35 cruise embarkation tips to start your cruise off right. Photo is taken from cruise ship balcony

35 Cruise Embarkation Tips to Start Your Cruise off Right

This article will include the following cruise embarkation tips

  • Things to do before departure day to ensure you have a smooth embarkation
  • Important cruise embarkation day tips – before you board
  • Best cruise embarkation tips – once you board

35 Best cruise ebarkation day tips.  Start your cruise off right with these important things to do the first day of your cruise to have the best vaction.
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35 Cruise Embarkation Tips

Let’s start with the things to do before your cruise departure day to ensure you have a smooth check-in and embarkation process.

1. Download cruise line and airline apps

The major cruise lines now all have their own app.  This is used to do your online check in, make specialty dining reservations, view the daily schedules and more.

Download the app after booking your cruise, some even have a fun countdown feature.  Sign in or create an account.  You will need your cruise booking number.

If you are flying to your cruise departure point, download the airline app as well.  Enter your airline reservation number to pull up your flight details.  Choose seats if you haven’t already done so.

2. Check in online

Keep checking online for when the online check in opens.  It is often around the 3–6-week mark.   Put reminders in your calendar.

You will want to check in as soon as it opens.  As part of the check-in process you will select an arrival time.  Most cruise lines now have a staggered check in times.  It is important to know that this is not your boarding time, it is your check in time at the cruise terminal.

I suggest you choose the earliest possible time.  It makes the most out of your time on the cruise ship.  You will be thankful for every extra minute.

3. Order luggage tag holders for your cruise line

The luggage tag holders are so much better than trying to attach paper luggage tags.

Carnival Luggage Tag Holders by Cruise On [4 Pack] Fits All Carnival Cruise Line Ships & Tags for Cruises in 2023, 2024 & 2025

4. Organize transfers

Don’t wake up in your pre cruise hotel and realize you forgot to figure out how you are getting to the ship.

5. Print cruise documents

Print out all your cruise documents, even though you have copies on your phone.  I still suggest printing everything in case you lose your phone or your phone dies on you.

Print out:

  • Transfer confirmations
  • Cruise boarding pass
  • Any other required travel documentation
  • Shore excursion confirmations

Put the print outs in order of their use, which is likely the order above.

6. Screen shot cruise documents

As a back up to your printed travel documents, I suggest taking a screen shot on your phone of your cruise documents. 

This includes documents mentioned above, plus additional purchases such as drink package confirmations, specialty dining reservations, etc.

Once you have taken screen shots, favor them (on an iPhone, pull up your picture and click the heart at the bottom middle of your screen).  This makes it much easier to find later.  They will be in your favorites photo album on your phone rather than the recent album with your thousands of other pictures.

7. Print cruise luggage tags

You will be able to access your cruise ship luggage tags closer to departure in their app, or you will usually receive an email with either the luggage tags or a link to access the tags.

Print them out, put them in the luggage tag holders you purchased, and then pack them in your carry on.  Don’t attach them yet.  You don’t want to lose them.

8. Complete the health questionnaire

If your cruise line still has a health questionnaire that they require completed prior to boarding, complete this when they ask.  It is often within 24 hours prior.  Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

35 cruise embarkation tips for the best first cruise day

Cruise embarkation tips for the day of your cruise before boarding

9. Pack your cruise carry on

You will want to pack a small carry-on bag for your first cruise day.  You checked luggage won’t be accessible until the afternoon.

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10. Attach cruise luggage tags

Now is the time to attach your cruise luggage tags.  If you flew to your departure port city, remove any airline luggage tags.

Cruise planner and journal - printable pdf. For every step of the cruise proccess from planning your cruise, to preparing for your vaction to remembering it. Packing lists and to do lists

11. Have travel documentation handy

Be sure that you have your identification, cruise documents, and other required documents handy to present at the check-in counter and NOT packed in your checked luggage.

Keep these important documents with you at all times in your carry on.

12. Arrive on time

Arrive at the cruise terminal during your selected check-in time slot.  This is the port arrival time you chose when you completed the online check-in.

You can be turned around if you arrive earlier than scheduled. 

These staggered check in times have been implemented to make the boarding process quicker, smoother, and to attempt to limit long lines.

13. Embarkation photo

Once you have checked in, and before heading to the gangway to board the ship, most cruise lines have a photographer there to take an embarkation photo of your travel party. 

There is no obligation to purchase the photo, so go ahead and get one taken.  You might love it.  You can view the photo later in the cruise ship photo gallery and decide then if you want to buy it.

Cruise embarkation tips – once you board

Here are some cruise embarkation tips for once you have boarded the ship.  These cruise tips will help you make the most out of the first day of your cruise.

14. Put your phone in airplane mode

Avoid unwanted roaming charges by putting your cell phone in airplane mode once you have boarded the ship.

15. Connect to Wi-Fi if you bought a package

If you have purchased one of the cruise ship’s internet packages connect your phone.  The cruise line will provide instructions. 

It is usually cheaper to pre-purchase the internet package online before your cruise. 

16. Muster drill

The muster station drill is mandatory and necessary for obvious reasons. 

Most cruise lines have gone to a mostly in app muster drill.  This is sooo much better than the old system.

On our last Royal Caribbean cruise, there were a few short videos and a horn sound to listen to in the cruise line app.  You then had to check in at your assigned muster station.  This location is found on your cruise card.

The crew members can tell which passengers have completed all the muster drill steps.

