FAQ: Disney World to Disney Cruise Line Transfers

You’re going a Disney Cruise AND you’re going to Walt Disney World – lucky you!

Land/sea combination Disney vacations are quite common; They’re a nice way to balance the frenetic excitement of a theme park visit and the mellow relaxation of a cruise. Here are some things to think about as you plan how to get from Part A to Part B of your vacation.

Should I take my cruise first or visit Walt Disney World first?

In the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, we recommend that guests experience the land (WDW) portion of their land/sea trip first. A visit to the parks is typically more tiring than a cruise (thus, the common refrain “I need a vacation after that vacation”). Most guest enjoy having the rest and recovery time that a cruise provides.

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OK, I’ll go to Walt Disney World first. How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

If you’re going from Orlando International to a Walt Disney World resort hotel, use Disney’s free Magical Express service.

From Disney’s perspective, there’s no difference in transportation procedure between a Disney World vacation and a land/sea vacation starting at Disney World. At this point, use Magical Express and pretend that the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) portion of your trip does not exist. This is particularly important to heed when you’re getting your luggage ready for transportation. If you’d like to have your bags transported by Disney from the airport to the hotel, then use the yellow Magical Express luggage tags. DO NOT put the DCL tags on your bag now.

Is there a charge to get from the airport to my Disney World hotel?

No. As with all WDW hotel vacation stays, the Magical Express service is free.

I’m finished with the WDW component of my vacation. How do I get from my Disney hotel to the ship?

There are a number of ways to do this. You can rent a car. You can take a car service or other hired vehicle. You can use Disney’s transfer service.

What is Disney’s transfer service? Is it like Magical Express?

Sort of, but not exactly.

The main similarity is that both Magical Express (ME) and the DCL port transfers take place on a coach bus. These have plush seats, seat belts, and an experienced driver who knows the route. During your trip, you’ll see videos about vacation activities. On both the ME and DCL buses there is also a small, but functional, restroom on the bus, making this a good option for guests with newly potty-trained preschoolers in the “when you have to go, you have to go” stage.

The main difference between Magical Express and a Disney Cruise Line transfer is cost. While ME is free to Disney resort guests, the DCL transfer is not.

How much does a DCL transfer cost?

Prices can change, but currently the cost for a DCL transfer from a WDW hotel to Port Canaveral is $35 per person. Kids under age three ride free; there is no price break for older children. If you have just one or two people going on the cruise, this may be your best option from a financial perspective.

How do I arrange to have Disney transport me from my WDW hotel to the port?

If you’ve booked your cruise with a travel agent, ask your agent to arrange this for you. If you’ve booked the trip on your own, you can make a port transfer booking online at DisneyCruiseLine.com, in the Planning Center area (you’ll need your cruise reservation number), or over the phone by calling Disney Cruise Line at (800) 951-3532. The call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST and Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. You should arrange for port transfers at least 72 hours prior to your sailing.

OK, I’ve arranged for a Disney WDW to port transfer. How does this work?

The evening before your sailing, you’ll receive a note under your door at your WDW hotel room. The note will tell you what to do with your luggage and where and when to meet the bus.

I’ve done this four times at four different WDW hotels and the instructional letter never arrived at my room prior to 7:30 p.m. I have to admit that the first time I did this, I found the entire process unnerving. I’m a PLANNER. I like to know far, far in advance what’s expected of me. Getting travel details less than 24 hours ahead of time required me to summon all the reserves of zen at my disposal. I am more relaxed now that I know the drill.

You can expect that your letter will say that the Bell Services staff at your hotel will “begin luggage pick-up at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of your sailing.”

Does 8:00 really mean 8:00?

In my experience, yes. The latest they’ve been at my room to get my bags is 8:10 a.m. Your luggage MUST be ready by 8:00 a.m.

