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
What's that all about? Simple... before anyone can leave the
ship, local immigration officials must give their approval—or
"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.
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:
to Embarkation Day
Find out more...