Carnival Ship Changes Embarkation Time, Guests Must Be Early

One Carnival cruise ship will be leaving its homeport an hour early on January 16 and all guests must be onboard sooner than expected.

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Carnival Cruise Line has reached out to guests setting sail on Carnival Sunshine on January 16, 2023, to notify them that the ship will be leaving early, and guests’ boarding times have been adjusted accordingly.

This could be troublesome for guests who planned to arrive at the port at the last minute, but there are a few days for travelers to modify their plans for an on-time arrival.

Carnival Sunshine to Leave Early

Carnival Sunshine is homeported from Charleston, South Carolina, offering a variety of roundtrip cruises to The Bahamas and the occasional longer Eastern Caribbean itinerary.

It is the January 16, 2023, departure date for a 10-night Eastern Caribbean cruise that is impacted by this departure change, and the ship will now be setting sail at 5 p.m. rather than the originally scheduled 6 p.m. sail away time.

Guests have been contacted via email about the change in time, and encouraged to recheck the cruise line’s website for their updated boarding pass and updated final boarding time.

Carnival Sunshine Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Daniel Wright98 / Shutterstock

“We have modified the departure time for your sailing and will now be leaving the Port of Charleston at 5:00 PM (ET),” the email read. “All Guests must be on board by 4:00 PM (ET).”

It is standard procedure for guests to need to be onboard the ship an hour before setting sail, so the cruise line can be sure all guests have properly completed the muster drill, all cargo and luggage are properly loaded, and the ship has appropriate clearance to depart the port.

Guests who have planned to arrive at the port at the last minute – a common tactic to avoid crowds at the terminal – will need to be especially careful to arrive at the appropriate earlier time so as not to miss the ship.

This could be troublesome if guests have booked air travel, but there are still several days to arrange for changed flights or to reserve earlier ride shares or other transportation if necessary.

Why an Earlier Departure?

Carnival Cruise Line has offered no explanation about why Carnival Sunshine must depart the port early, but it is worth noting that similar Eastern Caribbean itineraries later in 2023 already have an earlier departure time.

The May 13 and September 16 departures, for example, are scheduled to sail away at 4 p.m. The December 4 departure, however, also has a 6 p.m. departure time for a 10-night Eastern Caribbean sailing. Guests booked on that cruise may want to check with the cruise line closer to the sailing date to confirm their departure time.

The first port of call on the January 16 cruise is a visit to St. Thomas, after the ship will already have spent two days at sea. St. Thomas is the first of five ports Carnival Sunshine will visit in five consecutive days, before spending two more days at sea and returning to Charleston on Thursday, January 26.

At this time, there have been no additional changes to the ship’s itinerary, port visit times, or its planned arrival back in South Carolina.

There could be several reasons why Carnival Sunshine may need to leave early on Monday. It is possible that marine traffic conflicts at the port have required a schedule shift for the vessel, or else staffing concerns at the port might require shortened hours for port personnel.

Poor weather could also be a consideration for an earlier departure if storms are expected in the evening, but the weather forecast for Charleston on Monday has a less than 15% chance of rain throughout the day and into the evening, and only light winds – no conditions that should impact the cruise port or the ship’s ability to safely navigate from the dock.

Early departures are relatively rare for cruise ships. More often, ships are late departing due to issues such as fog delaying the ship’s return to port, as happened with three cruise ships delayed in Tampa on January 2, or crowding at the cruise terminal that delays passenger processing, as has happened recently with the new cruise terminal in Galveston.

In recent weeks, Norwegian Cruise Line has also adjusted some port departure and arrival times in the name of better fuel efficiency to lower emissions.

Because so many factors can influence a ship’s arrival and departure times, cruisers should always plan for extra time in their travels and stay in close touch with their cruise line for updated information as their sailing date approaches.


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