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What Happens Before You Board a Disney Cruise Ship: Disney Cruise Line’s COVID Policy in 2022

I have so much to tell you all about our recent Marvel Day at Sea cruise on the Disney Magic, but I’m guessing that what you really want to know these days is as much about what happens BEFORE you are able to board the ship as once you’re sailing.

We felt the same way. We’ve been lucky enough to cruise with Disney a couple of times before, but this was our first post-COVID sailing – and so much of the process, especially the pre-sailing process, felt a bit new and a lot nerve wracking.

And so, in hopes of at least easing your mind with knowing what to expect, here are the current pre-sailing safety procedures for Disney Cruise Lines, particularly to the extent that they have been affected by the pandemic. Note that we sailed out of Miami on the Magic, but these procedures are generally not location or ship specific.

Also please note that all of this, like so much these days, is ever changing. Pay close attention to any communications from Disney as your cruise approaches and be sure to check their site often for updates. You can explore the current policies at any given time RIGHT HERE.

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In General – Vaccination and Testing

Guests 5 and Up: Disney Cruise Line currently requires all vaccine-eligible guests (meaning guests age 5 and up) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For most of us, that means we need to have received our second shot of a two dose vaccine at least 14 days before sailing. You’ll also be tested for COVID at the terminal before boarding the ship.

Guests 4 and Under: Guests who are not vaccine-eligible (i.e., little guests ages 4 and under) must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result (paid for by the guest) taken between 3 days and 24 hours before sailing. The test should be a NAAT test, rapid PCR test or lab-based PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. These guests will again be tested for COVID at the terminal before boarding the ship.

Persistent Positives: If guests have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 within 11 to 90 days of their sail date, they may qualify to be considered as “90-Day-Recovered.” With the appropriate documentation and subsequent approval, guests considered “90-Day-Recovered” are not required to participate in any of the COVID-19 testing described here – be it pre-sailing, before embarkation, or upon disembarkation. You can find more details on this unique situation here.

Thirty Days Before Sailing – Check In

So long as you’re paid in full, online check in now begins at midnight 30 days prior to your sailing regardless of what level you have reached in their Silver, Gold, and Platinum loyalty program. And while you have up until one day prior to your sailing to complete this process, you’ll want to get it done as soon as possible.

The security photo should be clear, unedited, and facing the camera with no hat or glasses.

Security Photos: As a part of online check in, you’ll need to upload a clear selfie-style picture for each guest in your party. The photos will be reviewed and must be clear and unedited, looking straight at the camera with no glasses or hats. You’ll want to have these ready in advance.

Passports: You’ll also need to upload a picture of the passport (the 2 open pages with the photograph) of each traveling guest. These will also be reviewed. Again, you might want to have these pictures ready to be uploaded in advance.

Watch for an email indicating that these items have been reviewed and accepted for every guest in your party. This can take some time, so be patient and don’t worry. If any of your pictures weren’t uploaded correctly, they will just ask you to retake and/or resubmit them.

Port Arrival Time: When you complete online check in, you’ll also need to select a port arrival time for sailing day. (Platinum level guests once did not need to do this, but now they are required to pick a time as well.) Pick this time carefully, as it is now more strictly enforced to help with distancing efforts. According to Disney, guests who arrive early will be asked to return at their scheduled arrival time, and guests arriving after their scheduled time may be delayed. 

Book Activities: This (like all details here) is subject to frequent change, but as of the date of our sailing and now, the kids’ clubs are open. Be sure to register your children for them when you complete online check in if they are interested in going. Then, when you are able, make sure to schedule time each day at the Oceaneer Club & Lab for any children in your group ages 3-12 who are interested in going. Guests can book one session per day per child. While the nursery on the ships is closed, the Oceaneer Club & Lab (for 3-12 year olds), Edge (for tweens age 11-14), and Vibe (for teens age 14-17), are open. However, while tweens and teens can come and go from Edge and Vibe without reservations, the Oceaneer Club & Lab require advance booking and are otherwise availability based – and thank goodness we had reservations booked at least once a day because every other time the kids tried to go, they were turned away because it was at the set limited capacity.

When they were able to go, though, they had a great time. The activities were guided in small groups, so they really got the chance to bond with the Cast Members that were with them.

You can schedule these activities online or in the Navigator app.

Fifteen Days Before Sailing – Safe Passage

Fifteen days before sailing, every guest 18 years or older must individually create an account associated with their reservation on the Safe Passage website by Inspire Diagnostics and upload their proof of vaccination or (within the testing window for unvaccinated guests age 4 and under) COVID-19 test results.

