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Cruise Diva's FOCUS is on: What to Expect
General Cruising Information & Wrapping Things up on Debarkation Day

Debarkation
All cruises come to an end eventually and it hardly seems fair that you have to leave when it feels like your vacation has just begun—days on a cruise fly by!

Your debarkation process actually begins the day before you arrive at your ship's homeport. Sometime during that day your cabin steward delivers special luggage tags to your stateroom, along with Customs forms and instructions. Be organized and avoid a lot of last-minute anxiety.

First, you have to pack for home. Be sure to set aside clothing to wear the morning you leave the ship. Many people dress in whatever casual outfits they wear for the final dinner on board, or change into travel clothes after dinner. Also, don't forget to put your passport or other proof of citizenship, airline tickets, and medications in hand luggage!

After packing, remove all the old tags from your suitcases, except for personal identification. Then attach the new debarkation tags (they are color- or number-coded according post-cruise flight schedules). Follow the instructions provided and place the luggage outside your stateroom door for pick up during the hours indicated.

A statement itemizing your on board charges is delivered before you arise on debarkation morning. Plan to get up early enough to check it over for accuracy, finish packing your personal belongings, and vacate your stateroom by the appointed hour. Any discrepancies in your on board account should be taken care of before leaving the ship, usually at the Purser's Desk.

Room service is not available on most ships; however, breakfast is served in the main restaurant as well as the buffet. After breakfast, there isn't much to do but wait comfortably in a lounge or on deck for your tag color or number to be called.

Debarkation procedures can sometimes be drawn out by passengers who are unprepared. This is no time to abandon your patience or sense of humor.

Remember that all passengers must meet with Customs and Immigration officials before debarkation, either on the ship or in the terminal. Procedures vary and are outlined in your instructions. In some ports, passengers must meet with the officials at a specified hour (usually very early) in an onboard lounge; in other ports, Customs forms are collected in the terminal and passports/identification papers are examined there as well.

Once in the terminal, luggage is sorted by color or number. Locate yours and, if desired, flag down a porter for assistance. Then, either proceed to your bus, taxi, or retrieve your vehicle from the parking lot.

Your cruise is complete and you are officially a "veteran" sailor!

Hint: One way to lessen the pain of leaving your ship is to book another cruise while you are on board.

General info & things to keep in mind
Just as there is no such thing as a perfect vacation, a flawless cruise is an unrealistic expectation. Every officer and staff member on your ship has the same goal: to meet passenger expectations and provide a safe and satisfying voyage. The more you know as a passenger, the better you will be prepared. 

With dozens of cruises logged on my current passport, I've never been on a perfect sailing. Small things go wrong; however, some problems are simply a matter of miscommunication or misguided expectations. Following are a few "situations" you may encounter. With expanded knowledge and an understanding of how things work, they don't have to ruin your cruise.

Luggage: As a rule, the larger the ship, the longer it takes for your luggage to be delivered on embarkation day. Even if you were one of the first passengers to board the ship, that doesn't necessarily mean you will be the first to get your luggage. Sometimes it will all appear early in the day; however, it could materialize piece by piece during the course of the afternoon and into evening. If it appears that all the luggage has been distributed (you don't see any more in the passageways or being delivered) and you don't have all your luggage by about 8 pm, check with the reception desk. They might be able to give you a progress report—for instance, the "room" tag affixed to a suitcase may have been damaged. In that case, it would be set aside until the name on the luggage identification tag could be matched with the manifest. This illustrates why it's very important to have your name on the outside and inside of your suitcases.

Switching Staterooms: Congratulations if you received a last minute complimentary upgrade or were able to purchase an upgrade to better accommodations at the pier. After you board the ship and inspect your superior quarters, tell your steward about the change and request that he take care of getting your luggage to the right stateroom. It's not a bad idea to be proactive as well, so take the time to stop by your original cabin. You might find your luggage there already, as well as anything that was delivered for you (rented tuxedo, bon voyage gifts, messages, etc). If the steward is available, tell him your new cabin number. Then, be patient—stewards are very busy on embarkation day

Photos: There are many "Kodak Moments" on a cruise and ship photographers are there to capture them. In fact, they often create situations for photo ops. The photographers set their equipment up in a variety of locations before and after formal night dinners to snap portraits and they also make the rounds in the dining room to take informal shots of couples and groups. Photo shop hours are listed in the daily schedule and it's fun to pick out your pictures, whether you intend to purchase them or not. Some shipboard photo shops also offer film processing and other photo services.

Gratuities: For the sake of convenience, most cruise lines automatically add the recommended gratuities to passengers' on board accounts. You may request that your account be credited if you prefer to handle them with cash. Other cruise lines offer the option of charging gratuities and you may do so by following the procedure they outline.

Missed Ports of Call: Sometimes weather conditions and mechanical problems cause a cruise ship to bypass ports of call. Read your "Contract of Carriage" and you'll see that cruise lines reserve the right to change the itinerary for just cause.

Complaints: See the Hotel Director when a situation occurs that you feel needs to be addressed. I've never met a Hotel Director who didn't take his job seriously and there isn't much he can do after the cruise is over.

Communication: This might more accurately be termed "lack of communication." In the event of an unusual situation or emergency, the officers and crew of your vessel are more concerned with problem solving than keeping passengers informed. Patience is called for—don't insist that you are being kept in the dark. The Captain and his officers will give you the information you need in good time.

Smooth Sailing & Bon Voyage!

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.
  • Passenger Rights & Wrongs -- What recourse do you have if the cruise on your Dream Ship becomes a Nightmare? An interview with James Walker, a top maritime attorney.

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