(The checking-in process, and what to expect while getting prepared to go aboard your ship)
This is the third in a series of six “Cruise Mini Camp” informational offerings pertaining to cruising procedures
Preparation to Departure – Prior to departing for your cruise vacation you will want to be sure that you have adequately taken care of some pre-trip needs. I try to remember it by the acronym “DIMLY”. Documentation in the form of travel and boarding paperwork, items such as tickets, terms and conditions, insurance paperwork, boarding passes (that was preprinted prior to leaving from home), Excursion Coupons/Event tickets or receipts from online purchase etc. Note: Many Cruise Lines will retain all tickets that you have purchased prior to boarding, and will deliver them to your stateroom, or they will be awaiting your arrival in your stateroom. Identification items such as Passports, Drivers Licenses, other photo identifications. If you don’t have your passports you can click here for help and information. You SHOULD ALWAYS have your passport, even if you are cruising to a destination that does not require one. Because if something should happen to you or a family member take sick or become injured and require being taken to an on-land hospital (and you will need to travel back by air), You will then be required to have a valid passport in order to leave the country and re-enter the US. You should also be sure that your passport expires at least six months after your scheduled return from your cruise or travel abroad. If you are being accompanied by children you may wish to carry their birth certificates along. If the children are not your children it is a good idea to have written permission from their parents, or other legal guardians to be cruising with you. Medications, be sure to have an adequate supply of medications you take to get you all the way back home with some extra to spare. Never go with the idea that you can easily get more while on the trip, as that should definitely be taken care of prior to leaving your home area. Luggage, all such items securely packed, and identified with your name, address, and telephone information. If you are unsure on just what to pack, click here for some tips. Also if you need some helpful hints on how to effectively pack “check out this link“. It’s a good idea, to have your preprinted bag tags from the cruise line attached to each bag as well. Note: these items are no longer provided by the cruise lines in the same ways as in the past. Each passenger is now responsible for taking care of this task on their own (by printing of paper bag tags through the on board registration process) prior to departing from their home. While I agree, that these are not the best type of identification means, (and are especially easy to get torn off) but the cruise lines like every other business is trying to cut back every where possible. I definitely recommend a stronger (less likely to become destroyed) vinyl bag tags, that you will just hand write your ship/sailing information onto. Last but most importantly is Your patience. Remember that you will be under certain stresses that you are not accustomed to as in your normal day to day routine. It’s preferable to arrive at your ship with ample amounts of patience at your disposal.
Leaving from Home – It might be helpful to use a Departure Checklist in your pre trip preparation. If you don’t have one ask your cruise planner/travel agent. If they don’t have one, contact me and ask for a copy of our checklist, and I will send it to you. Did you remember to turn off all non security lighting, air conditioning/heat? Stopped Mail and Paper Delivery? OK it sounds like you are actually ready to depart for your vacation cruise adventure. One word of advice, I strongly encourage cruisers not to attempt to fly into their port city on the day of sailing. I have experienced far too many airline delays/cancellations resulting in destroyed cruise plans. I prefer to arrive at least a day prior to the ship’s departure.
Arrival at your destination Airport – OK your beginning to get a little excited. Yeah you’ve arrived at airports before, but this time your getting ready to head to your ship. Keep your head about you as there are some important tasks you need to accomplish, and I’m going to help you over the anxiety by reminding you how things will work out for you. First head to baggage claim and gather your luggage. It’s really a good idea to rent one of the rolling bag carts you can normally rent for a few dollars in the baggage claim area. Bag Valets are not a real good idea, as you are going to be normally going a little distance from the bag claim area, certainly further than the valets typically go. Besides at up to $5 per bag that can get rather expensive. This is one good reason to never pack any piece of luggage that you can’t physically maneuver yourself. Once you have all of your luggage, locate the Cruise Line Personnel in the baggage claim area, and be sure you give them your name as he will be taking groups of folks out to the coach arrival area every few minutes to head to the port terminal. If at this point you have not purchased transfers. You are what we refer to as “OYO” (on your own). If this applies to your situation, then you should proceed directly outside the doorway and find the ground transportation valet personnel so that you can secure a ride to the Port Terminal. Various forms of transportation can be done. Taxis, Shuttle Services and/or Shared Vans (normally must be contracted prior to your arrival) and Limo Services (while normally the cheapest Limo rides can only be secured with prior purchase) you can still take a limo from most airport arrival areas directly to the port terminal. While I generally recommend to clients to take advantage of cruise line airport transfers, certain airports/port terminals are situated so close to each other, that I recommend just grabbing a taxi, as they are much cheaper, and faster getting you to the pier Terminal. One such example is Port Everglades/Ft Lauderdale Airport in Florida. (OK back to what’s next). Now that you have been escorted out to a curbside waiting area to await the arrival of the next motor coach you will be standing outdoors most likely under cover with your luggage. Once the coach arrives, you will then be instructed to leave your luggage, (which the driver loads onto the coach under belly storage area) and get aboard the coach. At this point you will start to make friends with other passengers who will be on your cruise. I recommend you start meeting/making some new friends now as you will be seeing many of them for the duration of the cruise.
