The New Pre-Boarding/Boarding Process at Disney Cruise Line

With cruising requirements changing rapidly, I thought I’d take a moment and walk you all through our experience since things were a bit tricky to accomplish within the required timeframes. Now that Disney Cruise Line has updated its protocol in accordance with the CDC guidelines, some things might be a little more tricky, and the more you know about the process ahead of time, the better off you’ll be.

On my recent experience cruising on the Disney Dream, I was able to bring my 19-year old daughter who, at the time of our sailing, had only received one of her two required COVID vaccinations. So, for the purposes of this specific cruise, she was considered unvaccinated and there was a good bit of juggling to do prior to the cruise because of that.

Just as a reminder, a person is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving their second dose of the COVID vaccine. As we know, all passengers ages 11 and under are unvaccinated and must go through these pre-boarding steps in order to be permitted on a Disney ship regardless of its destination.

When Disney Cruise Line returned to sailing last month, they made it voluntary for passengers to share proof of vaccination in order to avoid additional testing prior to their cruise. Each member of your cruising party is required to create an online account on the Safe Passage website where they’ll upload either proof of vaccination or COVID test results. Anyone who chooses not to provide proof of vaccination is required to provide a negative PCR test result where the test is taken between 5-days and 24-hours prior to you boarding the ship. With Thursday’s update, that window will shrink from 5 days to 3 days beginning September 13th. Friends, this process was a struggle for me with a 5-day window and now that the window is shrinking, you are really going to need to put in the effort.

Although everyone ages 12 and up will be required to be fully vaccinated prior to their cruise, all guests ages 11 and under will still be required to go through the pre-boarding testing, so if you’ve got kiddos joining you, you’ll want to pay close attention.

Our debarkation day was Friday, August 20th so I had to make an appointment for my daughter to have a PCR COVID test performed between Sunday and Tuesday. We live in Florida and with the Delta variant running rampant down here, just getting an appointment (within a 50-mile radius) was a feat between her work schedule and available appointment times. Both CVS and Walgreens in our area offered the PCR test. Something else to keep in mind is that the PCR test results take 1 to 2 days – I wanted to have the full two days with the second day being the day prior to our departure. I like to leave extra time for just about everything in my world for the “just in case” issues that may pop up. The bottom line is that I wasn’t able to get an appointment for her until late Tuesday afternoon which had me moderately twitchy. We were staying at a Walt Disney World Resort the night prior to our cruise, so we were essentially heading out of town on the second day of that window. Fortunately for us, her negative test result was emailed on Wednesday afternoon so we were able to upload it to the Safe Passage site before their deadline of 48-hours prior to debarkation day.

Disney Cruise Line, at the time of our cruise, also required guests to purchase a travel insurance policy for anyone who chose not to provide proof of vaccination. The travel agents at Dreams Unlimited Travel recommend that you use insuremytrip.com which is a clearing house for travel insurance companies and will provide you with a list of different policies according to the parameters you set when you do your search. Never having purchased travel insurance through anywhere but Disney (which we couldn’t do this time due to the cruise being hosted), finding a policy for our 3-night cruise was very easy and also fairly inexpensive at less than $40. It is imperative that you print the policy out and bring it with you as they do ask to see it at the port check-in.

Fast forward to debarkation day as we arrived with all of the required documents securely in an envelope tucked into my purse. Once we parked our vehicle, we were directed over to the check-in tents that were set up adjacent to the parking garage.

One thing I was able to do since we’d uploaded everything that was required prior to our arrival, was to add the QR code for our Port Arrival Form right into the Mobile Wallet on my iPhone – I suggest that you do that if you are able. I had the printed forms with me as required in my handy little envelope, but much to my surprise, I didn’t need to pull it out at all as each crew member was able to scan my phone to get the information they needed from that code.

We were directed to stay together as we moved through the different areas during our check-in process. Our daughter was required to take a rapid COVID test and once she was finished, we were directed to another tent to wait for her test results to either appear on the screen or via email. The $65 charge for her test at the port was added to our cruise portfolio.

I received the email prior to the “clear” status appearing on the screen, so that was a good thing as we were pretty excited to board the ship. We only waited for 25 minutes from the time she took the test to the time we were allowed to head across the street and into the terminal where we proceeded through security and documentation checks.

It’s important to note again that we were traveling as Disney Cruise Line’s hosted guests, so we were there far earlier than any other guests who were arriving that day.

Now that rules are changing again soon and requiring that all passengers be fully vaccinated, the process and requirements to cruise will also change. If you’ve got a Disney cruise coming up, it is imperative that you check the Know Before You Go page for any updated information. Also, if you receive any emails from Disney Cruise Line, please be sure to open them, read them, and do what they are asking so that you don’t have to go into the consultation tent.

All in all, the extra legwork and additional cost we incurred were both WELL worth the trouble because experiencing a Disney Cruise Line vacation with the health and safety guidelines that are currently in practice was absolutely incredible!

Have questions? Please leave them in the comments below or join the discussion over in our DCL Fan Facebook group.