You booked your cruise months ago, you’ve studied the ship’s deck plans, your luggage is carefully packed with all the cruise vacation essentials and embarkation day is here! When you’re eager to set sail, however, it can be disappointing to arrive at the port only to face long lines and sluggish crowds that can mean your cruise doesn’t actually begin for a few more hours.
Fortunately, there are easy ways you can make embarking a cruise ship quicker and smoother. Say bon voyage to embarkation day worry and stress with these tips.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
You might not bother with breakfast on embarkation day because you know there will be plenty of all-you-can-eat buffets, room service, endless pizza, ice cream and other treats on board the ship. You won’t be able to indulge in the ship’s dining until you’re actually on board, however, and many cruise terminals only have limited vending machines available while you’re waiting to get on the ship.
If you are hungry you are more likely to be cranky and short-tempered, so it’s a good idea to be sure you have breakfast before you head to the port, or even a light lunch if you’re arriving later in the afternoon.
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Arrive on Time
In order to avoid unmanageable crowds for larger ships, many cruise lines have implemented staggered embarkation windows so passengers don’t arrive at the port too early and spend more time waiting than necessary. Passengers can select their embarkation window when they book their cruise or fill out their boarding pass.
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Choose a time that coincides with your travel plans, and arrive within that window for the smoothest embarkation possible. If you arrive too early, you may not be permitted to remain in the boarding area, which can lead to more waiting and inconvenience. If your cruise line does not have embarkation windows, be sure you know the overall boarding time period and arrive within that time frame.
Streamline Your Luggage
You don’t want to be struggling with too much luggage at crowded check-in counters or in long embarkation lines, so streamline your luggage before you arrive at the port. Take steps to avoid overpacking, and if possible, condense smaller bags into fewer pieces so you don’t need quite so many hands to handle your luggage.
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Once you arrive at the port, you can hand your larger bags over to porters to be taken on board the ship and delivered to your stateroom, or you can choose to carry all your luggage on the ship yourself if you can manage it without assistance – including up and down stairs and narrow corridors. Also be sure the handles and wheels on your luggage work well to avoid any upsetting snags as you board the ship.
Don’t Be Sneaky
While it’s no surprise that illegal drugs, weapons and similar items are not permitted on cruise ships, there are other unexpected items that you shouldn’t try to bring on board. No drones, skateboards, laser pointers or inflatable pool toys are allowed, and each cruise line has different guidelines for what may or may not be brought on each ship.
It is wise to review these guidelines before you pack, and be sure nothing you’re bringing along might be confiscated or questioned during embarkation. Similarly, do not try to sneak alcohol onto the ship illicitly, or you could face steep fines or fees along with embarkation delays.
Prepare Your Paperwork
When you approach the check-in counter, you will need to present your boarding pass and appropriate identification, as well as a health questionnaire or any other paperwork the cruise line requires during embarkation. Have this paperwork already filled out and handy for each family member, including young children, to minimize any delays while you dig through a bag to find it.
It can be helpful to have filled out your paperwork online a few days before you cruise, including setting up your onboard spending account, but you will still need a printed boarding pass to offer to the embarkation staff so they can process your arrival.
Cruise ports are hustling, bustling places on embarkation day, particularly larger ports that may have several ships docked simultaneously. If you aren’t sure where to go – for parking, which terminal is assigned to your ship, where to check baggage, which check-in counter to use, how to get to the ship once you’re checked in – don’t hesitate to ask for directions. Use your cruise boarding pass to help terminal staff find the right way for you to go, and you won’t waste precious minutes wandering away from your cruise.
Pay for Priority Access
Most cruise lines offer special priority check-in and boarding lines for certain guests, such as returning passengers who have accrued significant loyalty points, wedding parties that are getting married on embarkation day, guests booked in more expensive cabins and suites or guests with limited mobility.
Some of these priority access lines are available for an added fee as well, which can smooth out your embarkation process and get you on board the ship earlier and ready to relax into your vacation.
Also Read: Tips to Disembarking a Cruise Ship
Above all, it’s important to simply wait patiently on embarkation day. There can be many different types of unanticipated delays such as multiple wedding parties to accommodate, computer glitches that interrupt check-ins, customs snafus that delay debarkation from the previous cruise or insufficient staffing at the terminal due to illnesses or other factors.
The lines will clear, however, and you will get checked in for your cruise. Consider taking along a book, a deck of cards or a travel game to stay entertained, and be sure all your mobile devices are fully charged before you arrive at the port. Before you know it, you’ll be on board the ship and setting sail for a great vacation!