Arrival at Pier Terminal – Once you have arrived at the Pier Terminal area, you need to be sure that your luggage is properly left with (in the custody and control of) authorized baggage personnel. Be sure to get a bag receipt or claim check as it will be the only means of retrieving your bag back, until it has been delivered to your stateroom. Remember that each and every piece of carry aboard luggage items you take with you will have to go through the pre boarding screening process before you are allowed onto the ship. Check out a video on Terminal 18, located in Port Everglades Florida (click here to see the video) While this screening process is not as thorough in scope as those when boarding aircraft (with needing to remove liquids/gels/medications etc). You will have to keep your carry on item(s) with you everywhere you go until you can get access to your stateroom. There is no ability to check (or leave) it somewhere before getting to your stateroom. After clearing through the bag screening process you will then proceed to an initial waiting area, unless you have arrived early or late and can go directly to a “Check-In”, or “Boarding processing” station. At some point during the check-in process you will be required to complete a medical fitness questionnaire to be turned in to the boarding processing stations. Once there, they will actually imprint your credit card, verify your identification/boarding documents are complete. They will also take your photograph which gets transferred to the ships passenger computerized identification system. So that each time you enter and leave the ship and scan your access card the ship’s personnel will actually see your picture along with your identification information displayed on their podium screen. You will know when the process is completed as you will be handed your stateroom key card. This card is your everything. Keep it in your hand as you will be needing it throughout the boarding process. Not only is it your room key, is also functions as your on board money, as well as mentioned earlier is your means of positive identification when getting on and off the ship. Be sure to have it, along with your passport/or other photo id ready for final inspection to board the ship.
Awaiting to Board the Ship – Once you have finished the administrative process of checking in and have secured your Sea Pass Card; what happens next will depend on the particular cruise line, and the time of day in the boarding process. Normally at this point you will get assigned (whether you realize it or not) in some type of boarding priority. Whether it’s going ahead to board, or whether into a holding area somewhere still within the Terminal Port Building. Boarding priorities takes place in accordance with specific cruise line policy, but typically have to do with certain rationale. First is by Room Category, i.e. suite customers generally are the first to board, as they are the first rooms to be readied, since most suite passengers from the proceeding cruise where the first to depart the ship earlier that morning. Then there are Wedding Parties, Groups, and Loyalty Program Customers. Frequent Cruisers are afforded priority in the embarkation/debarkation of the ship as well as for tender departures (in non docking ports) from the ship. Then the next rationale is time of arrival/completion with the registration process. Don’t worry even though it may feel that your group has been forgotten you will get to board as soon as the rotation is ready to have you board. It is also important to know that general boarding of the ship does not get to occur until custom’s has completely cleared the ship. That means that all previous passengers have disembarked, and that security and safety inspections have all been completed and the ship is being allowed to take on new passengers. So as you can see, the boarding commencement is not within the total control of the cruise line itself. Please remain patient.
Permission to Go Aboard – OK!!! Now it’s your turn. If you have been in a holding area, you will now be proceeding to actually board the cruise ship. Remember when I advised you to keep your Sea Pass Card and your passport in your hand. Yep, this is where you want to do that, since there will be one final check point to go through, and then you can put your passport away, but you will still need your Sea Pass Card to present to the Ships Personnel shortly after stepping on the ship. You probably will at some point before actually stepping onto the ship be given an opportunity to pose for the obligatory pre cruise photo, with a backdrop of a life preserver or something nautical in nature generally with the Name of Cruise Ship on it, that you and your sweetie will stand in front of for your first ship photo moment. Go ahead and pose. Remember you can pose for all the photos you like, you are not obligated to buy any of them. You will get that chance to purchase as you will see later on and all throughout the cruise in an area generally referred to as the Photo Shop. Just know that they will put the photos out in public view, so if you really don’t wish them to be seen (by everyone on-board) either buy them and take them away, or take them from the display and give them to photo shop personnel and tell them you are not interested. You finally made it!!!!!!– You’re actually on board.
Our next module is Things to Do While/Once You’re On Board and you (can click here) to move on to that article.
CruisewithMike: for more information on Preparing for your Cruise or Travel you can contact Mike at email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike or you can join our Cruise Club at http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/ Mikes web site can be found at www.mberryhill.cruiseholidays.com . and also follow his blog at http://www.cruisewithmike.com .
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The End – Embarkation Day, Getting Ready to Board Your Ship!