For guests under 18 years of age, a parent or legal guardian will use their own account to provide this information on their behalf. So, for example, for us, my husband created an account and uploaded his required information and I created an account for myself and linked my children and uploaded the required information for myself and both of them.

Any vaccination documentation that you upload to Safe Passage must include: your full name (matching the name on your Disney Cruise Line reservation), your date of birth, and the name and date of each of your first and second vaccine doses. (Note again that to be “fully vaccinated” as of sailing, your second dose must have been at least 14 days prior.) Make sure you also bring your vaccine cards with you on sailing day!!

You’ll want to watch these Safe Passage accounts closely to confirm that everyone in your party is cleared to arrive on embarkation day.

Morning of Sailing – Pre-Trip Embarkation Health Questionnaire

The morning of your sailing, you’ll complete a short pre-trip embarkation health questionnaire. It can be found on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App on embarkation day – or, if you don’t want to look for it, just watch for the email from Disney with a link to complete the questionnaire online in the Navigator App. Ours came at around 5:15 a.m. 

Only one person in the party/cabin will need to complete the short list of questions on behalf of the group. The questions are short and straightforward – as of our sailing it was five short yes or no questions about potential exposure and/or symptoms during the days leading up to sailing – and you’ll be given a chance to re-take them if you make a mistake.

Port Arrival – COVID Testing

You’ll want to head to the port at your scheduled arrival time. Be sure to bring your luggage, your masks, your mobile device with the latest version of the Navigator app, all vaccine cards (or negative test results for those 4 and under or the 90 day-recovered documentation discussed above for anyone in that rare situation), your port arrival form with its QR code (you’ll need to show it to get into the terminal – it also includes your boarding group number and muster station), and your QR code from Safe Passage (you can print it or save it digitally). Be sure to know the Safe Passage login for each member of your party too, as it will be useful when you’re waiting to find out if your on site test was negative and you are cleared to board.

You’ll arrive at the terminal (C for us) and drop your checked luggage with the porter (bring cash to tip), then (at least in Miami) go on to the parking garage (lot G for us) where you’ll gather your remaining things (including the non-luggage items listed above) and shuttle back to the terminal.  There, you’ll enter and pass through security with your carry ons before being guided to the COVID testing area.

Embarkation COVID-19 Testing: This, my friends, is the hard part. No matter how careful you’ve been, no matter how much prep work you’ve done – you and your group aren’t boarding that ship, regardless of age or vaccination status, unless you all test negative for COVID-19. The tests are paid for by Disney Cruise Line and administered by Inspire Diagnostics. Testing areas are curtained off for privacy. You’ll enter one with your family and self administer swab tests under supervision. You’ll then wait with everyone else for your results. They list them by reservation number on a big screen in that waiting room, but I’d recommend being logged into Safe Passage at dcl.safepassage.com and refreshing there for your family’s results. (Remember that all adults have their own logins, so you’ll each want to be logged in and watching.)

Guests with positive COVID-19 test results, as well as those sharing the same stateroom and their close contacts (undefined but a catch all for anyone beyond your stateroom with whom you have close contact, like persons sharing a home address who are in different cabins) will be denied boarding.

I was an absolute mess during this process thinking of what we’d do and how we’d tell the kids if by some horrible chance one of us tested positive. But thank goodness, we were all negative and I can’t think of a better recent little thrill than the moment that it popped up that we were clear to board.

Back-to-Back Sailings: If you are lucky enough to be planning back-to-back cruises, you’ll need to be retested between them before boarding the ship again.

Debarkation Day – COVID-19 Testing

This was focused on pre-sailing safety measures, but for the sake of being complete in the testing conversation, all unvaccinated guests on 5-night and longer sailings are required to take a COVID-19 antigen test (paid for by Disney Cruise Line) on the ship the day before debarking.

For guests otherwise needing or wanting proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before returning home, PCR and antigen tests can be arranged at the guest’s cost at the terminal after disembarking the ship. You can find more information on this service on the Safe Passage website, right HERE.

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Again, please note that all of this, like so much these days, is ever changing. Pay close attention to any communications from Disney as your cruise approaches and be sure to check their site often for updates. You can explore the current policies at any given time RIGHT HERE.

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And more importantly, I know this can be very, very stressful – but once you get onto that ship, relax and have a blast!!

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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE. And while those are on hold, you can find my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.

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Please join me on Instagram for my day-to-day adventures living a mile from the magic. And join the conversation over in our community on Facebook!

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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.

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