Disney Cruise Report: Boarding and the First Day

Three Disney Cruises

The following is an excerpt from the eBook Three Disney Cruises: Before we get to the actual boarding, I want to talk about one of the changes that happened sometime after our previous cruises. Before, you could show up at the cruise terminal pretty much whenever you wanted to arrive. Once you were all checked in, you could board the ship. No big deal at all, and no real time pressure, either. And we didn’t have a problem with it either time. But apparently that changed when the newer ships came along, and now in the online check-in process you select a port arrival time. And when you arrive and get checked in at the terminal, you are assigned a boarding group number based on your pre-selected arrival time. We didn’t realize that fact all that early, and by the time we checked in online, the earliest arrival time available was 1:30 to 2:00 PM. That was a little later than we wanted to arrive, because we were planning on eating lunch on the ship once we had boarded. Oh well, now we know for next time to check in online as soon as we can so that we can get the arrival time that we want. But now, on to our arrival.

We were driving down, so we had spent the previous night in Lake City, Florida, which meant that we didn’t have all that far to drive on the morning of our cruise. And since we didn’t have to arrive until 1:30, we could have a leisurely pace in the morning. We still didn’t dawdle, however, because we wanted to make sure that we got there in plenty of time. So after driving on some of our favorite Florida toll roads and stopping every few miles to pay $1, we arrived at Port Canaveral around noon. Too early? Not really, because that had been our plan all along. My friend Connie had been on the same cruise a week earlier, and she had arrived before her arrival time. She figured out that her family could board before their boarding group number was called when there weren’t many people in the boarding line. We had thought about trying that, but we decided against it. Instead, we went to eat lunch at Wendy’s in the town of Cape Canaveral to pass the time. It wasn’t quite the same as eating lunch on the ship, and it wasn’t included in our cruise price as a ship lunch would have been, but we also didn’t want to wait until who knows when to be able to eat our lunch. So it wasn’t that bad. And depending on where you were sitting in Wendy’s, you could look out the window and see our ship in the distance. So that was cool.

Once our hunger was satisfied, we got back in our cars and made our way to the cruise terminal, which of course was a short drive from where we were. We did the usual thing of dropping off our bags at the terminal before going to park our car. The attendant said that we could park closer to the ship for an extra $20. “Where is the cheaper lot?” I asked him. He directed me across the street to the parking garage. So for $20 less, I could park so that the car would be under cover the entire time? Sounds like a deal to me. And besides, we didn’t have to pay right then. We just got a ticket from the machine when we went in, knowing that we would have to pay when we left.

I really liked being able to park in the parking garage, which they didn’t have on our previous cruises. Of course, that make the cost to park go from $40 on our first cruise to $48 on our second cruise, and then up to $75 for this cruise with the parking garage. But on those previous cruises, I was always slightly concerned about leaving the car out in the open. I wasn’t worried that anyone would steal anything from it. Instead, I was concerned about what nature might do to it. You never know when a hurricane or tropical storm might show up in those parts, after all. Of course, I suppose they could also get a freak earthquake that would collapse the garage on top of our car, too. But that isn’t as likely in Central Florida. Parking out in the open hadn’t been a problem on our previous cruises, but I was glad to have the garage there, just in case.

Up next was the security check with the metal detectors and bag scanners. I never am a fan of all of that, but I do understand why it is necessary. Fortunately, this security check always seems much more relaxed than the air travel security check. And I haven’t even done any air travel in the last couple of years when things got even more strange and, um, personal. No touchy feely stuff at the cruise terminal, fortunately. And I didn’t even have to take off my shoes like I thought I might have to do. So that was all a breeze.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] In the terminal building. All of us except for the photographer.[/caption]

From there, we were on to the major step of checking in. Of course, we had filled out all of the forms that we could fill out online. I got the impression that the online forms were almost a requirement now, so I made sure I had done all of it and printed out the form to sign, which we had signed that morning, just so we would be all ready to go.

There were two check-in lines, a general line and a Castaway Club line. We got in the second line, because cruising before had made us club members, and of course it was the shorter line. But then the gentleman manning the lines instructed the Riedels to follow us in the Castaway Club line. “But we aren’t Castaway Club members,” Karen said. “That’s okay,” he said, “You can go with them.” So they did. And neither of our families had a long wait before being called up to the counter. Once again, they had a slight problem with my passport, namely a problem with their machine reading the number. But it didn’t take the lady long to get that worked out. Laura and I also got Castaway Club lanyards as a gift. After a quick family photo for their records, we were all checked in and given a boarding group number of 29, and the Riedels had gotten the same number. That wasn’t going to take long, because they had just called for group number 27.

We stood around and waited for a few minutes, watching others get a photo with Minnie Mouse in front of the large ship model in the middle of the terminal. Our anticipation grew with each number called, until they got to our number. Then we excitedly marched past the waiting crowds and onto the ship.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Here we go![/caption]

Or at least onto the gangway, because there was a crowd there waiting to have their photos taken by the ship photographers. We did have the option of skipping the line by not getting a photo, but we decided it would be good to get one of all seven of us together. And it really wasn’t that long of a wait, anyway.

