25 Cruise Embarkation Day Tips and Secrets You Need to Know

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What to Expect on Your Cruise Embarkation Day

If this is your first cruise, or even if you’ve cruised before, you’re probably wondering what to expect on your cruise embarkation day. There have been a few changes as cruises have restarted, and this is especially true for the first day of your cruise.

In this post, you’ll find 25 cruise embarkation day tips, to make your first day as perfect and stress-free as possible.

I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions including how early you can board your cruise ship, what to wear on embarkation day, where to eat lunch and more!

Cruise Embarkation Day
Sailaway from Port Everglades on Embarkation Day

What is an Embarkation Day?

Simply put, embarkation day is the first day of your cruise, when you will embark your cruise ship. Cruise embarkation day is also be referred to as boarding day. While it’s a busy day and there are embarkation procedures to be aware of, it’s also the start of an amazing vacation ahead!

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25 Tips for a Perfect Cruise Embarkation Day

Excited for the first day of your cruise? Here’s how to make your embarkation day enjoyable and stress-free!

25 Cruise Embarkation Day Tips
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1. Complete Pre-cruise Online Check-in & Health Forms

Before you even get to the cruise terminal to board your cruise ship, remember to complete your online check in on the cruise line website or app. There’s important personal information to enter that needs to be done prior to your cruise.

As well, you’ll want to know the current cruise line health protocols, vaccine requirements and ensure you have all the documentation you need.

2. Print all Your Documents

Print your cruise documents including boarding pass and luggage tags and be ready for your cruise embarkation day! Do this as early as possible to avoid last minute stress.

Related post: Cruise Luggage Tag Holders (order by cruise line)

3. Pre-purchase Beverage Packages and Shore Excursions

While you can purchase a drink package or shore excursions on the cruise, it’s often easier and even a little bit cheaper to book these things on the cruise line website before you board.

However, if you’re not sure which shore excursions you want to take, don’t stress. There will be a crew member working at the shore excursion desk once you board your cruise ship.

4. Arrive on Time

While in the past I recommended arriving at your cruise port early so you could board your cruise ship as soon as possible, this is no longer the case. As you complete your online check in, you’ll be able to choose an arrival time. By having embarkation day time, there’s less crowding in the cruise terminal and cruise lines can comply with the health and safety measures.

If you’d like more information about the Cruise Boarding Process, I wrote this post that I think you’ll find helpful.

Cruise Embarkation What You Need to Know
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5. Drop Off Your Luggage

Once you’re at the cruise terminal, drop your luggage off with the porters. It will be sent to the cruise ship and delivered to your cabin a few hours after you board.

Don’t forget to keep your documentation and passports on you, and not in your checked luggage!

Cruise tip: Have a few dollars handy should you want to tip the porters.

6. Bring an Embarkation Day Bag

Since your luggage won’t arrive at your cabin until later in the day, bring a cruise carry-on bag for the first day of your cruise. Whether you bring a small piece of luggage as a carry-on, a backpack or a small duffle bag, it’s a must!

Things to pack in your embarkation day include medication, valuables, laptops and tech items, sunscreen and a change of clothes.

Read more: Cruise Carry-on Bag Packing List (all the essentials)

movies under the stars cruise

7. Dress Comfortably

One of the most common questions people have when going on a cruise, is what to wear for embarkation day. The first day of a cruise is pretty casual, so dress comfortably. T-shirts and shorts are fine, as are light sundresses or rompers.

If you’re going on a Caribbean cruise you may want to wear a bathing suit under your clothes or pack a change of clothes in your cruise carry on bag.

Related post: 25 Fashionable Cruise Outfits for Ladies (affordable cruise wear)

8. Welcome Aboard Photos

After check in, expect a photo opportunity just before boarding. The ship’s photographers will have a backdrop set up where you can take an official embarkation day photo!

Cruise tip: If you’d rather not take a photo, simply walk past the photo booth. There’s no obligation to purchase a photo.

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9. Walk up the Gangway

There’s something special about walking from the cruise terminal after checking in and onto the gangway to board your cruise ship. You’ll pass your cruise card or Medallion (for Princess cruises), hear a lovely little “bing” and be welcomed onto your cruise ship!

10. Enjoy a Glass of Champagne or a Cocktail

Every cruise line is different, however some cruise lines offer a glass of complimentary champagne as you embark on your cruise ship. This special touch is one of the things we enjoyed onboard Celebrity Cruises.

