So you have booked a Disney Cruise and are wondering what’s next. Chances are you booked outside of the time that you can actually book your online check-in, port arrival time, dining and port adventures. Thus, like I did, you have a lot of time to wonder how the system works and stress about the process. To make it easier on you, here is my guide to online check-in, port arrival time, dining and port adventures on Disney Cruise Lines.
Determine Your Check-in Date
Your cruise is booked, your bags are mentally packed and you log on to disneycruise.disney.go.com only to find out you can’t check in yet. The Disney Cruise Line specialist probably explained this but in your excitement you forgot or like me didn’t listen. So when can you check in? If you are a first time Disney Cruiser like me you must wait until 75 days prior to the day you set sail before you can check-in online, choose your port arrival time, book dining or reserve a port adventure. Once you complete one sail you become a silver member of the Castaway Club so on your next cruise you will qualify to book 90 days before sailing. The other levels are gold (5+ cruises) which can book 105 days before sailing and platinum (10+ cruises) which can book first 120 days prior to sailing.
What does this actually mean? I was worried that by the time I got to book our port arrival time, dinning and port adventures there would be nothing left. In fact, I got every dinner reservation, spa appointment and port arrival time I wanted. The only issue was that I was hoping for a cabana on Castaway Cay and all the family cabanas had been reserved.
How to Check In
Once you go to disneycruise.disney.go.com, you are required to log in. If you don’t have a log-in, it only takes a few minutes to create one with your email, birthdate and address. Do this before the check-in window opens.
Once you have logged in, you will need to take the extra step of retrieving your cruise information. To do so, you will need your email address, the cruise confirmation number (on your confirmation email from Disney Cruise Lines) and your birthday.
Once you are logged in and your reservation is found a world of excitement awaits. Okay not really but here is what happens next.
Disney Cruise Check-In Process
On the My Reservation page, you will find a number of categories. The important ones for this discussion are My Online Check In and My Cruise Activities. When you first log in, My Online Check In and My Cruise Activities will both give you the date you are able to check in and book activities. I recently completed this step and was able to book in on the day of check-in at 12:00 am (midnight) EST. I have heard from others that it is 3:00 am EST standard time but as of November 2014, the midnight sign-in time worked for me.
Port Arrival Time
The online check-in section has a number of categories.
The big reason to complete online check-in as early as possible is to get a good Port Arrival Time (PAT). A good time depends on what you want to do that day. The most compelling reason to book an early PAT is that the ship is less full and its a great time for photos and swimming before the boat fills up. Another reason, is that you can eat lunch on the boat which is included in your cruise instead of paying for food elsewhere. Another reason I chose an early PAT is that our hotel check-out was relatively early and I knew the kids would be itching to get on board the boat.
Reasons against an early PAT include spending the day in the destination of departure or having time to head from wherever you are staying to the port without rushing.
I was able to get a port arrival time of 11:00 am which was the perfect choice for our family. The only port arrival time that wasn’t available when I checked in was 11:30 am to 12:00 pm. The port arrival choices range from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm.
TIP: A great tip is that you can choose to only fill out the mandatory information (names, passport numbers and birth dates) in the online check-in and get to the PAT selection quicker. You can go back after and add in additional information like flight information and VISA for onboard purchases later. To check in, you will need the passport numbers of everyone in your party.
Dining and Activities Reservations
Once you complete Check-In, return to My Reservations to book dining and activities. You do not need to book your daily dining. Instead, the dining reservations are for the adult only restaurants on board the Disney Cruise Line ships. Again, even with being in the first time category and booking last, I had no problem getting the two reservations of my choice for both brunch and dinner.
I love that Disney Cruise Lines puts the onboard ship activities in the schedule so I knew right away I was not booking during events my kids would want to attend.
In addition to dining you can also book spa activities from a large menu and port activities. Seeing my kids are a little young and I have a “no scuba diving policy” for when we travel solo, we have decided to stay on board and man the ship during the port days. This means even greater access to good restaurants and mostly empty pools
Again the only disappointment I experienced in booking was that we were unable to get a Cabana on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Not bad for being in the final booking category.
Although leading up to the Disney cruise online check-in, port arrival time, dining & port adventure reservations, I was a little stressed, the process was, in fact, painless and easy.