Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Make your Cruise Check-in, Smooth Sailing

You've picked your cruise line, itinerary and researched your ship from stern to stem!  You're packed and ready to head for the open seas.  Here is one little piece of cruising you may not have been ready for - the check-in process.

Boarding a cruise ship is unlike any other travel check-in process, thousands of passengers all getting on one gigantic ship. For the top major cruise lines, check-in is fairly similar.  From long lines to multiple security points and getting that wonderful little key card that becomes your ALL access pass to cruising freedom!

It can be fun, frustrating and exciting all at the same time.  For many first time passengers, just waiting in the terminal through the lines is easily tolerated by their amazement of the enormous ship they're about to embark on. 

On the other hand, experienced cruisers may be more eager to get the process done and over with.  If your a prior cruise line passenger, you may find this process much easier with many cruise lines offering expedited check-in and services to loyal customers.

  1. Cruise lines will mail you a cruising package or provide an online area to fill out forms.  Have this done as soon as possible and bring all paperwork with you to the terminal. Follow instructions carefully on what is needed and be sure you don't leave anything at home.  Place the bag tags on your luggage at the house.
  2. When you arrive to the terminal, there will be attendants to take your bags onto the ship. KEEP ALL ITEMS you need in a seperate small carry on bag! You won't see your luggage for a few hours and sometimes later in the evening.  Medication, extra clothes, and any items for your children during a 2-6hr span; such as diapers, formula or special snacks - pack seperately.
  3. PASSPORT and I.D Card - Just like at the airport, keep these two documents easily accessible at all times through the check-in process.
  4. Get there Early or get there Late (just not too late)! Check-In is typically open for a 4hr period and if it's between 10-2pm, you don't want to find yourself there at noon.  Although we found ourselves once running for the ship and barely making the check-in process. The fastest, but most nerve wrecking check-in I've ever experienced!
  5. Decide which credit card you'd like to use for your onboard account and have it ready, or on rare ocassion some people still apply cash.  This will pay for anything you purchase on the ship, including all tips applied at the end of the cruise.  All ship purchases are done using your cruise card.  If the kids are coming along, discuss before hand whether or not you want them to have the ability to make puchases with their key cards.  Other passengers in on your account can be managed for access type. But EVERYONE gets a card, children and babies alike! 
  6. Adding to note #5: Keep your Cruise card safe! Don't allow smaller children to hold theirs.  This is your room key, credit card and now your families Identification to get on and off the ship. Without it you can not disembark at Port and you'll have to see Guest services for a new one if it's misplaced at any time.
  7. LUNCH is waiting!  Arrive first thing for check-in and make it onto the ship around noon.  The buffett is always open for lunch/brunch and don't let the first buffett excitement get the best of your stomach. A gourmet dinner is soon to follow.  NOTE: The buffett will be packed for that first lunch. This is not how it will be the entire cruise. It's only because it's the only food on the entire ship for the first meal. 
  8. Now that your ready to set sail there's one last "fun" tradition.  Man your Muster Station!  A drill will take place for all cruise passengers before the ship can leave port.  You will take your life vest out of your cabin for everyone in your party and must WEAR IT for the drill.  Not exactly my favorite part of the trip, but it's required.
Keep these tips in mind and rest assured that once you've gone through the lovely check-in process, it's all worth it!  Or at least, it should be!  Believe me, there have been times on vacation when I wonder why I left the house, but then I'm reminded of those unforgettable trips that make it all worth while. ShareThis


Amy @ The Q Family said...

Great tips! I love our cruise vacation. It's one of the easiest and less stressful family vacation.

Travelers Barista said...

Thanks Amy! I LOVE cruising too, although I've only gone once with the kids and it was our worst trip EVER!
Not because we were cruising but many unfortunate circumstances after another. Someday I'll sit down and write the tale of all tales!
SO looking forward to putting that cruise in our past and trying again with the kids.

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