Alternatively, you might be offered a Pina Colada or other frozen cocktail, however it will likely not be complimentary.

11. Don’t Expect to Go to Your Cabin Right Away

A surprise for many new cruisers, your cruise cabin probably won’t be cleaned and ready as you board your cruise ship. Often this means waiting an hour or a bit longer before you can head to your stateroom and put down your bags. However, you can still eat, drink and explore the ship while you wait.

Busy cruise ship pool embarkation day
Enjoy the action? Hang out by the main pool after boarding on embarkation day.

12. Find the Perfect Place to Eat Lunch

On embarkation day, there’s often more than once place to eat lunch, although it might not be widely promoted. The obvious place to eat is the buffet, however you can expect it to be crowded as most people aren’t aware of the other options.

Often the main dining room will be open for lunch, and you can have a nice sit down lunch while you wait for your stateroom to be ready. There are also casual restaurants open including the pool side grill and cafes.

Cruise tip: Research your cruise ship before your cruise to see what restaurants are most recommended on embarkation day. For example, Central Park Cafe on Oasis Class ships is a “best kept secret” as is Alfredo’s on many of Princess Cruises‘ Royal Class ships.

13. Safety or EMuster Drill

If you’ve cruised in the past you’ll remember the muster drill, the important safety briefing where we all grouped together at our muster stations at a specific time on embarkation day. While the safety briefing remains, the muster drill has changed.

Most cruise lines now have the safety information or EMuster on their cruise line App, available to view on your phone or mobile device, as well as your stateroom TV. Procedures may vary, however in most cases you can watch your safety briefing on your phone over lunch and then head over to your muster station to check in with a crew member.

Cruise tip: Do your safety briefing as soon as possible after you embark so that you can enjoy your day without interruptions before sailaway.

14. Check out Your Cabin and Drop off Your Bags

By the time you’ve eaten lunch and done your emuster, your stateroom will likely be ready. Check out your cabin, and if you want to take a photo or video, go ahead. It will look as perfect and welcoming as it will ever be, so now’s the time.

While you’ll want to drop off your bags and freshen up, try not to spend too much time in your cabin now, as there’s still so much to do and see on your cruise ship before sailaway.

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15. Put Your Valuables in the Cabin Safe

It’s important to take a few minutes to put your valuable items into the cabin safe. This can include your money and wallet, jewelry, passports and even your keys.

Since any cruise purchases will be put on your onboard account, there’s no need to walk around with a wallet or purse. It’s a great feeling and just one of the reasons cruising is an amazing and pretty stress-free vacation!

16. Meet your Cabin Steward

On a cruise you’ll have a cabin steward or attendant who will clean your stateroom daily, as well as ensure you have everything you need to be comfortable in your cabin.

Upon embarkation day, your cabin attendant will introduce themselves. Take a minute or two to chat, however keep in mind that this is a very busy time for them. If you have requests, now is the time to ask.

Here are some suggestions based on things I ask for on every cruise.

1. More hangers please

2. Please empty out the mini-bar fridge items

3. Please keep ice bucket full each day.

4. You may also need a mattress topper or extra towels.

Related post: Cruise Lingo You Need to Know (cruise terminology)

17. Check the Daily Planner or Cruise Line App

Cruise ships have a daily planner that’s usually available in a print version and on the cruise line app. On the daily planner, you’ll find a schedule of daily activities that are available, as well as entertainment options, opening hours for the gym, spa, restaurants etc.

However, on your cruise embarkation day, you will receive a planner that is more of a general overview of the big things that you can look forward to during the rest of your cruise.

This will include big productions shows, audience participation game-shows (such as Love and Marriage), and special guest entertainers such as comedians and illusionists. This will help you to plan your time on your cruise week as you look ahead.

cruise daily planner

Cruise Tip: Bring a highlighter so you can mark things you really want to do and plan for right in the planner. 

18. Use the Cruise Line App

Cruise lines are relying more on the cruise line apps to help you get ready for your cruise. The cruise line app is a great place to find out information, view and book activities and even use to message other cruise passengers.

While it’s not a necessity to have a smart phone on a cruise, it can add more convenience.

Related posts: 21 Things You Need to Know About Ocean Medallion

Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion: Updates & New Features

19. Explore the ship

Cruise Lines will give you a little folding map of your ship and the decks. This is a great time to walk the whole top deck and view the sports deck, walking track, the pools from the very front to the very back.

