Time to Leave the Ship – What you need to know

No one likes to think about it, but it’s going to happen….you have to leave the ship.

Disembarkation (or debark) is something cruisers don’t want to think about. It’s a lot more fun to think about things like planning excursions and booking future cruises and NOT think about getting off the ship. But all good things must come to an end and it’s best to be prepared!

What to expect

Cruise lines are fairly similar in their disembarkation procedures. The last morning of your cruise, you will have to disembark and leave what has become your very comfortable home away from home and all your new friends, passengers and crew alike.

Traditional Disembarkation vs Self-Disembarkation

There are two types of disembarkation….regular and self, commonly called self-assist or walk-off.

The process is basically the same, with the main difference being that with self-disembarkation, you are responsible for taking your luggage off the ship. You must be able to walk your own bags off the ship and through the terminal. If you choose to walk off your bags, make sure they are easy to maneuver and don’t over pack. It’s best to not have a lot of luggage to carry off.

What are the Benefits of Self-Disembarkation

You can be in the first group to get off the ship. If you need to leave the cruise port to catch an early flight, or have a long drive ahead, this can be a great option.

You do not need to put luggage out on the last night of your cruise.

The only wait will be for the ship to be cleared by port authorities.

What are the Disadvantages of Self-Disembarkation

You will not receive any help with your luggage. You may need to carry it down several flights of stairs as elevators may be full.

You need to be up very early. Debark will begin as soon as the ship is cleared. This could be as early as 7am.

This is only a good option if everyone is able to handle their own luggage. If you need help or have a lot of luggage, this isn’t the best option. Remember, it’s called self-assist for a reason.

We have done both and there is no right or wrong way. The choice is yours and you can decide what works best for you once onboard.

When time can you expect to leave the ship?

There’s no set time when debark will begin and this will vary by cruise port and by things that are beyond the control of the ship and crew.

The scheduled docking time listed on your cruise itinerary will NOT be the time that you can leave the ship. This is the time the ship is expected to arrive in port. The ship will still need to be cleared by customs of the country you have arrived in and given permission for passengers to debark. Usually this is a fairly quick process, but sometimes it can take longer…maybe several hours. As a general rule, most cruise ships will start the disembarkation process around 7:30-8 am. An announcement will be made once the ship is cleared and passengers can disembark. Wait for your luggage tag number to be called though. Otherwise, you will be waiting in the terminal for your luggage to arrive.

Avoid booking an early flight home

You will need time to leave the ship, get your luggage, clear customs and then time to reach the airport. Some ports, like Fort Lauderdale, as close. …a quick 15 taxi ride. Most are not! There will be taxis waiting outside the terminal but there may be a line for them.

Most cruise lines recommend not booking flights before noon. And if you are taking an International flight, you may need more time at the airport. Be sure to factor in wait times at the airport to drop off luggage and clear security. TSA pre-check can be very helpful!

Remember, even if you CAN make it, it’s possible for your ship to arrive late in port due to weather or other reasons. I was on a ship that was late into port due to mechanical issues and many people missed their flights. Ships have also been late arriving due to weather, such as storms or fog. Galveston and Tampa are well known for fog problems.

If a morning flight is best for you, consider spending the night at a hotel and fly out the following morning. Why add stress to the end of your wonderful vacation?

Disembarkation instructions

Your cabin steward will leave printed instructions, along with luggage tags. This will include instructions on what to do with your luggage, as well as some basic customs information. Also included will be a timetable for when luggage numbers will be called the following morning.

Luggage tags and debarkation times

You will receive luggage tags that are numbered according to when you wish to disembark. If this time does not work for you, you can ask your steward for new luggage tags or go to guest relations. They will be happy to change them and is probably faster and easier than asking your cabin steward.

Debarking thousands of passengers within a few hours is quite a process. Cruise lines keep things organized by assigning color coded luggage tags which correspond to certain disembarkation times. As noted above, this timetable will be left in your cabin along with your luggage tags.

What do I do with my luggage?

(Of course, this only applies to regular disembarkation. If you are doing self-assist/walk off, keep you luggage in your cabin.)

On the last night of your cruise, place your luggage outside your cabin door. Generally, bags must be outside by 10pm. The actual time for your sailing will be noted on the instructions. The ship’s crew will be working hard that night placing the luggage in a holding area, so that it can be moved off the ship quickly the next morning. DO NOT miss the deadline! Remember to attach the cruise assigned luggage tags on all your suitcases before you put them in the hallway.

