What To Expect On Cruise Embarkation Day For Families

The cruise is booked and you are all packed and travel day is looming, if you haven’t cruised before you will be wondering about those first initial steps and what to expect on cruise embarkation day.  Read on for our top Cruise Embarkation Day Tips For Families. If you are prepared when cruising with kids then embarkation day is such an exciting day for families. Its all about getting it right.

Things To Remember Before Cruise Embarkation Day

If you are booking your own pre cruise flights, fly the day before cruise embarkation day.

If there is a delay and you have booked your flights separately the ship will not wait. This has happened to us before and it’s stressful, however travelling the day before takes that stress away. And if you get an early flight it gives you a day and night to explore the port area before boarding your ship.

If you are driving to the port pre book parking.

Look at maps of the port to get the nearest parking possible, it is so much easier when trying to negotiate cases and children. And you will be glad of it when you disembark.

Tell your bank you are cruising

Make sure your bank know you will be using your credit/debit card in a different region or country every day. You will have pre registered your card during online check in. Cruise lines check credit cards every night so any errors are quickly highlighted. Our card has been stopped on one occasion when we did not inform our bank, it took a lengthy and expensive call so our bank to sort. Advising the bank prior to your cruise will prevent the bank flagging uncharacteristic use patterns as a security risk.

Be prepared and get cash out ready for port days

It costs more to change money onboard so have so cash ready for port days. Research local currency’s of all the ports of your trip and be prepared.

top things to do in Bilbao port

Cruise Embarkation Day, Prior To Boarding

What time can I board my cruise ship?

Get to the cruise port early. Most cruise lines give a time to embark your cruise. This is to ensure smooth embarkation and minimise queues. Arrive early for your slot there is a lot of paperwork to fill out and get through before you get to the ship. It helps complete as much admin as possible prior to embarkation day. Print out your passport to cruise and any other documentation needed, it saves a lot of time and faffing.

Will I need a stroller at the cruise terminal for my cruise embarkation day?

Yes there is a lot of walking and waiting about, cruise terminals will have either a travelator or lift for buggy’s, wheelchairs and strollers. Make sure your stroller is not too wide for cabin doors. We have created a guide CLICK HERE for more advice on cruise ship cabin door widths.

Drop Luggage off with the porters before you enter the terminal building

Before you enter the terminal building you will book your cases in with the porters. Have your documentation ready and luggage labels filled out and attached to your suitcases. You will not see your cases for several hours. They usually appear outside your cabin around 6pm, for this reason cruise lines rarely hold a formal night on the first night of your cruise.

Be prepared to queue, but look out for the family lines.

Queues can be long, sometimes not so much, it really depends on how many people arrive at the port at any given time. Cruise companies generally offer light refreshments, coffee, juice, pastries and cookies in the terminal building. However charter cruises don’t always offer the same level of service.

Cruise lines usually cater for families very well, if you are travelling with children ask where the family lines are?

Pack a cruise embarkation day bag

Be prepared and pack an embarkation bag, you may not see your luggage for hours. Items to pack include swimwear, armbands, sunglasses, sun cream any small toys to keep little ones busy. Don’t forget medication, nappies and wet wipes. It’s an exciting busy day and if you have kids they will want to jump straight into the pool. When our boys were younger we always took a Disney play set, these fit into a little bag and are perfect for travelling.

Do they check your carry on bag on a cruise?

Yes, once checked in you will go through security where your bag will be scanned. This is similar to airport security.

Can I take alcohol on a cruise?

You are permitted to take a bottle of champagne or wine onto your cruise on embarkation day. The amount can vary so check with your line, however it’s usually one bottle (750 mL) per adult in a cabin, but limited to 2. Keep this in your carry-on luggage to prevent breakages. However should you have a drinks package this may not be necessary.

All inclusive on the Norwegian Bliss www.cruisingkids.co.uk

Cruise Embarkation Day, Once On The Ship

What is a muster drill?

Is a meeting to go through all the safety procedures in the unlikely case of an emergency, this is always carried out on cruise embarkation day. Information including meeting points and allocated life boats, you will be assigned a muster station which will be either on your cruise card on the back of your cabin door.