Get it over with as soon as you board.  Don’t be those passengers that they call over and over on the announcement system.

17. Take your cruise ship photos

If you like to get photos of the cruise ship public areas, this is the best time to do it, before everyone is onboard.

18. Pick up your souvenir soda cup if you have the drink package

If you purchased a drinks package and your package includes a souvenir refillable soft drink cup (like Royal Caribbean), pick up your cup from any bar.

19. Lunch

Get yourself some lunch.

I like to research the cruise ship ahead of time and decide where we will have our first lunch.  Not all venues may be open the first day for lunch.  The buffet restaurant is usually the busiest.  If other restaurants are open embarkation day might be the day to try one of these.  They will likely be less busy the first day.

20. Grab a drink

It feels like the cruise vacation hasn’t started until you grab your first beverage of choice.  We always head to the pool bar.  It is a great way to kick off your vacation.

Don't miss sail away is an embarkation day tip to make the most of the first day on your cruise.  Enjoying a nice cold beverage makes it even better.
Sail away is better with a nice cold beverage. Photo from Pixabay

21. Wait for your stateroom to be ready

Your stateroom won’t be ready until early afternoon.   Some cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean will announce when the rooms are ready.  This is usually between 1 and 2pm. 

Be patient as the stateroom attendants have a massive job to turn the rooms around each embarkation day.

22. Put valuables in the safe

As soon as you can access your room it is a good idea to program your in-room safe and lock up your valuables.

23. Check back for your luggage

Your checked luggage will be delivered to outside of your cabin door between mid to late afternoon by a crew member. This is why you need to bring a cruise day bag with the essentials you need to enjoy that afternoon.

24. Unpack and store suitcase

When your luggage arrives, unpack right away and store your empty suitcase under your bed. 

The cruise ships have raised beds which is perfect for storing your suitcase under. This gets it out of the way and saves precious closet or floor space.

Cruise embarkation day tip -unpack early and store your suitcase under your bed.  Image is close up of a suitcase being packed

25. Meet your cabin steward

Your friendly cabin steward (stateroom attendant) will come around that first day to introduce themselves. 

This is your chance to ask for anything additional you might need such as extra hangers.

26. Don’t miss sail away

Grab a drink and find a good spot to watch sail away.  It is an exciting feeling watching your cruise ship pull away from the pier. 

Most of the time there will be a sail away party on the pool deck, weather permitting.

27. Book specialty dining reservations

It is recommended that specialty dining reservations be made online before departure, however, if you haven’t done so and want to try one of the extra cost restaurants now is the time to book.

Waiting any longer you run the risk of not getting in.

Look at your cruise schedule you may want to book specialty restaurants for the days you are at sea. You will have more time to get ready and not have to rush onboard after being in a port all day.

28. Book spa treatments or spa pass

This can also be done online ahead of time.  If you haven’t prebooked or now decide to splurge, book your spa visits. 

Some cruise ships offer day or weekly spa passes for the thermal suites, etc.  All will offer spa treatments such as massages and facials. 

Top tips for your first day on a cruise ship.  Book your spa treatments, these can fill up fast on a ship.
Tips for your first day on a cruise – book spa treatments they can fill up fast Photo from Pixabay

29. Make shore excursions reservations

This is another cruise item that should be booked ahead of time to ensure you get the tours you wanted.  Purchasing ahead of time may be cheaper as they often will have sales.

However, if you haven’t yet purchased an excursion or have a question about a certain port, today is the best day to talk to one of the shore excursions staff.

30. Register your kids for the kids’ club and attend the meet and greet

The major cruise lines offer a complimentary kids club program.  There will be separate programs for different aged kids.

Many cruise lines allow you to register your children online before sailing, but if you haven’t done that, embarkation day is the day to do it.

Also, check the schedule for the meet and greet or open house. Be sure your kids go to that.

Kids can find it more intimidating to go a day or two later. They can end up feeling like everyone else already knows each other and has their friend groups set.

Cruise embarkation day tip - have your kids go the kids' club meet and greet or open house.  This will be held on the first day of your cruise.
Circle C on the Carnival Pride. Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

31. Check the daily schedule

Use the cruise app to check out what is happening on embarkation day and when. 

You won’t receive a paper copy of the daily cruise activity schedule until you can access your stateroom.  In the meantime, it is all on the app.

32. Check out the dinner menu

This cruise tip actually applies to every night of your cruise, not just embarkation night. 

The main dining room menu will be posted on the cruise ship app as well as outside of the main dining room each night.

Check out the menu earlier in the day to decide if you will eat in the main dining room or at one of the other dining options instead.

Things to do on the first day of your cruise.  Tip - book specialty dining reservations.  Get the day and restaurant you want.  This is one of 11 tips for embarkation day.
Photo from Pixabay

Additional cruise embarkation day information

33. Expect casual dress code the first night

This of course may not always be the case, but on every cruise that we have been on the first evening has always been a casual dress code.

The cruise lines often plan it this way as some people may not get their luggage until closer to 5pm.

34. Casino and shops won’t be open right away

The casino and shops onboard usually don’t open until you have reached international waters.  This will be a few hours after sail away.

35. My biggest cruise embarkation tip – Have Fun!

Make memories, take lots of pictures and have fun! Try something new. A cruise is the perfect time to try new foods and new activities. That’s what life is all about.

I hope these cruise embarkation tips help you have the very best first day of your cruise vacation.  Have a great time!

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