will take you close to if not more than 1 hour to get from one part of Disney World to another. A lot of visitors underestimate how long it will actually take to get from one place to another, but once you get to the bus stop, wait for the bus, take the 20-minute bus ride and go through security, it is easy for an hour to go by.

As you can see, there are many options to get around Walt Disney World. Hopefully, by understanding these options, you will be easily able to navigate around the parks and resorts.

For a FREE, no-obligation quote to Walt Disney World, click HERE.

Disney is now offering a free dining plan for kids (ages 3 to 9) when you buy a non-discounted 3-night/3-day package for you and the kid(s) that includes a room at a select Disney Value Resort hotel, theme park tickets and a dining plan. This special offer is valid for arrivals most nights from January 1 – March 7, 2020 when you book through Jan. 1, 2020. Plus, receive one “Frozen Welcome Pack” which includes themed merchandise, one stroller rental for the duration of the stay, a photo and tasty treats. Guests may also ask about packages for other lengths of stay.

All 3 dining plans—Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan, Disney Dining Plan and Disney Deluxe Dining Plan—are eligible with this offer, but everyone on your reservation must be on the same package. For instance, if you purchase a package with the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan, then your kid(s) (ages 3 to 9) on that package will receive the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Make your first visit even more special with an extra dash of magic. With this offer, you will receive the Frozen Welcome Pack, including:

  • Voucher for one stroller rental for the length of your stay
  • Voucher for one in-park 5×7 photo print per room
  • One merchandise bag per room including a plush, book and 2 treats.

For a FREE, no-obligation quote for you Walt Disney World vacation, click HERE.

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts will return to Disney World from January 17 – February 24, 2020!

The Festival of the Arts “invites guests to immerse themselves in the visual, culinary and performing arts in ways that only Disney can offer, including live concerts and art performances, workshops, art signings and much more.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have too many details about next year’s Festival yet, but we do know that the popular Disney on Broadway Concert Series will return.

Will you be attending  Epcot International Festival of the Arts in 2020?


In early 2021, Disney Cruise Line will return to New Orleans for a limited-time engagement with sailings to the Bahamas and Caribbean, including visits to Disney’s private island paradise, Castaway Cay. A lineup of popular itineraries will continue across the Disney fleet with cruises to tropical destinations from Texas, California and Florida.

Return to New Orleans

Back by popular demand, the Disney Wonder will return to the bayou from late January through February 2021 with a series of magical voyages. A pair of four- and five-night cruises to the Western Caribbean kick off the season from New Orleans. The five-night voyage includes a visit to Progreso, Mexico, a new port of call for Disney Cruise Line on the Yucatan Peninsula. This quaint town is filled with treasures for families to explore together, from ancient Mayan ruins to hidden swimming holes filled with crystal-clear water.

Three seven-night sailings to the Bahamas with a stop at Disney Castaway Cay, plus a 14-night Panama Canal cruise, round out the departures from the Crescent City in early 2021.

Guests sailing from New Orleans will experience the flavors and flair of the Big Easy both onboard the Disney Wonder and ashore. The sounds and sights of New Orleans come to life at Tiana’s Place restaurant, where families are transported to an era of southern charm, spirited jazz and street party celebrations with live music and other surprises inspired by the Disney animated film “The Princess and the Frog.” Before or after their cruise, your Clients can savor the city’s distinct cuisine, visit family-friendly museums and parks, and take in the sounds of world-renowned live jazz music. 

Popular Itineraries from Texas and California

The Disney Wonder will also return to the popular home ports of Galveston and San Diego in early 2021. Guests sailing from Texas can enjoy the white-sand beaches of the Western Caribbean on a series of four- and six-night cruises to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. One seven-night departure will feature stops at Key West, Nassau and Disney Castaway Cay.

Following the season in New Orleans, the Disney Wonder heads to the West Coast for a variety of sailings to Baja and the Mexican Riviera departing from San Diego. Families can hunt for gold aboard a pirate ship in Cabo San Lucas, embark on an off-road adventure in Ensenada or sunbathe on glittering sand beaches on cruises ranging from three to seven nights.

