for the birdie--an embarkation photo op
You've planned, prepared, and packed. All that's left to do is
get to the pier—either
from the airport or your pre-cruise hotel—and you're anxious to get
your cruise vacation underway.
Naturally no one wants to "miss the boat" and, due
to relatively recent U.S. federal security regulations, cruise lines
are required to submit certain passenger information to law
enforcement authorities at least one hour prior to every ship's
departure. That means you must be at the pier and complete the
check-in process well in advance of the scheduled sailing time.
Holland America Line advises, "To meet this requirement, we must
have the necessary information in our records at least 90 minutes
before departure. If we do not have your information by this
deadline, you will be unable to sail."
Happily, you can
provide the required information by completing pre-boarding
"paperwork" online for most cruise lines. However, that doesn't mean you should arrive at
the pier hours in advance of the earliest published check-in time
listed on your cruise documents. If you do, you may simply have to
Many veteran cruisers will advise you to get to the port as early
as you can. That might work, or maybe not. You could find yourself
standing outside until the terminal is ready. Carnival Cruise Lines'
documents state, "For your comfort and convenience, we strongly
encourage you NOT to arrive at the cruise terminal more than 30
minutes prior to the scheduled check-in start time for your cruise.
Due to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, early arriving guests may
not be permitted to enter the cruise terminal upon arrival. Early
arrivals may have a prolonged wait time in potentially warm or
inclement weather conditions."
When you fly to your embarkation port city on sailing
day, your options are fairly limited by your flight arrival time—and
I do suggest you book the earliest flight possible. Bear in
mind, though, that when your flight touches down mid-morning and
your cruise check-in time is noon or later, there may be no
alternative other than to head for the pier.
In reality, with a cruise line transfer you might have to wait at
the airport for the bus to fill and, when arriving at the terminal,
you may be held on the bus until porters are ready to unload the
Whether you take a bus transfer or taxi, you may get there before
the cruise line is ready to begin processing arrivals. In some
cases, porters may still be busy with departing passengers' luggage.
It's no fun to mill around outside with other early arrivals, or get
in a long line to enter the building, but
sometimes it's unavoidable.
A better option is to arrive a day early and spend the night in a
nearby hotel. Awaken refreshed and ready to go. But hold on a second! Don't get
overly anxious or you'll end up in line with those early arrivals from the
airport. Most hotels don't require you to check out before 11:00am
and some don't pressure you to leave before noon. Better yet, ask
for a late check-out and relax at the pool until later. Leave
yourself enough time, but take a taxi
or shuttle at your leisure and arrive at the port when things are
less hectic. More often than not, you'll find few lines after 2:00pm
and check-in will be a breeze. Plus, you'll be able to go straight
to your stateroom once you're on board.
mean you might not be able to go straight to your
stateroom? And why not? Many cruise lines have adopted the policy
that embarking passengers are not allowed into accommodations until
a specific time, which allows stewards adequate time to complete
their duties and insures your privacy as well as the security of
your belongings. That means you may not be able to drop off carry-on
bags in your
cabin before proceeding to lunch. In the
case of Holland America Line, cabins were accessible at 1:30pm on a recent sailing.
By arriving early, you may be among the first to board the ship,
but that might mean you have to tote your stuff around until the
passageway doors are open to the accommodations decks. No matter how
far you've schlepped them, by the time you embark, the items you carry on
will begin feeling heavy and cumbersome.
By arriving at the published check-in time, or a bit later,
staterooms are more likely to be available for immediate occupancy. Plus, stewards
often line up to assist with carry-on luggage and show you the way
to your cabin
on certain premium and luxury cruise lines. It's a lot simpler to navigate the
welcome aboard buffet unencumbered by a massive tote bag or rollaboard ... and the food won't run out, so there's no rush.
Inquire beforehand and you may be pleased to discover that your ship
offers a relaxed luncheon in the dining room.
Avoid any unpleasant surprises both at the cruise terminal and
aboard the ship by reading your cruise documents carefully and completing your paperwork
before leaving home. To smooth the way even further,
use a passport.
Your Cruise: What
Else to Expect