A few things to note when prepping your luggage:

  • Prior to this DCL luggage pick-up, remove any airline and WDW tags. Then put the luggage tags on your bags that were supplied by DCL in your spiral bound document booklet. These will have your name, ship, stateroom, and other information on them.
  • The next time you’ll see your luggage is on the ship, during the late afternoon. The earliest I’ve gotten my bags on the ship was about 3:00 p.m., the latest was after the safety muster, at about 5:15 p.m. This means that you’ll need to keep a day bag with any items that you’ll need access to during the day. This might include swimsuits (if you’re planning to swim immediately upon boarding), diapers and other baby care or personal care items, cruise documents, personal ID documents, etc. You’ll also want to stock your day bag with any valuables or mission critical items such as medications, prescription glasses, a child’s “lovey,” electronics, etc.
  • You do not need to be in your room when your luggage is collected. If you’d like to take advantage of one last WDW character meal or early Extra Magic Hours spin on Space Mountain, you can leave the room at the crack of dawn and they’ll still pick up your bags.

My bags are taken care of, now what about me?

The letter in your room will also give instructions about the time and location of your pick-up. The location varies depending on the hotel, but typically this will be at a specific point in or near the lobby. In my experience, the hotel staff knows/cares very little about Disney Cruise pick-ups. If you have questions, either you or they will end up calling DCL directly.

I have never seen a WDW to DCL port pick-up time prior to 11:00 a.m. The latest pick-up time I have personally been given was 12:30 p.m.

12:30? Isn’t that kind of late?

Well, yes. Once you get to your meeting point, there will be a bit of housekeeping to take care of (checking IDs, etc.) and there may be a stop at another resort or two to collect more guests, so realistically you’re probably not getting to the port until about two hours after your assigned pick up time. If you have a 12:30 hotel pick-up, you may not be getting to the ship until 2:30 or so.

There are pros and cons to arriving at the port late. On the plus side, here are some benefits of late port arrival:

  • You’ll have extra time at Walt Disney World. When I stayed at the Contemporary and had a noon pick-up prior to my cruise, I was able to have breakfast and work in eight rides before having to leave. If your visit to WDW is brief, a few extra hours in the parks can be a great bonus.
  • The check-in lines at Port Canaveral will likely be minimal. When I’ve done a Disney WDW to Port Canaveral transfer, I’ve always gotten through the security checkpoint within five minutes and through the port check-in within 10 minutes. If you arrive super early in the morning, you could have a substantial wait ahead of you, with swarming crowds all around.
  • Your room may be ready, or close to it, when you have a late arrival. You can pop your hand baggage in your room right away, without having to carry it around the ship.
  • Lines for food at lunch will be minimal.

On the minus side, here are some negative issues you might encounter with a late port arrival:

  • If you’re a worrier, you may have stress that the bus won’t arrive in time for sail away. (An unfounded worry, but a worry nonetheless.)
  • If you’re trying to accomplish “business” aboard the ship, you may be at a disadvantage. Some things are first come, first served. By business I mean things like arranging teen spa treatments, getting walk-up Palo reservations, snagging a stateroom upgrade, switching dinner seating times, or grabbing tickets for a character greeting. I have heard a few anecdotes about guests being locked out the free tickets for the Anna/Elsa greeting because they had been fully distributed prior to their arrival.
  • You’ll have less time to enjoy onboard amenities like the pool and buffet lunch. This may not be an issue if you’re on a longer cruise with several sea days, but if you’re on a three night sailing with no sea day, then this may matter to you.
  • You’ll have less time to experience the open house hours at the kids’ clubs. If your young child is reticent about using the clubs, extra time there with you could help ease the way.

I’m interested in having as much time as possible on the ship. Can I change my DCL pick up time to make it earilier?

There is no official mechanism to change your pick-up time. There’s one pick-up per hotel, always in the late morning or early afternoon.

I have heard of a workaround. Some guests who want to use Disney transfers and also want to get to the port early decide to do a two-step transfer. First they take Disney’s free Magical Express service from their WDW hotel back to Orlando International Airport. They do this early in the morning. Then they take a DCL transfer from MCO to the port. The MCO to Port Canaveral transfer cost is also currently $35.

The airport to port buses begin departing at about 9:30 a.m., plus the trip from MCO to Port Canaveral is a bit shorter than the trip from WDW to Port Canaveral. By doing this, it’s conceivable that you could be at the port as much as three hours earlier than if you took the transfer directly from your hotel. On the down side, you’re getting up earlier and spending more time on buses. This wouldn’t be my choice, but it works for some folks.

Can anyone use the MCO to Port Canaveral transfer?

As long as you’ve made a reservation and paid the fee, sure. A typical user of this service is someone whose flight arrived at the airport the morning of the cruise, or someone who arrived the night before and stayed over at the airport Hyatt or other airport area hotel.

