What to Do Before You Board Your Cruise

Embarkation day is a breeze when you plan ahead. - Photo by Shutterstock

Even cruise aficionados occasionally neglect to pack sunscreen or make reservations to the most talked-about restaurant onboard. Check out our list of common things people forget to take care of before setting sail:

1. Book shore excursions.

shore excursions before you board cruise

If there's a specific excursion on your to-do list, don't wait to book it on the ship. - Photo by Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

Most cruise lines offer extensive information about shore excursions on their websites, so take a look to see what’s available in your ports of call before you board. Check your line’s policy on its website: The time tables vary — Princess Cruises lets you book excursions 120 days prior to sailing, while Disney’s policy is 75 days out. (Some fill up long before embarkation day, so consider yourself warned!)

While most passengers book excursions through the cruise line, you can also book directly with the vendor, who typically offers a better rate. Just make sure your independent excursions aren’t so long that you cut it close to being back onboard in time — cruise ships won’t wait for cruisers who booked through a third party.

Of course, in many destinations, we prefer just to sightsee on our own. Check out our handy port guides for tips on what to see at your destinations.


2. Buy travel insurance.

lost luggage travel insurance

Travel insurance can also cover lost luggage. - Photo by Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

Although it can’t save you from a rainy day, insurance can come in handy if you have an issue while at sea, such as if you’re a diabetic and need insulin. It’s also helpful in cases of sudden and unexpected emergencies that require you to return home at a moment’s notice.

Think it can’t happen to you? According to Carnival Cruise Lines spokesperson Vance Gulliksen, it’s not that uncommon. “That’s why we strongly encourage guests to purchase travel insurance, either through Carnival or a third-party supplier,” he says.

Shop around to find the best policy for your needs. A good place to start is an insurance comparison site, like squaremouth.com or InsureMyTrip.com.


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3. Make onboard reservations.

norwegian iconcierge app before you board

Some cruise lines, like Norwegian, have their own apps where you can make reserverations right on your phone. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

Most cruise lines give you the opportunity to make entertainment, dining, and spa reservations on their websites by logging in with your confirmation number.

Some lines even let you make reservations on your smartphone. Norwegian Cruise Line has a (free) app, for example, for Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway. If there’s a particular show or specialty restaurant you’d like to try on one of those ships, book them in advance to ensure that you won’t be disappointed.


4. Pack a carry-on for embarkation day.

carry on before you board cruise

Your luggage may arrive at your cabin several hours after you do. Plan accordingly. - Photo by Maksim Vasic / Shutterstock

It can take as long as half the day for bags checked at embarkation to arrive in your room, so make sure to have essentials with you. Planning on catching some rays before being let into your cabin? Pack your bathing suit, e-reader, shades, and sunscreen.


5. Call your bank.

phone bank card board cruise

The bank could put a hold on your card if they suddenly start seeing charges in the Caribbean. - Photo by Rasulov / Shutterstock

If you’re not a frequent traveler, before leaving the country it’s important to inform your bank that you’re going on vacation so the bank doesn’t presume that your change in spending patterns means that your credit or debit card has been stolen. Otherwise, some financial institutions will temporarily disable your account. Neglecting to notify the bank is a common mistake that can result in expensive, long-distance calls while other cruisers are off exploring.


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Join the discussion

What’s something you’ve forgotten to do or pack before a cruise?


Posted by GALBRE

Not only banks but credit cards co.need to be called and notified on travel dates and places.They call to confirm you made the notification. Most of all relax and enjoy.

Posted by leathgirl

As tempting as it is to post all over social media when and where you are going. This is probably just an invitation for burglary theft and unwsntef use of your house by "friends" . my advise keep it on the downlow. Pics can wait. Any name search produces address phone number and for a couple dollars more ALOT more than that. Don't invite it.

Posted by leathgirl

As tempting as it is to post all over social media when and where you are going. This is probably just an invitation for burglary theft and unwsntef use of your house by "friends" . my advise keep it on the downlow. Pics can wait. Any name search produces address phone number and for a couple dollars more ALOT more than that. Don't invite it.

Posted by MrChocoholic

Also true for EVERYTHING else you get delivered, like newspapers, prescriptions etc. Make a plan for your pet, no matter what it is. Short cruises require less complicated pet arrangements obviously, but you'd be surprised how many people forget and come home to find their parakeet in the cage lying down with legs up. If you travel with a "service animal" be sure the legalities of doing so are addressed for EACH port of call you're visiting, not just your port of departure/return.

Posted by CrusinTim

Don't forget to notify the Post Office by putting your mail on "Hold". This can be done online or through your local Post Office. Doing this keeps mail from building up in your mailbox and letting thieves no your not home. Nothing worse than coming home from a delightful cruise to find your home robbed. You can select an end date for your mail hold then elect if the mail carrier delivers your accumulated mail or you can go to your post office and pick it up.

Posted by Carol813

Don't forget to contact your cell phone carrier and arrange for an international call plan if needed. You don't want to get surprised by huge roaming fees. Apparently you can just put it on Airplane Mode, but just be careful if you take it off that setting to use wi-fi somewhere that you remember to reset it to airplane mode. My carrier also recommended making sure your cell phone settings are set to only download via wi-fi so that your email and pictures don't save to the cloud in the background (you won't be aware it is happening) and then you will get with huge roaming fees also.

Posted by Caben1114

Learned a lot from our first cruise last year. Pack a bag of every kind of medication you can think of. Sinus, sea sick meds, cough, headache, stomach nausea, neosporin, bandaids, antibiotic cream, sore muscle rub, sunscreen, aloe Vera, diarrhea, constipation etc. it is quite expensive to see the ship doctor. Also, we packed a bag of hand sanitizer, wet wipes, Clorox wipes, (all travel sized) a sewing kit, and small first aid kit. You’d be surprised how these things are needed for a long cruise, or even 3-4 days. Extra space wasted? No! Definitely a must!!

Posted by MrandMrsFreese

Thank you all so much! My husband and I are booked for May of 2020. It's our first cruise and I'm reading as much as I can so we can prepare!

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