1. Settle Up
Charges that you’ve accrued throughout your cruise will be waiting for your attention before you ‘check out.’ The cruise line will present you with a statement the night before, which should itemize all your purchases. If you’ve arranged to pay with a credit card, simply check to see if the bill is correct. For cash, you will likely have to stand in a long queue to settle up your account.
2. Color-coded chaos
Any luggage that you would like handled by the ship’s crew will have a color-coded tag. It should be packed and placed outside your cabin door by the scheduled time (usually the night before disembarkation). Then, bright and early the next morning the intercoms will begin announcing the colors for passengers to debark.
Depending on your cruise line, you will either be able to wait in your cabin or move to one of the common use areas. After exiting the ship, you will claim your luggage at the cruise terminal or Customs depending on your cruise line’s program. If you carry your own luggage, you will be able to disembark at any time during the process.
According to most passengers, the chaotic part is two-fold: Remembering what all you’ll need to get ready on the final day, and then being able to pack those items in your carry-on; and herding down the gangway with the hundreds of others pushing toward the orange 10 tag section. Also, theft may be a concern for all those suitcases in the hallways. So keep your valuables and medications with you.
3. There’s always paperwork
Passengers are not allowed to disembark until the Customs and port authorities have cleared the ship. Once that is complete and the intercoms are blasting words from the color wheel, you can leave. After you’ve navigated the luggage seek-and-find at the terminal, you may have to show your passport and present customs forms to officials. These will be provided to you the night before debarking.
On the customs forms, you should list souvenirs (keep those receipts), and any restricted goods such as alcohol and tobacco. In order to expedite this process and avoid the stink-eye from everyone behind you in the queue, do the following two things: 1) know the rules ahead of time and follow them, and 2) do NOT bring that extra piece of fruit from breakfast!
4. Get informed
Often the most overlooked tip for improving the disembarkation experience is simply getting informed about the processes. Each cruise line will have a ready-made set of instructions that are available every day of your vacation. Better to learn them early. Also, most ships will have the option of watching a brief presentation in a large lounge during the final day at sea. Some even offer this tutorial on the ship’s channel of your cabin’s TV. Or you can read all about it in your daily newsletter and/or in the memo you will likely receive with your final statement of account the night before leaving.
5. Leave early or stay late
For those who carry their own luggage, the early bird definitely gets the quickest ship departure time. This is ideal for those who have a pending airline flight from port to home. You may also want to lounge about on deck while the masses squeeze onto the gangway. While there will be a final hour for you to leave, what’s the hurry? Some cruise lines even have the option to stay for lunch (for an extra fee, of course).
Finally, disembarkation from a cruise ship is often a hurry-up-and-wait situation. You can use these tips to improve the experience. And, remember to have your stateroom key card at the ready for one final swipe to get back on land.
Angela is a professional freelance travel writer and published indie author – AngelaMinor.com