What to Expect on a Cruise: Boarding a Cruise Ship (2023)

What to Expect on a Cruise: Boarding a Cruise Ship (1)

What to Expect on a Cruise: Boarding a Cruise Ship (ID: 1710) (Photo: Cruise Critic)

What to Expect on a Cruise: Boarding a Cruise Ship (2)

What to Expect on a Cruise: Boarding a Cruise Ship (ID: 1710) (Photo: Cruise Critic)

(Video) Boarding day cruise ship tips for 2022

How do I get on my ship? Is there a check-in process like at the airport?

The arrival and check-in process for your cruise can seem overwhelming and chaotic, but it's generally organized. Your cruise line will send you information about when to arrive at the port, giving a several-hour window, typically from late morning to mid-afternoon. You can show up at any time during that window. Generally speaking, the busiest time for boarding is between noon (when most cruise lines' regular check-in begins) and 2 p.m., so we recommend arriving just before or after that window. Bear in mind: If you arrive too early, you might have to wait around, especially if the passengers from the previous cruise are still disembarking. You also shouldn't cut it too close; understand that if you arrive after check-in has ended, even by just a few minutes, you likely will not be allowed to board.

When you arrive at the cruise terminal, the first thing to do is locate your boarding documents (either mailed to you or printed out at home) and your identification (passport or driver's license and birth certificate), and keep them handy.

(Video) 15 FIRST DAY CRUISE TIPS - What You MUST DO Immediately After Boarding

Upon entering the terminal, you'll need to show your cruise documents and go through a security line. You will need to pass through an x-ray machine and have your carry-ons scanned, but the process is not as rigorous as at the airport. (You likely won't need to remove your shoes, for example.) Then you'll enter a large open space with roped-off lines and check-in stations. Cruise line staff will be on hand to direct you to the correct line; suite passengers and high-status past-passengers will typically go into a shorter line or separate waiting area, while regular passengers join a main line.

At check-in, you will present your ID and documents for the representative to check you in. You will also be asked to fill out a form stating whether anyone in your party has been sick lately; this is for the cruise lines to guard against norovirus and other illnesses easily spread in confined places. In turn, they will take your picture for security purposes, give you your cruise card (an all-in-one electronic card used as your boarding card, room key and onboard credit card) and give you a schedule of the day's events and possibly a handy map of the ship. Note: Some cruise ships issue wristbands in lieu of cards. Additionally, select Carnival ships operate on a keyless embarkation system, in which passengers can pick up their cards in the mailbox outside their cabin, eliminating the extra step of having them issued in the terminal.

Select cruise ports -- namely PortMiami, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and Port Tampa Bay -- have undergone renovations aimed at expediting the embarkation process. PortMiami's Terminal F (operated by MSC Cruises), for example, recently received 60 additional ticket counters, among other upgrades. Other terminals are building in new technology to cut down the wait time. PortMiami's Terminal A will adopt a paperless check-in system as well as digital luggage tracking when Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas arrives in fall 2018. The terminal is designed to host the line's Oasis-class ships. Meanwhile, Port Everglades' Terminal 2 will be equipped with similar technology to host Princess Cruises' Ocean Medallion-class ships.

Can I find food or bathrooms at the cruise terminal?

Terminals will usually have bathrooms for passenger use and might have some juice, coffee or cookies available. Food will always be available once you board the ship, regardless of time.

How do I actually get onto the ship?

Once you have checked in and have your cruise card, you will either follow signs and staff members to board your ship right away, or you'll be directed to a waiting area with instructions on when to board. On your way to the ship, you'll encounter the ship's photographers asking passengers to pose for a picture, often with a backdrop of the ship or a ship's life ring. These photos will be available to purchase onboard, and if you do not want to take one, you can simply say "no, thank you" and pass by.

Once you're cleared to board, you will follow a gangway (elevated ramps) up to the ship. There, crewmembers will typically check you in via your cruise card. You'll likely enter the ship in a public area, such as the main atrium, near elevators and staircases, and crewmembers will be available to point you toward food options or your cabin (if it's open).

Will I have to carry my suitcases with me?

When you arrive at the cruise terminal, porters are available to take your large suitcases and transfer them to the ship. You are not required to hand your bags over, but you'll likely want to do this, as cabins are often not ready when you board, and you'll be left lugging your heavy suitcases with you for a few hours. Have a few small bills ready to tip the porters.

