It has finally arrived….Embarkation Day!
All the waiting, planning and anticipation is almost over! Before you know it, you will be on board, sipping a tropical drink and waiting for sail away. Woohoo….vacation has begun!!
Hold on though…you may be ready to get onboard, but the crew is busy preparing the ship and disembarking the prior passengers. If this is your first cruise, some things may surprise you. Cruises are different from land vacations and hotel stays. You have to go through the a pier-side check-in process, with special requirements. Check out https://zest4travel.net/2023/03/28/what-cruise-documents-do-you-need-to-board/ for the documents you need to board a ship. And remember, there are many passengers waiting to board a floating city at basically the same time. As with any other secured structure, you can’t walk right onto a ship.
The best way to start your cruise is to arrive at the pier at your assigned check in time. Keep a level head and look forward to good times once your sailing gets underway.
There are a few things you can do to help make embarkation day as easy as possible.
Check that you have the necessary paperwork and documentation
The cruise line will send reminders about what to expect at check-in, including health and safety procedures. It will outline which documents, IDs, QR codes or other electronic receipts you must have ready. Be sure to do as much as you can online prior to arriving at the pier.
It is your responsibility to arrive with the proper documentation. Even though most cruise lines are providing online boarding passes, it might be a good idea to print and bring paper copies of documents as a backup to electronic documents. Again, visit the link in the section above for what the proper documents are that you need to board, such as passport, birth certificate etc.
Arrive at the pier at your scheduled time.
Since the restart of cruising post Covid, in an attempt to decrease crowding at the port, most cruise lines are assigning staggered times to arrive at the pier. If you arrive early, you may have to wait to enter the terminal. This may be outside in the hot sun, without access to water, seating or restrooms. It is best to arrive at the pier as close as possible to your scheduled time. No need to worry if you arrive after your scheduled time….you will be welcomed tin o start the check-in process. You will not be turned away. Word of warning though….everyone MUST be onboard 90 minutes prior to sail away. This is a maritime/port requirement, not the cruise line.
Give your large luggage to the porters to be loaded onto the ship.
When you arrive at the pier, porters will be waiting to take your large suitcases and load them onto the ship. Once they are on the ship, crew members will deliver them to your cabin. Be sure to attach your cruise line proved luggage tags. These tags inform the crew which cabin to deliver them to. I highly recommend using luggage tag holders like this to attach them to your bag. There are different sizes for each cruise line. Be sure to purchase the correct ones…these are for Celebrity/Royal Caribbean https://amzn.to/3mnQlaO
Keep your carry-on bag with you!
Pack your medications, valuables, documents, passport and anything else you will need until your luggage arrives in your cabin. You may want to pack your bathing suit so that you don’t have to wait for your suitcases to arrive before you hit the pool!
MAKE SURE YOUR PASSPORT/ID IS WITH YOU!!!
Be prepared to go through security
You will go through security after entering the cruise terminal. The process is similar to an airport. Your carry-on luggage will be screened and you will walk through a metal detector. You won’t have to take off your shoes but you do have to remove belts, bulky jewelry and clear your pockets. You don’t need to worry about liquid, as there is no size limitation.
Keep your boarding pass available.
You will need this to board the ship. Since many ships are now leaving your sea pass card at your cabin, you will need to scan the boarding pass document when first entering the ship.
Do not try to sneak any banned items onto the ship
All of your luggage will be scanned electronically. Many cruise lines allow passengers to bring a pre-determined amount of wine, soda and/or bottled water onboard at embarkation. Check your cruise lines FAQ for the amount allowed for your cruise. It is very rare that hard spirits or beer is allowed to be brought consumption. If found, it will either be removed from your luggage and held until disembarkation or destroyed. They know to look in hiding places, such as solid water bottles, mouthwash containers, etc. Be sure to carry allowed beverages onboard with you, not as checked luggage. Check with your cruise line for any corkage fee if opened in a bar, lounge or restaurant.
Cruise lines have very specific rules for other banned items. These items include weapons, fireworks, flammable liquids, candles, clothing irons, incense and anything that produces a flame. This also includes anything with a surge protector. We use the one below to provide more outlets in the cabin. Royal Caribbean also bans martial arts gear, baby monitors and extension cords. Carnival bans handcuffs.
Watch the safety video and check in to your muster station.
In the past, everyone on a cruise ship was required to gather on embarkation day at their assigned muster station, listen to a safety briefing and be checked off a list. As a result of COVID-19, most cruise lines have moved to e-muster drills.
You are required to watch a video either on your cabin TV or on the cruise line app. You will learn what to do in the event of a fire or other shipboard emergency. Your TV or app will record that you have watched the video. Most ships are still requiring you to check in with a crew member at your assigned muster station. Those who skip this step will hear their name or cabin number called out over the PA system. If you do not complete the muster station prior to sail away, you will be removed from the ship. This is a Maritime law requirement, not a cruise ship requirement.
I strongly suggest that as soon as you board….go straight to your muster station and check in! The location will be noted on your sea pass card. I can not stress enough how important this is. Once completed, you will not have to think about it again and can enjoy your first day onboard.
Do not expect to be able to go use your cabin right away
Depending on when you arrive, cabins may or may not be completely ready. The crew is may still be working to prepare your cabin after the last cruise. Some cruise lines, such as Celebrity and Holland America, allow you to drop off your carry-on luggage and retrieve your sea pass card, which will be waiting outside your cabin in a sealed enveloped. This will allow you to explore the ship, have lunch, go to the pool, etc. An announcement will be made once cabins are ready.
Head to your cabin when it’s ready
Your cabin steward will stop by to introduce him or her self and will ask if there is anything special you may want or need, such as extra towels, pillows and hangers, or to have the bed arrangement changed from a single to two beds or vice-versa. The steward will also let you know how to reach them should you need anything throughout your cruise. We always have our mini-fridge emptied….this eliminates any chance of errant charges. If you are traveling with friends or family in an adjoining balcony cabin, ask if the divider can be opened. Some times yes, some times no.
Unpack your bags as soon as they arrive. There should be plenty of storage… cabins have lots of hidden areas, look around for them. Most suitcases will fit under the bed and are a good place to store dirty laundry.
Give the crew time to deliver luggage. If it is close to sail away and your bags have not arrived, call you cabin steward and let them know. Bags do get misplaced.
Place your phone in airplane mode and connect to the ship’s wifi if you have an internet package.
Roaming charges onboard are very expensive. You will want to keep your cell phone on airplane mode. In order to keep in touch with those at home, you will either need to purchase an internet package or….follow crew members in port. They know ALL the best places for free wifi! If you need help setting up an internet package, there will be crew members available to help you.
Check out the daily program
All the daily activities will be available on a printed sheet in your cabin and on the ship’s app. Take a look and see what is planned for your first evening shipboard. Go to the sail away party, participate in trivia, dance parties, game show, etc. Visit the spa, jewelry store, art auction….enter the give aways. Explore the ship and get to know the layout.
Sign the kids up for cruise ship camp and make sure they understand the safety procedures
Cruise ships have excellent kids programs. Staff will be on hand to welcome them and show them around the play spaces and hangouts available just for them.
Now is the time to talk to the kids about the danger of climbing on any railings. People do fall off cruise ships….you don’t want this to happen to your family. Remind them that there other passengers on the ship and they need to respect the rules.
Relax, have a drink or two, enjoy dinner….vacation has begun!!
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