When you first arrive at the pier to board and you see how HUGE the ship is, you will REALLY get excited! As you near the actual terminal, there will usually be a drop off point for your main luggage. If you CAN, drop your luggage off FIRST, even before you park – that way your luggage can start making its way to your cabin.
Since your main luggage will arrive at your cabin at a different time than you do (hopefully before, but usually after), DO make sure that you have the items you will need for the first couple of hours onboard with you (sunscreen, sun visor/hat, bathing suit if you’re planning to hit the pool).
You will get in ‘the line’ (unless you have priority boarding) and assuming you already did your pre-boarding check in, when it’s ‘your turn’ you will need to be ready to hand them:
• Your boarding pass (that you printed before you left home)
• Your passport
• The credit card you plan to use for your onboard account
• Proof of covid vaccination
The folks at the cruise terminal are usually VERY pleasant, and quite efficient. The lines move along pretty quickly too (although it seems like an eternity because you just want to get onboard!).
They will verify that the names on the boarding pass match your passports (and you truly DO need to make sure that the name on your booking matches the name on your passport, or they could deny you boarding)
They might also want to verify your credit card, which will be processed on the last day of your cruise to pay for all of the purchases you made onboard.
Then they will give you your key card (each cruise line has their own name for them), which will serve as your room key as well as the link to your onboard account. It will also have other information printed on it, such as your name, dining assignment (even if it’s anytime dining) AND your Muster Station, BUT it will NOT have your cabin number on it (for security).
They may give you other boarding instructions, but the worst is over and you’re almost there!
From there, you will have to put your carry-on items through the security scanner (theirs are not NEARLY as sensitive as the ones at the airport). Each cruise line is different about what you can and can’t bring onboard with you (such as wine/alcohol), but they are mainly looking for weapons and drugs.
As you near the ship, you will have to stop again and hand your key card to the staff for them to take your picture, which will then be embedded onto your key card’s memory. Whenever you disembark/embark the ship, you will hand your key card to the crew, they will scan it and verify you are you and you, and then you can disembark/embark. Always listen for that ‘beep’ – that confirms that the system acknowledged you were disembarking or embarking.
Quite often you will hear announcements near the scheduled departure time with a guest(s) name – this is to verify that they HAVE returned back to the ship! It will depend on the line and the itinerary as to whether they will wait or not, but YOU do not want to be one of the people they are announcing over the loudspeaker!
Somewhere along the line, you will also get to meet some of the ship’s photographers (if they have them). They will want to take your picture beside some prop with the destination and sail date of the cruise, ‘suitable for framing.’ They will be at the gangway throughout the cruise, with other props for each port of call, so get used to them. Some are more obnoxious than others but if you really do NOT want your picture taken, just get out of line and walk around them. They have gotten better about letting you pass, but if you tell them, “I’m not going to purchase the picture anyway”, they won’t argue with you.
Various personnel will be at the door to greet you and welcome you onboard and then depending on which cruise line you are on, you may even be escorted to your cabin.
Hopefully your cabin will be ready and you can go directly to your cabin and drop off your carry-on items. Usually the TV is on with information about embarkation day and the required Muster Drill.
There will also be some kind of daily newsletter (again, each cruise line has a name for them) that will list ALL of the ships activities for the day, times and places (although they now want you to use the cruise ships app (some are better than others). In today’s quest to do everything digital, however, if you want a paper version, you may have to request one be delivered – you would do this through your cabin steward.
When you arrive at your cabin, do NOT be disappointed if your luggage has not arrived. Cabin stewards and other onboard personnel will be loading luggage and distributing it to cabins throughout the entire day, sometimes even after the ship has sailed.
A nice buffet lunch is also usually available on the Lido deck (and sometimes a dining room is open as well), so enjoy your first meal onboard!
Once your luggage does arrive (and it will probably not all arrive at the same time either) and you have unpacked, most suitcases will fit under your bed so it is out of the way (sometimes there is space on the top shelf in the closet, but if all else fails, talk to your cabin steward).
You will also get to meet your cabin steward(s). In most cases, they will try to track YOU down and introduce themselves to you first, but it IS important that you meet them. There is usually a table tent card on the desk or business card with their name and extension for easy reference.
Remember, they are here for you and in most cases, the nicer you treat them, the nicer you will be treated. Keep in mind that you will have daily charges added to your bill for gratuities, so do not be hesitant to ask for something you need. That being said, you do not want to be a pest either.
If your service has been stellar, you can also tip them personally – they will just beam!