I want to arrive at the port early, but that back-to-MCO workaround seems silly to me. Is there an alternative?

Guests in your position most commonly use a car/limo service to get from their Disney hotel to Port Canaveral.

With a car service, you arrange the pick-up time with the company. You can ask them to get you as early as you want. Other pros of using a car service are:

  • If you have a larger party, a car service may be more economical than paying Disney’s transfer fee for multiple guests.
  • You can arrange to make a stop on the way to the port. Guests may stop at a grocery store for a case of bottled water, for example.
  • Some guests find car travel more comfortable than bus travel.
  • You can arrange for them to pick you up at a location other than your hotel. For example, if you want to go directly to the port from a theme park or different resort.

On the minus side, car service users:

  • Have no access to an on board restroom during the trip to the port.
  • Run the risk of the driver not showing up on time, or not showing up at all.

I’d like to risk it. Can you recommend a car service provider?

There are many services, most of which are quite reliable. One that we like is Mears Transportation, 407-423-5566.

Some people rent a car to get to the port, for just a one-way 90-minute drive? Really?

This is probably the least popular option, but some people do it. There are Alamo and National car rental desks on Disney property at the Dolphin hotel and at the Disney Car Care Center near the Magic Kingdom. Other rental agencies have desks at hotels that are within walking distance of Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs). When arranging your rental, be sure to specify that you want to pick up and drop off at different locations. You’ll also want to verify that your rental agency has a drop point at Port Canaveral (most do).

If you already had a rental car for the land portion of your trip, it may make sense to keep it for the drive to the port, returning it at a Port Canaveral location.

Reasons why a guest might want to rent a car to get from WDW to Port Canaveral include:

  • Need for a particular type of vehicle due to medical factors or size or party.
  • Advantageous pricing.
  • Need to control port arrival time, combined with unease about car services.
  • Need to use a particular car or booster seat configuration.

How do transfers work on the way home?

Basically, everything is the same, but in reverse.

Disney offers paid ($35 per person) bus transfers from the port to either Orlando International (if you’re flying home) or to Walt Disney World (if you’re doing the land portion of your land/sea vacation second). Arrange for this via your travel agent or directly through DCL. Buses from the port to MCO and WDW run continuously from about 7:30 a.m. until about 9:30 a.m., as soon as one bus is full, they start loading the next.

You can also get a car service to take you to MCO, WDW, or any other Florida area location. Rental car desks are also available at Port Canaveral.

I’m not sailing out of Port Canaveral. Are there transfer options for me?

Yes. Disney offers some form of hotel or airport transfer for all of their sailings. For example, when I went on an Alaskan sailing out of Vancouver, I took a Disney transfer bus both from my hotel to the ship and, after the voyage, from the ship to the Vancouver airport. I’ve arranged for DCL to transfer my family from Dover, England to Heathrow airport in London following a European sailing this summer. Rates will vary depending on the distance and your destination. Again, contact Disney or your travel agent for details.

How do you typically get from Walt Disney World to Port Canaveral? What have your transfer experiences been? Do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below.

Enjoy our DCL content? You’ll love The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line, or our Disney Cruise Line subscription.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

8 thoughts on “FAQ: Disney World to Disney Cruise Line Transfers

  • June 4, 2015 at 9:57 am
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    We are a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids) and always rent a car. It is very conveniento for us, gives us freedom to move around since we arrive to Orlando at least a couple of days before sailing. We use Hertz and drop the car at the port, then pick up a car after sailing to airport. Last month we rented a car for only a few hours (from Port Canaveral to MCO) for $70, much less than paying for DCL transfers. Besides we LOVE early arrival to the cruise, the earlier the better – got plenty of pool/lunch time, tickets for Anna/Elsa and for Character Breakfast, and time to relax.

  • June 4, 2015 at 10:41 am
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    We are sailing next year on the Wonder out of Miami, with a stop in Orlando prior to our cruise. I would LOVE to see more information on transportation options from Orlando to the Port of Miami and from the Port of Miami to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I have had one heck of a time trying to find ANY information regarding this scenario since Disney Cruise Line does not offer transfers from the Walt Disney World resort/Orlando area or from the Port of Miami to Fort Lauderdale airport. Nor do they offer any suggestions of reputable companies to use for shuttles or car rental companies that are near the Port for easy drop off. I have spent tons of time already trying to research this for our cruise and still have not come up with anything worthwhile. Please consider doing an article with transfer information for those that are traveling out of Miami.

