Embarkation Day Tips and Tricks

Embarkation Day Tips and Tricks

Nine Proven Ways to make Embarkation Day Stress Free; Embarkation Day Watch-outs, Tips and Tricks

What are the nine most important embarkation day watch outs, tips and tricks that you need to know? The things that will make embarkation day go smoothly, stress-free and to get the most out of the day.

Watch my Embarkation Day Tips Video

Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ndnido6gLcs

#1 Arrive the day before

Make your vacation stress-free by arriving at the cruise port the day before. This means that if there are any hiccups with travel, i.e. flights, trains or whatever mode of transport you’re using to get there, you have plenty of time to resolve it. Flying in on the day of the cruise can be really risky so I, like many experienced cruisers, always aim to go the day before. It gives you a chance to settle in, sort out any issues you’ve got and, if there are any hiccups with travel, you can resolve them.

# 2 Prearrange Travel Documents and Cruise Activities Prior to Embarkation

My second big tip is prearrange and book as much as you possibly can online before the cruise.

There’s a couple of things to focus on. First of all, if you’re flying into or joining the cruise in Canada or the United States and you’re from outside of there, make sure you’ve got all the ESTAs. The same applies if you’re traveling to any countries where you might need visas, make sure that they’re all arranged before travelling.

Secondly, you’ll find that most Cruise Lines ask you to check-in online and input your credit card details. This will help you get through and on the ship as quickly as possible.


Make sure that you’ve pre booked things like excursions, drinks packages, specialty dining or any other things that you can pre-book online. This means that you can relax in the knowledge that everything is arranged. Do these things beforehand, so you have time to think about it. You can look at the deals online and ensure you’ve got everything locked down.

Download the cruise line app, if they have one. Download it when you still have good Wi-Fi or data minutes. Apps are becoming really important on cruise lines to get your daily program, make reservations, book excursions and chat with friends and family. Make sure you have it fully installed on your phone and have things sorted before you go so you can actually use embarkation day to start enjoying your vacation and not spend time sorting out a lot of admin.

# 3 Planning your Arrival Time

My next tip is around making the most efficient use of time before you get on the ship. It is important to make sure you understand what time you’re allowed to get there. Different cruise lines have different approaches, and some will give you a set time and won’t let you start the check-in embarkation process until your allocated time, so don’t pitch up too early at the port or you will basically be hanging around wasting your time.

Of course, if you want to get on board earlier there’s a couple of things you can do. You can book a cabin which has priority boarding, or some cruise lines sell packages which have priority boarding included.

Get there early

If they’re relaxed on time you might want to get there really early in the hope that you’re there before the crowds arrive and you can get on the ship much earlier. Arriving early won’t always work, so do check what the cruise line policy is.

The other thing you might want to consider, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time hanging around, is look at arriving later. The downside of that, of course, is you won’t get on the ship as quickly. However, you might find that this is an advantage. For example, if you’re cruising out of Vancouver on an Alaska trip it can be quite a slow process getting through all the immigration checks, so one thing that I like to do is arrive a bit later when the peak has slowed down, which allows me to get on more quickly because I haven’t spent a lot of time sitting in the terminal waiting to board.

# 4 Packing the Right Day Bag for Embarkation Day

It’s really important to make sure that anything that is valuable, whether it’s medicines, electronics, computers or anything else that’s of value to you, is packed in a day bag. Do not put these items in your checked in luggage, keep all that stuff with you. When you’re packing that day bag or carry-on bag, think about what you might want to do straight away when you get on the ship.

For example, if it’s a nice warm cruise you might want to be able to use the pool, or the hot tub. Your luggage may only be delivered to the cabin quite late in the afternoon, so it is best to have items like shorts, swimming trunks, workout gear with you in a day bag. Always assume you’re only going to get your bags later in the afternoon. This means that you can have your valuables and other important things with you so you’re able to enjoy the ship and do whatever you want to do before your luggage arrives. Pack that day bag and really think it through.

