I must compliment the cruise lines – On disembarkation day, they disembark anywhere from 600 to 5000 guests (usually by 9:30 a.m no less!), take on food and supplies for the next cruise, board another group of passengers with the same number of guests and are ready to sail by 4 p.m.! WOW! Talk about organization!
About halfway through your cruise, the cruise line will want to reconfirm your immediate post-cruise travel plans. You may have forgotten that during the pre-boarding process, you had entered how you were going to get home, but this is a way for them to set up the best disembarkation times for all of the disembarking passengers. From the information provided, they divide the passengers into small groups according to their travel plans and cabin level (suites have higher priority than inside cabins). This simplifies how all passengers disembark the ship.
Typically, on the morning of the last day or two of your cruise, you will return to your cabin and see what no cruiser wants to find – the colored luggage tags and disembarkation instructions. This is an indication that your cruise will soon be coming to an end … sigh.
If you have a late afternoon or evening flight, you might consider booking an excursion with the cruise line that will take you (and your luggage) on a tour of your disembarkation city that ends at the airport. These are usually very well done AND much better than spending all day in the airport!
NOTE: You should never book a return flight after a cruise before noon on disembarkation day. In many cities, the airport and the pier are at opposite ends of town, so you need to factor in traffic, going through security at the airport (especially when abroad) and any unforeseen delays, so noon is a pretty good benchmark to use.
In general, those with early flights disembark earlier than those with later departures – those that have driven to the port have the option of either doing the Express disembarkation (more on that later) or disembarking last, along with the rest of the passengers.
On the last night of the cruise, pack the items that go into your suitcase (making sure you keep out something to wear in the morning as well as the toiletries and medications you will need the next morning) and put your luggage into the hallway (usually by midnight). You will have attached the assigned colored tags, as well as ensure your personal identification tag is still there. That night the crew will come by and gather all of the luggage and take it down to the hold. From there it will be sorted by the colored tags and put into luggage bins, also sorted by color, and stored.
Your carry-on items (that you do NOT set out) would include anything fragile that you didn’t want to pack (or couldn’t fit in the luggage), your toiletries, jammies and anything else you wanted to take home.
If you are driving home, you might want to do the Express disembarkation, which means you will walk off with all of your belongings in one trip (both luggage and carry on). Express disembarkation passengers will be the first to disembark the ship. They might start as early as 7 a.m., depending on when the ship docks and has been cleared by the authorities.
The other option for locals would be to do the regular disembarkation. This would apply if you wanted to have one last leisurely breakfast onboard to make your cruise last as long as possible (but you will still have to be off by 9 or so).
Once the ship has been cleared, the color coded luggage bins are transferred from the ship to the holding area of the terminal. There, the luggage will be scanned for items such as weapons or other illegal items and the drug dogs wander through. Then, the luggage is set out in nice neat rows waiting for you to come and claim your luggage. Again, they REALLY have this down!
After Express disembarkation people have disembarked, then regular disembarkation will begin. When it’s finally your turn, they will scan your cruise card one last time and hear that final ‘ding’ before proceeding down the gangway. NOTE: As you exit the ship, you will need to have your cruise card and passports handy.
Once you have reached the terminal, you will go through customs. Currently, the limit is $400 per person of personal items. This would exclude any duty-free items you might have purchased onboard or at any of the ports of call. Although you should be truthful, you also don’t want to raise any red flags that might cause you to have to pay additional taxes, so just use your best judgement. You should enter some amount, so any small amount would be fine. Hint: If you purchase any jewelry, just wear it off like you boarded with it.
The custom agents are usually pretty pleasant, especially if you are pleasant with them. Keep in mind, they are stuck in a pretty mundane job and you will have just come back from a fabulous cruise. It is their job to keep our borders safe, so you can’t joke around with them too much. I’m happy to say I’ve never known of anyone to be detained at customs!
From there, you will actually claim your luggage. It may look like a sea of luggage when you first enter, but it usually isn’t as bad as it might look. Luckily the groupings are usually relatively small, so you don’t have to sort through too many to actually find yours. (This is truly where having decorative luggage, a colorful luggage protector or a pom pom can be helpful in finding your luggage quickly and easily.)
The last thing you do is hand them the customs form as you exit. If you are driving, HOPEFULLY you 1) remembered not to pack your car keys 2) you remember where you parked your car!
I hope you have found this helpful. So many times the information is all about the fun part and NOBODY wants to talk about disembarkation!
