Are you planning a cruise? Cruising is a convenient way to explore multiple destinations in one trip, with all-inclusive amenities. However, one of the downsides of cruising is that you’ll be sharing the ship with hundreds or thousands of other passengers. As a result, you will experience long wait times and lines. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid these time wasters and make the most of your cruise experience.
Time Wasters to Avoid on a Cruise
1. Embarkation Day Check-In
Embarkation day check-in can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of a cruise. The long lines and wait times can be stressful, especially when you’re eager to start your vacation. Fortunately, there are several strategies to reduce your wait time and make the process smoother.
One of the most effective ways to get on the ship faster is to book the earliest embarkation time slot. However, know that these early time slots fill up quickly. If you have an upcoming cruise, keep an eye out for when you can start booking your embarkation time slot. Typically it’s 30-45 days before the cruise starts.
One way to board the ship faster is to pay to skip the lines. For example, Carnival Cruise Line offers a Faster to the Fun package which is an add-on that will allow you to get priority embarkation as well as other perks.
You can find more tips and tricks to help you board the ship faster in my article 16 Embarkation Day Hack so You Can Board the Ship Faster.
2. Lining Up at Guest Services
The guest services line is notorious for being long, so it’s best to avoid it if possible during your cruise vacation. However, if you do need to visit guest services, consider going late at night or early in the morning when there are fewer people in line.
It’s important to note that the guest services desk is open 24/7, so you can always come back later if you see a long line. Trust me, avoid guest services if you can!
Check out: 15 Caribbean Cruise Mistakes to Avoid
3. Settling Your Bill
To avoid long lines at guest services, it’s best to leave your credit card on file with the cruise line. This way, you can easily settle your bill without having to wait in line. If you don’t have a credit card on file, you’ll have to go to guest services to settle your bill, which can be a time-consuming process. On the last day of the cruise, the line at guest services can be very long, as many passengers will be settling their bills at the same time. By charging your cruise incidentals to your credit card, you can avoid the long line and make the process smoother.
4. Lining Up at the Shore Excursion Desk
Don’t waste your time lining up at the shore excursion desk! Waiting in line at the shore excursion desk is a major time waster.
To avoid this, it’s best to book your shore excursions online before you even get on the ship. This way, you can plan ahead and ensure that you don’t miss out on popular excursions that may sell out quickly.
If the excursion you want is sold out, you can also consider booking a private shore excursion from an outside tour operator such as viator. It can sometimes be less expensive than booking through the cruise line.
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5. Waiting for a Table
To avoid waiting in line for a table at the Main Dining Room, it’s best to make dinner reservations. Most cruises offer two dining options at the Main Dining Room: traditional dining, where you have a set dinner reservation every night, or open dining, where you can walk in whenever you’re ready to eat.
If you prefer not to wait in line for a table, I suggest making dinner reservations for every night of the cruise. This way, you can avoid the hassle of waiting in line for a table.
Plus, if you’re cruising with a large group, it’s smart to make dinner reservations, since it can be difficult to get a table for large groups. Depending on the cruise line, you can make dinner reservations for every night of your cruise through the cruise app or by calling Food and Beverage. It’s best to get this out of the way on the first day of your cruise!
If you are going on Carnival cruise, it might be worth getting the Carnival Faster to the Fun package where you can get priority dinner reservations!
6. Download the Cruise App
It’s a good idea to download the cruise app at home before embarkation day. This way, you’ll have one less thing to worry about on embarkation day, and you can avoid any potential lag time when downloading the cruise app on the ship.
Many cruise lines now require passengers to download the cruise app if they want to make reservations and bookings on the cruise.
Having the cruise app on your phone saves you time, since you can immediately make dinner reservations and reserve other cruise activities once you’re on board. Some popular cruise activities do sell out, so you want to have the Cruise app ready so you can start making bookings the moment you get on the ship.
7. Buffet Line
The buffet can get busy on a cruise ship, so it’s important to know when to avoid it. For example, it’s best to avoid the buffet during embarkation day, since everyone will be up at the buffet having their lunch. Instead, eat at the Main Dining Room or at one of the eateries that are open near the lobby.
The buffet line will also be long during sea days and in the morning on port day, when everyone is having breakfast before they get off the ship. To avoid the crowds, it’s best to skip the buffet during these times and have a more leisurely dining experience at the main dining room or at one of the specialty restaurants.
8. Waiting to Board the Bus for Your Shore Excursion
Waiting to board the bus for your shore excursion can be a major time waster on a cruise. Often, you’ll be asked to meet at a central location on the ship, such as the Main Dining Room or Theater, and wait for your shore excursion group to be called so you can get off the ship as a group and board the bus.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to expedite the boarding process, except maybe sit closer to the door so you can get out faster and have first choice seats on the bus.
But one way to shorten this wait is to hire a private tour. This way, you can get off the ship and meet your guide at the port, avoiding the need to wait with your shore excursion group. You can find private tours from outside operators such as viator.
9. Waiting for the Tender Boat
Waiting to board the tender boat is a major time waster on a cruise. Unfortunately, at some cruise ports, you will have to take a small tender boat because your cruise ship is not directly docked at the port.
Typically, cruise lines will give out tender tickets in the morning on a first come first served basis, you then have to wait for your tender ticket to be called before you can leave the ship.
One way to shorten your wait is to have one person in your group get tender tickets for everyone while you have breakfast. So hopefully, by the time you are done with breakfast, your tender ticket will be called.
Another option is to pay to skip the lines. If you’re on Carnival Cruise,their Faster to the Fun package will give you priority tender boarding.
10. Lining Up for Cruise Attractions on Sea Days
Sea days on a cruise ship can be a busy time, especially for popular rides such as bumper cars, go-karts, and water slides. One way to avoid the lines is to create your own sea day by skipping a port day and spending the day on the ship instead. Alternatively, you can try going on these rides during early evening hours when people are having dinner. This is a good time to visit the pool and use the water slides, since there are typically fewer people in line.
If you need to book shore excursion tours, a great platform to book tours is with viator
Check out these cruise packing lists with free printables
Check out: When to Book a Cruise to Get the Best Deal