Just like when you got onboard the ship, remember not to pack valuables, medicine, car keys, ID/passports, etc. in your suitcase. Keep those in your carry on bag.

Also, be sure to keep anything you will need overnight and the following morning, such as computers, jewelry, personal toiletries, sleep wear and clothes to wear off the ship the following day. No one wants to walk off in their pajamas! Also keep any phone chargers with you. You don’t want or need a dead phone the next day!

Also…keep your key card with you. You will need it to get off the ship the following morning.

Hint: Either keep a luggage tag or take a photo to remember your color and number!

Verify your cruise account BEFORE you leave the ship

We keep an eye on our cruise account throughout the cruise to make sure there are not any extra charges. We have found some in the past and Guest Relations quickly removes them. If you have any extra nonrefundable onboard credit (NOBC), be sure to use it before the stores close the last night of the cruise. OBC can be used for any purchase onboard except for booking a future cruise.

Many cruise lines are now using apps and you can check your account that way. You can get a printed copy from a machine or at guest services.  I recommend getting a printed copy the last full day of the cruise or disembarkation morning if you have time. Or…take a screen shot of the online account the last night as proof.

If you linked a credit card to your shipboard account, you do not need to do anything the morning of debark. The ship will post any final charges directly to your card. If you have chosen to pay off your account in cash, do this early on the final day, as the lines can get long.

If you notice a discrepancy, bring it to the attention of guest services as soon as you can. Once you leave the ship, you are accepting the statement and it’s difficult to dispute any charges.

Fill out crew comment cards

Filling out a comment card highlighting some your favorite crew members is one of the easiest things you can do. It makes a huge difference to those who work so hard. Mention anyone and everyone, even officers and Cruise Director staff. It is the comments by passengers that help the crew members receive promotions and special recognition. The comment cards submitted on the ship go directly to the Hotel Director.

You will also receive an online survey after you return home. Be sure to fill this out. I can not stress enough how important this is. If something was wrong, they can’t fix it if they don’t know about it. And again….mention any crew member who helped make your sailing memorable. The survey comments are seen by shoreside staff and also the ship officers and directors/managers.

Book a future cruise on-board

Cruise lines offer advantages to planning a future cruise onboard. You will generally receive a reduced deposit and additional OBC according to the cabin level you book.

Most cruise lines offer a Future Cruise booking opportunity. You can fill out a form with your name, cabin number and email. The Future Cruise staff will automically make a booking for you, which you can then use to book a cruise in the future. Each line has a different time requirement for making the new booking, so be sure to note that. I have seen anywhere from 3 months to 1 year in which to book the new cruise. Also, if you booked using a travel agent (TA), you can request that the booking go directly to them.

Hint: Do this as early as possible in your cruise. Don’t wait until the last night!

Disembarkation morning

Breakfast will be available but with reduced hours and sometimes reduced food options. Be sure to get something to eat before you leave the ship though. It’s never a good idea to start traveling on an empty stomach!

Check, double check and then TRIPLE check your cabin for items. Check all drawers, the bathroom, the SAFE, the closet and under the bed!!! You do not want to leave anything behind. If you do, contact the cruise line and they will do everything they can to reunite you with your possessions, but there are no guarantees. Why take the chance….check, check, and check again!

Public areas will be crowded, as cabins must be vacated early. If you have a special lounge or area to wait in, go and enjoy it! Your disembarkation information sheet will have the time noted. Do your best to honor that time frame. Your cabin steward will be working hard to prepare the cabin for the next sailing.

Be kind to all crew members assisting with disembarkation. Many of them worked late the night before and then had to be up early to help with debark. If something is wrong, they will do their best to help with the problem. But if the ship is late into port or debark is late starting, that is out of their control.

Be sure your key card and passport/identification are easily accessible. You will need your key card to exit the ship and passport/ID to clear customs.

Hopefully, you have had a wonderful cruise and have made many new memories. We hope to see you onboard again soon!!

If you love cruising, planning cruises, talking about cruises and helping other cruisers…..join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/6024668980942660

Be sure to check out my Amazon store http://www.amazon.com/shop/travelswithmickey for helpful items to make your cruise even more enjoyable!

Follow my travels on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/travelswithmickey/ and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqQeVrLSGSKfAHi2aJfTuPg

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Published by zest4travel

Addicted to Travel and New Adventures...With a Touch of Disney

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