Boarding Process for a Disney Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida

If you are new to Disney Cruise Line, planning a cruise can seem overwhelming. While that is true, that’s where I come in! So, book a cruise with me and I do all the planning for you and walk you through any steps I am not able to complete for you. But, this blog is for everyone, so here is important information on the boarding process for a Disney cruise leaving out of Port Canaveral, Florida.

Disney Cruise Line terminal

Q. Do I need to have a passport?

Surely this is something you wonder and is an often-debated question on cruise forums. Basically, if you are on a closed loop cruise from a US port, meaning you start in a US port and end at the SAME US port, you do not need a passport.

I firmly believe that it is extremely important you have a passport. Take it from me when I say to go ahead and spend the extra money on a passport to have the piece of mind that you will be able to get home in case of an emergency at sea. With this in mind, I have a perfect example of why you need a passport. In short, my husband became extremely ill on a cruise and needed to be transported off the ship to a hospital in St. Thomas. By the time he was able to meet up with us in Tortola, he would have needed a passport since it was not a US island. Luckily, we had passports and there was no issue with him boarding the ship again. Unfortunately, we did not purchase travel protection, but I’ll save that experience for a separate post.

Disney Cruise Line has a specific policy on what documents you need for boarding.

There are certain documents you need to get ready to show customs and the cast members who will be checking you in when you arrive at the port. In order to make the boarding process as smooth as possible, it is important to have these documents ready.

The following is the documentation policy from Disney Cruise Line’s website. Above all, I wanted to make sure you had the exact verbiage.

At check-in, all Guests must present valid passports or other acceptable proof of citizenship. 

All travelers are required to have a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States by air.

In addition to a valid passport, many countries require an entry visa based on your nationality. It is each Guest’s responsibility to identify and to obtain all the necessary visas before embarking on the cruise. Because requirements may vary, Guests are advised to contact their local consulate or embassy for more information on required travel documentation for all ports of call during the cruise.

The Guest who booked the cruise must present a copy of the Online Check-In Port Arrival Form at check-in. You can save time during the boarding process by completing this document ahead of time through My Online Check-in.

When a minor (age 17 and under) travels without a parent or legal guardian, an accompanying adult must present an Authorization For Minor To Travel Without a Parent or Legal Guardian Form, completed and signed by that child’s parent or legal guardian.
Passport & Travel Documentation Guidelines

Under My Reservations you’ll find important travel guidelines and regulations relevant to your individual itinerary. However, it is your responsibility to check with your travel agent, government agency, embassy or consulate to ensure that you have all the proper documentation to board the ship and enter each of the countries on your cruise. U.S. travelers can visit the U.S. State Department’s travel website or call the U.S. National Passport Information Center at (877) 4USA-PPT [877-487-2778] for more information.
Important International Travel Advisories

Guests without proper documentation will be denied boarding.

Travel restrictions for each destination country may vary according to a Guest’s citizenship.

Plan ahead to get your passport(s) early. At Disney Cruise Line, we ask that you provide your passport number at least 75 days prior to the start of your vacation in your Guest Information Form in My Online Check-in. Visit your “Passport and Travel Documentation” page for the information you need to apply for a passport, including how much time is generally required to receive your passport. United States citizens should also visit the U.S. State Department’s travel website or call the U.S. National Passport Information Center at (877) 4USA-PPT (487-2778) for more information.

Make sure your passports aren’t expired or about to expire. Many countries require your passport to be valid up to 3 months after the completion of your cruise. Check the passport policies in the countries you plan to visit ahead of time.

Q. How do I get to Port Canaveral and how much is parking?


Port Canaveral, Cruise Terminal 8 9155 Charles M. Rowland Dr. 
Port Canaveral, FL 32920

Parking operated by the Port Canaveral Port Authority is available adjacent to the cruise terminal. The parking garage opens at 9:45AM. Rates for passenger cars, buses, RVs, big trucks, etc. are:

$68 per parking space for a 3-night cruise
$85 per parking space for a 4-night cruise
$102 per parking space for a 5-night cruise
$119 per parking space for a 6-night cruise
$136 per parking space for a 7-night cruise
$153 per parking space for a 8-night cruise

Preferred parking is available next to the terminal. The cost is the standard rate plus a flat fee of $20.00. Parking rates are subject to change without notice.

Visa and MasterCard are accepted. A valid disability parking permit is required for accessible parking.

Driving Directions

Approximate driving times to Port Canaveral:
60 minutes from Orlando International Airport
40 minutes from Melbourne International Airport
90 minutes from Walt Disney World Resort
Google Earth photo of the Disney Cruise Line terminal.,+Port+Canaveral,+FL,+USA/@28.41308518,-80.62977794,21.29227527a,582.60539509d,35y,-0h,0t,0r/data=CigiJgokCQ4WnG0QAUdAEX7NVQXk80ZAGZbH-6hm-B5AIdDHMmKHUh5A

Q. When should I arrive at the port?

A view of an empty terminal.