    • June 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm
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      As a follow up to this…I just received the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line 2015 that I ordered and glanced at the “Transportation To Your Cruise Section”. There’s not a lot of information regarding the Port of Miami or any suggestions for transportation to the Port of Miami from Disney World in the book either. I expected more information from Touring Plans, given that their books are so comprehensive on Disney World. Definitely a topic that needs to be investigated and reported on further.

    • June 5, 2015 at 1:46 pm
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      Hi Jennifer,

      If it helps, in February we used SAS Transportation from our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale to the Port of Miami. We could not have been happier with their service! They were prompt (even early) arriving at our hotel, courteous and very knowledgeable. We were told interesting things all the way from Ft. Lauderdale to the Port of Miami. We were a group of 6 with a lot of luggage and I was concerned. I need not have been as each of their vans pulls a trailer for the luggage so there is plenty of room for everyone. I would not hesitate to use SAS Transportation again!!

    • June 9, 2015 at 10:56 am
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      Hi Jennifer,
      Two years ago I stopped in Orlando for a few days in Disney World prior to our Disney cruise in Miami. I was as shocked as you about how DCL does not have any recommendations. In fact, one person actually laughed and said why would you book a cruise out of Miami if you are stopping in Orlando? I priced out a bunch of options and for my family of 4, it was only slightly more expensive to rent a car for the week and park it at the port than taking the cheapest option which was taking the bus line all the way down (and I didn’t think any of us would be happy on a bus for that long). Since we were on a round trip flight from Orlando, it was definitely cheaper than doing two 1 day rentals with additional fees for drop-off at a different location. Additionally, I, too, could not find a suitable drop-off/pick-up location near enough to the port – so there still would have been a need for a taxi/shuttle/bus to the port. Maybe this is overkill for you since you do not have to make it all the way back to Orlando after your cruise. However, I was really happy with renting and keeping the car for the week because it allowed us flexibility for getting to the cruise and back to the airport, we walked off the boat and were immediately on our way (unlike many sad and tired looking people who were waiting in long,long lines for shuttles), it was less complicated than the other available options, and we since we had some extra time before our flight, we were able to make a fun detour on our way back. I hope this helps and you have a wonderful trip!

  • June 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm
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    As a family of four from the Northeast, we looked at a lot of different options for our sea/land (cruising dates and our vacation window dictated the cruise being first) trip. We always fly down to WDW and use DME but couldn’t figure out how to economically do this and get us (and all our luggage for almost 2wks) from WDW to the Port.

    We had resigned ourselves to driving down to WDW which we weren’t thrilled about but then I looked into Amtrak’s AutoTrain. This was the PERFECT option! By booking 6 months ahead, and opting for regular seats instead of a separate room, we were able to travel (with our minivan) from the DC area to Sanford, FL for less than it would have cost for the four of us to fly!

    The AutoTrain was wonderful and included dinner, snacks, and breakfast. We arrived in Florida refreshed and ready to go! Expensive parking charges during the cruise were avoided with a pre-cruise stay overnight at a hotel in Port Canaveral and it included breakfast and a free shuttle to the pier!

    Obviously, not everyone can utilize the AutoTrain but it definitely was the best option for us. $280 to get to and from WDW and/or the airport just wasn’t in our budget on top of the cruise and stay at WDW.

  • June 4, 2015 at 3:05 pm
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    We’re a family of four, and on our first DCL cruise we did the DCL bus, and didn’t get on board until close to 4PM, just in time for the muster safety lecture.

    For a similar price ($300 plus tip round trip), a limo ride got us there at 9:45AM, in time tio be on the ship at 11AM.

    Also, you made limo companies sound pretty shady, saying that they may not show up at all. How often does that happen?

  • June 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm
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    If you’re coming from the airport you can often rent a car for under $50 all in. We flew in the night before, rented a car, stayed at a cheap hotel between the airport and port, and the next morning stopped by a grocery and wine/liquor store before dropping the car off at the lot and taking the free shuttle 5 minutes to the port.

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