A few days ago, I learned my Carnival Triumph cruise out of New Orleans in Summer 2016 will be a part of what Carnival is calling, "Staggered Check-In". This new style of check in makes cruisers select a check in time window. This window is the time that the cruiser will be allowed into the cruise terminal to begin the check in process. The check in time can be selected on a cruiser's online Carnival account through the online check in system. The time the cruiser selects will be printed on the boarding pass and will be shown to the cruise terminal staff. In order to keep the check in process efficient, cruisers will not be allowed in prior to their designated check in time. This means if you have an 11:00am - 11:30am window to check in, you would not be able to enter earlier than 11:00am. As long as this part of the program is enforced, the check in lines and boarding process should take less time.
Carnival's Galveston based ships (Carnival Magic, Carnival Triumph, & Carnival Freedom) already have this program going. Carnival's Frequently Asked Questions guide shows in 2016 the Carnival ships sailing from New Orleans (Carnival Dream & Carnival Elation) will get this new procedure. When the Carnival Triumph replaces the Carnival Elation out of New Orleans in April 2016, the Carnival Triumph will also offer staggered check in. (UPDATE FROM ORIGINAL: Carnival's Miami based ships will begin staggered check in soon too. The Carnival Fantasy (until the ship leaves for Mobile), Carnival Sensation, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Glory, and Carnival Splendor will begin this process in early March 2016.) Currently, Carnival's website says this is a pilot program and no details are given if this program will be rolled out fleetwide.
After reading Carnival's information about this new procedure, I find two things interesting. The check in time selected will go for the entire stateroom. This means the guests staying in a stateroom will have the same time. For cruisers traveling in groups, it might be helpful to coordinate a time that works for all. If you have one person in a stateroom that wants to check in early, but another that wants to check in late this could create a problem since everyone's boarding pass will have to show the same time. In this situation, try compromising with a time that is somewhere in between. Another thing I find interesting with this procedure is priority guests and Faster to the Fun guests must still select a check in time, but can come whenever they want. My recommendation to Carnival is give all of the people that are priority or Faster to the Fun one large window and don't make these cruisers select a time.
Important: Carnival's website states the check in time windows can fill up. I recommend selecting a time well in advance before your cruise to ensure you get the time you want. When you go to the cruise terminal on embarkation day, make sure you have your boarding pass that shows your time as well as all of your other required documents.
For more information on this Staggered Check In Process visit Carnival's FAQ page: Click Here
***This article has been updated on 1/13/2016 to reflect new information about Carnival expanding this procedure to Miami based ships in early March 2016.