First Time Cruise Tips: What To Expect On Embarkation

You booked your first cruise, and now you have no idea what to expect. Don’t fret, I have tips that will make your first day on the ship simple to navigate. Having been on 10 cruises, I have seen the good and the bad of embarkation days. Don’t be the guest screaming at the Cruise Director because your cabin isn’t ready when you board, that will set a terrible tone for your trip.

first time cruise tips


First Time Cruise: Embarkation Day

There are many questions that come up when people ask me about cruises. I think that the biggest one is, “What happens on the first day of the cruise”? Embarkation doesn’t have to be a scary process, with these tips you will be sipping sangria on the Lido deck in no time.

  • When Will My Bags Arrive, I Left Them On The Pier?

Luggage will be delivered to your cabin within a few hours after boarding. Most likely you will see yours before dinner, but it’s never promised other than it will be delivered that day. Bags may also come at different times, so don’t fret. For this reason you should pack a small carry-on bag, with essentials you need that day. Your carry-on should include a change of clothes, bathing suit, medications and anything else you may need until your luggage arrives, as well as any electronics or valuables you do not feel comfortable checking at the pier.

  • Why Do We Have To Wait In The Terminal?

When you arrive at the cruise terminal it is likely you will wait in line for security screening, and then for check-in. Be patient, all of this is a process to ensure your safety during your cruise. The cruise staff will have you boarding the ship in no time. Also, your cruise documents will give you a check-in time, be sure to check them. There is NO REASON to rush to the terminal, unless you like sitting around a building all day. Most ships won’t board until at least 12.30, so arriving at 9 am will not get you on-board any faster.

  • What Should I Wear?

Since you most likely will be doing a lot of walking and standing in line, comfort is key. My kids will wear their swimsuits on board under a sundress so they can hit the pools right away once we board. Base it on whatever climate you are cruising from as you will be in port for most of the day once you board.

  • When Can I get In My Cabin?

Remember the guests getting off the ship while you waited in the terminal? They have all just left their cabins, and now it’s the room stewards job to turn that room as fast as possible for you. Most ships will tell you in advance that cabins are not available until 2 pm or later. The cruise director will make a general announcement when rooms are ready. Many ships will block off hallway access with fire doors until all rooms are ready in that hallway. Just be patient, you will be in your cabin all week, no need to rush.

If you are a Suite guest, you will probably have early access to your stateroom. This information will all be provided in your cruise documents before leaving home.

  • What Activities Are Available Once I Board?

Once you board, you’ll be able to grab some lunch, order a fruity drink, take a dip in the pool, or just walk around to get a feel for the ship. We always tour our ship once on-board, this gives us our bearings for the week. The spa and kids club will host open houses so you can take a look at them. The shore excursion and dining desks will also be open for bookings. Casino and Shops will not be open, per international regulations, but they will open in the evening once you are underway.

  • Will The Restaurants Be Open?

Yes, a few select bars and restaurants will be open when you board. Cruisers tend to flock to the buffet for lunch upon boarding, and it tends to get overcrowded. We always explore other dining options, should they be available. If you’d like a drink, the poolside and atrium bars will definitely be open. If you haven’t pre-purchased a beverage package, this is the ideal time to do so as well.

first time cruise tips

  • What’s The Mandatory Muster Drill?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires that all passenger cruise ships must hold a safety drill within 24 hours of embarkation. These emergency drills occur before departure and vary depending on ship. Passengers are notified prior to the drill and guided to meeting points, either in an inside lounge or theater or on an outer deck under the lifeboats. During the drill, crew-members will give instructions on what to do in case of an emergency and demonstrate how to put on life jackets. Failure to comply can result in being forced to disembark the ship.

  • When Should I Turn Off My Phone?

You can turn off your phone, or put it on “airplane mode,” when the ship starts to sail away. The farther you get from port, the less access to cell towers. Wait too long, and you could be charged with satellite Internet and roaming fees.

  • Will I Need Cash?

No, as ships are completely cashless. The credit card you linked to your cabin at check-in will be used to charge all extras during your cruise. You can take cash on-board, and keep it in your safe if you prefer to pay your balance off before the last night of the cruise. Your credit card on file will be charged at 3 am, on your last night at sea. However, if you would like to tip wait staff, room stewards and bar tenders in cash you can absolutely do so. 

Hopefully these simple tips will help you navigate the first day of your cruise, with a little less anxiety. 


Written by 

Mom, Writer, Lover of all things Social Media. Trying to make it all happen one day at a time! I'm a city girl stuck in a country world in Maryland. Loves Pugs and Designer Handbags. Hates working out, red wine and slow drivers.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial