Cruising DCL from NOLA
A guide to everything you need to know for arrival, parking, check-in and boarding the ship.
My family recently embarked on the inaugural Disney Cruise from New Orleans, which sailed February 7-14, 2020, on the Disney Wonder. The Port of New Orleans has been hosting other cruise lines for many years, but this year marks a new partnership with Disney. I hope my experience on this inaugural cruise can help you navigate getting to the port and checking in for your Disney Cruise from the Port of New Orleans.
Getting to the Port of New Orleans
IMPORTANT FACT 1: there are 2 separate cruise terminals at the Port of New Orleans: Julia Street and Erato Street. Disney Cruise Line operates solely out of the Erato Street Terminal, which has previously hosted Carnival Cruise Line.
IMPORTANT FACT 2: this area of New Orleans is extremely busy, with the convention center, a casino, large shopping mall, and several high-rise hotels within a few blocks radius of the Port. The roads and infrastructure are also currently under very heavy construction. This made for quite the challenge when driving into the port for embarkation. There was virtually no signage when we exited I-10 as directed, and traffic was at a standstill. I highly recommend you allow extra time to arrive at the port. Google Maps tried to take us one way, but, thanks to construction and detours, we could not follow that route and it cost us precious time. We sat in traffic for nearly an hour and a half to go about 1/2 mile. It was stressful and I don’t recommend you start your own vacation that way! Even if your navigation software reroutes you for traffic, take the route shown below:
We tried coming in to the Port from the North side, and could not. The road was closed from that direction with police out directing very heavy traffic. For the latest on the traffic and construction, I would recommend checking the official Port of New Orleans website a day or so ahead of arrival: https://portnola.com/cruise/parking-directions
Parking and drop-off at Port of New Orleans
Whether you drive yourself in, or use a ridesharing service or family/friends to drop you off, the procedure is the same. You will unload your checked bags (with your DCL tags applied!), and a porter will take them from you to be loaded onto the ship. Remember to bring a few spare dollars to tip your porter! You will not see this luggage for many hours, so ensure you have your Port Arrival Form, Passports/Birth Certificates, medications and any other necessities with you in your carry-on bags. If you drove yourself, a member of your party will need to park and meet back up with the rest of your party, or you can all go together if you wish. When the deck fills to capacity, you will be directed to the overflow lot, which for us, was the Employee Parking adjacent to the Port Arrival area.
Once you are ready to proceed with check-in at the Port of New Orleans, head into the arrivals terminal. There are several doors you can enter through, and depending on crowds, there will be one (or more) entry ways open into the escalator/elevator lobby. A DCL Crew Member will be present to direct which entrance(s) you should take. Once inside, take an escalator or elevator up to the second level, where you will see several security lines open with an officer standing by in front to check your boarding documentation. Have these in your hand and ready to go! After your documents have been checked, you and your carry-on items will proceed through the x-ray and metal detector. Like an airport, you must remove laptops/iPads from their cases and remove all metal items from your person. You must not take photos or videos in this area per the Port Authority. Security personnel may inspect your bag if you are carrying on alcohol, or anything on the x-ray is seen as needing further inspection. Any items found that are found on Disney Cruise Line’s list of prohibited items (https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/faq/prohibited-items/list/) will be confiscated and returned at the end of your voyage.
Now that you’ve cleared the security screening, you can proceed into the arrivals area. You will find a character photo-op set up to the right, as well as restrooms and a snack bar with food and drink items available for purchase. Once you are within your scheduled arrival time, you can proceed to the check-in desks. There are several lanes open and if you’ve cruised with Disney before, you can enter the Castaway Club line for check-in if you wish. A Crew Member will assist you with checking in, so have your Port Arrival Form, and documents (Passport or Birth Certificate/ID) ready to show! You will then have an opportunity to take a family photo before you proceed through the gangway and onto the ship! Follow the signage if you aren’t sure where to go. Disney has made it extremely easy to navigate. Now you can board and enjoy your time sailing with Disney!