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Cruise Diva's FOCUS is on: What to Expect
Port Days on A Cruise

Arriving in port

Land Ho!
The Captain deftly inches his vessel alongside the pier as line handlers scurry to grab the ropes and secure them. The gangway appears and everyone is anxious to proceed ashore. But first there is a delay until the announcement that the ship has "cleared." 

What's that all about? Simple... before anyone can leave the ship, local immigration officials must give their approvalor "clear" the passengers to debark. Procedures vary, depending on the port of call, but generally the identity/nationality of all passengers is verified. This can be accomplished by examining the manifest (often the case in non-US Caribbean ports) or checking passports that are held by the Purser (in Europe, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific). When ships enter, or re-enter, US ports (including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands) after visiting a foreign port, all passengers are required to report to Immigration with their identity papers. Hint—if you don't have a passport, get one. A passport smooths the way and is always acceptable identification.

Port calls add an allure to cruise ship travel that cannot be duplicated by any other type of vacation experience. What you do ashore depends entirely on your interests and comfort level when confronted by a new environment and culture.

Cruise line offer shore excursions that appeal to a wide variety of tastes: sightseeing, hiking, biking, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and a host of other activities. These excursions are tried and tested and, as a rule, provide a good experience for the money. If you prefer to do your own touring, you are naturally free to book a private guide or taxi, rent a vehicle, or use public transportation, and delve into whatever interests you. A cautionary rule of thumb is that it's often better to take a ship's tour if you want to explore an area some distance from your ship's berth. In case of any delay, your ship will wait for you. On the other hand, if you're on your own, well... you're on your own and the ship will depart without you. Give yourself plenty of time to be back at the ship at least a half hour before it is scheduled to sail!

To make the most of your hours ashore, research your options ahead of time. Guidebooks are an excellent resource, as are Internet sites devoted to travel—particularly the official tourism sites developed by the countries you are visiting. Friends and fellow passengers who've "been there and done that" can offer valuable insights into your ports of call.

Meanwhile, Back on board
Activities on most cruise ships are somewhat curtailed while in port, however, they don't cease entirely. There are still exercise classes, the spa and fitness center will remain open, and games and movies are sometimes planned. Of course there is the opportunity to enjoy the swimming pool in near solitude.

Due to customs regulations, the casino and shops will be closed. Check your daily schedule for meal times and locations as they sometimes vary on port days.

What to expect:

--> Back to Embarkation Day


Find out more...

  • Hints for First Time Cruisers Part 1 -- Little things every first-time Cruise Diva should know ahead of time. By George Hall
  • Hints for First Time Cruisers Part 2 -- You're on board. What can you expect in this new, yet vaguely familiar, environment? By George Hall
  • A Cruise Diva's Musts -- The Chicago Sun-Times turned to CruiseDiva.com for advice on the secret comforts to make your cruise the best it can be.
  • The Cruise Planning Timeline -- The sailing date for your dream cruise is drawing near and it's time to take care of some practical considerations. You're getting ready to cruise—these are the things to do and a schedule of when to do them.
  • Tips for Cruisers -- The Archive of Weekly Cruise Travel Tips. Check in often for new tips or to find the ones you may have missed.
  • FAQs -- Frequently Asked Questions & simple answers.
  • First-Time Cruise Smarts For First-Class Passengers -- Netfolio & the Cruise Diva collaborated on advice for first-time cruise passengers.

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