After that, they announced the arrival of the Burns family, and we walked aboard the ship waiving. Of course, we weren’t actually waving at anyone, because no one was standing there watching people board the ship to see if they knew anyone famous. Not that anyone would know us anyway, because we aren’t famous. Although you are reading this, so that counts for something, right? But then on the other hand, no one was standing there watching us look like country tourists waving at no one in particular, either, so maybe that was a good thing.

While we were wandering around looking for our rooms, we saw that Donald Duck in his Disney Cruise Line crew outfit was out for photos, and the line was short, so of course we got a photo with him. Our first of many character photos, as it would turn out.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] With our good friend, Donald Duck.[/caption]

We went to find our rooms, with the help of one of the cast members who directed us in the right direction, because we weren’t quite sure which part of the ship we were looking for. So we made our way up to the ninth level and found our rooms. The Burnses were 9054, and the Riedels were 9052. Best of all, we had a door between our rooms, which we quickly opened because that is what everyone does, right?

We got all of our carry-on stuff situated and decided we would go out and explore the ship a bit, since we had some time before the mandatory safety drill. But as we were on our way out, we ran into our room hostess, Oksana. She introduced herself (obviously, because that is how I knew to call her Oksana), and she told us a bit about the room. She showed us the trick to opening and closing the verandah door, because it has a switch to turn off the air conditioner when the door is open. That makes sense, because I am sure they don’t want to pay to air condition the whole Bahamas area. I also asked her if she could open the divider between our verandahs, which she was happy to do. That gave us one big verandah to enjoy for the whole trip. Even better!

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Laura and Jaylin are enjoying our verandah.[/caption]

As we were still checking out our large verandah, we noticed something down in the water. But that something was not just anything, it was a manatee. No wait, it was more manatees. In fact, there were five manatees all swimming together right there in the harbor between all of the cruise ships. And to think that in the past we had to go looking for them when they were right here all along! I wonder if Disney pays them to swim by the ship, just so people will think that a Disney cruise is even more cool? Probably not.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] You may not quite be able to make them out, but those are manatees in the water.[/caption]

After that, we went to check out the ship. But we weren’t the only ones doing that, as we saw several others doing the same thing. Some were just looking around like we were, some were in the pool, some were enjoying the Aquaduck water slide, and some were just enjoying the sun. I’m sure that if we had gone by the restaurants, we would have seen some people eating as well. I always like getting there in plenty of time to get familiar with the ship, and it looks like everyone else does, too.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] A look inside our stateroom before we spread our stuff out everywhere.[/caption]

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Brant, Jaylin (hidden behind Brant), Zach, and Laura playing ping pong while checking out the ship.[/caption]

Up next was the required safety drill, although that had changed some from our past cruises. Before, you had to go to your stateroom, put on your life vest, and wait for the alarm to sound, which was your signal to go to your assembly place. But now, you don’t have to go to your room first, and you don’t have to bring your life vest with you. They do recommend that you try on your vest when you first get to your room, which we all did. It was definitely easier not having to wear your vest to the assembly area.

Our assembly area was the movie theater, so we got to sit in nice cushioned seats while we waited, because we actually arrived a few minutes before the drill began. Sorry to those who got there too late to get a good seat. I guess I could have offered mine, but I didn’t.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] A nice, sunny day on the Disney Dream.[/caption]

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Looking at other ships from the Deck 4 Promenade.[/caption]

Once the safety drill ended, the party began. Yes, they do have a party when you sail away. No, everyone doesn’t stand by the railing and throw streamers while waving at those unlucky enough to still be on the shore. That only happens on the Love Boat, apparently. And no, the sailing away party doesn’t have cake and ice cream. So it really isn’t that much of a party at all. It does, however, feature dancers on the stage that mysteriously appeared where the pool used to be. And the Disney characters even come on stage for a few songs, too. Everyone tries to be “high energy and excitement,” but that really isn’t my thing. So as soon as the ship starts to move, I always move over and watch as we pull away from the shore. And this time, there happened to be two dolphins in the water swimming near our ship. First manatees, and then dolphins. Disney thinks of everything! And although there weren’t lots of people to wave to, some of the terminal workers were waving at us while wearing large Mickey Mouse gloves as we left, so that was a little like the Love Boat.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Zach, Laura, and the back of Katie’s head at the sail away party.[/caption]

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Laura, Katie, and Karen at the sail away party.[/caption]

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Jaylin at the sail away party.[/caption]

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Mickey Mouse and friends entertain the crowd.[/caption]

During the sail away party, the captain blew the horn. The ship’s horn was always one of my favorite features of the old ships, and those old ships would play the first few notes of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” But the new ships can top that. Now, in addition to that song, they also play, “Be Our Guest,” “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee,” “It’s a Small World,” “Yo Ho Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me),” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” Pretty cool! And they don’t just do one. They go through the whole list. I loved it.

[caption id="" align=“aligncenter” width=“600”] Saying goodbye to the land.[/caption]

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.