I'm taking my first cruise on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas in a couple of months and was curious about debarkation.  Will we have to go through security to get off the ship since we are traveling to Mexico?  And if we do will our Global Entry with CBP help expedite the process?  Our flight leaves at 11:15 from Fort Lauderdale airport, how long does debarkation take? Thanks in advance for any advice.

17 Answers

You will have to clear customs after you get off the ship. I don't have Global entry, so I can't answer that question for you. I would recommend doing self-disembarkation, where you have to carry all your bags off without help, or look into Royal Caribbean's Luggage Express program, where you set your bags out the night before and you don't see them again till you arrive at your home airport. It costs extra, but the one time we used it with Carnival, it was worth every penny.

If you wait for zone disembarkation, you could have a problem getting to the airport and getting through security in time to catch your flight.

Good luck, and enjoy your cruise!!

Thanks so much!

The cruise port is close to the airport, but flying out before noon might be taking a chance on missing the flight. If the ship is delayed getting into FLL, if debarkation takes longer etc., or if going through the check in at the airport are delayed, you could be late.

My suggestion is to change the flight to a little later if possible, and to talk to Guest Services to see if you can get zone 1 debarkation, and be sure to take your luggage off yourself like GrandmaJo mentioned.

Hope you enjoy your cruise.

We've done RCCL out of Ft. Lauderdale. And as mentioned already, the airport is really close to the ship. It's less than a 15 minute taxi ride. Depending on what day you are sailing the airport could be really crowded--like Sundays are very busy days. But, as long as you can manage to get off the ship at one of the earlier times, you should be fine.

Thanks, we are flying home on a Thursday and have TSA pre-check as well as Global Entry(which is basically pre-check for customs and border patrol) I wasn't sure how customs worked when you debark, so I didn't know if the Global Entry would speed that process as well. It sounds as though we will be ok if I get an early debarkation. I'll contact Royal Caribbean.

I'll answer this one. DH has GE and though a big help at the airport it does nothing for marine entry back to the USA. Usually a ship the size of the Independence will take at least 3 hours to get all returning passengers off the ship. A good hint is to look at your cruise documents to see the approximate boarding time and look up the scheduled return time of the cruise before yours using the difference less 1 hour. Then you will have however long it takes the CPB to process out the 4,300+ passengers. Many cruise lines have dropped the luggage express option due to high instances of lost and misdirected bags, so that might not be an option even available anymore. But what you can do to increase your chances of priority handling is to include on your online check-in all your flight information. Another option is to do self debarkation where you handle all of your luggage through the ship, down the gangplank, and in to the terminal for customs to inspect while repatriating your family/group. For some family's with that wish to comply with Royal's MDR and specialty restaurant (several nights of semi and formal) dress codes this is not always an option that is easily handled especially if stairs are involved. But if you can pack light enough this is the fastest way off the ship and through customs as long as they do not pull you aside for a an open luggage check. If you decide on doing zone debarkation you might want to see if Royal's airport transfer will leave early enough for your flight, & if it does book that, as it increase your priority in the eyes of the cruise line. As others have said plead your case with the guest service desk (well in advance of packing day) for a low zone number. Depending on the cruise terminal you may visit with the CPB before retrieving our luggage or after finding it in it's assigned zone in a warehouse like area. If you collect the luggage before seeing a customs agent having a porter take your bags through tends to be the faster line. Also having a passport book, card, or federally recognized EDL (only 5 states have these) moves faster than the photo ID, birth certificate, and bridge document lines. If unable to use the cruise line's airport shuttle, know in advance where the taxi line is or where the Uber/Lyft pick-up lots are.

jen2002 - here is another input for you. We just pack two bags - one carry on, and one 'checked' bag. On disembarkation, we carry both bags with us. Our level with Princess allows us to get off when we want, so once the customs clearance is received, we are usually in the first couple hundred to get off. (Not knowing your loyalty level, as mentioned above you can ask for departure group one or two on the ship).

We disembark about 0830, walk to the customs area, and NORMALLY get thru customs by 0900. YOU will have an advantage of the Global Entry. That line moves REALLY fast! Out to the taxi area or a pre-purchased shuttle ticket and we are off to the airport. 0930 at the latest.

FLL TSA can be fairly fast, or bogged down if multiple cruise ships enter port that morning. Again, since you are TSA pre-check, you should sail thru the line.

Without your Global Entry and TSA pre-check, we have had 1200 (ish) flights with no problems.

Summary. Get off asap. Carry your bags.Global Entry customs. Taxi to airport. TSA pre-check. Wait at your gate for your plane to leave. Close, but I think you can do it. Good luck!

definitely do self disembarkation-carry your luggage with you and you will get out ahead of all the people-in January at Fort Lauderdale, my brother and I did that and got in the self disembarkation line which looked pretty long but moved decently. We got in line just before 7:30, got off and thru security, got a taxi, checked in at the airport and went thru their security and were sitting in the gate area at 8:20am. It can be done.

Here's a tip for the Ft Lauderdale airport ... have your driver drop you in arrivals (not departures where the lines getting into the airport can be massive) and simply take the elevator down to departures ... we've flown out of there many times and an old Uber driver taught us that trick and it really works!

That's a great idea - thanks for the tip. We don't fly out of FLL till March but I will remember to get dropped off at arrivals.


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