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Woman on a cruise ship looking out at sea

One of the most important days of your cruise is embarkation day: stepping foot on board ready for your next adventure to begin.

Experienced cruisers may have their own embarkation day routine, while novices may take their time to figure out how to make the most of the first day onboard. In this article, we speak to bloggers and ask them for their top tips on how to make sure your embarkation day goes as smoothly as possible.

Double check travel documents the day before

There is nothing worse than rummaging around in your luggage worrying that you have forgotten to pack important travel documents. Ashley, Kary and Carol from The Traveling Gals say cruising is one of their favourite ways to travel because they are able to “visit many different places around the world in short periods of time”.

They told us to “Check, double check and triple check that you have all your cruising documents before leaving home”. The daughter, mum and grandma team also explained that after embarkation is complete, they look forward to enjoying the atmosphere onboard: “Cruises can be as relaxing or as energetic as you want them to be. We also love being able to really unplug and spend time away from our phones and computers.”

Taylor from Travel Colorfully told us that being prepared is crucial and to have all travel documents to hand to help on embarkation day: “Print out your boarding passes and luggage tags ahead of time so that the process of checking in is quick and seamless.” After you are onboard you can relax and enjoy the wonderful holiday experience cruising offers.” as Taylor explains: “You unpack your bag once and wake up in new places throughout the cruise. It really is a great way to get a taste of a new destination”.

Leave for the port in plenty of time

Man waiting with luggage


Check-in and security are prompt and there is no boarding process (as you would encounter at an airport). However, this doesn’t mean you can afford to be relaxed with your timekeeping and arrival to the port. You don’t want to leave it until the last minute to get to the port, so making sure travel or car parking arrangements are in place prior to boarding the ship will save time and hassle.

Heather from Of Beauty and Nothingness explains her tip for an easy embarkation day: “Make sure you arrive well before required as you might be able to check in and board the ship early as we did on our last cruise. Arriving early can also reduce stress.”

Locate your cabin, freshen up and unpack

Suitcase with camera and laptop


Shortly after stepping foot on the ship, set about locating your cabin as it gives you some time to gather your thoughts. Francesca from Gluten Free Horizons told us: “Embarkation day, as much as it’s incredibly exciting, can be a little bit overwhelming, people are coming and going and wandering around.”

“Your first call on embarkation day should be to find your cabin and dump your hand luggage. You can take time to freshen up after travelling, depending on where your cruise starts you may have had a flight or coach trip.”

“One of the joys of cruising is that there is usually plenty of storage and more hangers if you need them. Get your suitcases unpacked as soon as you can, that way you’re free for the rest of the day and can hit the sack when you want on your first night.”

Francesca said passengers are often trying to get their bearings following embarkation: “Just stay calm and go with the flow, the next day will be easier.”

Vicky from I Beat Debt also advises locating your cabin promptly: “If you've had an early start, try and get back to your cabin as soon as they are made available for an hour or so before the lifeboat/safety drill. As much as you will be desperate to explore, having a quick power nap or rest will mean that you can enjoy your first evening more and perhaps stay up a bit later.”

Become acquainted with your cabin steward

Your cabin steward will visit at least once a day to make your bed, empty the bins, replenish towels and make sure everything is clean and tidy.

Francesca said becoming acquainted with her cabin steward is another tip for embarkation day: “These men and women work so hard and don’t get nearly enough recognition for it. When you come in from a day ashore exploring and your cabin is beautifully tidied, it’s usually a single person that has done it for you. What’s more, they will know your name, what time you normally go for breakfast and dinner and what time you prefer your ice bucket to be filled.”

Your cabin steward’s name is usually written on a card and left for you. It is customary for your steward to introduce themselves at the beginning of your trip. If you have any questions or specific requests, you can call your attendant on the number listed in your cabin or simply ask them when you next cross paths in the hallway.

Pack your swimming costume in your hand luggage

As well as checking out the food and drink options onboard, Vicky advises to pack some essentials in your day bag: “As you don't get your suitcases until later in the day, quite often not until after you have sailed, I would recommend taking your swimming costume and a change of clothes in your hand luggage. This means that if the pool beckons, you can get straight in, but also if you just want to freshen up before dinner you also have that choice.”

As a solo traveller, Vicky also told us why she enjoys a singles cruise: “Cruising is a floating resort and I enjoy the entire experience, from the food to the entertainment. As someone who quite often travels on their own, I find cruises are a social way of travelling and making new friends. Especially as some cruise lines have meetups for solo travellers who don't wish to dine or do activities on their own. I have made some life-long friends this way.”

Explore your surroundings

Croissant with jam


After boarding, many passengers like to head to the restaurant for some food, which is certainly a good idea, because you will need energy for exploring your new surroundings. Once you have indulged in some delicious cuisine, take some time to tour your cruise ship and get your bearings.

Many larger liners include a variety of amenities such as a gym, spa, several restaurants, swimming pools and evening entertainment suites. Each ship will be different, so even if you are an accomplished cruiser it is worth wandering around to find out where everything is as Francesca explains: “If you’re anything like my family and me, we tend to fall into a routine, so explore the ship on embarkation day! Suss out where you think looks good for breakfast, find a cosy spot to read a book, see where you can get a cocktail before dinner or dance the night away. Of course, there will be plenty of time to explore throughout your cruise, but on the bigger ships especially it might take me three days to find the cool gastropub.”

If you champion the notion that your holiday starts as soon as you set foot on the ship, then ensuring embarkation day goes smoothly is a great way to get your holiday off to the best start.

Interested in a cruise for your next holiday? Take a look at our website to discover your dream destination.

What to do on embarkation day
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