Years ago, embarking on a last-minute cruise would never have been the kind of vacation I’d be planning. Maybe a camping trip or a quick weekend a few hours away from home might have been more up our alley; a staycation, if you will.

Nowadays, more and more folks are taking advantage of the lower-priced, last-minute cruise fares that Disney Cruise Line offers as they make it far more affordable than the same itinerary would be if you’d booked it a year ahead of time. There can sometimes be caveats with last-minute cruises such as guaranteed fares where you don’t get to choose your stateroom location on the ship. Follow this link to read more about guaranteed rates. Whatever the reason may be, planning for a cruise is kind of a big deal and you don’t have a lot of time before embarkation day, so let’s get started with the basics.

GATHER THE ESSENTIAL TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

You aren’t going anywhere without the required travel docs, so the first thing you need to do is make sure you actually have them in hand. Additionally, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have all the proper documentation to not only board the ship but also in order to enter each of the countries on your specific cruise itinerary.

It’s important to note that there are different requirements for different sailings so we’re just going to provide a general guideline below. You’ll need to check www.travel.state.gov for the most current requirements for your cruise. You also need to keep in mind that everyone in your traveling party has to have the required documents, even infants.

  1. For sailings that sail out of and return to the same port (commonly known as closed-loop sailings), you can bring either a passport or a state-certified birth certificate along with a government-issued photo ID. If you are not a US resident, then you’ll need to check with your local government agency or consulate to find out which are the appropriate documents in your situation.
  2. The preferred form of identification is a passport as opposed to a birth certificate because, in case of an emergency that necessitates a flight back to the US, birth certificates are not an accepted form of documentation for entry back into the country.
  3. For anyone over the age of 16, a government-issued photo ID is also required (i.e., a driver’s license). Those folks will need to have a passport/birth certificate AND another government-issued photo ID such as a Learner’s Permit or Drivers License.
  4. Depending on the embarkation port and ports of visitation, additional documents may be required. We recommend that you check with your travel agent or visit the site linked above for the official details.

BOOK YOUR CRUISE WITH A TRAVEL AGENT

Anytime you’re booking a big vacation, having someone in your corner who knows the ropes is invaluable. A travel agent can be your key to ensuring that you don’t miss anything that’s important to you. While your time and knowledge about this experience might be limited (or not in many cases), your travel agent is well-versed in what needs to happen as this is what they do every day as part of their jobs. The best part? You won’t pay a penny more to utilize a travel agent than you’d pay if you’d booked directly with Disney Cruise Line. Use this to your advantage. Your travel agent is going to walk you through all the details, check in on you, work things out for you if you need them to, and make sure that you are set to have the vacation of your dreams. There are a lot of things that change from time to time, so even experienced cruisers will benefit from using a professional travel agent.

When you book your cruise with Dreams Unlimited Travel – the official sponsor of DCL Fan – you will receive an exclusive gift basket filled with items that will come in handy during your cruise. We call it the “What you didn’t know you needed on a Cruise Kit.”


An additional advantage of booking your cruise with a Dreams Unlimited Travel agent is that you will receive a “shipboard credit” to use during your sailing. Dreams Unlimited Travel will add the credit amount (based on the price of your cruise) to your shipboard account and it can be spent in a variety of ways during the duration of your cruise. The best part is that it doesn’t matter when you book. You will receive the credit regardless of how soon your embarkation date is. It’s an incredible perk and serves as the icing on the cake for booking through Dreams Unlimited Travel.

CHAT WITH OTHER CRUISERS

There may be an occasion when you have questions that you don’t want to trouble your travel agent with, although let me assure you, they are not going to be troubled at all. Let’s say you need some suggestions on what to do while you are onboard, which cruise merchandise isn’t worth its price tag, or which shore excursions have the best reviews. There is another fantastic resource for finding answers quickly, the Disney Cruise Line forum. This is the place where people just like you and I have already asked a lot of the questions, and the answers are all right at your fingertips. Use the “Search This Forum” button to get down to the very specifics of what you need to know without any hassle. If you don’t find the information that you are looking for, don’t hesitate to post your question in a new thread which will garner answers (usually within minutes) from many different folks who have “been there and done that.”

COMPLETE YOUR ONLINE CHECK-IN

Once you’ve got your cruise booked, you’ll want to visit www.disneycruise.com to register for the site – this will be the same login information that you’ll use for the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app as well. There are many benefits to doing so such as:

  1. Booking and modifying shore excursions
  2. Reserving and revising spa treatments and fitness activities
  3. Making and updating dining reservations at the onboard adult restaurants
  4. Registering children for kids’ clubs
  5. Reserving babysitting for the littlest cruisers

More importantly, you must complete your online check-in. Disney Cruise Line requires guests to provide all of their cruise documentation prior to embarkation. It is very important that you read any and communication from Disney Cruise Line carefully and follow the directions given. When you fill out all that’s required before reaching the terminal, it will save you time, ensure that your information is accurate, and it will simplify your boarding process when you arrive at the port.

WHAT TO PACK

Things you need to pack might be different from the things you want to pack, but basic necessities include casual clothing, bathing suits, sunscreen, sandals, and toiletries. Many folks prefer to bring two outfits per day; one for daytime activities and another for dinner. If you are dining at one of the adult-exclusive restaurants, be sure to check out the dress code policy. There is a plethora of thorough packing lists that can be found online but rest assured that just about anything you might forget can be purchased aboard the ship. There is no need to panic over the idea of leaving something behind. Be sure to attach the luggage tags that the cruise line sends you to your bags prior to arriving at the port. Doing so will help ensure that your bags make their way to your stateroom.

It is highly recommended that you pack a “day bag” with any needed essentials to keep with you prior to being able to get your hands on your checked luggage. Staterooms are not typically ready for new guests on embarkation day until around 2:00 pm and your luggage might not be delivered until the late afternoon. In your day bag, pack anything that you may need to have access to such as medications and swimwear if you want to relax at the pool before being allowed into your stateroom. Basically, if you can’t do without it for a few hours, put it in the day bag, and the day bag stays with you.

COME PREPARED WITH CASH AND NECESSARY DOCUMENTS

This might seem obvious to some, but there are some important reminders we’d like to share in closing. You’re going to need cash to tip the people checking your bags; we recommend a minimum of $2 per bag. The prepaid gratuities that you may have opted in for when you booked ONLY include your head, main, and assistant servers in addition to your stateroom host. The people who handle your luggage, among others, are not benefactors of the prepaid gratuities. You’ll want to have some cash on hand for this reason. Also, be sure to have the necessary physical documents readily accessible in your purse or day bag on embarkation day. Your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and proof of COVID vaccination, are all things that you will be asked to present, so don’t pack them away in your checked luggage.

If you can manage these basics, you’ll be in relatively decent shape for your cruise. Don’t sweat the fact that you are throwing it together at the last minute. We’ve discussed the things that you HAVE to know and the rest will fall into place. The good thing is that anything that doesn’t, you can catch it on your next cruise.

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