Your luggage should be delivered to your cabin by dinnertime. Because you'll be without your suitcases for several hours, you'll want to pack a carry-on bag with everything you'll need for the first afternoon (such as a swimsuit, change of clothes, camera and cell phone), as well as any important items you cannot lose (medications, ID, etc.).

Is there anything special I need to know about traveling with children?

If you're traveling with kids, warn them in advance about the long lines. Consider bringing snacks or entertainment to keep them busy while you wait.

Related: 9 Tips for Controlling Your Kids on a Cruise

(Video) First Day Working On A Cruiseship | Step by Step Details | What To Expect

If I or one of my traveling companions can't stand for a long period of time, will we still have to wait?

If you, or someone in your party, cannot stand for a long time or walk long distances, you might want to bring a walker with a seat or foldable stool, as procedures vary by terminal, and there might not be expedited boarding or appropriate seating options. Additionally, you might want to request a wheelchair; while some might be available at the port, you are better off alerting your cruise line in advance. (If you require a wheelchair for the entire cruise, you'll need to bring your own or rent one via an agency like Special Needs at Sea.) For more information, check out our article on cruising with a disability.

How can I find out more the first day of my cruise?

You might like the following articles:

The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.

Updated January 08, 2020

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What do I need to know before boarding a cruise ship? ›

First Time Cruise Tips
  • Location vs Duration. ...
  • The Right Type of Cruise. ...
  • Be Sure That You Understand What's Covered. ...
  • Follow the Instructions Sent by the Cruise Company Prior to Embarkation. ...
  • Pick The Location of Your Cabin. ...
  • Check Whether Your Travel Insurance Includes Cruise Cover. ...
  • Plan Your Port Days.
29 Apr 2022

How does boarding work on a cruise ship? ›

Cruise line staff will be on hand to direct you to the correct line; suite passengers and high-status past-passengers will typically go into a shorter line or separate waiting area, while regular passengers join a main line. At check-in, you will present your ID and documents for the representative to check you in.

What do you do on boarding day on a cruise? ›

13 Things to do on Embarkation Day
  • Explore the Ship. Take some time to explore the ship as soon as you get onboard. ...
  • Enjoy the Pool & Waterslides. ...
  • Grab Something to Eat. ...
  • Book Shore Excursions. ...
  • Reserve Seats for OnBoard Entertainment. ...
  • Take Pictures. ...
  • Visit the Dining Room. ...
  • Arrange Spa and Salon Appointments.

What should I bring on my first day of cruise? ›

This handy cruise packing checklist for first-timers offers all the tips you need for an enjoyable voyage.
  • Essential Documents. ...
  • Carry-On Backpack. ...
  • First-Aid Kit. ...
  • Sun, Rain and Bug Protection. ...
  • Comfortable Closed-Toed Sandals or Water Shoes. ...
  • Proper Attire for Dinner. ...
  • Light Jacket, Sweater, Sweatshirt or Wrap.

How many suitcases do you take on a cruise? ›

Most cruise lines “encourage” each passenger to limit luggage to two suitcases, each one less than 50 pounds. In addition, you can also bring carry-on luggage (more on that in a moment).

Do your bags get checked on a cruise? ›

Just like the security screening at an airport, we also screen all luggage our guests bring onboard to ensure everyone's safety. If there is an item in your luggage that is prohibited or is believed to be prohibited, your bag will be taken to a screening location and will be inspected by our Security Team onboard.

What time is the best to board a cruise? ›

Avoid arriving at peak boarding time

We recommend getting to the terminal either early, before the rush, or late (after 2 p.m.), when most people are already onboard. You might still have a little wait, but it won't be anything compared to peak boarding time.

How long does boarding a cruise take? ›

Depending on the cruise line, size of the ship/number of passengers, and how efficient the boarding process is, embarkation can range from 30 minutes to a few hours.

Can you text on board a cruise ship? ›

Yes, you can make calls, text, and even video chat from a cruise ship. In port, you can connect to local roaming networks. At sea, you can either make calls via a satellite connection or pay for the ship's Wi-Fi (also via satellite) and make Wi-Fi calls, text or video chat via the internet.

Do you tip for luggage when embarking on a cruise? ›

A good rule of thumb is to give $1 per bag, like you would tip a porter at the airport. Same deal at the end of the cruise. If you use the cruise terminal's porter services to help you get your bags to a taxi, a bus, or your car, the standard tip is $1 per bag.