Bahamian and Caribbean Getaways from Florida

Disney Cruise Line will have three ships sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean from Florida in early 2021, and every cruise includes a day at Disney’s private island paradise, Castaway Cay. This award-winning destination, reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line Guests, is the ultimate escape for everyone in the family.

  • From Miami, the Disney Magic will sail three-, four- and five-night Bahamian and Western Caribbean cruises.
  • From Port Canaveral, the Disney Fantasy will sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.
  • From Port Canaveral, the Disney Dream will sail three- and four-night Bahamian cruises.

Platinum, Gold or Silver Castaway Club members, can take advantage of the opportunity to book early 2021 itineraries before they go on sale to the general public on Oct. 3, 2019.  You can book either online or by phone during the designated booking window:

  • Sept. 30, 2019: Platinum Members
  • Oct. 1, 2019: Platinum and Gold Members
  • Oct. 2, 2019: Platinum, Gold and Silver Members
  • Oct. 3, 2019: all Guests

The 27th Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival dates have been announced….the festival will run March 4 – June 1, 2020.

This is the The beloved 90-day spring extravaganza at Epcot will sprout in a big way for its 27th year with seasonal sights, sounds and flavors designed to delight everyone in the family. From the creative dishes and libations offered at the festival’s Outdoor Kitchens to the fan-favorite artists who’ll perform during the Garden Rocks Concert Series, bouquets of spring fun will welcome Guests around every corner of the park.

This longest-running Epcot festival is known for its themed topiaries, and the Epcot horticulture team already has begun plans to introduce a brand-new Remy topiary – the centerpiece of a new Ratatouille Garden at the France pavilion! This delicious new garden will be planted with veggies used in a ratatouille recipe. We love Remy, and we can’t wait! Guests also will find favorite returning character topiaries including Snow White, Elsa and Anna, Belle and Beast, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Miss Piggy and Kermit.

As festival-goers explore the Outdoor Kitchens, they’ll discover raised-bed or in-ground gardens of herbs and produce and discover how to grow their own healthful foods. Thousands of bedding plants in every color of the rainbow will decorate the landscape around Future World and World Showcase, and dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers” will offer colorful backdrops for spring selfies. Festive mini-gardens will be set afloat like floral pontoons on the Future World east and west lakes. 

Children will love burning off energy with siblings and friends at the festival’s Play Garden and Family Play Zone. Guests of all ages will flock to The Goodness Garden Butterfly House presented by GoGoSqueeZ. And the popular “How To” garden will return with clever tips for home gardeners. 

All this floral fun began in 1994 as a 38-day celebration of Disney-style gardens and topiaries. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival now flourishes as a 90-day celebration of spring with something for every generation. Stay tuned  for updates and more details. The festival, including all gardens and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.  

Disney Destinations

Disembarkation day is the final day of your cruise as you leave the ship and the saddest day of all. Disembarkation day can be somewhat stressful and full of long lines and lots of waiting – waiting for an elevator, waiting for your disembarkation group to be called, waiting in the line to exit the ship, waiting to go through customs, waiting for transportation, waiting at the airport for your flight home.

Knowing the process of disembarkation and what to expect may help ease the stress on the last day of your cruise vacation. This process is very different than checking out of a hotel, you cannot just leave when you are ready. All passengers must pass through immigration and customs, and not everyone can be processed at once, so passengers are divided into groups.

A Few Days Before

Two to three days before your actual last day on the ship, the cruise line will ask you to complete a short disembarkation form with the details of your departure. This information is how the cruise line will assign you a disembarkation group. The assigned group will determine the time you will be permitted to leave the ship that will fit with your travel plans.

You must also complete a customs form to disembark the cruise ship because you have visited international ports, even if you didn’t make any purchases or never got off the ship. Only one form is needed per family. The form has questions about your activities while traveling, ports visited and items you are bringing back into the country. Fill out the form before debarkation but keep it easily accessible as you will need to present it to the customs agent when you leave the ship.

