Last updated: 01:57 PM ET, Fri September 02 2016

7 Cruise Embarkation Tips

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Jason Leppert | July 13, 2016

7 Cruise Embarkation Tips

 Photo courtesy of Thinkstock 

You’re excited for your cruise, but before you board the ship you have to prepare for embarkation, so here are seven tips to make the most of the process.

Check In Online

While you can technically take care of registering final details such as filing a credit card for onboard incidentals once you arrive at the port, showing just your passport or identification and cruise ticket to pass through security, it is advised to dial in everything prior to arrival. Some systems even allow you to upload a shipboard security photo and print a health questionnaire ahead of time, all things once handled pier-side. More often than not, shore excursions, dining and spa reservations can even be made well in advance. After all, doing it all online before expedites the process and gets you to the fun that much quicker.

Download the App

Speaking of other online matters, if the cruise line you’re sailing aboard features a complimentary onboard-use mobile app for the likes of Android and iOS devices, be sure to download it before the ship departs while you still have access to your data plan or better yet free Wi-Fi. Once at sea, it will require an internet package to access the app store, and the download speeds may be prohibitive to installing it quickly after the fact.

 READ MORE: CLIA's 5 Top Cruising Tips from Travel Agents 

Consider Drink Restrictions

While it seems like a good idea to bring on some of your own bottled water, liquor or wine to save some money versus buying them at a premium onboard, cruise lines are becoming more restrictive as to what liquids are permitted. Thankfully, it’s not as rigid as it is at airports, but policies are in flux. Be sure to check the details for your specific cruise line to know exactly what is and is not allowed.

Only Put Luggage Tags on Checked Bags

Most cruise lines have you print luggage tags as part of checking in online, another reason to do it, but only attach them to the bags you intend to have porters and crew take to your room. This is how they know what stateroom or suite to deliver them to. Just as carryon bags don’t require tags on an airplane, so too are they not necessary for cruise carryons. You can always tell the novices because they unnecessarily have the unsightly paper printouts attached to their purses and camera bags, sometimes even for the length of the cruise.

Don’t Arrive to the Port Prematurely

Most cruise ships do not begin embarking until 11 a.m. at the earliest because they are still disembarking the guests from the preceding cruise nearly up until that time. If you get there any sooner, you may complete the check-in process early but you won’t be able to board any quicker except by maybe getting an earlier boarding card. Some cruise lines are now assigning arrival times to spread out the crowds and expedite your personal embarkation window. Be sure to note yours accordingly.

 READ MORE: 7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Harmony of the Seas Tips 

Go to Your Assigned Check-in Line

Once everything else has been considered, be sure to go to your assigned check-in line. Cruise lines reward loyalty guests and suite guests with expedited queues. Soon you’ll be getting your keycard or RFID band from the staff and off you will be to merrily board the ship.

Drop Off Your Carryons

One last tip is to drop off your carryon bags in your cabin as soon as you board the ship. Private rooms are often still being prepared for your arrival and are not explicitly ready until around 1 p.m. or so, but the staff are usually pretty understanding if you want to at least take a load off from the start to freely begin exploring the ship and grabbing a bite to eat without duffle bags strapped to your shoulder or roller bags in tow.


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