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. It’s all about getting it right. Especially with all the new cruise and testing policies.
Things To Remember Before Cruise Embarkation Day
Check the cruise line testing policy when you book your cruise.
Some cruise lines require vaccinations, pcr tests, some just test at the port prior to boarding, some do both. It is your responsibility to find out exactly what’s needed and meet the requirements before boarding or you will be denied boarding. All cruise lines have a covid policy page which details exactly what is required.
Download the cruise app
If your cruise ship has an app download it, many now have online check in, ordering systems for dining plans and drink packages, rooms service, and booking in for shows which makes life so much easier.
Pre purchase drinks packages and speciality dining plans
It is generally better value to book drinks packages in advance. Keep your eye out for deals and special offers, most cruise lines run a drinks package sale once a year which you can add to your booking.
Check in online before your cruise
All cruise lines have apps or online check in options where you can upload your passport, add your bank details and photos, covid statements and proof of vaccinations. Once completed you will get a QR code to scan at the port, this will allow quicker embarkation once all covid tests are complete.
Print out your covid passport qr code , luggage tags and any other documentation needed and have your app qr ticket code ready, it saves a lot of time and faffing.Even though the Covid passport is on line we printed ours for our last cruise and were told by staff this makes life so much easier.
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’s 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 knows you’ll 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 and debit 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.
Cruise Embarkation Day, Prior To Boarding
What time can I board my cruise ship?
Recently cruise lines have been giving an hour slot to maintain social distancing of passengers. This is to ensure smooth embarkation and minimise queues and packed terminals.
Arrive in time for your slot, you will need to complete pre cruise covid tests and get your results before you get to the ship. It helps complete as much admin via the app or online as possible prior to embarkation day.
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, after testing 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 and how long test results take.
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 per person 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.
Cruise Embarkation Day, Once On The Ship
Find a spot for lunch
Embarkation day is manic and it’s so easy to get swept along and forget to eat. Once onboard its natural to want to explore, but this is a great time to find a spot for lunch.
The buffet restaurant, especially now many aren’t self service will be manic, my advice is find a quieter spot, ships have many dining options and take time to enjoy a glass of wine, enjoy a meal and chill. Usually by the time you have had lunch the cabins are ready so you can check out your cabin, unpack and watch the muster video.
Complete the muster drill?
Yes, there is a muster drill, but to avoid big crowds cruise lines have changed the way the muster drill works and it’s so much better. You now watch a safety video in your stateroom which takes you through where the lifeboats are, your muster station and what to do in an emergency. You must then head to your muster station to register.
This is logged with the bridge so everyone on board must watch it and register with the muster station before sailaway, and as it’s maritime law the ship can not set sail until it’s done.
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 to register
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. Although many cruise lines have now added this as a feature on the app.
Even if your kiddies are not sure about attending still sign up, its easier to do on the first day.
Find out if there’s 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’ve 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 can be 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. ( This is not the case for drinks packages they are better booked beforehand)
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.
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 non negotiable rule for us but we still have that discussion every cruise.
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.
I was invited to sample the Wonderland on Symphony of the Seas restaurant on behalf of Cruising with Kids. All thoughts and opinions are my own