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Tips & What to Expect During the Cruise Embarkation Process

cruise embarkation process

Everything you need to know to make the cruise embarkation process smooth & stress-free!

Embarkation day is one of the most exciting times on a cruise. On most cruises, there will be thousands of people boarding so it can be a bit nerve-wracking if it is your first time taking a cruise vacation. Knowing what to expect during the cruise embarkation process can help you enjoy a smooth, stress-free experience.  We’ve put together our best tips for embarkation day to help your cruise get off to a great start.

What to expect during the cruise embarkation process

One of the questions we frequently hear from first time cruisers is “How long does it take to board a cruise ship?” If you complete most of the check-in process online so you don’t have to stand around filling out paperwork, actual check-in and boarding process only takes between 15 to 30 minutes. You may have to wait in line as long as an hour, though, if you arrive as busses drop off a large group of travelers. You will usually find shorter lines if you arrive towards the end of your embarkation window. Be aware that if you miss your embarkation time, you won’t be allowed to board. Leave plenty of time for travel to the port and plan on arriving at least 90 minutes before your cruise ship departs. You can expect to experience the following during the cruise embarkation process:

Happy Traveler Comment
Cesar, Thank you for helping us with our recent vacation. You and your staff were extremely helpful in planning our last minute cruise to Alaska. I spoke with many folks that had some difficulties and disappointments with their non-on line travel agents. I was very skeptical at first, but I was happy with the information provided to make it a most pleasurable and memorable vacation. - Donna and Scott

1. Baggage Check-in and Security

If your luggage is already tagged with your name and stateroom, simply drop your bags off with a porter. Otherwise, look for a baggage desk where you can fill out labels, tag, and check your luggage. Security to get on cruise ships is a bit less rigorous than what you experience at airports. You will have to go through a metal detector and carry-on luggage will be scanned, so make sure you aren’t carrying any accidental contraband. Check  cruise line policies before trying to bring alcoholic beverages.

2. Check-in queue

Getting to the cruise port early or late can help you avoid some of the longer check-in lines. You may end up spending a considerable amount of time in line, so bring a travel stool if you have difficulty standing. You will need to present your travel documents and ID when you get to the head of the line, so make sure you have them out in advance. Storing all your documents and ID together in a zippered pouch in your purse or carry-on can help avoid embarrassing moments desperately searching for them.

3. Picture and Keycard

Time to smile! You will get your picture taken and printed on your cruise key card. Your cruise keycard is your lifeline on the ship, serving triple duty as a boarding card, room keycard, and credit card once you are on board the ship.

4. Boarding

Once you’ve checked-in, follow the signs to board the ship and begin your cruise! Occasionally you may have to spend some time in a small waiting room first.

Cruise Embarkation Tips

Here are some of our best cruise embarkation tips to help your cruise start off as smoothly as possible:

  • Print out labels for your luggage and attach the night before
  • Pack a swimsuit in your carry-on luggage and hit the pools once you board. Pools are at their emptiest on embarkation day, so you can enjoy a swim without the crowding you’ll face on the rest of the cruise
  • Cruise line loyalty members and luxury suite guests typically enjoy priority embarkation via VIP lines. Some cruise lines allow regular passengers to pay for this privilege, so if short wait times are important to you consider purchasing VIP priority boarding.
  • Bring a snack and drink to the port with you, especially if you are travelling with children.
  • Go on a ship tour and sign up for specialty dining reservations, fitness classes, and nursery times as soon as you embark. These spots can fill up fast!

If you have more questions about what to expect during a cruise or are ready to book your cruise vacation, call today at 1-888-804-CRUISE (2784). Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join our InnerCircle for exclusive offers and cruise news you can use! Also, check out our new Resource Center, where you can receive expert knowledge from us before your next cruise or cruisetour!

Our team of cruise consultants and support staff, based in Central California, counts nearly a century of combined talent, knowledge, and enthusiasm in the travel industry. We’re not just another internet upstart; our seasoned team has gained the trust and business of thousands of satisfied cruise and land vacation customers from all over the country since 1995. We ARE the original Cruise Experts.

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