Do I need to take cash on a cruise ship? ›

Here's the short answer: You don't actually need any cash when on a cruise ship. Most cruise lines operate on a cashless system. This allows you to pay for any and all of your onboard charges using your room key rather than bringing extra cash.

What time do you usually get off a cruise ship? ›

On the final morning of a cruise experience in most countries all guests must leave the ship before the guests joining the next cruise can board. In most environments the latest time to leave the vessel will be between 10:00am and 11:00am.

What do you wear on a cruise at night? ›

For evenings, the recommended onboard dress is elegant casual for most ship venues. Suggested attire for men includes trousers and collared shirts (ties and jackets are optional but not required). For women, dresses, or skirts or slacks with sweaters or blouses are recommended.

Is there a lot of walking on a cruise ship? ›

Since you most likely will be doing a lot of walking and standing in line, comfortable shoes are key. Dress casually, and don't be surprised to see tropical wear on Caribbean cruises or even groups in matching T-shirts. Also make sure you check the weather beforehand.

What should you not bring on a cruise? ›

Prohibited items:
  1. Firearms & Ammunition, including realistic replicas.
  2. Sharp Objects, including all knives and scissors. ...
  3. Illegal Drugs & Substances.
  4. CBD Oil / CBD Products.
  5. Candles, Incense, Coffee Makers, Clothes Irons, Travel Steamers & Hot Plates. ...
  6. Hoverboards.

Can you use your mobile phone on a cruise ship? ›

Do cell phones work on cruise ships? It's a common question with varying answers. Guests are free to utilize their cellular data or connect to our onboard Wi-Fi on any ship. But, please be aware that cellular data used on the ship or in certain ports of call will result in charges from your cell phone provider.

What should you not forget to take on a cruise? ›

15 Things NOT to Forget to Pack for a Cruise
  • Sweater or Light Jacket. This one is most important for the ladies. ...
  • Emergency Contact List. ...
  • Identification. ...
  • Medication. ...
  • Prepackaged Snacks. ...
  • Power Strip. ...
  • Reusable Water Bottle. ...
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes.
5 Oct 2020

How many pairs of shoes should you take on a cruise? ›

With few exceptions, you need to pack only 4-5 pairs of shoes for your cruise.

How much do you tip your luggage carrier on a cruise? ›

Give the luggage handler a $2- $5 tip per bag, depending upon size, weight and amount of luggage. What is this? If you're a solo traveler and only have one large bag to check, a $5 tip is appropriate. Consider the tip as baggage delivery insurance.

How much money should you bring on a cruise? ›

As a general rule, plan to have $50 to $100 each day in the local currency. Also, you may want to bring an extra $20 a day for tipping crew members. Make sure to include smaller bills for tips. Fifty to a hundred dollars a day should be enough to cover small purchases, tips and snacks at each port.

Do you need to bring your own shampoo on a cruise? ›

Your cruise ship will provide basic toiletries for the shower, so there is no reason to waste precious luggage space on shampoo and conditioner. Check the bathroom before you leave to make sure you haven't left behind contact lenses, contact solution, glasses, medications, deodorant, mouthwash and hair gel.

Can you bring food in your suitcase on a cruise? ›

One of the best things about cruising is the food! And there will be many dining options available to suit most tastes and preferences. However you are free to bring non-perishable prepackaged food in limited quantities. While we have many drink offerings onboard, you are welcomed to bring select beverages onboard.

Do you need paper to go on a cruise? ›

It depends on a few different factors. If you're a United States citizen going on a “closed loop” cruise, you'll only need to present: Government issued photo identification. Proof of citizenship (an original or copy of your U.S. birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization)

Do cruises get cold at night? ›

And while you might be cruising the Caribbean or some other tropical locale, ship decks can get pretty cold at night when the sun goes down and the wind picks up, so it may be smart to bring a shawl or light jacket. 19.

Does it get chilly at night on a cruise? ›

Once the sun goes down, the temperature can get a little chilly while on a cruise ship. Avoid getting a case of the shivers and bring along a lightweight jacket or sweater to keep you warm on those cooler nights.

