1. Do Not Arrive Too Early
While arriving extremely early for your cruise can be tempting because of the excitement, do not arrive at your cruise terminal too early before the check-in process is scheduled to begin. If the cruise terminal is not yet open or your time for check-in has not started, you will probably have to wait outside the building. Seating, if there is any, can be limited outside of cruise terminals. This would mean you would have to stand and wait until the doors open.
In some places, arriving too early could mean parking lots or garages are not yet open for arriving cruisers to park. Spaces will become open as disembarking cruisers get off the ship and retrieve their vehicle from the parking lot.
2. Follow All Signage and Verbal Instructions
On most of my cruises, the cruise terminals have been filled with staff members directing cruisers from place to place. You can make the check-in and embarkation process easier on yourself and these staff members by following all written and verbal instructions. If you are confused or need assistance, ask one of these staff members. Their job is to help cruisers get to the right place!
3. Have Travel Documents With You and Ready To Be Shown
The travel documents you need for your cruise can vary by cruise line and itinerary, but each of things you are required to have make sure you have those ready to show! You may have to show your boarding pass and photo id several times during the check-in process. Keep these with you and do not lose them! Once you receive your shipboard card during the check-in process make sure you keep this item with you at all times, including getting on the ship. Once you are onboard your cruise ship, I recommend putting your travel documents in your stateroom's safe (if you have one). You may need some of these documents to get off & on from a port of call later in the cruise. If you are unsure what you will need and when, discuss this with your cruise line.
Important: Do not put your travel documentation or identification in a suitcase or bag that you are checking in to be delivered onboard. While your bags or suitcases are being delivered, you will need the documentation & identification in order to check in for your cruise. Your cruise line may not be able to locate your suitcases or bags once you realize your required documentation is in them and this could result in you not being able to board.
4. Be Prepared For A Security Check
On all of my cruises, I have had to go through security before being allowed onboard my cruise ship. I am sure this is the same for many cruise lines and departure homeports. Do not bring prohibited or illegal items. Your cruise line will confiscate these items if you are caught and in some cases you may be denied boarding. Besides checking for things that are security threats, some cruise lines check for prohibited alcoholic beverages. Depending on your cruise line, confiscated items may or may not be returned.
5. You May Not Be Able To Board The Cruise Ship Immediately After Check-In
While check-in may begin at a designated time, this does not mean you will be able to board your cruise ship right away. If you check-in early and have to wait, enjoy the wait and hopefully you have a view of your cruise ship from the terminal's windows. Cruise ship wait until guests from the previous cruise are disembarked before letting the new guests onboard. Crew members typically use the little amount of time between cruises for cleaning and preparation.
6. When It Is Time To Board It Can Be A Little Chaotic
When the boarding process begins, the terminal can become chaotic with people moving everywhere. Most cruise lines have an organized boarding process to make the movement of people less chaotic and more organized. For most cruise lines, guests with priority or VIP status get to board first.
After the check-in process is over and you have boarded your cruise ship, your cruise vacation has officially started. Relax and enjoy the cruise!
A future blog post will be discussing first day tips, information, and suggestions!