You may want to take a tour of the spa or fitness centre and even some of the lounges. Some cruise ships will have ship tours and scavenger hunts, which is a great way to explore the ship on the first day of your cruise.

Cruise Embarkation Day Tips
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20. Register at the Kids Camp

If you have kids, one of the most important and first things to do after you board your cruise is to visit the kid’s camp.

If you have not registered your children online before your cruise, do this now. However, even if your kids are signed up, it’s a good idea to confirm in person during the opening hours of the kid’s club on embarkation day.

You’ll have a chance to meet the staff and you and your children will feel more comfortable. Plus, since the kid’s club has an open house style welcome during this time, your kids may even meet some new friends. Even teens may meet other kids their age, which will make it easier for them to come back for activities.

21. Make Reservations

Sign up for reservations for specialty restaurants, adult only areas, spa appointments, and shows if you have not done so online before the cruise. Soda and drink packages can be purchased as well.

Don’t forget to check out the fitness centre and sign up for any classes that interest you. Some will be included with your cruise, while others will have an additional charge.

Cruise tip: Save money during your cruise by the embarkation day promotions on spa treatments.

22. Relax by the pool

If you can’t wait to hang out by the pool, this is a great thing to do on embarkation day.

Change into your bathing suit and grab a lounge chair, and take in the fun cruise atmosphere! If the weather is hot and sunny, we love to order a frozen cocktail and relax by the pool before Sailaway.

celebrity summit cruise ship pool

23. Unpack Your Luggage

It can be easy to have a few drinks and get caught up in the fun of the first day, and put off unpacking your luggage. However, one of the best cruise embarkation day tips I can give you is to take some time in the late afternoon to unpack and get your cabin organized.

By this time your luggage will likely have been delivered to your stateroom. Hang up any cruise outfits that are likely to wrinkle. I like to hang as much as I can, which is why I ask for extra hangers.

Using packing cubes may cut down on how long it takes to unpack your clothes, as you can often unzip them and place the entire cube onto a shelf.

Related post: 30 Cruise Cabin Hacks Every Cruiser Needs to Know

23. Put your Phone on Airplane Mode

This is a very practical cruise embarkation day tip – make sure to put your phone on airplane mode before your cruise ship sails away from the embarkation port. Cell phone plans are not usually applicable in International waters and the charges can be enormous.

Related: 15 Cruise WiFi Tips, Information Mistakes to Avoid

25. Enjoy Sailaway!

Sailaway Party on Cruise Embarkation Day - Regal Princess
Ready for a Sailaway party!

What happens at Sailaway?

As your cruise ship sails away from the shore, it’s a special moment that’s celebrated on a cruise! Weather permitting, you can expect a Sailaway party on the Lido deck complete with a DJ or live band. The cruise director and entertainment staff will be host a Sailaway party, and guests are encouraged to dance and have fun. Prizes may even be awarded to participants.

Alternatively, you may prefer to have a drink and people watch or even take in the sailaway from your private balcony.

However you choose to enjoy sailaway, make sure to take it all in and know that this is the beginning of a wonderful adventure ahead!

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Video: Embarkation Day Cruise Tips – 15 Must-Do’s Between Boarding and Sailaway

Here’s a video about things to do on Embarkation Day, that might be helpful if you’d like to know more. If you enjoy cruise tip videos on YouTube, I’d love it if you’d subscribe to our channel.

READ NEXT – Popular and Related Posts:

Recap: 25 Cruise Embarkation Day Tips and Secrets

Cruise embarkation day is the most highly anticipated days of a cruise vacation. After all, this is the first day of the vacation you’ve probably been planning for months.

However, there are a lot of things to do on embarkation day, and it might feel overwhelming. In this post we’ve gone over 25 cruise embarkation day tips and secrets to having a stress-free and perfect start to an amazing vacation.

What tips do you have to make embarkation day even better? Please let me know your tips and questions in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!!


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  1. June 13, 2018 / 2:19 pm

    I have never been on a cruise but your post makes that first experience very simple and manageable. These are tips which every beginner should read and know before embarking. Thanks for the useful write-up, Ilana!

    • June 15, 2018 / 1:30 am

      Hi Lydia,

      Thanks for your comment. I am glad to know that you found the tips helpful! First cruise planning can be overwhelming for sure – glad you found this useful!


