Nine Things to Know When Transferring from Disney World to the Disney Cruise Line

Combining land and sea vacations with Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line is quite common. The theme parks offer the excitement while the cruise is relaxing. Let’s look at nine common questions people ask when combining their vacations.

1. Do Disney World first.

Since the cruise is usually more relaxing than the theme parks, most people opt to do the Disney World portion first. The R&R provided by the cruise is a nice way to end a vacation.

2. Use Disney’s Magical Express.

The easiest (and cheapest) way to travel from the Orlando International Airport, or MCO, to Disney World is to use Disney’s Magical Express, which is a free service. Be sure to use the right luggage tags so your bags come to your hotel first rather than to the ship.

Disney's Magical Express is the best way to get from MCO to WDW.
Disney’s Magical Express is the best way to get from MCO to WDW.

3. Use Disney’s transfer service.

Disney offers a transfer service that works much like the Magical Express. A coach bus picks you up from your Disney hotel at a scheduled time and drives you to Port Canaveral. Unlike the Magical Express, the transfer service to the port will come at a cost of $35 per person over age three. The fewer the people in your traveling party, the more cost effective this option is.

4. Book the transfer service at least 72 hours in advance.

If you’ve used a travel agent to book your trip, let them know that you want to use the transfer service and they’ll add it to your reservation.

If you booked your own trip, go to or call 800-951-3532 to reserve your seat on the bus. Make sure you have your reservation number when calling, and call at least 72 hours before sailing.

5. Follow directions.

Much like your check-out documents and Magical Express information, a note will arrive under your hotel room door explaining when your luggage will be picked up and when and where to catch the bus.

Don’t be alarmed if your letter doesn’t arrive until evening as most people report not receiving this information until after 7:30PM.

Follow the instructions on this letter. If the letter says they’ll pick up your luggage at 8:00 AM, have your bags ready and waiting. When preparing your luggage, keep the following things in mind:

  • Remove any Disney World and airline tags and attach your DCL tags.
  • Keep your hand luggage for the day bag with you.  Keep any valuables, medications, and clothing you’ll need throughout the day. You won’t have access to your luggage until it arrives in your stateroom in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • You don’t have to be present in your Disney World hotel room for your luggage to be collected.

Your pick-up location and time will also be on the letter. These times and locations will be different depending on several factors including your hotel, how many stops the bus needs to make, and what cruise you are on. You can call DCL directly with any questions since most WDW Cast Members don’t know much about the cruise line.

6. Don’t worry about the time they will pick you up.

Yes, a 12:30 pick up might seem late to you, but DCL knows what they’re doing. Also, you probably won’t arrive at port until around 2:30 since they’ll check identification, make another stop or two, and then make the drive to port.

Arriving to port late has some positives. You’ll have more time at Disney World to enjoy one some last minute attractions especially during ExtraMagic Hours. Also, the lines at the port will be shorter later in the afternoon as will lines for food. Finally, arriving to port late gives the Cast Members aboard the ship time to prepare your room. This means you won’t have to carry your day bag with you on the ship.

An earlier pick-up time means more time spent on the ship.
An earlier pick-up time means more time spent on the ship.

On the downside, worriers may get stressed about whether the bus will arrive in enough time before the ship sails. This is not something to worry about since the ship knows you’re coming. They won’t leave without the bus arriving. Arriving late also means you may miss out on booking or changing dining reservations or character meet and greets. You won’t have as much time to enjoy things like the lunch buffet or the pool. If you don’t have a sea day, you may not get another chance to take full advantage of these special things. Finally, kids might miss the kid’s clubs.

7. If you’re really stressed out about arriving earlier, head back to the airport.

Officially, you can’t change your DCL pickup time, but there is a way to work around the rules.

Taking the Magical Express from the Disney World hotel to MCO then from MCO to Port Canaveral means you’ll spend more time on a bus, but you’ll likely arrive at the port several hours earlier since the DCL transfer bus leaves the airport around 9:30 AM.

If you’ve paid the fee and made a reservation, you won’t be questioned when doing this two-stop transfer.

8. If spending that much time on a bus isn’t for you, use a car service.

As mentioned above, guests can arrange for a car or limo to transfer from Disney World to Port Canaveral.

On the positive side, using a car allows you to set your own pick-up time and location. For example, if you scheduled a character breakfast at Animal Kingdom early in the morning, you can arrange for the car service to pick you up in the parking lot. You can even stop along the way to  the way to port if you need some last minute things before boarding the ship. This may be a better option financially if you have a larger party.

On the downside, taxis don’t have restrooms for the long trip to port, and you add a risk that the driver will show up late or not at all.

Guests can also choose to use a rental car to get to port. This may be especially economical if you rented a car or if or anyone in your party has medical needs like a wheelchair lift or restraints. This is also a better option for larger parties. Be sure to tell the rental car company that you would like different pick-up and drop off locations.

9. Use Disney’s transfer service back to WDW or to MCO.

The Disney transfer service is available on the return trip for $35 and will transfer guests either back to Disney World or to MCO. This service can also be arranged by travel agent or by contacting the Disney Cruise Line directly.  Buses from the port to MCO or Disney World run from approximately 7:30 AM until around 9:30 AM; as soon as one bus is full, the next one starts loading

How have you combined a Disney World and Disney Cruise Line vacation?  Worth it?
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