Planning for a cruise can be just as much fun as actually sailing on a cruise! For some, the planning process can be overwhelming, with not knowing what to expect, important dates to remember, and just the fear of forgetting something.
I’ve sailed on 20 Disney Cruise Line (DCL) cruises so far, with more cruises booked, including on the new Disney Wish! Over the years I have sailed on several WDW Radio cruises with Lou Mongello and friends. One of the benefits of sailing with WDW Radio is being in a private Facebook Group for the cruise. One thing I have enjoyed in these groups is providing Tips and Tricks for sailing on Disney Cruise Line. With so many Tips & Tricks compiled, I thought it would be nice to share them with everyone who is considering a cruise, already booked, or even an avid DCL sailor.
The Last Night & Disembarkation Day
Here is another nautical term to add to your list: disembarkation or debarkation, which are interchangeable, refers to the act of unloading passengers and crew from a ship.
This is a sad topic because it means that your cruise is coming to an end. Hopefully you plan to sail with Disney Cruise Line again and booked a placeholder for your next cruise while onboard!
On The Last Night
One of the hardest things to do on the last day is to pack your luggage and place it outside your stateroom between 8:00pm and 10:30pm. The crew members will move your luggage down to the hold until the ship is docked the next morning, when it will magically appear just outside of the customs area. If you choose to use express walk-off of the ship at 7:30am with your luggage, you will have a little extra time to pack everything up since your luggage will not be placed in the hallway.
Bonus Tip: Save an outfit! – Don’t forget to leave out an outfit for each person in your travel party to wear the following day! Over the years I’ve seen several people going through customs in their sleepwear.
Bonus Tip: Day Bag – Just like when you were getting ready to sail, make sure to pack a day bag for the next morning. You will want to keep all important documents with you along with any medications you brought onboard.
After you pack on the last day, lay the hangers on the floor of the closet. This will prevent them from rattling all night, especially when docking early in the morning. Those thrusters can really vibrate the ship! Don’t forget to hang them back up before you head out to breakfast. Not to mention if you do this you ensure you won’t accidentally leave anything hanging in the closet!
In the afternoon on your last day of the cruise, you will find a sheet of paper and small envelopes in your stateroom. The paper itemizes gratuities that are charged to your stateroom for your dining room server, assistant server, head server, and stateroom host. You can simply tear these slips apart and put them into the envelopes so that you can give to each person that night. Feel free to add any additional cash to the envelopes as you see fit. Believe me, these crew members go above and beyond to assure that you have a magical cruise and deserve a little extra from all of us if we choose to do so.
You can add more money to the crew members’ account by visiting Guest Services where you will fill out a form and the amount will be charged to your onboard folio. You can even do this if you prepaid your gratuities before sailing. If you did not prepay, you will find the gratuities have been automatically added to your onboard account. If you forget to personally give the envelopes (without extra cash inside) to your host/servers, rest assured that the gratuities are added to their accounts. Even if you don’t eat at the rotational dining rooms, you have been served by these crew members at the various quick service locations on deck, at lunch, and on Castaway Cay, and gratuities are part of their compensation. As always, extra gratuities are at your discretion and always appreciated by crew members.
Automatic Gratuities as of July 2, 2022 are $14.50 per guest, per night of cruise*:
- Dining Room Server = $4.75
- Dining Room Assistant Server = $3.75
- Dining Room Head Server = $1.25
- Stateroom Host/Hostess = $4.75
- Add $15.50 per guest, per night for Concierge.
* on 7/2/22 DCL increased the gratuities from $13.50 to $14.50. I did not have information on how the extra $1 will be dispersed to the crew members at the time of publication so I just added 25 cents to each for now.
Bonus Tip: Automatic 18% Gratuity – DCL adds an automatic 18% gratuity to spa services, bar bills, wine, desk service tabs, and non-alcoholic drinks if ordered from a bar. Of course, you can always add more, some people don’t realize it’s already been added. The automatic 18% gratuity is split between the bar service crew members. If you choose to add an additional amount, that will go to your bar server – you’d be surprised the extra attention you might receive after leaving a little extra per visit to a bar.
Disembarkation Luggage Tags
Another item you will find in your stateroom on the last day are colorful luggage tags to use when you place your packed luggage outside your stateroom that night. (Remember to take off the tags from embarkation day). Not only will these tags help you find your luggage in the terminal before heading to customs, but they will also let you know when you are able to disembark the ship. Once you are in the terminal you will find signs indicating what color/character tag is in the various locations throughout the customs level.
In the morning you will hear ship announcements as to what color/character group has been cleared to disembark. This helps to keep the lines to a minimum when walking off the ship, down the gangway, and at customs. The color/characters groups that are cleared will also be shown on monitors throughout the main areas of the ship in case you miss the announcements.
Bonus Tip: Easily remember your color/character group – Either take a picture on your phone of your luggage tag or keep an extra one handy so you can easily remember what color/character you were assigned. You’d be surprised how many people wonder around looking for their luggage when they are separated by the luggage tag color/character group. This is also a great way to entertain the little sailors by having them listen or watch for your tag to be called.