As it is part of maritime law, your whole party must attend. The drill will last around 30 minutes, and will not start until everyone is in attendance. Arrive on time and be prepared to be patient, this can be difficult with small children, take along some snacks and small toys to keep them amused. It’s a good idea to work out where the toilets are and sit nearby should you need to make a quick visit with small children.

Check out the cruise news

Don’t underestimate the cruise news it’s an essential part of cruise life. One will be delivered to your stateroom every night detailing everything that will be happening on-board the next day. If you are cruising with children they will also receive their own copy. On your first day look out for kids club sign up, any shows you may want to register for and meet and greet times.

Visit the kids club on cruise embarkation day

The kids club registration on embarkation day is so important. The kids crew are on hand to meet and greet kids and answer any questions. There is also paperwork to fill out to sign your kiddies up so make sure you take your passport and cruise card along with you. Even if your kiddies are not sure about attending still sign up, its easier to do on the first day.

The MSC Bellissima Kidsclub the Junior club


Find out if there is a sail-away party

The sail-away party is a huge cruising tradition, it’s wonderful to stand waving to people in port ass you set off onto your cruise adventure. There is so much going on on embarkation day, and ships have so much area to cover and explore, note the time and bob in it’s a wonderful family experience.

If you are booking speciality dining consider if you will need babysitting too?

We love trying out the speciality dining, and as our kids have got older they love it too. However younger kids may not have the patience for long drawn out meals. Whether you’re booking with or without your family there are usually some great deals available on cruise embarkation day. It’s also better to snap up those babysitting slots if you do want a romantic meal.

A top tip is to book a later slot in the restaurant and take the kiddies to the buffet restaurant for dinner before the kids club or babysitting.

Have you tried a Royal Caribbean speciality restaurant? Royal Caribbeans Wonderland restaurant is a totally different  concept in dining on a cruise. The Wonderland speciality restaurant is a take on Alices adventures in a toasty turvy world and is aimed at people of all ages including children. The whole atmosphere is magical from start to finish. From the moment you venture down the rabbit hole, you will experience a complete new world. What is real? and what is imagined?

If your kids are a little older set an emergency meeting point somewhere inside the ship on the first day!

Cruise ships are HUGE it’s so easy-to lose each other. It only takes for an older child to wander off and you nip to the bathroom and you are lost. This has only ever happened to us once, and can happen anywhere you travel. Agreeing an inside meeting point is a great idea so that in the event of this happening you all know exactly where to go.

Stick to an inside point on a mid deck, maybe the concierge or guest relations desk as this is easily accessible

Also walky talkies are a great idea to keep in contacts if older kids want to nip for a game of football or an ice cream.

Set balcony rules with older children.

There may be times when older children are in your cabin alone. It may only be for minutes if they run ahead to let themselves in. Ensure you have a safety discussion as soon as you enter your cabin for the first time. Our rules include no standing on chairs, climbing and strictly no opening the balcony doors if there are no adults in the cabin. This is a no negotiable rule for us but we still have that discussion every cruise.

Looking Out To Sea Onboard The Celebrity Silhouette and tips for Cruise embarkation day, and what to expect

Download the cruise app

If your cruise ship has an app download it, many now have ordering systems for rooms service, and booking in for shows which makes life so much easier.

If we have missed anything let us know, or any questions do message us or ask in our facebook group, the link is in the side bar. And happy cruising.

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What to expect of cruise embarkation day for families cruising with kids


Sarah Christie
Sarah Christie

Sarah also writes over at Extraordinary Chaos Family Travel and Lifestyle Blog. An award winning blog with a luxury travel and family focus. She is married and has two boys aged 13 and 18, who all love cruising as a family.

There is nothing better than waking up every day in a new port with new and exciting things to explore. She aim’s to share how cruising with older children is the perfect choice for family travel. Her boys are sporty and love the activities, sport and dining options cruising has to offer.

Sarah has worked with brands such as Walt Disney World, Mark Warner, Ikos Resort, Center Parcs, Laura Ashley, Belling and Next.

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