Port Arrival Time (PAT)

When you book your cruise, you will have a chance to do online check-in and pick your Port Arrival Time. I recommend completing your online check-in the day it opens for you! Your travel agent should let you know the particular date. Keep in mind, Port Arrival Times begin at 10:30 AM and can be reserved in 30-minute increments. Personally, we like to pick the earliest PAT so we have the best chance of getting on the ship as early as possible, but if you are flying in, you might need a later PAT.

Remember, the ship does not accept passengers until 12:00 (unless you are concierge, platinum, or on a back-to-back cruise). If your PAT is 3:00, please do not show up at 11:00 if you can help it because the terminal gets really crowded which can seem overwhelming for new cruisers. But, if you arrive too early, you might be asked to wait.

Go Through Security Checkpoints

Once you arrive at the port, you will check-in with security who will check your ID. Have your stateroom number handy as well as your passport. Next, you will drop off your luggage, then park in the parking deck. After that, you will take a short stroll to the terminal entrance. You will go through another security check-point where they will look through your bags and you will walk through a metal detector.

My daughter is waiting for my husband to park the car and meet back up to check-in under the "check-in" sign at the terminal.

Finally, ride the escalator up and you will be greeted by a cast member who will be wearing one of the well-known Mickey hands. This cast member will guide you in the direction of where you will check-in. Which counter you go to is determined by your Castaway Club status. Repeat cruisers are classified as Silver, Gold, or Platinum Castaway Club members, which all have their own perks.

Alcohol Policy and Carry-On Luggage

Keep in mind, there are many signs for you to take notice of when you are at the terminal. Of importance is the alcohol policy, which you should know before you arrive, so I’m including it here. If you have not sailed with Disney Cruise Line in the last couple of years, you will notice the alcohol policy has changed. Unfortunately, you are no longer able to bring hard liquor onboard. There are also limitations to the amount of wine and beer you can bring. So make sure you know the policy ahead of boarding time!

Bringing Alcohol Onboard Policy sign outside the Disney Cruise Line Terminal you will see before boarding the ship.
Alcohol Policy

Next, you should pay attention to the carry-on policy. Each person is allowed one carry-on plus a purse or briefcase. Also, coolers are not allowed! However, there is a maximum size allowed for your carry-ons. This is for the safety of everyone on the ship so that people are not tripping over your over-packed luggage. For packing tips, click here to learn what you should pack for a Disney Cruise and then click here for what you should leave at home! Also, read this blog to learn about what items are prohibited on a Disney Cruise.

Carry on Luggage Policy sign you will see before boarding. No bags larger than 9x14x22 and no coolers allowed.
Carry-on Luggage Policy

Check-in to get your Key to the World Card

While you are in the terminal, you will check-in, get your Key to the World (KTTW) cards. The KTTW card acts as your room key and credit card. You will also receive lanyards (if you are repeat cruisers with DCL) and can check your child into the kids clubs. If you choose not to check your child into the kids clubs here, you can do it on the ship during open house hours or anytime you are on the ship.

Q. I’m checked-in. What do I do now?

Our boarding number card showing our boarding number (2), our stateroom number, and the time it will be ready.

You are now checked in! In your hands is a boarding card with your boarding number. Once Disney Cruise Line gets clearance from the Coast Guard, the boarding process will start. The boarding numbers that have been called are displayed on the electronic board in the terminal. It will soon be your turn to take the stroll through the Mickey ears.

We found this hidden Mickey on the floor of the terminal during the boarding process.
Find Hidden Mickey’s at the DCL terminal in Port Canaveral, FL

Don’t worry if your boarding number is a larger number. There are many activities you can do to stay occupied while you wait to board your ship. So, you can jump in line to meet one of your favorite Disney characters. Then, head over to the seating area to watch a Disney film on one of the many TV’s. Next, look for hidden Mickey’s. Finally, take out your highlighter and read over the Navigator with today’s activities to plan out what you want to do once you are onboard. Don’t forget to upload the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app and turn your devices on airplane mode to avoid possible charges that can occur once you sail into international waters.

The Mickey Ears you will walk through when boarding the ship
Walk through the Mickey Ears when you board the ship

The hard part is over and now you can relax, you are officially on vacation!

I would love to be the one to help you plan your Disney Cruise! My services are 100% FREE!

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I am an avid Disney fan, especially of the Disney cruises. Since learning of my love of travel, something I wasn't able to do as a child, I have decided I wanted to help others make magical memories. I became a personal vacation planner with Magical Vacation Planner in 2017. Since getting this job, I have traveled even more. I love sharing my travel tips with people, especially novice travelers. I hope you find my blog interesting and helpful. Be sure to subscribe if you like it. I post blogs on a regular basis.
Boarding Process for Disney Cruise Line