As mentioned previously, you will use your Key to the World card to make all purchases on the ship and Castaway Cay as cash is not accepted at the shops and bars. When you did your online check-in before leaving home, you entered either a credit card or indicated you would settle in cash. If using a credit card, your onboard account will automatically be charged to that credit card when your account reaches a maximum amount throughout the cruise. If paying with cash, you will need to settle your account before you can leave the ship. You can view your account on the Navigator App at any time to see what you have spent.
Bonus Tip: Screenshots – When viewing your onboard account/folio, take screenshots so you have a record of the balance. Gone are the days where you receive a printout on the last morning of the charges you accrued. You can also go to guest services to get a printout.
Bonus Tip: Email request – Forgot to take screenshots or pick up a printout of your charges? Once you are at home you can email DCL (firstname.lastname@example.org) and request your folio information. Be sure to include your reservation number, sail dates, and ship name when making the request. It may take a few business days to receive a response from shipboard accounting (Shipboard.Accounting@DisneyCruise.com).
On the last morning of your cruise everything will seem to go by so quickly. It’s important to understand how the morning will work before you debark the ship.
It wouldn’t be a cruise article if we didn’t talk about food options one more time. On the last morning of your cruise, room service will not be available so you have two options for breakfast.
Dining Room – First, you can enjoy a sit-down breakfast from the “See Ya Real Soon” menu served by your wait staff in the dining room where you had your dinner the night before. There are two breakfast times depending on if you ate at the main dining time or second seating. Main dining is served around [6:45]-7:00am and second seating starts around [8:15]-8:30am (these times may vary). The early breakfast time on the last day is one reason I prefer second seating for dinner.
Cabanas – A second option for breakfast is to grab something at Cabanas and enjoy eating one last time while taking in the views from the large windows or outside deck. The options will be limited, but this can often be faster than eating in the dining room. Plus, you can enjoy breakfast at any time which is a great option if you do not want breakfast at 6:45am or plan to do express walk-off early.
With either option, you will need to bring your carry-on and anything else you are planning to take off of the ship with you as you cannot return to your stateroom once you vacate it. There will be designated spots to leave some of these items as to not crowd the dining rooms with carry-ons. All guests are to be ashore by 9:45am.
Along with your gratuity envelopes and luggage tags, you will also find a comment card that pertains to your cruise. You should not feel pressured to fill out the card but filling it out could lead to future changes. Also, the comment cards are used as part of the evaluation for crew members by management. If you feel that a crew member went above and beyond during your cruise, it is important to state this as well. You can also email questions and comments to Disney Cruise Line after your cruise. So please be honest with your comments.
Transportation After the Cruise
Once you are cleared through customs, you can simply walk to your own car, find an Uber/Lyft, local hotel and car rental shuttles, or board the Disney Cruise Line transportation to the airport or Disney Resorts Collection hotel. The DCL terminal at Port Canaveral is clearly marked as to where to find all these options. Safe travels!
- Always check the Navigator App for the latest disembarkation information for your sailing.
- You will need to be out of your stateroom by 8:15am.
- Everyone needs to be off of the ship by 9:45am. The crew members need time to clean your stateroom and public areas for the next cruise.
- Check your stateroom safe! Actually bend down and look inside!
- DCL recommends the following as the earliest flight departure time for debarkation day:
- Galveston – 12:30pm, Miami – 11:30am, NOLA – 11:45am, Port Canaveral – 11:25am, San Diego – 11:45am, Vancouver – 12:00pm (noon)
- Visit Shutters on the last night to purchase any photos you may want or to pick up your photo package images if you purchased a package. Unlimited photo packages will have a code for downloading photos once you are at home.
- Return your Child’s Oceaneer Band by 11:00pm on the last night of the cruise if you are not planning to keep it. If you choose to keep the band, $12.95 will be charged to your onboard account.
- Keep your Key to the World card handy along with your passport/birth certificate as every guest will need to swipe their KTTW card one last time when you disembark the ship.
- Lost & Found is at Guest Services on the last night or before customs in the terminal. Always check the Navigator App for details.
- Watch the video on disembarkation on your stateroom television! This, along with the Navigator App, will have the most current information on having a smooth disembarkation.
See Ya Real Soon!
These 26 tips are just a few of the DCL Tips & Tricks for Disembarkation Day to help you have a FANTAStic cruise. My Tips & Tricks are based on my own experiences and questions asked by fellow cruisers and on sailing on the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy as of May 1, 2022 and is subject to change at any time. Disembarkation may vary at the different ports.
Next up: Onboard Fun for All, plus Kids & Adults
50-ish Tips & Tricks for Sailing with Disney Cruise Line – Series Links:
Do you have any tips for disembarking a Disney cruise? Let me know in the comments below.
(Logo property of Vanessa Prince. All photos are from the collection of Vanessa Prince.)