Jenny & Tony at Glacier Bay
First of all, I wanted to say how wonderful Smitty is, both as a person as well as a travel agent. She was so helpful and knowledgeable. We cannot thank her enough for all the time she took to answer all of our questions before we left for our first Alaska cruise on the Westerdam (Holland America).
We were adamant about having a veranda (balcony) for this Alaska cruise, as that was one of the things we had heard was a must. We booked one and highly recommend it! The views from your cabin are priceless and it’s great to be able to get away from everyone else.
Our cruise left Sept. 17, 2016, from Seattle. We were the second to last cruise of the season for this destination. The cabin Smitty booked us in was on the 8th deck, towards the back of the ship. We loved the location due to the fact that it was just one floor away down the Lido deck (food court) and bars. We had purchased the drink package, so being close to a bar was very convenient.
Jenny & Tony on Glacier
Our first stop was in Juneau. Prior to our cruise, we had booked a helicopter/Glacier tour through Coastal Helicopters, to ensure we got a spot. We had heard this was a highly desirable tour. It was much cheaper than doing it through the cruise line, so always keep that in mind.
From what we heard from several locals, the weather in Juneau that day was the most beautiful in quite some time. It was sunny and not a cloud in the sky. We completed the tour and LOVED it! I was a little nervous about the helicopter, but after experiencing it, I enjoyed it better than flying in an airplane.
While in Juneau, we had also overheard several people talking about the northern lights and that night there was a good chance we would be able to see them! So we set our alarm and got up at midnight to go to the top of the ship to see if we could see them.
After hanging out in the front of the ship for 30 minutes without seeing any activity and as cold as it was, we decided to go back to our cabin and relax on the veranda. We ordered room service (hot cocoa and cookies). Right when Tony picked up the phone to order it, I looked back and saw the northern lights happening right from our balcony! It was so amazing. We were so thankful we were able to see them right from the ship, and right from our balcony none the less!
Glacier Bay followed Juneau. We LOVED Glacier Bay! That was one of the other best parts about having a veranda. Hearing the ice break off (calving) was an incredible experience. It sounds just like thunder! … and it was gorgeous!
Unfortunately, our second port (Sitka) was canceled due to a terrible storm. It would have been really rough and unenjoyable, so the captain decided to skip Sitka and add more time to our last two stops. So we cruised the Canadian Straights instead.
Ketchikan was our next stop. It was a cute and quaint little town. We had arrived five hours earlier than expected, so most of the town was still closed up, since they were not expecting us till later. Luckily, lots of little shops and tours were open for business anyway.
We got off the ship to see what tours were available. We decided to try the Bear tour (even though they couldn’t guarantee we would see a bear). They told us it was about 95% likely we would see one though, so we decided to try it out. Thankfully, we got to see two bears! One came down to the river to catch salmon and eat and one was up the hill tending to her two new cubs. We also got to see lots of eagles! Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining, which added to the experience.
Our last stop was Victoria, Canada. Originally we were only going to be there from 6 pm – midnight, but with the change of schedule, we docked at 8:30 am and were there until midnight. We loved having the extra time here. The town is beautiful and we could actually see ourselves living there, we liked it so much.
We decided to see the Butchart Gardens. It was lightly sprinkling that morning, but nothing we couldn’t handle. After the gardens, we walked around town for a bit and found a whale watching tour that guaranteed orca sightings (one of the things I had wanted to see while in Alaska). That was amazing as well! We also got to see humpback whales and seals as well as orcas. It was a 3 1/2 hour afternoon tour.
We had cruised on Holland America back in 2004. Our experience had been a little better back in 2004, but it was still good. The food quality could have been a little better on the Lido deck, but the dining room food was delicious! Room service food was also not what we remembered either – definitely not what we remembered. So we didn’t order room service after that. The crew was very friendly though and it was a very clean ship. We would cruise with Holland America again.
Thank you for reading! For who ever takes the time to read, I hope this was informative. 🙂
Jenny & Tony Burrows
Jenny & Tony on Herbert Glacier
This article was originally posted on clearmindz.blogspot.ca – it was important, so I wanted to share it with you!
When we travel by air, we hold onto our printed boarding passes like our lives depend on it (although today, many are using their phones for their boarding passes). We know that without it we are not getting on that plane. Once we have boarded, many of us become more careless about it’s whereabouts, because we are done with it. Sometimes we slip it in the seat pocket in front of us, stick it in a magazine, or just chuck it.
