Embark and disembark on a cruise

Embark and disembark on a cruise

The first and last day of your cruise holiday

The procedure for embarkation and disembarkation on a cruise ship is quite special and different from what you might be used for a flight or train. Here are some tips to optimally prepare your cruise holiday. If you do it smart even embarkation can be a fun experience.

When to embark on a cruise?

Before departure you will get all the information on where and when you can embark your cruise ship. It normally starts late morning and lasts until late afternoon when the ship sails away. In some cases these times can be different. So you actually have a couple of hours to present yourself at the embarkation desks. In almost any case your cruise ship has arrived early in the morning, all of the passengers have disembarked and staff is busy cleaning and preparing the ship for the next sail. The earlier you go on board, the bigger the chance that your room is not ready yet.

You can already explore the ship or take an early lunch with not too much passengers around. Make sure you have a small carry-on luggage with the most necessary things for the first hours on board. Peak times occur around noon and early afternoon. If possible better avoid it. The later you board the ship, the greater the chance you won’t have to queue. You can also go directly to your room as it will be ready by that time. Disadvantage of a late embarkation is the lunch buffet which will be already closed. And better don’t take the risk of arriving late as your cruise ship won’t wait!

It’s advisable to arrive one day earlier at your embarkation port. This prevents you from having stress in case of flight delay and you can start your holiday as relaxed as possible.

Embarkation procedure aboard a cruise ship

Here are some similarities with the check in procedure of a flight. Your luggage will be labeled with your stateroom number and will be delivered to your room later in the day. So you don’t have to take care of your luggage. Just make sure you take the most important items with you in a carry-on luggage. Next go to one of the check in desks. During peak times color or letter codes are sometimes used and you must wait till yours is announced. At check in your boarding documents and passport are checked. A picture of your face is taken and you will receive your electronic cruise card (with or without photo). This card contains your ID information.

It is the key to your room and also serves as currency on board. You can use your cruise card for payment only after registration of your credit card. If you don’t have a credit card you can also pay a deposit at the reception desk on board. Now you can board the ship. At the entrance is another small security and ID-check where your carry-on baggage is scanned (like in an airport). This procedure applies throughout your cruise holiday.

Disembarkation on the last day of your cruise holiday

Unfortunately even the most beautiful cruise holiday will come to an end and disembarkation is probably the least pleasant part of your whole vacation. Just like your predecessors, you are now deemed to leave the ship as early as possible so it can be prepared to sail again with the next group of passengers whose adventure will begin later on the day.


If you have a flight back home the same day be sure to book a flight with departure at least a couple of hours after docking time of your cruise ship.


You will get the necessary information about the disembarkation procedure the night before. In most cases you will get some colored luggage tags. You have to put your luggage with the labels outside your door before midnight. It is collected by the staff during the night and stored at the lower deck. The next morning you can collect your luggage back up at the cruise terminal or on the pier. They are then nicely arranged according to the color of the labels. Take a small carry-on luggage with items for the last night and morning. That evening, you must also settle any outstanding bills at the reception. If you gave your credit card details upon embarkation you don’t have to do anything. Just check your invoice.

Before you disembark you can have breakfast on the ship. One by one, the color codes are announced and determine when you should disembark. Better respect this procedure to run things smoothly. If you're unlucky, you have to wait in one of the public areas of the ship as the staff is already cleaning your room.