What are the embarkation process? ›

What is embarkation? Simply put, embarkation is the process of getting on your ship – it's the cruising equivalent of boarding a plane! While the embarkation procedure may vary slightly between the different cruise lines, it will fundamentally remain the same and require you to have similar documents to hand.

How early should you check into a cruise? ›

No matter the scheduled time, you MUST be onboard and checked-in no later than 90 minutes prior to the departure. To expedite this process, make sure you have completed your cruise line's pre-registration and printed your boarding pass.

How early do you check-in for a cruise? ›

Due to government regulations requiring cruise lines to submit final departure manifests at least 60 minutes prior to sailing, guests are requested to complete Check-in no later than 3 days prior to their cruise.

Can you get off in the middle of a cruise? ›

The vast majority of passengers simply sail their normal cruise itinerary. But can you just get off the ship and return home on your own terms? The answer is yes, but there are some major complications (and laws) that should be considered.

Should I put my phone on airplane mode on a cruise? ›

Make sure to put your phone on airplane mode to avoid expensive roaming charges. Cellular rates at sea can sneak up on you, and you can easily rack up a $500 roaming bill. Even if you're not actively on your phone, most are still using data, so make sure to set yours on airplane mode to avoid roaming charges.

What do you say when boarding a ship? ›

Upon reaching the Quarterdeck, salute, and say "request permission to come aboard, sir." In some cases, the person manning the watch may be junior to you or in some cases, may not even be an officer. Nevertheless, call him or her "sir" as they represent the authority of the ship's commanding officer.

Do you have to turn off your phone on a cruise ship? ›

Just like at home, you can hook up to the ship's wi-fi and use your phone as normal. Just keep in mind that you will want to ensure any calls you make are over wi-fi or else they will be considered international roaming calls if connected over the ship's cellular service.

What is a good tip for housekeeping on a cruise? ›

For bartenders and housekeepers, you may also want to offer a generous tip at the beginning of the cruise (again, $20 or more, depending on your needs) to ensure great service while on board. As for daily housekeeping gratuity, $2 to $5 per person per day is a good rule of thumb.

Can you bring cash on a cruise ship? ›

Cruise ships do not accept cash onboard because all onboard purchases are charged to passengers personal cruise accounts. Cruise accounts are usually connected to a credit or debit card which is much easier for the cruise lines to process.

Can I bring a full bottle of shampoo on a cruise? ›

Yes you can bring full sized toiletries on a cruise such as shampoo and conditioner. Cruise lines don't have limits on the sizes of liquid/gel toiletries like the airlines do for carry on.

How do you get free stuff on a cruise? ›

How to Get Free Stuff on a Cruise: 8 Tips to Know
  1. Be Brave and Get Onstage for Free Prizes. ...
  2. A Spa Tour Just Might Come With Free Perks. ...
  3. Proving Your Cruise Line Loyalty for Free Stuff. ...
  4. Score Freebies Shopping on Your Cruise. ...
  5. Win Prizes at Onboard Trivia and Other Games. ...
  6. Attend an Art Auction for Free Bubbles.

Do you have to wear a shirt on a cruise? ›

Casual, comfortable attire

T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, sundresses, and skirts are all acceptable clothes to wear on a cruise ship to have lunch in the Oceanview Cafe and other restaurants with a casual dress code.

Do you need shoes on a cruise? ›

Comfortable walking shoes are a must to bring on your cruise. Running shoes or sneakers could work equally well, especially for active shore excursions. Even if you're walking around on the cruise ship, since you could easily walk miles, you'll want shoes that are comfortable and easy to wear.

Do cruise ships speed up at night? ›

Do Cruise Ships Travel Faster at Night? It's a common misconception that cruise ships travel faster at night than during the day. This is probably because cruise ships slow down as they enter and leave ports. Since most cruise ships only enter or leave ports during the day, it can seem like they travel faster at night.

How long does it take to get off a cruise ship once docked? ›

In most cases you'll find that it is completed in 30-45 minutes of arrival. So just because the ship is tied up at the pier doesn't mean passengers can immediately get off. Once passengers are free to go ashore, there is a bit of a rush of people at the beginning, but the lines usually goes quickly.

Is there a curfew on cruise ships? ›

Cruise Lines With No Set Curfew

The vast majority of cruise lines don't publish official curfews, though they do rely on parents to exercise good judgement. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the very kid-friendly Disney Cruise Line does not have an official policy regarding curfew for underage cruisers.