This is the time to review your onboard account. You may be able to access a copy of your bill on the television in your stateroom. You must settle your account before disembarking the ship. You probably presented a credit card when you checked in, so if everything on your bill looks correct, you don’t have to do anything. If you have an issue on your bill or want to pay with cash or gift card, this is the time to visit the Guest Services desk. The line at Guest Services on your last day on the ship will be long! The earlier you visit the Guest Services desk, the better. On some cruise lines, you can continue to use your cruise card on the morning of departure and all charges will be billed to the credit card you have on file.

The Day Before

At some point, your stateroom attendant will leave disembarkation information in your stateroom. This will include disembarkation instructions, a group number, colored luggage tags, estimated time your group will disembark, available breakfast options and where to wait for your disembarkation group to be called. If you see any problems with your assignment, visit Guest Services as soon as possible. If you need additional colored luggage tags, you can get them from your stateroom attendant.  

There will most likely also be a disembarkation video playing on one of the TV stations with detailed step-by-step information on the disembarkation process. If any information is unclear, visit the Guest Services desk and they will be able to answer any questions you have.

This is the time to visit the photo gallery if you want to purchase cruise photos or make one last stroll through the shops because they will not be open in port the next morning.

Unless you pre-paid your tips, they are automatically added to your shipboard account, but you will also have the option to provide additional individual cash gratuities to staff members who provided you with exemplary service. Stateroom attendants, main dining room attendants and bartenders are those most often given additional tips. You can pass them out on your last evening on the ship before disembarkation day. Guest Services often has small envelops for cash tips for your convenience, if there were none left in your stateroom.

Getting your luggage off of the ship is different than anything you may have experienced before and can be confusing for first-time cruisers. You can carry your luggage off without assistance or use general collection. Carrying your luggage off or self-disembarkation can sound like a good idea, but you must vacate your room early on disembarkation day and you must be able to handle all of your luggage with you through crowded hallways and elevators, up and down stairs and keep it with you while you have breakfast. This is a great option if you travel light and wish to get off the ship as soon as it clears customs. This is the first group allowed to disembark the cruise ship.

If you opt for general collection, you will attach the colored luggage tag to your luggage and place it outside your stateroom the night before disembarkation. The exact time will be in the disembarkation information your stateroom attendant left for you. Sometimes it is before dinner and other times it is by 11pm. You will not see your bags again until the next morning in the terminal, so it is important to pack a small carry-on. You will need your cruise card, passport, custom forms in addition to any valuables and medication. Don’t forget to leave out your toiletries and a change of clothes so you aren’t disembarking in your pajamas!

Some ships offer valet luggage programs and you will need to check with Guest Services after you board to see if your ship and the port where you disembark offer it. With this service, your luggage is taken from the cruise ship and checked in with your airline. You will not see your luggage again until your final destination. This service generally costs between $20-$25 per person.

Disembarkation Day

The ship will pull into port very early in the morning and begin being cleared by customs. The arrival time on your itinerary is the time the ship arrives in port and not the time you can exit the ship. Customs generally moves very quickly, but sometimes it can take longer. This is why it is advised you never book a flight before noon.

The entire ship must be prepared for a group of new passengers on the day you are leaving. You will most likely be asked to leave your stateroom before 8 am even if your disembarkation time isn’t until a few hours later. Be sure to check your disembarkation paperwork to see the hours and location for breakfast. After breakfast, you will have to wait in one of the lounges with your disembarkation group until you are called.

In general, early flight and loyalty passengers will disembark first, along with passengers who are carrying all their luggage. It is during this time that crew members are moving collected luggage from the ship to the claim area in the terminal. Once the first set of luggage has been sorted, disembarkation zones will begin to be called. Luggage is delivered to the customs area in colored groups that match up with your disembarkation group number. If you debark before your zone is called, your luggage may not yet be unloaded, and you will be waiting in the hot, crowded terminal.

Once your group is called, you will proceed to the gangway and disembark. Follow the signs and keep your group together. You will need to retrieve your luggage (if you didn’t valet it). It will not be on a carousel, like at the airport, but placed in rows grouped by the colored luggage tag for your disembarkation group. There may be several hundred bags in your luggage group, so it is best to mark your luggage so that it stands out against the rest. I have a hot pink luggage strap!

