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  • Jennifer Ormesher

Cruising 101

First-time cruiser? I’m sure you’ve got a million questions, but there’s no need to lose sleep wondering about how it will all go. We are here to help!

Here’s what you need to know about getting on and off the cruise ship.

Embarkation

This is the process used by cruise ships to verify everyone who will be sailing with them. Most likely, you will have a time slot at which you will be scheduled to arrive. Drop off your luggage with the porters. It will be scanned by security and delivered to your cabin. From there, go to check-in. You will need all of the documentation required by your cruise line.

We recommend that you bring a carry-on bag. It will hold medications, valuables, your laptop and other electronics, sunscreen, and a change of clothes.

Once you are cleared to board, smile for the cameras (there are many) and walk the gangway onto the ship. Your vacation has officially started! Don’t expect to go to your cabin right away. Instead, find a place to eat lunch and grab a drink.

Before the ship leaves port, there will be a mandatory muster drill. This is a safety exercise designed to familiarize all passengers with the location where they are to assemble in the unlikely event of an emergency. When finished, the cruise ship horn will blow as people gather on the lido deck to wave goodbye to dry land.

From there you will be free to enjoy your cruise and all the ship has to offer. If you have any questions, you can visit guest relations. They will also be able to help you with any services you did not schedule prior to the cruise such as specialty dining reservations, spa treatments, and shore excursions.

Disembarkation

Preparing to leave the ship will actually start on the last full day of your cruise, and your cruise director will hold a briefing to go over disembarkation procedures. We highly recommend attending this meeting, especially if it is your first cruise. They will share any customs forms which may need to be filled out prior to clearing customs. They will also explain options that are available for taking your luggage off the ship.

If you are going to have the cruise line carry your luggage off the ship, you will pack your bags, and set them out in the hallway between 10:00 and midnight. They will be picked up and carried down for disembarkation. You won’t see them again until you are off of the ship, so be sure to hang on to anything you may need overnight. The stories you’ve heard about passengers leaving the ship in the same clothes they work the night before are true!

Early the next morning, your ship will be cleared by the port authorities and disembarkation will begin. It will take about three hours for all the passengers to leave the ship. If you opted to carry your luggage off the ship instead of having the crew move it for you, bring it with you when you leave your room. You will be responsible for your luggage and will not receive any help with it.

You will likely be assigned a group and time for disembarkation. Once your group is called it will only take about 15 minutes. While you are waiting, you may grab a bite to eat or take advantage of any last-minute sales happening on the ship. Be mindful that most of the crew are helping with disembarkation or preparing for the next group of passengers so many public places and restaurants may be closed.

The final step is to go through customs. Porters are not available to help you with this process. You may be required to show the immigration official your passport and forms. Some passengers may be required to meet with immigration officials prior to leaving the ship. Because rules change based on the country of disembarkation and nationality of the passenger, it is best to follow all the instructions given onboard.


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