Cruise Embarkation: What to Expect When Boarding a Cruise

Women checking in at terminal for cruise embarkation

If you’ve never taken a cruise before, you probably don’t know what to expect on cruise embarkation day. What do you need to bring in order to be prepared? How early before departure should you arrive? How can you make the process as smooth and painless as possible? Well, we’ve got just the thing for you. In this article, we will be covering everything you need to know and what you can expect to happen when boarding a cruise. While some aspects can vary from cruise to cruise, this guide is applicable to any and all cruise lines. So grab your swimsuit, pack your bags, and don’t forget your sunscreen; it’s time to embark on your dream vacation!

Preparing for Cruise Embarkation

When you arrive at the terminal before boarding a cruise, any bags you are checking in will be taken at that time. That means that anything you will need in the moment should be kept in your carry on. That includes essential documents like your passport and cruise tickets, as well as anything else that you will want for your own personal use, such as headphones, sunglasses, and sunscreen. If you are traveling with children, it is probably a good idea to bring toys or video games to keep them busy while you are getting checked in. You will also want to be prepared for whatever weather you may be dealing with, so check the forecast and remember that layers are the best way to deal with unpredictable weather. You will also be walking a lot during cruise embarkation, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

Check-In and Boarding a Cruise

The actual checking in and boarding process is the most tedious part of cruise embarkation, but it is important to have patience, both for your own mental health as well as for the sake of the staff who are ensuring that everything goes as swiftly and smoothly as possible. To make it easier on yourself, you can arrive early and check in as soon as you get there. You will not be able to board until your boarding group is called, but you will likely have a smoother experience if you beat the lines and get it out of the way ASAP. At any rate, you do not want to arrive after your boarding group has already been called, and arriving early will ensure that you don’t miss it.

When you check in, you will need to present your documents, meaning passports, government-issued IDs, cruise tickets, and any required visas. Many cruise lines let you check in online to make boarding a cruise that much simpler, but you should still have all your documents (including printed e-tickets) ready to go in case there are any issues. If you are unsure about any of the documents that you need to bring or have any other questions about boarding, do not hesitate to reach out to one of the experienced travel agents at to get a helping hand!

Welcoming Onboard

Immediately after boarding a cruise, you will get a warm welcome from the crew members who will be shepherding your journey for the next few days. Take a moment to say hello and show your appreciation, and then you can start to get acclimated to the ship. While other passengers are still boarding, the ship will be much more empty than any other time during your voyage. This makes it a great time to explore the ship a little bit and get your bearings. Take this time to make a note of the different attractions and venues that you want to visit so that it will be easier to plan out the coming day’s activities.

Must-Do Activities

You can expect your cruise to have some kind of activities or events to celebrate the cruise embarkation. This will differ from cruise line to cruise line, but you can expect welcoming parties, safety drills, and tours to help prepare you for your journey. You will have to attend a mandatory muster drill, which is a required safety briefing. The nature of this drill will differ depending on your cruise line, but it is required of everyone who is boarding a cruise. While not every eatery will be open, there will be some food served immediately, so you can grab a bite as soon as you board, if you would like. If you want to hit the pool before it gets crowded, wear your bathing suit under your clothes when you board and head up as soon as you get there. Once your luggage is dropped off at your state room, then it is time to unpack and let the relaxation begin!

If it’s your first time booking a cruise, speak with the travel agents at — we can help you book the smart way! We give you our exclusive bonus offers and all qualifying cruise line offers, plus all of the cruise line loyalty program benefits. Book online at for the largest selection of cruise line deals or call 800-288-6006 today.

Related: First Cruise? Everything You Need To Know Before You Go

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