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What to Expect on Cruise Embarkation Day

So you’ve never taken a cruise, and you’re wondering what to expect on embarkation day.

Going on vacation is an exciting experience. And you probably can’t wait to get on the ship. But you have no idea what to is going to happen when you arrive at the cruise ship terminal. Here are seven things you can expect on embarkation day.

Baggage Porters

No matter how you arrive at the terminal, there will be people waiting to take your bags…for a small fee. You can tip what you want, but baggage porters will expect a few bucks for carting your bags onto the boat. And you don’t have any other option than to hand over your bags, unless you travel with a carry-on. Anything larger than that, and you would be allowed to bring them on board yourself.

Security Check

As soon as you pass through the doors at the terminal, you’ll be expected to submit your bags to a security check, much like the kind you find at an airport. You’ll place your carry-on onto a conveyor belt for a quick X-ray before you walk through a metal detector. After that, you’re free to go.

Pro tip: Be sure to check with your cruise line to find out what’s allowed on board before arriving at the terminal. Last time I took a cruise, I found out you were no longer allowed to bring a bottle of water on board—something I had done a million times before.

Navigating the Crowds

There will be a lot of people at the terminal when you arrive, and it may look a lot like mass chaos. I can assure you that the cruise lines have done this thousands of times before, and it will be orderly, even though it may not look like it. Still, expect to wait in long lines. And be sure to check with the cruise staff at the front of each line to be sure you’re in the right one. Some people get priority boarding, and you’d hate to find out after a half hour of waiting that you’ve got to start over in another line.

Pro tip: Some cruise lines off skip-the-line passes for a small fee. Check out this option if you want to jump past everyone else and get on board faster.

Checking In

Once you’re at the front of the line, it’s smooth sailing from there—pun intended. Just like checking into a hotel, you’ll present your identification, as well as a credit card for incidentals, grab your room key, and be on your way. It’s that easy.

Smile for the Camera

Before you leave the terminal, you’ll be herded into a corner for a quick picture on a cheesy backdrop. You can choose to bypass or stop for a quick snap—though the cruise staff will enthusiastically encourage the latter. It costs nothing to take a photo, and you’ll have the option to purchase it later. Who knows, it might turn out great!

Touring the Ship

Once on board, it’s a good idea to get the lay of the land. Take yourself on a quick tour of the ship, checking out all of the nooks and crannies. The spa staff even offer guided tours of their services.

Planning Your Week

The first day is the perfect time to plan for the rest of your week. Book a spa package, attend the shore excursions overview session, and find out about other special events happening on board.

What other advice do you have for embarkation day? Share your thoughts on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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