New cruisers, take heed - Embarkation process

While every cruise line varies, there are more similarities than differences when it comes to embarkation Validating required documentation and ensuring an efficient process are priorities for all lines. provides some valuable embarkation guidance for people who are new to cruising at Of course you should always check and double check yourself to be sure you don't leave a critical step out when preparing for your cruise vacation. 

Anyone here have embarkation experiences that are valuable lessons learned for newer cruisers?

10 Answers

Check, recheck then check again ..... with the cruiseline, the travel agent, the external affairs dept of your country and your cruise contract. Better safe than sorry. Also, double check on the morning of departure if you need a wheelchair to get on board. If you don't you might not get one.

Have all of your paperwork at hand. Not in your luggage. Not in your purse, etc.

Make sure all of the names on the paperwork, match your identification. If they don't, provide the correct paper trail of proof. Booked under your married name, but your passport still has your maiden name ? Bring your marriage Certificate. Not license, CERTIFICATE. The license gives you permission to marry.

Know the difference... many cruise ports are now using staggered check-in windows to alleviate traffic congestion around the port and reduce lines once inside the terminal. A check-in time, either assigned to you by the cruise line or one that you picked is not the time you will be boarding the ship, in many cases it refers to the earliest time the port personnel will allow you into the processing building. Actual boarding time is dependent on many factors and could possibly be hours after you have finished your physical check-in at the terminal building.

Be aware of changes... even if you have had a 100 cruises, different ports and different ship's in the same line many have slightly altered operational hours or policies from each other. First make sure if the cruise line offers you sign-up for any text travel alerts or email updates. Beyond reading your boarding pass or cruise contract also consult the FAQs for your cruise line, ship specific if possible, and the website for the port. Many cruises will tell you you need to be on board 45-60 minutes prior to departure, but the port may have operationally hours that close their doors 90 minutes to 2 hours prior to the ship's departure. Or the port's parking area may open for new passengers at a time that differs from the doors to the terminal opening for drop-offs.

Know your limits... if you normally can't carry your luggage up a flight or 2 of stairs, or don't want it trailing behind you while exploring the ship or even just grabbing lunch from the buffet don't plan on carrying it on, just check it with the porters. Even if the terminal is only 1 level bypassing the need of stairs or escalators inside of the building, many ships embark on deck 2 or higher requiring you bring your luggage up a switch back gangway. Also be aware of the particular cruise ship's or port's requirements for carry-ons and item bans/restrictions. Beyond the size of the luggage some require you to place certain items like beverage allotments or power cords in your carry-on to be checked pre-boarding. If it's in your checked luggage, even if the item is allowed by the cruise line, port security may remove the item(s) either holding them till the end of the cruise or disposing of them entirely.

Everyone has some excellent tips... I am going to throw a few more in, and this is all from working at a port myself...

Don't listen to a DMV... Had a NY family and the adults had enhanced licenses (fine for their closed loop cruise) and their soon to be 15 year old had a photo ID card... The DMV said it would be fine, because they needed the Birth Certificate and mom's enhanced license to get it... WRONG.....We still needed the girls BC

Which brings me to my next tip.... Be safe and invest in a passport... If anything happens (god forbid) and you have to fly back home, a passport will be the only thing to get you back in the country when in a foreign port.

I can't stress enough, the paperwork and passports or documents need to be in hand, and not in your suite cases... Sounds simple enough, but at least one group (if not more) on each sailing is in a panic by the pier coordinators desk trying to communicate with someone to find their luggage that they dropped off with the porter because their passports are packed in it and they can't get checked in...

Oh and also, piggy backing on maryred and knowing your limits.... Some people like to carry all their big clunky bags on the ship... Don't... The porters take your luggage for you and the attendants will bring them to your room... Pack a carry on with some essential meds, bathing suite, change of cloths, and some other essentials and you are fine... No need to haul your family luggage on the ship.

Great feedback so far.. keep it comin'!

Ooops started a similar discussion ... oh well

I agree with all the advice above. Every though I get calls from the cruise line telling me not to get to the terminal before a certain time, I usually go earlier since traffic delays are usually unexpected and anything can happen or the road or with airline flights. If the cruise line has staggered embarkation times, though, abide by them. Staying at a nearby hotel a day ahead of time is good advice and I often do it for peace of mind.

Complete the Check In process online is the best thing to do to avoid delays when at the terminal. Have the credit card you are using to pay your onboard charges handy just in case you need to show it. Have all you paperwork in your hand or easily accessible including your passport. I keep everything in a folder so papers don't fly all over. Keep a pen that works handy to fill out the health form handed to you. Keep a smile on your face for your photo!

Thankfully I have never had a bad experience at Embarkation except for sometimes long lines.

I agree with everything that has been said it is all great advise.

What I would add is once you arrive at the port, take a second and take a deep breath. Listen to what the folks at the port tell you and follow their instructions. Everyone is in a hurry to get on the ship and start their vacation. They will cut you off to get in front of you then not have a clue what to do or have what they need, so pack a little extra patience and you will start the cruise in a great frame of mind.

What they said. Also, I've seen people leave a northern port in the middle of winter wearing tropical clothing trying to look cruise-like, or coming back from a cruise needing a coat. Dress according to your departure port weather, and be prepared for your return.

This is a real bugaboo for those of us traveling from cold climates to warm as well. You are right, it's all in being prepared.


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