Part 3: Packing and Embarkation Day! Going on a Disney Cruise with Asperger’s

Ready, Set, Pack!

Now that tickets are purchased, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll need to pack for your upcoming Disney Cruise! K and I are so excited for you! Since the Disney Cruise Line offers so many options when it comes to cruises (locations, length and times of year), it’s impossible to address every iteration for what you may need. Again, Disney is on it and provides a good idea for what you’ll need to bring for your specific destination. Click HERE to check out their packing tips!

Aside from what to bring, Disney is also pretty clear on what you’ll need to leave at home. You can find that information THERE as well.

Even though Disney provides a very good list of what to consider bringing, we decided to share a few things we considered for our 4-night cruise to the Bahamas. The good news is if you forget some items, such as sunscreen, you can purchase them while on your trip. Disney makes it easy! So, before we talk about embarkation (that’s the process of getting on the ship), here are a few things we packed ahead of time that we found beneficial. (To be upfront, we get commissions from purchases made through some of the links in this post, at no additional cost to you. Purchases made via those links help support maintaining this website. Thank you!)

Here are a few things we found helpful to have on hand:

  • Waterproof phone case – I used mine to hold both my phone and my room key. I didn’t always have pockets for this, plus I didn’t have to worry about dropping them! K, however, didn’t really use hers. IMPORTANT: As with anything watertight, test it at home first with a piece of paper, etc., before using it.

  • Waterproof bag for the pool area and Castaway CayThe ditty bag was great for keeping reading materials nice and dry by the pool. Even though it was too cold to swim in the beautiful blue water at Castaway Cay, it did a great job at keeping the sand out!
  • Ear plugs and ear phones – We both have Sensory Processing Disorder. We’ve never been on a cruise before. ‘Nuff said.
  • Any medications you might need (following Disney’s posted guidelines).
  • A sealable folder for important documents needed for the cruise. There is a good amount of paperwork plus documents you’ll need to get on board. These include passports and other information Disney requires. (See your Disney portal for the exact information you’ll need.) Having it in one folder keeps it all within easy, safe reach.
  • A “Day Bag” This is the bag you’ll take with you on board the ship while waiting for your luggage to arrive in your stateroom. A backpack works well for this!

There are a few other things you may find useful, but which we did not need. You may want to consider purchasing:

  • Sea lice barrier sunscreen – We did not need this, and Disney does offer something like this. Still, for those who plan on hitting the water in the Bahamas, it might be worth consideration. (What are sea lice? Teeny tiny jelly fish type creatures. … ouch.)
  • Waterproof key card case – This is a smaller option and holds a room key, drivers license/ID and a few bills. I used one a few years back and found it perfect while in the pool. As with anything watertight, test it at home before using it. This is a good option for anyone who wants to leave the phone at home – or in the stateroom.
  • Friction stick – The boat is large. You’ll be doing a lot of walking. These little guys are great when breaking in new shoes and sandals. This is the one we’ve used for years. It’s been invaluable at the Disney parks, too!

A word about food: Disney is very strict when it comes to bringing your own food and drink aboard. There are good reasons why these policies are in place. They scan and inspect all bags before any are allowed on board. In other words, no, you’re not gonna sneak it in… Ahem. Yeah, don’t do that. If you have food sensitivities and/or autism in the house understand this well ahead of time and talk with Disney if concerns remain. Refer to their website for details.

Once you have your packing list set, your bags all packed and transportation ready, it’s time to head over to the port and get aboard the ship! Let’s talk embarkation!

Embarkation (aka, Getting Onboard!)

One thing that was overwhelming for mom, here, was everything needed to simply get on the Disney Dream. There are forms to fill out ahead of time, papers to have in hand before you even park at the port, plus passports need to be at the ready. For a first time cruiser, I found this a bit… stressful. Of course, Disney made it as painless as possible, but I want to toss that out there if you are like me, someone who likes to know how things go ahead of time.

Let’s start with arriving at the port. We sailed out of Port Canaveral, and it was pretty easy to get to. You will have the opportunity to choose an arrival time, but may be limited in what time slots are available. (If you are part of a group with paid transportation, be sure to check with them ahead of time as to what you’ll need to know.)

For those, like us, who drove and parked, here’s what to expect.

There are a few documents you must have easily accessible before you arrive at the port. These include a port arrival form that Disney provides, which you will need to present as you arrive on the property. You will also need your IDs/passports before you are allowed entry. This is to ensure names and faces match documentation, and that the documentation presented is valid. There are plenty of cast members on hand to help direct you, too. Once you are allowed entry, be sure to stop by the curbside baggage handlers who will take care of any baggage you’d like delivered to your room. Be sure to keep your day bag and all necessary documentation with you as you still need to check in. As your stateroom will not be immediately available, do take advantage of this service as you’ll have a few hours on board and lugging luggage around is a memory you may not want to make! (And, yes, Disney provides luggage tags ahead of time, which you will need to utilize before you arrive.) Once parked (you pay when you park), it’s time to take a deep breath and head over to the terminal!

