You have lots of big decisions to make when planning any vacation. When planning a cruise, I book my cruise first, then decide if we are driving or flying to the port of departure, and my third big decision is where to stay on the night before we sail.
I always recommend arriving at your departure city at least one day prior to your cruise. If you are cruising in Europe, I recommend arriving a minimum of 2 days prior. However, since over half of all Disney Cruises begin and end in Port Canaveral, Florida, let’s take a look at where you can stay the night before you cruise in central Florida.
Where to Stay the Night Before You Cruise
- Stay in the Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area.
- Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.
- Stay at the Regency Hyatt inside the Orlando International Airport
Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach Area
Beaches, Jetty Park & NASA! I’m sold. Let’s go…
These packages aren’t free (as in included in the basic cost of your stay), but they traditionally do cost less than parking at the Port Canaveral terminal. These are especially good options for couples and small families as well as budget-conscious travelers.
You have to travel on the shuttle’s schedule, and you will likely need to sign up for a time slot with your hotel. Don’t make the mistake of arriving in the lobby thinking you can hop on the next shuttle. The seats may already be taken.Plus you have to lug all your luggage on a shuttle, which can be difficult if you also have several small children with you.
WHAT I DO
We usually drive to Port Canaveral, and I am happy to park in the garage directly across from the Disney terminal. It costs a little more than a Park & Cruise lot or hotel package, but
There is minimal handling of luggage. I don’t know how to pack lightly or efficiently. It’s not in my DNA. So I pack big suitcases that I don’t particularly want to drag everywhere.
- At the PC terminal, we drop our luggage with the porters before we even go to the parking garage – Be sure to tip! $2 per suitcase is standard.
- When I walk off the ship, my car is waiting for me. Right there! This is the major perk you are paying for. Do not underestimate how tired you and your children will be, and how little tolerance you will have for waiting for a shuttle to take you somewhere else before you even get to your own car. Having your car steps from customs is PRICELESS! Priceless, I tell you.
For current parking rates visit: Port Canaveral – Directions and Parking
Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel
Theme Park tickets are not required.
If you only have one night at Disney World, spend a few hours in Disney Springs. Dining, entertainment and shopping are at your fingertips, and you can use Walt Disney World’s free transportation system to take you to and from your hotel.
Or spend time at your resort or in the fantastically themed pools – which are temperature controlled year round. I always say I want to spend more time at my resorts when I stay at Walt Disney World, and a one-night, pre-cruise stay is a great way to enjoy all of the amenities of a Walt Disney World Resort hotel.
DCL Prep School Recommendation: Port Orleans Resort Riverside
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside (POR as you will often see it abbreviated) is in my top 3 of all Disney resorts, and it’s hands down my favorite Moderate resort.
- It is not a traditional high rise hotel. The grounds are spacious. So even though you are staying with thousands of guests, you don’t feel like you are staying with thousands of guests.
- My kids have always loved the Ol’ Man Island Pool and Play area.
- The food court isn’t too shabby.
And the best reason to LOVE Port Orleans is Yeeha Bob! Yeehaa bob is a piano-playing all-around fantastical entertainer who you will find performing in the River Roost Lounge. Don’t worry, even though it’s a lounge, it’s very family friendly. (Check for showtimes. He does take time off occasionally, and he travels for special performances.)
But my main reason for recommending Port Orleans is the Riverboats to Disney Springs. The riverboats are free, and I highly recommend getting a seat near the captain. Some tell tales and often they have good info about what’s going on in the Springs.
The ground transfer to Port Canaveral is NOT free from Walt Disney World.
Disney’s Magical Express: FREE
- Only between Orlando International Airport & Walt Disney World
- To and from Orlando International Airport and Port Canaveral
- To and from Port Canaveral and Walt Disney World
Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport
Prices are comparable to Disney’s Moderate Resort category. Usually between $200 and $300 per night. This option is best for families whose flights arrive in the evening. If you land at 6:00pm, and your children go to bed at 8:00 or 9:00pm, this is the option for you.
If you land late, and you want to grab your bags, a meal and go to sleep, this is the option for you.
And the biggest perk – you can still take Disney Cruise Line transportation the next morning directly to Port Canaveral. Meet the busses, and Disney Cast & Crew Members will help you say goodbye to your luggage (for a few hours) and whisk you off to Port Canaveral.