Once you have gathered your luggage you can enter the line for customs. You will want to have your customs form and passport handy. You will show it to the customs agent, and they may ask you some questions.

You should have a plan for transportation to the airport or hotel. There will be thousands of people disembarking during a relatively short period of time and you may even start to run into passengers arriving for the next cruise, so expect chaos. There will be a long line for cabs and the rideshare area will be congested.

You can use a car service, which is great if you have a lot of luggage. The cruise line will also offer a shuttle bus to the airport. You can book prior to your cruise or while onboard, but you will need to make reservations in advance. For more than a few people, a taxi, rideshare, or private car will be less expensive than the cruise line shuttle.

As you can see, disembarkation day can be hectic if you don’t know what is going on! Now that you know what to expect, you can hopefully have a more relaxing end to your cruise vacation. Now it is time to book your next cruise!

For more information on cruising or a free, no-obligation quote, contact me here.

After Hours are one of our favorite events at Disney World and we couldn’t be more thrilled that new After Hours dates have been announced for both Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

Disney After Hours events are evening events that give you the opportunity to experience the magic of a Disney theme park for three hours after regular park hours, which means little wait for attractions, experiences and character greetings. You can even enter the park early, starting at 7 p.m. on your event night, before Disney After Hours begins. Ice cream novelties (Mickey Bars!), popcorn and select beverages are also included in your Disney After Hours admission once the party starts.

At Magic Kingdom, you can expect little to no wait at 25 plus attractions and experiences, including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid, Space Mountain and many more. 

At Animal Kingdom, you can enjoy the at night, including the resplendent Tree of Life Awakenings, adventures within Pandora – The World of Avatar and more. 

Magic Kingdom Park

  • November 18, 2019 
  • December 9, 2019
  • January 6, 2019 
  • January 13, 2020
  • January 17, 2020
  • January 20, 2020

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • October 5, 9, 19, 26 and 30, 2019
  • November 5, 13 and 19, 2019
  • December 7, 14 and 18, 2019
  • January 9, 16, 22 and 30, 2020
  • February 6, 13, 19 and 27, 2020
  • March 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2020

Contact me today to purchase your tickets to After Hours at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom. For a free, no-obligation quote to Walt Disney World, contact me here and I will get back to you within 24 hours!

Disney California Adventure Park has announced a new party this This Halloween season, Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party! This is a family friendly, hard ticket event (meaning a separate ticket will be required), that takes the place of Mickey’s Halloween Party.

Here is what you can expect on this unforgettable night of Halloween fun:

Mickey’s Trick & Treat – Perfect for little monsters, this new, interactive stage production invites kids of all ages to join Mickey Mouse and his pals as they throw a one-of-a-kind Halloween party! Guests will enjoy dancing, not-so-frightening scary-tales and candy at the Disney Theater in Hollywood Land.

Villains Grove – Transformed into a wondrous and ethereal world inspired by Disney villains unlike anything seen before, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail will become Villains Grove, tricked out in a dreamlike environment perfect for kids to explore. This family-friendly experience will entice your children with a series of Halloween scenes, each creating a not-so-scary symphony of sound, light and shadows for adults and little ones to explore together!

Immersive Treat Trails –  Your Clients can take their tiny tykes trick-or-treating at the new, wonderfully wicked treat trails throughout the park. Little ones will be able to see Mad Hatter from Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and even Oogie Boogie himself! Additional treat trails will feature oversized cauldrons full of treats for children of all ages to enjoy.

“Frightfully Fun Parade” – Children will love dancing along to this fan-favorite parade coming to Disney California Adventure Park for the first time! The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow starts the procession, followed by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse who lead the cavalcade of characters and many mischievous Disney villains who are ready to stir up some trouble along the parade route. Children will love seeing their favorite characters dance and singing to the spell-binding songs of the Halloween season!

