Are you looking for the best Cruise Embarkation day tips? In this guide we will round up what to expect on cruise embarkation day, how to pack your cruise carry on and some individual cruise line information so you are prepared even if this is your first time on a cruise.
What to expect on Cruise Embarkation Days
Embarkation day is the first day of your cruise. It is basically the day you embark your cruise ship. Embarkation days are exceptionally busy for the staff and at the port so it is really important that you follow all of your cruise embarkation day instructions.
Now you know what cruise embarkation day is – here is how you can be prepared for your cruise embarkation day.
Cruise Embarkation Tips
Print Off Your Documentation before you get to the port
Cruises have always required a lot of documentation but even more so since the COVID 19 Pandemic.
All of your documentation will need to be printed and checked by terminal staff. It will save you time and make the embarkation day process so much quicker if you have all your documentation ready to go.
Complete your pre-arrival forms and health checks
The preparation for your cruise starts even before you get to the port. Nowadays you will need a vaccine passport and a PCR negative test on top of other forms.
NOTE; please do check your cruise lines latest requirements in plenty of time and regularly before embarkation day as requirements since the COVID 19 pandemic have changed frequently.
Be sure to have completed all of the forms before your arrival at the port on embarkation day.
Label Your Luggage Pre Arrival
When you arrive at the port on cruise Embarkation day one of the main things that happen is that your luggage will be taken from you at the port and delivered to your stateroom later in day. In order to do this your luggage will need to be labeled with special cruise luggage tags.
These are a different shape to regular airline luggage tags. You can print them off and staple them to your luggage however you can buy specific cruise line luggage labels.
Have your passport or identity with you
The identity required for a cruise ship will depend on your embarkation port and whether it is a closed loop cruise. If you are going to an international destination then a passport will be required.
Make sure you have it with you and not in your checked luggage.
Arrive on Time / Arrive at the correct time
Before the Covid 19 pandemic, embarkation day usually would have a time span when you could arrive at your leisure. It usually started at around 12pm till around 4pm.
However now with COVID and the additional document checks, you are given a half an hour time slot to arrive at the cruise terminal. Be sure you arrive exactly on time. If you are early it will result on lots of waiting around.
However whatever you do do not be late on cruise embarkation day or for any other cruise return time for that matter. Cruise ships will not wait around for anyone.
Drop Off Your luggage at the Terminal
Most people will drop their luggage off with the porters in the terminal building. This way you don’t have to lug your luggage up the gangway. It is definitely the least stressful way of getting your luggage or to your cabin – however it will need you will need to pack a piece of hand luggage appropriately (More on that later)
We once went on a cruise around the Greek Islands with only two pieces of hand luggage each so we weren’t required ot check anything at the terminal. If you can do this great but don’t worry about your luggage if not. We have never had an issue getting our luggage after embarkation.
Pack a Cruise Embarkation Day bag
Once you have dropped your luggage off in the terminal building you won’t see it again for a few hours, when it will appear outside of your stateroom door.
This is fine but it does mean there is a couple of hours gap where you won’t have your bags with you. The longest we ever waited was till about 10pm in the evening of embarkation day.
You don’t want to be caught out if you don’t get yours back for awhile.
Therefore you want to pack your essentials. The minimum things you will want to include your embarkation day bag is;
- Medications – these should be kept with you in your hand luggage rather than in your packed luggage especially if you will be requiring a dose on that first day.
- Evening Wear or Change of Clothes – the first evening dinner is usually cruise casual to accommodate those that have yet to receive their luggage by dinner time however if you would like to change for dinner be sure to have a change of clothes in your hand luggage.
- Swimwear – if you plan to go swimming once you embark be sure to have swimwear in your hand luggage. Out favourite thing to do as soon as we embark on a cruise is grab some lunch and then jump in the jacuzzi with a cocktail. DOn’t miss out on this because you don’t swimwear with you. Towels are provided by the ship.
- Baby diapers, bottles, milk etc – If you are cruising with a baby or cruising with a toddler and they require diapers, milk. pacifiers etc then be sure you have packed them in your hand luggage. Sometimes a cruise ship will have these supplies with them but it can’t be guaranteed so be sure to have them in your carry on. For more tips on how to choose a baby friendly cruise click here.
