When Do You Check-In:
Carnival opens the online check-in 14 days prior to your sailing, but guests with special perks (such as Diamond and Platinum VIFP Club members) will have their online check-in open 16 days prior.
Where Do You Check-In:
On Carnival's website there is a button for called "Check-In" under the "Manage Your Cruise" navigational bar on the website.
Carnival's online check-in process is where you will provide information such as:
- Your Information
- Emergency Contact Information
- Travel Documents For Identification - For example, when I tell Carnival I will be using my passport as my travel documentation I usually have to provide the passport number, issuance date, and expiration date. The other forms of acceptable ID may have other fields that Carnival is required to collect.
- Acceptance of the cruise ticket contract
- Arrival Appointment - I will discuss this more below!
- Setup of Onboard Spending Account that will be linked to your Sail & Sign Card
- And More!
Make sure your travel documents meet the requirements Carnival has posted. Also, make sure you pack your travel documents for your cruise as you will be required to show the required identification during the check-in process.
One of the sections of online check-in requires guests to select an Arrival Appointment. The arrival appointment is the time that you should be walking into the cruise terminal to check-in. Arrival appointment times are usually in 30 minute intervals. At the cruise terminal, there are typically lines setup for guests that are arriving on-time during their arrival appointment and guests that are arriving earlier or later than their arrival appointment. Guests who show up early may be forced to wait outside the cruise terminal. but this ultimately varies by port and who is working.
Is there a benefit to selecting an earlier arrival appointment time?
Having an earlier arrival appointment time could mean you have to wait in the cruise terminal longer for boarding. Arrival appointment time does not equal boarding time. Sometimes I have selected a 10am - 10:30am arrival appointment time, but due to debarkation of prior guests have not been able to board until close to 12pm. I sat in the cruise terminal for 2 hours.
Very Late Arrival Appointment Times: Beware of Missing Out On Luggage Delivery Service
In some ports Carnival does not allow luggage to be checked-in with a porter after a certain time. If your arrival appointment is one of the very last, you might be missing out on checking in your luggage and have it delivered to your room for you.
Arrival appointments are selected by stateroom and not on an individual guest level. Carnival's website notes that guests in the same room should come during the arrival appointment window that is selected.
TIP: If you are unsure which arrival appointment time to select to minimize your time waiting in the cruise terminal, I recommend choosing one that is middle of the road (not too early and not too late).
All guests must be linked to a spending account for their Sail & Sign card. If guests are traveling as a family in the same room, it might make sense to have 1 spending account setup with all the guests linked. If guests are traveling in the same room, they could each setup an onboard spending account. Carnival has noted the maximum number of guests per account is 15.
Carnival does allow spending privileges to be limited for guests that are minor. The online check-in system will have instructions and allow this action to be completed.
You cannot get your boarding pass until all guests in a booking have completed all areas of online check-in. The boarding passes can be accessed in your cruise booking manager and usually load as a PDF. Once you get your boarding pass you should see the arrival appointment time on it as well as some other basic information. This will include your muster station letter/number which you will need to know for the safety briefing process on the first day.
Make sure you PRINT your boarding pass! Carnival typically does not accept the boarding pass electronically on your phone despite what instructions say. I've seen people have problems when trying to present the boarding pass on their phone.
The deadline to complete Carnival's online check-in is midnight (eastern time) the day of your cruise. Carnival notes that guests who complete online check-in will have an expedited check-in process, but guests who don't will get an arrival appointment emailed to them that is automatically assigned.