“Villainous!” – Kids will love watching the twisted tale about the young girl Shelley Marie in the new “World of Color” nighttime spectacular. This Halloween story takes Guests on an unforgettable journey through devious encounters with The Queen, Ursula, Dr Facilier, Hades, Jafar, Maleficent and more! Children will be dazzled with the special effects—from the fountains and lights, to lasers and projections. “Villainous!” shows that, deep down, there’s a little villain in all of us!

Kids and their parents are encouraged to dress in costume for the event. Oogie Boogie Bash, is only offered on 20 select nights this fall, starting Sept. 17, 2019.

For tickets to Oogie Boogie Bash or for a free, no-obligation quote for the Disneyland Resort in California, contact me here!

Walt Disney World has launched a new ticket offer! Beginning today, you can now purchase a “Mid-Day Magic Ticket.” This ticket allows you to enjoy admission after 12 p.m. to one theme park per day. 2-, 3- and 4-day Mid-Day Magic tickets are available for start dates on or before Dec. 15, 2019.

  • 2-Day Mid-Day Magic Ticket: Valid for admission after 12 p.m. 2-day Mid-Day Magic Tickets are available from $88 per day plus tax (from $176 total plus tax) and expire four (4) days after the selected start date. 
  • 3-Day Mid-Day Magic Ticket: Valid for admission to after 12 p.m. 3-day Mid-Day Magic tickets are available from $84 per day plus tax (from $252 total plus tax) and expire five (5) days after the selected start date.
  • 4-Day Mid-Day Magic Ticket: Valid for admission after 12 p.m. 4-day Mid-Day Magic tickets are available from $79 per day plus tax (from $316 total plus tax) and expire seven (7) days after the selected start date.

This is the first time Walt Disney World has offered a late-entry ticket with special pricing that allows you to enter the theme parks starting at noon and enjoy the day and evening. This is a great option if you are looking for an opportunity to start your morning at a leisurely pace, to enjoy other early-morning activities (golf, pool, etc.), or to travel from your accommodations if you are staying off-site.

If you would like a free, no-obligation quote to Walt Disney World Resort in Flordia, contact me here and I will get back to you within 24 hours.

Before Arriving at the Port

There are many ways to arrive at the cruise port – taxi, lyft/uber, shuttle or even driving yourself and parking at a nearby garage. Regardless of how you arrive at the cruise port, make sure you have your boarding documents and passport/ID handy as you may need to show it to security as you enter the port area.

If you are driving yourself to the port, there is often ample secure parking on site, but you may be able to find less expensive parking nearby. It is best to do some research before you arrive to see all of the options and read reviews.

Arriving at the Port and Luggage Drop Off

There may be many cruise terminals at the port, so don’t just follow the crowds. Be sure to read the signs to go to the correct terminal.

When you arrive at your ship’s terminal, it will be well organized chaos, but rest assured, these folks know what they are doing. You will be guided to drop your luggage with the porters before entering the building for check in. Make sure your bags have the luggage tags attached to them (that you printed from online check in). The porters will load your luggage directly onto the ship and your luggage will magically appear outside of your stateroom a few hours later. It’s a good idea to have a few small bills to tip the porters.

There are often several hours between when you board the ship and when your bags arrive at your stateroom. It is a good idea to pack a small bag or backpack with valuables, a change of clothes, toiletries and any medications you may need. If you pack your swimsuit you can jump in the pool or go on the waterslides as soon as you board the ship! You will also need your cruise documentation (that you printed from your online check in) and passports/ID with you!

You are not required to check your bags with the porters.  If you carry all of your bags on with you, will need to keep them with you until your stateroom is ready which can be as late as 2pm. Also, elevators are often very full on embarkation day and you may need to use the stairs.

Pro tip: Take a picture of your luggage with your phone before you hand it off to the porters. While it is completely safe and I’ve never heard of lost or stolen luggage, the paper luggage tags can rip off and the cruise ship staff may not know whose bag is whose.  If you have a photo of your luggage, it will be much easier for the cruise ship staff to identify which bag is yours and get it to you quickly. We prefer to use these reusable plastic luggage tag holders. They are made to fit the printed cruise luggage tags but take note that due to size, they are not universal, so make sure you order the correct size for your cruise line.

