Cruise check-in

16 Cruise Ship Embarkation Hacks: How to Board the Ship Faster

Are you going on a cruise but hate waiting in line to board the ship on embarkation day? Looking for ways to board the ship faster? The cruise boarding process can be time-consuming and stressful. Fortunately, there are several ways to speed up the process and get on board faster (so you can start your vacation earlier!) Below are the best tips and tricks for boarding your cruise ship quickly.

How to Board Your Cruise Ship Faster on Embarkation Day

1. Pay to Skip the Line

Cruise Lines know that we don’t like waiting in line and some of us are willing to pay extra to skip the line. These days cruise lines are taking a page out of Disney’s playbook by giving you the option to pay extra so you can skip the line (similar to Disney’s Lightning Lane!). 

For example, Carnival’s Faster to the Fun program offers priority boarding, direct line to guest services, express luggage delivery, early access to your staterooms, and priority disembarkation. 

Royal Caribbean’s The Key is another add-on package that provides priority boarding, an exclusive welcome lunch, reserved seating at shows, and the ability to skip the line at some onboard activities.

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2. Loyalty Status

Another way you can get onboard faster is through your cruise loyalty status. One of the perks of higher loyalty status is priority embarkation. Many cruise lines have a special welcome lounge for their higher tier loyalty members, where they serve complimentary food and drinks while you wait for the short check-in process. 

Priority embarkation is just one of the many perks of the cruise line’s loyalty programs. Most cruise lines also offer special events (with free drinks), free laundry, dining discounts, and more. The more you cruise, the higher your loyalty status becomes, and the more benefits you can enjoy. 

How to get on the ship faster on embarkation day

3. Stay in a Suite

Another way to board the ship faster is to book a suite. Similar to the airline boarding process, if you book first class, you get to board the plane first. It’s the same for cruise lines, you book the suite, you get priority boarding among other perks. Staying in suites gives you access to suite-only lounges, restaurants and pools so you don’t have to be with the crowd.

However, it’s important to note that not all suites come with the priority boarding perk. Some staterooms are called mini-suites but they are just regular cabins that are slightly bigger and don’t come with priority boarding perks.

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4. Online Check-In

To expedite the port check-in process, make sure to complete the online check-in process before arriving at the cruise port. By checking in ahead of time, your information will already be in the cruise line’s system, and you can print out your luggage tags ahead of time.

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5. Pick the Earliest Embarkation Time

When you’re doing the online check-in, you’ll be asked to pick an embarkation window. I suggest you pick the earliest time available for check-in. That way, you can get on the ship sooner. To ensure that you can make it to the port at the earliest embarkation time, I recommend flying in the night before and staying at a nearby hotel.

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6. Avoid the Peak Times

To avoid long lines at the cruise port, it’s best to avoid peak times. Choose the earliest embarkation time so you can beat the crowd. Alternatively, you can arrive later and board when most passengers are already on the ship. But make sure to check what time that is, so you don’t risk missing the ship.

7. Book a Car Ahead of Time

If you’re staying at a hotel near the port, chances are high that there will be several guests at your hotel heading to the cruise port when you are. That means if you didn’t book your ride ahead of time, you’ll be fighting for the same Uber or taxi. 

I suggest booking a ride to the port ahead of time instead of winging it that morning and trying to find a taxi or Uber to the port. 

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8. Get Your Luggage Tags Ready

To get on the ship faster, make sure to attach your luggage tags to your checked-in luggage. Before arriving at the port, complete the online check-in process and print your luggage tags. Then, attach the tags to your luggage so that you don’t have to waste time filling them out at the port.

How to get on the ship faster on embarkation day

9. Give Your Check-In Luggage to the Porter

When you arrive at the cruise port, you’ll see porters waiting to take your check-in luggage. Make sure to use these porters and give them your luggage with the luggage tags attached. This will expedite your boarding process by having your check-in luggage on its way to the ship.

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10. Keep Your Passport in Your Carry-On Bag

Don’t make the mistake of leaving your passport, credit card and other important travel documents in your check-in luggage. Remember, once you give your luggage to the porter, it’s going to be hard to track down the porter to retrieve your luggage. You will need your passport and credit card with you when you check in at the port, so to prevent any delay, you should have your travel document and wallet with you in your carry-on bag. 

11. Make Sure Your Passport is Not Expired

The cruise line will not let you get onboard if your passport is expired, even if it’s within 6 months from expiration. Usually they want to see that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your cruise. Make sure you don’t have an expired passport. It can cause complications and the cruise line can deny boarding. So check your passport expiration date and make sure to renew it!

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12. Minor Travel Consent 

If you’re traveling with a minor and the parents are not going on the cruise with you, make sure to have a minor travel consent form completed and signed prior to boarding the ship. For instance, if you’re grandparents taking your grandson with you on the cruise without the parents, make sure to have the minor travel consent form completed, or it will delay your boarding process. Make sure to check with your cruise line to see what forms they require. 

13. Take Your Photo In Advance

When you complete the online check-in, you’ll have the option to take a photo and upload it to the cruise line’s app. Instead of wasting time at the port having your photos taken (especially if you’re traveling with a big group), I suggest you do it in advance. Aside from saving time and making the port check-in process faster, you’ll also get better pictures. Remember, this photo will be the picture that you’ll be stuck with during the entire cruise.

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14. Be Organized

Before you head out to the cruise port, get your passport, credit card, IDs and cruise travel documents ready. Make sure you have the luggage tags attached to your check-in luggage. This will make the check-in process easier if you have everything in one place and ready to go.

15. Don’t Bring Prohibited Items on the Cruise Ship

To avoid any delay in your boarding process, make sure to read your cruise line’s policy on what you can and can’t bring on the ship. Bringing prohibited items on board can cause unnecessary delays. 

Some common restricted items include hair dryers, extension cords, and liquor. It’s important to note that different cruise lines have different policies regarding alcohol. 

For example, some cruise lines allow a bottle of wine or champagne per person, while others do not. Make sure to check with your cruise line to ensure that you’re aware of their policies.

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16. Wheelchair

If you have a disability and find it difficult to walk, you can board the cruise ship faster by requesting a wheelchair at the port. The staff will be more than happy to assist you and expedite your check-in process, ensuring that you and your group board quickly. 

It’s important to note that the use of wheelchairs is intended for those who truly need them. If you don’t have a disability or difficulty walking, it’s not appropriate to request a wheelchair just to board the ship faster!

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