      • Bangle1
        June 13, 2022 / 12:06 am

        Another thing to consider, in the first couple of days on board, is the shopping as Princess gives a 10% discount in the shops then, Do spend the time doing research before you buy so you know if you are getting a good deal! If you are at the Elite loyalty level, you get 10% all of the time. But they apply one of the 10%’s first, then take the second one from that, so you get only 19% off in total. Neither applies to the spa services or products.

  2. Tom Casson
    September 4, 2018 / 1:01 am

    Right now Ilana, I think I hate you!!
    We are set for our forth Celebrity cruise in January, 2019, from Singapore and you have me reminiscing of the coffee, pastries and fine service and there are still five months to go(o;
    I’m only kidding, my dear about my feelings towards youy, honest!

    • September 4, 2018 / 11:35 pm

      Hi Tom,

      You had me worried for a second, lol! I see you’ve come across my Celebrity Reviews – oh yes absolutely so wonderful! What an amazing adventure waiting for you in just a few short months! Thanks for taking the time to leave me such a fun and sweet comment!!


  3. Janyce Bampton
    November 7, 2018 / 2:42 pm

    Thanks for these tips. My first Carnival Magic cruise coming up. So excited and some anxiety at the same time. I have my tips list and will enjoy every moment!

    • November 8, 2018 / 2:58 am

      Hi Janyce,

      I’m glad you found the tips helpful! I’m super excited for you and hope you have a fantastic time!!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and happy cruising!


  4. Melissa
    February 3, 2019 / 12:50 pm

    Have you been on a cruise to Alaska? My husband and I are going in May 2019, it will be our first cruise.

  5. Jaye
    March 29, 2019 / 5:07 pm

    First cruise coming up, good tips, thank you!

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:58 pm

      That’s so exciting! Glad it could be helpful!

      Have a wonderful cruise,


  6. Debbie
    August 19, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    Is there any way you can make these printable? They are really helpful, but I’d like a printed copy.

    • August 20, 2019 / 2:58 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      I’m so glad you found these tips helpful. I don’t have them available as a download right now, but love your idea and will look into doing this in the future. For now, are you able to print it as is?

      Wishing you a great cruise!


  7. November 11, 2019 / 3:33 am

    I agree with you, except! I am not a pool type guy. We always get a suite (Haven) and they are always ready. Plus you have priority boarding and are escorted to your room. Reservations are made for you for lunch. All my cruise packages, shore excursions, and the like are already paid for. Tickets are in room we sort them by date. We grab a glass of wine and ready for a wonderful time. Our next one is in May to Iceland on NCL Star.

    • November 11, 2019 / 4:43 pm

      Sounds like a great reason to book a Haven suite!! What a pleasure and great way to start the cruise. Hmmmm, you’re giving e some future ideas, lol.

      Thanks so much Russell for your great comment and suggestion!


  8. Tab
    December 14, 2019 / 1:09 pm

    Awesome reminders and tips, thanks for sharing. Do you have any tips on gratuity?

    • December 14, 2019 / 9:17 pm

      Hi Tab,

      Glad the embarkation day tips could be helpful. In regard to gratuities, personally we tip the suggested amounts by the cruise line. We do sometimes leave an additional amount especially to our cabin steward, as we’ve had some that have gone above and beyond.

      That said, gratuities and what to give are a personal decision, and I respect that. Here’s an article I have about tipping both for cruise ship staff as well as off the ship if you decide: https://lifewellcruised.com/cruise-tipping-guidelines/

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  9. Jennifer
    January 15, 2020 / 10:08 pm

    This is great thank you for all the great cruises tips. I will be sharing with my clients.

  10. Cheryl
    January 29, 2020 / 1:46 am

    The last cruise I went on in September 2019, I foolishly stored my medications (I am diabetic) in the bathroom on an open shelf. When I returned to my cabin after dinner the first night, my meds were gone. I went to the ship’s infirmary to try to get replacements for my meds but only was provided with some of them. Lock up your meds!

    • January 31, 2020 / 4:43 am

      Hi Cheryl,

      Oh my! I hadn’t really thought about medication storage and being cautious of this. Thanks for sharing your story!


  11. July 22, 2020 / 9:40 pm

    We have, unfortunately, had to cancel 2 cruises for 2020, but hope to make our November 2020 cruise, pending a covid-19 vaccine as we are both “high risk”. We have been fortunate to cruise to many world destinations including Europe, North and South, Mediteranean, most of the Orient, Hawaii, Panama, transatlantic and 2 trips to South America with one more to go. I have 1 tip for you. I use 2 fabric type “over the door” organizer (mine are shoe type), one for the inside of the bath door for toiletries, the other for the front of the storage shelving door where you store clothing and where I put all my shoes (I know I pack too many but that’s me) If it is too long it can easily be folded up under and pinned. This keeps the floor of the closet neat and I can find the pair I need quickly. I pack all my toiletries in a zip lock bag (doubled) and lay it between my packed clothes rather than pack the organizer before arrival. I find it lays flat this way and never had a problem with leakage. Hope this helps someone.