- Clothes and sun screen for the weather – on embarkation day you will be doing a muster drill (more on this later). Be sure to have appropriate clothing and sun screen for the weather (depending whether you are on a hot weather or cold weather cruise).
For more first time cruise packing tips click here.
Best Cruise Embarkation Day Outfit
Wondering what you should wear for your cruise embarkation day? I don’t think there is one best cruise embarkation day outfit personally but I do think a cruise embarkation day outfit should
- Be comfortable – most importantly. You could be in it for a while if you are waiting a long time for your bags to be delivered to your stateroom
- Be weather appropriate – if you have flown directly to your cruise consider what you are wearing if you are changing environments. It’s no good being in a cold weather outfit if you are doing a Med Cruise in Summer or a Caribbean cruise.
- Transition from day to night – while the first night dinner dress code is more relaxed than other nights you still don’t want to feel underdressed. Having an outfit that is day night appropriate is best.
I will often wear a smart casual maxi dress like the one above for embarkation day as it works for daytime, round the pool and for evening dinner. You have all bases covered.
Book Your Shore Excursions
I would definitely recommend that you book your shore excursions in advance. The popular and more budget shore excursions sell out quickly.
If you haven’t booked one you want before you embark either head to the shore excursion desk or book via your stateroom tv as soon as you get on board or in your room.
Get your Drinks Package
If you want to book a drinks package either soda or alcohol either buy it in advance or get it as soon as you get on board.
It is often cheaper to buy before hand but if you don’t buy as soon as you get onboard so you have all your admin done on the first day.
Book the kids in the kids club
Again this is another get the admin out the way straight away things. If you are cruising with a baby or cruising with a toddler be sure to book them into the kids club so you can have a meal or watch a show without them. They will have a whale of a time.
Since Covid numbers at kids clubs have been restricted so it is now imperative you book a slot early in your trip so the kids and you don’t miss out.
Note: depending on the cruise line you are traveling with will depend what age children are accepted into a kids club be sure to check before booking if this is important to you.
When will my cabin be ready on embarkation day?
You might expect your cabin to be ready when you board on embarkation day but this is not always the case depending on the ship, how busy it is, whether you are a loyalty member and what time you board.
Don’t expect the cabin to be ready if you board as soon as embarkation opens. Instead be ready to enjoy the ship.
When you do get into your cabin familiarise yourself with your fire evacuation routes and put valuables and passports in the safe.
Be sure to meet your cabin steward on your first day. They will usually come and knock on the door and introduce themselves and let you know how everything works in regards to cleaning etc. This is also your chance to ask for anything you need in the room.
Cabin stewards are always so helpful and friendly on the cruise.
Eat Lunch in the Main Dining Room
While most cruise ships will have buffet restaurants up on the pool deck that are open for lunch when you board, many people don’t realise that the main dining rooms are also open for lunch.
We always like to eat at the main dining room on embarkation day as it tends to be quieter and I like being served lunch after the pre board / holiday stress. It is a lovely way to start your vacation.
Check out the day planner
All cruises will have a day planner in the rooms. Be sure to check it out as this has a schedule of events, talks and other points of interest that you can add to your itinerary. Be sure to check out our post on what to do on sea days if this is your first cruise.
If your cruise has an app and you have internet then be sure to download your cruise line app.
Complete the safety or muster drill
For me the completion fo the muster drill was signal that the cruise had really started.
In pre Covid times the muster drill was where you would practise what to do on a cruise in an emergency. You would gather at your muster point, hear the different types of alarms and learn what to do.
However some cruise lines have now replaced this drill with a stateroom muster information pack that must be viewed on your stateroom tv. Be sure to familiarise yourself when you get onboard with what your line is currently doing as this is subject to change and if unsure ask a member of crew.
If you can do this digitally I recommend doing this as early as you can as that is basically the last thing to complete on your cruise embarkation day and means your vacation has really begun.
Enjoy the Sailaway
All cruises usually have a sailaway party. Grab a cocktail or two and enjoy the start of your vacation.
Have you ever done a cruise embarkation day? What are your top cruise embarkation day tips?