As mentioned earlier, everyone and everything is scanned before allowed on board the ship. If you are a GenXer like me (or older), it’s much like getting on an airplane “back in the day”. They take it quite seriously, but it’s not as invasive as flying. This is a relief, as screening processes are often nerve-wracking for those on the Autism Spectrum and their families.

In the terminal there are many bits and pieces sure to bring a smile to your face and add to the excitement! (Captain Mickey was on hand and we grabbed a photo with him!) Take a moment and look around at all the quintessential Disney touches. Smile! You are starting vacation!

It’s here, in the terminal, that you will officially check-in and receive your room key. Your room key also serves as your payment method while on the ship. Do take time to understand how charging works while aboard the ship and adjust accordingly. For us, we had one credit card placed on file. The charges were separated on the final bill by each Key to the World Card holder so we could tell who bought what. Thankfully, K is very good at keeping track of what she spends so there weren’t any surprises at the end of the cruise.

Your Key to the World Card (used at the time of this writing) also lists your dining rotation. (If you notice a scheduling conflict, as we did, you’ll be able to remedy that once you board.)

You will need all documents for each and every member of your party available during the check-in process, which is what makes having a sealable folder a good thing. You should also have everyone in your party together as you check in. They will need to photograph all of you for internal identification purposes, too.

Once you’ve completed the check-in process and have your room keys, follow their instructions as to the time you may board. As we arrived around lunch and it wasn’t very crowded, we were able to walk on once we completed the check-in process.

Stepping Aboard!

Prior to sailing on the Disney Dream the largest boat I remember being on was the Staten Island Ferry. Seriously. Before that, my uncle’s crabbing boat. Needless to say the mere thought of sailing on something so large was impossible to fathom. Indeed, the Disney Dream is an impressive sight! It truly is a grand cruise ship, inside and out.

Stepping aboard the Disney Dream was easy and so enchanting! There wasn’t even a visible gap between the terminal and the ship (visually, this was much appreciated). Unlike climbing into my uncle’s wobbling motor boat, this felt like stepping on solid ground. Cast members welcome each family by name as you enter, which is a nice touch, too. The atrium was breathtaking, absolutely gorgeous. Being a December cruise, it was all decked out for the holidays, making it feel even more magical.

Now on board, it’s at this point you’ll need to address any lingering concerns and finish up any last minute changes and additions, if you have any. These may include changing your dining rotation, making last minute reservations or cancellations, etc. Guest Services is in the lobby and will point you in the right direction. In our case, my Aspie signed up (online) for a ticketed meet and great without asking me if I wanted to join her… Because this is what happens when kids turn into adults and don’t think about asking Mom about such things… and just sign up because, you know, you’re an adult now and can do that…. But now you want Mom there with you and it’s sold out… *sigh* #parenting.

Once the last minute edits are done take in a big breath and smile! You’re on vacation!

So… now what? Don’t let waiting for your room to be ready dissuade you from starting to enjoy the cruise! There’s plenty to do! If it’s lunch time, head over to Cabanas and grab some food! If you are of age and enjoy an adult beverage, the Drink of the Day is a good bargain and now’s a fun time to try one. (Tip: One thing not available while in port is the gift shops.)

What did we do? After taking care of a few logistical bits, we roamed the ship to get a feel for the layout, stopped by our stateroom then headed up several decks for lunch. Yum!

One of our lingering concerns, however, was the safety drill. The boat will not leave dock until after everyone participates in the safety drill. And they mean everyone; you are assigned a station to go to and you must show up when it’s time. Thankfully, the TV in our stateroom was playing a loop of the drill and what was expected as soon as we entered. Yes, the horn is loud, but after years of fire drills at school, it was doable. Still, we had earplugs on hand in case they were desired. If you are concerned about where to go for the drill, don’t be. There are plenty of cast members about to help you figure out where you need to go.

After the drill, we headed up to the family pool deck for the Sail Away party. So glad we did this! It was a lot of fun and set the mood for the trip. As for the volume, it was loud, but not overly so.

From a sensory point of view, I was a smidge preoccupied about what it would feel like when the boat started to move. Honestly, I didn’t even notice until I looked at the land and saw we were slowly and smoothly making our way out to sea. Did we ever feel the boat move? Definitely, but it wasn’t near as bad as some posters make it out to be. Then again, we had blue skies much of the way.

Oh, how we both wish we were back there! We’re so excited for you to take this journey! Have a question, concern or tip? Post in the comments below!

Coming up next? We’ll talk a bit about the boat, itself, including the stateroom and how all that works.

Until next time!

Julie and K

**DISCLAIMER: This is not a sponsored post. I am not affiliated with Disney. Opinions are my own and that of my daughter. Links were reliable at time of posting.

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