12 Best Things to Do Before Your Cruise

Who isn’t excited on Embarkation Day? Barring any unforeseen delays on the way to the cruise port, it helps to know what to do before leaving home and then when you arrive at the cruise terminal.

When you board the ship, these helpful cruise tips that you’ve used can go a long way to avoid any glitches or disappointment on your cruise.

Sail Away Party Aboard Queen Mary 2.
No matter what cruise ship you’re on, don’t miss the sailaway party. Photo: Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven

To minimize frustration and unwanted surprises, here’s what to do before you leave home for your cruise as well as what to know for Embarkation Day!

12 Best Things to Do Before Your Cruise and Embarkation Day

Download the Cruise Line’s App

Nowadays, almost all the major cruise lines have their own app. Download the cruise line’s app and complete your check-in process a couple of weeks before your departure date. If your cruise line does have an app, you can do almost all of your pre-cruise registration, purchase shore excursions, reserve dining, and more on it.

If needed, print out any documents or travel notes to have handy at check-in. Even though I’ve done all I can on a cruise line’s app, I still print out a hard copy, if only for my own files. I also have a pen handy for last minute or uncompleted documents when you’re in the terminal.

Make Sure Your Passport is Up to Date

it’s necessary to make sure your passport is up to date. It should not expire no less than 6 months before your return date. Check the expiration date at least a couple of months before your cruise if possible.

Pre-Pay for Parking at the Port

If you are driving to the port, you have choices. There’s the port’s own parking structure or ground parking and then there are off-site discount parking options.

Check out the prices of both and then compare if the few dollars saved is worth the extra effort to take your luggage from car to shuttle van, wait for it to load more passengers and go to the ship’s terminal. Some off-site parking paces offer covered spots for more money.

I’ve tried both options, and I prefer the convenience of just parking on-site and heading directly to the ship. Same for after the cruise. I just wheel my luggage and load up my car. If you book off-site, you have to wait in the sun or rain at a designated shuttle stop.

Bring Small Currency Bills

Bring a bunch of one- and five-dollar bills. Why? First, to tip the porter who takes your luggage from your car or motor coach to the loading carts. You’ll find it very handy to have small bills with you.

If you order room service, remember to tip the room service person, too. I set out a couple of dollars the night before so I’m not fumbling around in the morning looking for tip money.

Have Your Boarding Documents Ready

Before you walk into the cruise terminal, have your boarding documents ready to show, whether on your phone or paper. Besides your passport, you’ll need to show your cruise ship boarding pass and any other necessary documents.

In fact, you’ll need to show your boarding pass just to get in the door…and sometimes even into the port area, either on a printed paper or on your phone.

What to Do When You Get On Board

So now you know what to have prepared for to get you on the ship with the least amount of stress and anxiety. Here’s what to know when you first board the ship.

Unpack as Soon as Possible

Once in your stateroom, unpack as soon as possible. Even if your big luggage hasn’t been delivered, unpack your carry-on and start to settle into your new home. It’ll only take a few minutes, then off you go to explore your ship.

Put Your Phone Into Airplane Mode

Change your phone into airplane mode as soon as you’re settled into your stateroom. If you haven’t pre-purchased the ship’s wifi package, you can still do it on embarkation day. Check the daily planner for any sailaway day discounts.

Check Out Your Dining Table Assignment

Plan to eat dinners in the Main Dining Room? If it’s not on your ship’s app or medallion, look for your dining time and table assignment. You’ll find this info on a little card on your desk or on your stateroom key card for your dining time AND table assignment.

One of the first things I do after I’ve dropped my carryon bag in my stateroom is to walk through the main dining room to check out my assigned table. As a solo cruiser, I don’t want anything less than a table for eight.

Did You Pre-purchase Any Packages?

If you didn’t pre-purchase dining, beverage, spa or other packages before your cruise, take advantage of any embarkation day promotions. Again, check the daily planner. Pre-sailaway day offers actually do save money. You can even sign up as you check out the ship.

Are There Still Muster Drills on Cruise Ships?

When ships started to sail again after Covid, they adopted a new way to muster; in your stateroom with an emergency instructional video. Then you need to check in with a staff member at your assigned muster station.

If your ship has reverted back to pre-Covid muster drills, then before you head out for the buffet lunch and your ship tour walkabout, note the time you need to be at muster.

Pay attention as either of these are mandatory. You don’t want to be leisurely sipping an umbrella drink and suddenly have to rush to your muster station when you hear your name over the P.A.system!

How to Enjoy Sailaway Buffet Lunch

If you want to enjoy the vast array of lunch options at sailaway, arrive at the port at least 2 hours before the buffet closes, usually near 3 PM.

Buffet lunch and crew serviing the food options.
Buffet lunch on Holland America ship. Photo: Sherry Laskin

There have been many times when I’ve arrived later than planned (traffic was usually the issue).

Some cruise lines have assigned boarding times. Arrive at the terminal door on time, not before, and you’ll be able to have a nice meal to begin your cruise.

Take Your Stateroom Photos First

Take photos of your stateroom as soon as you get there. Whether it’s a simple stateroom pic or one that you want to strike a pose for a social media post, do it before the room is cluttered with all of your stuff.

Celebrity Edge Infinite Veranda stateroom.
Celebrity Edge Infinite Veranda stateroom. Photo: Sherry Laskin

Don’t Miss the SailAway Party!

Weather permitting, don’t miss the embarkation day sail-away party, even it you only stay for 10 minutes. It’s festive, it’s fun and a great way to start your vacation.

If the weather becomes impossible to have the party outside, the Cruise Director will announce the new location over the P.A. system. Keep an ear open to hear of any changes.

Read More:  10 Essential Items to Always Pack for Your Cruise

I hope these best tips to know what to do before your cruise as well as when you first get on board are helpful. Enjoy your cruise!

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