    • August 19, 2020 / 5:14 pm

      Hi Linda,

      This is definitely a tough year in so many ways, and certainly for cruising. I absolutely LOVE your tips, and as an overpacker and shoe lover, I can see how this would work well.

      Thanks for sharing that, and all the best as we move forward the next few months and cruise again.


  12. Sandy
    August 10, 2020 / 11:54 pm

    CHERYL is correct. I have always locked my meds especially since I was young when my own family member came over and stole my meds. In my last cruise, I found prints of my stick on bra on the closet doors. I left it out that day. I noticed when my the room got steamy and I saw the imprints on the door. I looked at the bra and noticed it unusually dirty with dust once i removed the paper I stick them to. I always keep my bra clean. I was so mad. Keep your meds locked up even if they seem nice.

    • August 19, 2020 / 5:09 pm

      Oh gosh. This definitely isn’t something I’d think happens often, but you’re right it’s good to be aware and careful.

      Thanks Sandy for your comment,


  13. August 16, 2020 / 3:28 am

    Rereading many old cruise posts. Hard to believe my last cruise will be a year in September. Have had 2 cruises canceled. Have one booked for May 2021. Rebooked to Iceland, hope it goes. Also put a Cruise Next deposit on a Ocean to Ocean through the Panama Canal at end of October. I won’t put any money on it till I know we are going.
    Another thing I like to do is go to one of the finer restaurants for late lunch/ early dinner. Followed by getting the perfect spot on deck. So I can start my cruise with pictures of us, ship, and city. As we pull away from the dock and start a great cruise. Thanks for all you do. Keep up the good and fine work you do.

    • August 19, 2020 / 5:05 pm

      It’s definitely been too long since we’ve all last sailed, Russell. I’m so sorry you had 2 cruises cancelled! The upcoming cruises sound great, but I agree better not to book too much before you know if it’s sailing.

      It’s a great idea to have a good meal at one of the sit down restaurants. Thanks for the embarkation day tips!!

      • Bangle1
        June 12, 2022 / 11:48 pm

        Other Cruise lines may do this as well, but if you eat your first night’s dinner in a specialty restaurant on Carnival, they give you a bottle of wine. We had a choice between a red or a white wine and that was as specific as we could choose. We chose the white which was a very nice Chardonnay. We were sailing out of NOLA knowing we would be sailing back to that great city where we had booked a few nights post cruise. Both of us prefer to arrive early to our port city, but the ship’s schedule and our work schedules made that impossible for that trip.

  14. Kate
    January 1, 2021 / 1:04 am

    Never gave a thought to putting my medication in the safe. So glad I read about these issues. Thank you for helping to prevent a potential problem by creating a forum so that information can be shared. It can be life threatening for some of us to be without our medicines.

    • January 1, 2021 / 4:27 pm

      Hi Kate,

      I hadn’t considered it myself, so I’m definitely thankful that other readers mentioned it. It’s true that medication is as valuable (if not more so) as jewelry and passports.


  15. Ed
    July 9, 2022 / 7:14 am

    Hi Again Ilana!

    you see I am hooked on your posts now 🙂

    curious as to why you would request for the mini bar items to be cleared….. hmm.
    for real. lol!
    So as to not tempt you? or to make space for something which I can’t figure out yet.

    • July 11, 2022 / 1:23 pm

      Hi Ed,

      Thanks so much! Lol, sometimes I like them removed so that we don’t take them, by “mistake”, but also so I can put in my own water bottles, items from the buffet (maybe juice or a carton of milk), or even have room for chocolate covered strawberries or another “dessert” that we may have had in our cabin that wasn’t eaten. I may put my wine bottles in too if I have. If you don’t need the room or use the mini-fridge, I would not empty it.


  16. Rhona MacDonald
    February 13, 2023 / 11:54 pm

    So many great tips helping me navigate my first cruise, I cant wait the 20 weeks I have left.

    • February 20, 2023 / 9:13 pm

      Very exciting! So glad the information is helpful.

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