Until watching this video I never realized that my carelessness with the boarding pass had the potential to land me in a ton of trouble! Evidently there is personal information frequently encrypted on the pass, according to ‘Krebs on Security”.
All that an unscrupulous person has to do is get a screen shot of the bar code on the boarding pass, and feed it into a bar code reader on “Inlite’s” site. It was pointed out by a forensic expert for CBS, Winston Krone, that it is possible for the encrypted information on the bar code to contain personal email addresses, home addresses and phone numbers. Access to personal financial information is just a step away. Please watch the footage below to help insure the safety of your personal information. I never would have dreamed that being careless with my boarding pass could lead to such potential damage.
Please SHARE this alarming and important safety information with your friends and family on Facebook
National Geographic Orion
My reflections of our cruise “From Boreno to Bali” – All I can say is WOW. Linblad and National Geographic brought the WOW back into vacationing.
I quickly realized I came unprepared for the Orion experience. I thought it was going to be more ‘expeditionlike,’ so, I packed only expedition clothes. To my surprise the other guests dressed nicely for dinner. I was only slightly horrified. I will know better next time.
It was such an honor to meet and personally talk with Dr. Galdikas, of Camp Leakey and the Orangutan Foundation. She is truly a legend in her own right. It was surreal to interact with the babies and toddler orangutans of her work.
Cindy and Dr. Galdikas, of Camp Leakey and the Orangutan Foundation
It was wonderful to be so active on this trip. My body has not failed me yet, but it reminds me how I need to take better care of it so I can enjoy the benefits in old age. Dennis and I decided to take this trip now because we knew we weren’t getting any younger.
Snorkeling in Pulau Setaih
To our surprise the ship was filled with active older people! The average age was around 75. Even the ones who couldn’t get around very well came anyway and experienced the parts they could. That is one group of active older people that are living life to the fullest! I want to be like them when I grow up.
Dennis & Cindy in Bali
The great things I learned about myself during this trip:
• I can handle the heat if something grabs my attention.
• My weight does not hold me back.
• I don’t like guided bus tours.
• I get tired of fancy food I can’t pronounce.
• My vacation must include animal sightings, otherwise I will feel cheated.
• I absolutely LOVE snorkeling.
• Dennis and I can spend three weeks together without killing each other.
• Litter disturbs me greatly.
• I am fearless when it comes to animals.
• I want to do another Lindblad/National Geographic expedition!
In Sitka, we were tendered in rather than being docked (NOTE: since the original post, they have since built a cruise dock in Sitka). Personally, I love being tendered in (as you can get some GREAT shots of the ship if you get a window seat), but it is also more limiting. It’s just not as easy to pop on and off the ship as you can when the it is docked right in the middle of town (which they are in most Alaska ports). Although technically you can go back and forth as many times throughout the day as necessary, most just take one round trip – just be sure you are back onboard before that last tender!
We headed up the ramp to the Visitors Center to try to find where the Russian Dancers performance was, and low and behold it was right there at the Visitors Center!
New Archangel Dancers, Sitka, Alaska
As we entered the building, there was also a quilt show happening in one of the adjacent rooms (I’m also a quilter, so this was a nice surprise!).
Sitka Quilt Show
The performance was very home spun, as it was actually just a troop of six ladies – apparently there were no men that had the same vision, so three of the six ladies took on the job of what the men would normally do, and the six of them performed traditional Russian dances.
Russian Dancers, with women performing the men’s roll
The costumes were as close as they could make but appeared quite authentic – they were actually quite good and in hearing about them, they travel down to the lower 48 for performances, so they are actually quite happy that there are no men in the group after all! lol
Costumes for the Russian Dancers
As we left the building to continue to check out the town, I was a little hungry, so we found this cute little collection of shops where I got a buckwheat banana and chocolate crepe – it was yummy!
Banana Buckwheat Crepe at the North Sister Shop
Sitka is a cute little mountain town with a lot of Russian influence so worth a walking tour, so you can get the background. There are quite a few churches, and you will find leather, fur and yarn shops scattered throughout the town (as well as the requisite tee shirt shops). It is also quite a fishing town.
Fishermen fixing their nets
Tlinget boat, Sitka Alaska
Sitka isn’t included on a lot of the cruise itineraries, but if you are lucky enough to select an itinerary that includes Sitka, you will not be disappointed.
Regatta in Sitka Harbor (behind breakwater)
Sunset as we sailed from Sitka