Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Tue July 19 2016

7 Cruise Disembarkation Tips

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Jason Leppert | July 19, 2016

7 Cruise Disembarkation Tips

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Sadly, your cruise has come to an end, and it’s time to disembark the ship. As the process is comparable to everyone in a sold-out hotel checking out on the very same morning, it can be a busy and complicated one. However, we’ve gathered seven tips to make it all that much easier.

Don’t Book a Flight Too Early

When arranging your flights to and from a cruise long before first boarding, it’s important to not book your return airfare too early on the day of disembarkation. Just because your ship may be scheduled to arrive in its final port at say 7 a.m. doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get off right away and transfer to the airport in time for an early morning departure. In fact, the ship still needs to clear customs, and the crew needs to begin offloading passenger luggage. Usually, it’s not advised to book a flight before 11 a.m., and unexpected delays can make an afternoon one a safer bet.

Verify Your Account Statement Ahead of Time

Final account statements are delivered to guest cabins late on the final night of the cruise or early morning on the day of departure. To avoid any surprise charges and a need to resolve them at an overrun reception desk at the last minute, it’s best to get a printout beforehand to confirm that everything looks as it should, particularly if you need to settle your account should a credit card not already be on file.

 READ MORE: 7 Cruise Embarkation Tips 

Put Out Enough Clothes the Night Before

In order to expedite luggage offloading, guests are asked to place their luggage outside the night before disembarkation so that the crew can have it ready pier-side before you leave the ship. Of course, that means you will be without the bulk of your belongings on that morning. It may seem obvious, but it’s inevitably a classic mistake that some passengers still do not set aside the next day’s clothes before placing their suitcases outside their stateroom. Don’t forget or you will be without apparel, short of a bathrobe, crossing the gangplank.

Mind Your Luggage Tag Color

Most cruise lines assign luggage tags with specific colors on them to stagger the flow of guests departing the ship. That is your luggage will be awaiting you, stored in a section of the port facility that matches the time you are scheduled to disembark. The color group order is determined by the travel arrangements that you share with the cruise line to prioritize those on earlier flights. Times are usually estimated, however. So, be sure to listen for when your group is called over the PA system to know for sure when you are free to disembark. Otherwise, premature lobby crowding ensues.

Take Off Your Own Luggage

Alternatively, if you desire to get off sooner than later and are independent and able-bodied enough to handle your own suitcases, you can often opt to disembark first with a self-assist group. While this option is perhaps physically less convenient, as the path off the ship can be a longer one than expected to roll off your own luggage, it’s usually the best for ensuring the fastest disembarkation should that be required.

 READ MORE: 6 Expert Cruise-Planning Tips From Travel Agents 

First Take the Elevator Up to Go Down

Whether you are taking off all of your own luggage or just your carry-on bags, elevators heading down to the gangway are frequently full with other passengers and their belongings. Especially if you have a lot of suitcases with you, a trick that works well is to call an emptier elevator up before descending back down.

Consider Cruise Lines with Simpler Disembarkation

For decades, most cruise lines have followed the system of group assignments to schedule guest departures spread out during the morning, the result of which can sometimes become complicated if delays change the priority dynamic. Disney Cruise Line instead simplifies it all by dropping a specific schedule besides a first self-help group. And you know what? It works seamlessly. Guests know when they need to be off by at the latest, they will organically depart evenly as travel dictates. It would sure be nice if other cruise lines adopted this model accordingly.


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Experience Alaska With Holland America Line

Cruise Lines & Cruise Ships