Do you dress up for dinner on a cruise? ›

If you want to attend a “cruise elegant” evening, bring a fancier, more formal outfit. Men can wear suits or dress slacks with a sport coat and dress shirt. For women, cocktail dresses, pantsuits or elegant skirts and blouses are appropriate. Some guests like to go all out with a tuxedo or ball gown.

What do you wear to a casual dinner on a cruise? ›

Eveningwear: Casual

We recommend a dress or nice blouse with slacks for women and khakis with a polo or a short-sleeve button-down shirt for men. But check your cruise line's dress code -- many allow jeans on casual night.

What would happen during the first day of embarkation in a cruise? ›

Embarkation day for your cruise vacation is an exciting day. You get to board the ship and check into your stateroom. You'll likely have a glass of Champagne or other drink in your hand within moments of boarding, activating vacation mode.

What is the protocol for Covid on cruise ships? ›

Health Screening

Cruise ship operators should screen passengers for signs or symptoms of COVID-19, known close contact exposure to a person with COVID-19 within the 10 days before embarkation, or a positive COVID-19 viral test within the 10 days before embarkation.

What documents do I need to get off a cruise ship? ›

U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises can enter or depart the country on the cruise with proof of citizenship. However, it is possible that one or more of the destination countries on your itinerary may require a passport to enter.

What are the things we should know before going on a cruise? ›

15 First Time Cruise Tips
  • Research Your Ports in Advance. ...
  • Don't Tip Double on Alcohol. ...
  • Pack With Space in Mind (and Consider Only a Carry-On) ...
  • Take Yourself on a Ship Tour on Embarkation Day. ...
  • Board Your Ship As Soon As You Can on Embarkation Day. ...
  • Pick a Cabin That Works for Your Cruise Needs.

Do I need a Covid test after a cruise? ›

Check directly with your cruise line about their COVID-19 testing or vaccination protocols before travel. If your cruise line does not have a specific testing requirement, get tested as close to time of cruise departure as possible (no more than 3 days before you travel). Get tested again after cruise travel.

Will masks be required on cruise ships in 2022? ›

Crew members aboard ships within Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are no longer required to wear masks, according to a statement the cruise lines released on October 3, 2022, to their team members. “We are happy to announce that from today masks are optional for crew.

Will passengers have to wear masks on cruise ships? ›

As of March 1, 2022, masks are not required anywhere on the ship whether indoors or outdoors. “Our cruises will operate with 100% vaccination of crew and guests age twelve and over, therefore face coverings are not required while onboard.

Are masks required aboard cruise ships? ›

Carnival Cruise Line

Passengers are encouraged to wear them during embarkation and disembarkation, as well as in areas where there are large crowds. Masks may also be required when ashore, per local guidelines. Cruisers must wear masks in the onboard medical center.

How much cash is needed for a cruise? ›

So How Much Cash Should I Take on a Cruise? As a general rule, plan to have $50 to $100 each day in the local currency. Also, you may want to bring an extra $20 a day for tipping crew members. Make sure to include smaller bills for tips.

Can you use cell phone on cruise ship? ›

Do cell phones work on cruise ships? It's a common question with varying answers. Guests are free to utilize their cellular data or connect to our onboard Wi-Fi on any ship. But, please be aware that cellular data used on the ship or in certain ports of call will result in charges from your cell phone provider.

What can you not eat on a cruise? ›

8 things to avoid at the cruise-ship buffet if you want to keep your stomach ship-shape
  • More Than One Plate at a Time. ...
  • Cross-contaminated food and utensils. ...
  • Communal condiments. ...
  • Stale pizza. ...
  • Scrambled eggs. ...
  • Soft-serve ice cream cones. ...
  • Sushi.
21 Aug 2019

Are cruise ships at full capacity? ›

“The cruise lines have all their ships sailing with no capacity restrictions.

Can you get off a cruise ship without an excursion 2022? ›

Do you have to buy shore excursions on a cruise? In most cases, you don't need to book a shore excursion in order to explore a port of call. You can simply walk off the ship and stroll into town or catch a cab to take you wherever you want to go.

How safe are cruises? ›

Every year, millions of people across the world look for travel options, and some turn to cruises. But are cruises safe? The odds of dying on a cruise ship are slim to none — well, roughly 1 out of 6.25 million. So in that aspect they are considered “safe”.


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