Security & Screening

The bags that you checked with the porter will be screened. Your suitcase may be opened to identify unknown or prohibited items inside, so be sure not to lock them. Prohibited items will be confiscated.

As you enter the cruise ship terminal, you will also be required to pass through security. Your carry-on bags will be screened, and you will pass through a metal detector. Any prohibited items will be confiscated. Some cruise lines allow you to bring on water, soda and wine/beer on board, but it must be carried on. Check your cruise line for specifics on what and how much you can bring onboard.

There are obvious items that are prohibited like weapons and illegal drugs, but there are many other items that cruise ships do not allow on board. Check your cruise lines website for specifics, but the biggest no-no’s that get confiscated are irons, steamers and power strips that are not cruise approved.

Cruise ships do not have a weight limit on luggage nor do they limit the number of bags you bring. Just remember, your stateroom is tiny and you will need to store that luggage somewhere. Unlike the TSA, there is no limit on the number of liquids and sizes you can bring onboard.

Check-In

Depending on the time you arrive, the cruise ship terminal could be busy with several long lines at the check-in stations. There will be port staff everywhere to guide you to your check-in location and answer any questions you may have.

Once at the check-in desk, you’ll need to show your cruise documents (that you printed from online check in) and passports/ID, as well as a credit card for your onboard account for any expenses. Your cruise card photo may also be taken at this time.

It is at this point you will receive your cruise cards. This is your stateroom key, onboard charge card and ID. Ships are cashless and this is the card that you will use to charge items to your onboard account. You will also use this card to exit and board the ship at ports of call.

Pro tip: Bring lanyards to carry your cruise cards if you don’t want to carry a wallet or purse.

Boarding the Ship

After check-in, you will have your cruise cards and you are almost ready to board the ship. If your boarding group hasn’t been called, you will need to have a seat until it is.

When it is called, it is time to start your cruise! You will head towards the gangway and often pass the ships photographer who will encourage you to take a boarding photo. While we generally don’t purchase cruise photos, this is the exception! It is a fun souvenir of the trip. You can opt out of the photo or just have them take it and decide once onboard if you’d like to purchase it.

Security will scan your cruise card as you board the ship and they may take your photo at this time if they didn’t take it at check-in.

You are Finally Onboard

Your cabin most likely will not be ready until after 1pm (but could be later). You are free to start exploring the ship. Most people are going to head to the buffet to get something to eat. The lines will be long and it is difficult to find a seat. Add to that, a lot of people will have luggage with them and you can see how this could not be much fun! Instead, do some research or ask a crew member what else is open. There are generally 1-2 restaurants that are open and will be less crowded!

This is also a great time to put on your swimsuit and jump in the pool. This is when you will find it least crowded. Somewhere near the pool will be a towel station. This is where you will check out, exchange and return towels. Keep track of your towels! If you don’t return them, you will be paying for them. Last I heard it was $25 per towel!

Keep in mind that if your ship has a casino, it will be closed any time you are in port. The casinos can only operate in international waters.

Muster Drill

Before the ship ever leaves port everyone on board must attend the safety drill, known as the muster drill. This generally happens right before you set sail around 4pm or so. Your muster station area will be listed on your cruise card. There will also be instructions on your where your muster station is located on the back of your stateroom door. Cruise ship staff will be located throughout the ship during the drill to instruct you on where your muster station is located.

The muster drill is mandatory and they will take attendance with your cruise card. If you do not show up, you will be paged and the entire ship will need to wait for you to check in at your muster station.

The muster drill will give you instructions on what to do and where to go in the very unlikely event something happens at sea, so it is very important!

Every cruise line is a little different, but children under a certain age will be given a wristband when they board with their muster station area on it. These will be distributed as you board the ship, at the kids club or at the guest services desk. You can ask when you check in, on where to get them. Children are required to wear them during the entire cruise.

As you can see, the first few hours of your cruise vacation can be hectic, but hopefully by understanding what to expect on embarkation day, the process can go smoother!

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