# 5 Avoid the Buffet Restaurant!

Another thing that I do on embarkation day is avoid the buffet restaurant. Most people, after embarking, want to go somewhere simple and easy to eat, so they head up to the buffet. It gets pretty crowded and crazy on embarkation day. However, most cruise lines actually open one or more of their normal restaurants at this time, and they’re much better places to eat because you can sit down and enjoy yourself. For me that’s a big way of making embarkation day feel a little bit more special, a little more relaxed and less stressful.

# 6 Checking the Cabin and other Important aspects of the Cruise

My next tip is a really important one. Something that I always make sure I do as early as possible when I embark a ship, is to check four particular things to make sure that they’re all okay.

Check your cabin!

First of all, go to your cabin as soon as you can and check it carefully. Make sure that everything works, nothing’s broken, try the bed and make sure you’re happy with everything in the cabin. Your cabin steward will normally come along quite quickly once they know you’re there, and if there’s anything you don’t like in your cabin or anything you’re unhappy with, tell your cabin steward there and then.

This is very important so that it’s registered with the cabin steward, who will probably also talk to their supervisor. This becomes important if you have any issues with your cabin and you want to escalate the problem. Checking everything within the first hour or two of getting into a cabin, to make sure that it is absolutely how you want it to be, also means there’s time to get any issues resolved.

Secondly, go and check what the situation is with upgrades. If the ship is not sailing at full capacity, there may be a chance to get upgrades. If you have a problem with your cabin, you might end up negotiating a free upgrade or there may be special offers going for upgrades. Always check out what the situation is.

Check your dining

The third thing is to check your dining. It depends on the cruise ship, but if you have a table allocated in the main dining room and you’re on one of those cruises which has fixed dining, go and check the table and make sure you’re happy with it. That’s going to be your table for the whole cruise. It’s increasingly the case that cruise ships are moving to a more open seated dining, so this is becoming less of an issue. However, if you do have allocated seating, make sure that you’re happy with it. When it comes to dining, if you haven’t pre-booked speciality dining arrange that as soon as you can when you get on board on embarkation day, so you can get the dates and times and restaurants that you want.

The fourth thing to check, if you’re traveling with kids, is the situation with the kids’ club and get them registered. Most kids’ clubs have capacity to take all of the kids onboard, but get there early and make sure that you get your kids signed in and you understand what times they are open.

# 7 Check for Special Offers and Discounts

The next thing I always do on an embarkation day is see what special offers and deals are going. If you’ve been really organised, you’ve probably booked many of the things and seen what’s available in terms of deals and offers before you get on the ship. Some cruise lines will let you book Wi-Fi packages, drinks packages or excursions with a discount and you might have done that in advance, but do find out what discounts are going on because on an embarkation day most departments will have special offers.

Raffle galore

Check out places like the spa, or even some of the shops, and find out if there’s any lucky draws or raffles going on. You’ll find that many of those departments are trying to encourage people to go there by having a draw or raffle. This normally takes place just before the ship sets sail and requires you to be there to win the prize. On a couple of cruises, I have won spa packages through those lucky draws, so it is well worth checking out what is on offer.

# 8 Take Photographs Early on

Another important thing to do, particularly early, is explore the ship and take photographs. If you want to take lots of photographs of public rooms, or you actually want to take pictures of yourself on the ship, do it early on because most people when boarding the ship go first to the buffet and then they go to their cabin.

This is a good time to explore the ship when it’s pretty empty and you can have lots of good open spaces to take pictures. Once the cruise is in full swing and everybody’s on board, you’re going to find it difficult to get great pictures of empty spaces to show people. The pool areas and the bars are always going to be busy, so taking photographs early on an embarkation day is a really great idea. It also means you can start sharing photographs with all your friends and family and make them jealous as well!

# 9 Attend the Muster Drill!

Another key thing to do on embarkation day is go to the muster drill. This is mandatory and most cruise lines will take a roll call. If you don’t go to the muster drill you are likely to be refused to sail. Although, normally what they do in this situation is make you go through a muster drill separately. However, it is really important to make sure you do go to the muster drill because you if you don’t do it, you’re not going to be able to sail.


These are the ways that I make my embarkation day run smoothly and be much less stressful. It means I can enjoy my cruise vacation straight away.

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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