Enjoying Your Cruise: Departure Day

  1. Get Ready
    Before you leave the house, print out our Last-Day-Everything's-Done Checklist article to take care of any last-minute preparations.
  2. If your flight is delayed or canceled
    • Contact airline personnel and mention that you're a cruise passenger with a schedule departure time.
    • Contact your cruise line as soon as possible to tell them about the flight problems.
  3. Get to the port with plenty of time to board.
    • You should to be on board at least 90 minutes before the cruise ship leaves.
    • Most larger cruise ships allow you to board several hours before final departure time.

    WHN Reader TIP: Get On Board


    Board the ship a few hours earlier than you're told to, so you can settle in and enjoy lunch before the late-day departure. This tip was given to me by my brother (a veteran cruiser) before I embarked, and it gave me a jump start on my cruise experience!
    – Melissa, NY, NY
  4. Security
    • When boarding a larger cruise line, you will go through security just like at an airport.
    • Your luggage will be scanned through x-rays and metal detectors then they will be delivered to your room a few hours later.

    WHN Reader TIP: Carry On Luggage


    Security on cruise ships is why having a carry-on is important! Keep all medications and special needs items in this bag because your luggage won’t be delivered to you until later.
  5. Mock Credit Cards
    Upon boarding the larger cruise ships, you will also be given a "mock" credit card – a card to charge all expenses while on the ship.
    • Not everything is included in the initial cruise fee: you will need to pay for drinks, gift shop purchases, casino expenses, spa services, doctor services and other miscellanous costs.
    • Keep this card safe! Don't lose it only to have someone else charging your account!
    • If you do lose your card, contact the ship's front desk or purser immediately. Let them know the last time you had the card and when you noticed it was missing. Ask if it's possible to reissue another card for your account.

    WHN TIP: Manage Your Expenses


    You might want to consider putting on a daily or total trip ceiling on all cards – a predetermined limit that can be spent for a certain time period. Consult your cruise line to find out more about this option.
  6. Explore!
    While waiting for others to board, explore immediately! Get to know as much of the boat as possible so you know the options available later.

    WHN TIP: Daily Bulletin - Stay in the Know


    Daily bulletins are provided to each cabin – read it to know what's available when. It also has daily news, weather and info about your next destinations.
  7. Ship Time
    Change your watch to match the SHIP’S TIME, which often is different from the time ashore. Make sure you understand exactly when the ship debarks from each port each day, so you don’t miss the boat!
  8. Safety Drill
    Once everyone has boarded you will have to do a safety or "muster" drill before leaving port. This is for safety reasons and is mandatory – everyone must take part. Usually you'll be divided into groups and you'll be instructed on how to use a lifejacket and where the lifeboats are located.
  9. Keep track of your valuables.
    Many cruise lines have lock boxes/safety boxes available for guests – ask for these on the first day so that you’ll have one for the entire trip.

Have a cruise tip of your own to recommend? Email us!

Updated: 5/2009