20 Disembarkation Day Do’s & Don’ts All Cruisers Need to Know

cruise disembarkation do's & don'ts

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The day every cruiser dreads has finally come. Yes, it’s disembarkation day, and you’ll want to make sure you get things right before you leave your cruise ship for the last time.

While seeing disembarkation day luggage tags and luggage placed outside cabins in the hallway might give you the blues, it’s an unfortunate reality for every cruise passenger.

New cruisers don’t realize that disembarkation day is very different from checking out of a hotel. You can’t just walk off the cruise ship when you feel like it, there’s a disembarkation process.

It’s important to note that the disembarkation process can vary depending on the type of cruise ship. While luxury and smaller cruise ships often offer a more flexible approach, most mainstream cruise lines operate differently.

The crew requires all passengers to disembark promptly to prepare for the next wave of guests. After a wonderful cruise, sadly, it’s time to go.

With that being said, here are the do’s and don’ts for disembarkation day so you can avoid potential mistakes, and end your cruise without stress.

10 Do’s for Cruise Disembarkation Day

port everglades cruise port fort lauderdale

1. Prepare a Disembarkation Day Outfit

A rookie mistake that so many new cruisers make is packing their luggage, setting it outside their door, and waking up the next day without a new outfit. The last thing you want is to have to go through the disembarkation process in your pajamas!

Planning for the disembarkation process is key. To ensure a smooth transition from the cruise ship to the airport, set aside a comfortable pair of shoes and clothes. This way, you’ll be ready to disembark the cruise ship comfortably and without any last-minute stress.

2. Check Your Statement

On the last evening of your cruise, you’ll usually receive a statement showing your purchases throughout your trip. This includes daily gratuities, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, drinks and alcoholic beverages, souvenirs, and other cruise extras.

You can check your cruise line app or ask for a printed invoice with guest services. While you’ll receive a statement by email, mistakes can always happen, so it’s best to check before you leave your cruise ship for the last time.

If you have questions, you’ll want to check with the guest services desk as soon as possible.

3. Eat Breakfast Before You Leave

royal caribbean the key breakfast

Whether you have a busy travel day ahead or a quick drive home from the cruise port, you will want to take advantage of your last breakfast on the cruise ship. Head to the buffet or main dining room (if it’s open) for your final meal on the cruise ship.

It’s a good idea to check the hours of the dining venues for the disembarkation day as they can vary from the usual hours. The last thing you want is to get off the cruise ship with an empty stomach!

4. Put Your Luggage Outside of Your Cabin

Tradional disembarkation

It’s typical to see the cabin hallways lined with luggage on the last night of your cruise. If you opt for traditional assisted debarkation, you’ll need to place your luggage (with special luggage tags) outside your cabin by a certain hour.

Crew members will take your luggage and you’ll pick it up at the cruise terminal once you disembark the cruise ship.

Self Disembarkation

Unless you opt for self-disembarkation and choose to carry your luggage off the ship on your own, you’ll need to make sure you’re packed and have your suitcases out on time. This may seem unusual to first-time cruisers, but it’s a highly efficient process that ensures a smooth transition from ship to cruise terminal.

5. Check Your Luggage Tags

cruise ship luggage tags

On the last day of your cruise, your stateroom attendant will deliver color and number-coded luggage tags to your cruise cabin, along with your disembarkation time. You’ll put these luggage tags on the bags that you want the crew to take, and the baggage will be waiting for you in the cruise terminal.

On disembarkation day, groups will be called by the number and color of the tags. Once your number and color are called, it’s time to disembark the cruise ship.

Don’t bother trying to get off before your disembarkation group is called. You’ll end up having to wait around, and you’re making it more complicated for the other cruise passengers.

Instead, grab breakfast or a coffee and wait for your group to be called.

6. Do a Clean Sweep Before Leaving Your Cabin

Before vacating your cabin, follow a debarkation morning cabin checklist to ensure that you haven’t forgotten anything.

Once you’ve left, your keycard may no longer work, making it hard to retrieve any belongings you may have left behind.

Furthermore, if you disembark the cruise ship and realize that you left your belongings behind, it will be hard to make sure you can them back.

So, checking every shelve, electrical outlet, drawer, and corner of your cruise cabin is essential to ensure nothing has been left behind.

7. Have Your Keycard, ID, or Passport Ready

Passport for cruise

Once you leave your stateroom, you may think your keycard is useless. However, this is not the case. As you disembark the cruise ship, you must tap your keycard as you leave.

You may need to show your official identification or passport to customs at the cruise terminal. Having that with you as you disembark the cruise ship is important, and never pack it in your luggage!

8. Disconnect from Airplane Mode

Once you’ve arrived back at the cruise pier, you can take your phone off of airplane mode. This is a great time to call your loved ones and tell them you’re safe and how your trip went.

If you’re flying home, it’s a good time to check if your flight is delayed. If a friend, family member, or driver is picking you up, it’s a good time to communicate with them and coordinate leaving the cruise port.

Related: 15 Cruise WiFi Tips, Secrets & Mistakes to Avoid

9. Say Goodbye and Thank Your Cabin Attendant

Although your cabin attendant will be busy, it’s always nice to say goodbye and thank you as you leave your stateroom. This lets your stateroom attendant know that you have vacated your cabin, and it’s ready to be set up for the next batch of cruise passengers.

Furthermore, giving your cabin steward a tip is always a nice gesture that is much appreciated! If this is your plan, it’s best to do this the night before debarkation day.

10. Purchase Your Photos the Night Before

If you took advantage of the cruise’s professional photography services, you’ll want to stop by the photo gallery and purchase your photos. It’s important to do this the night before disembarkation day because the photo desk is closed on the morning of disembarkation day.

Typically, the photo gallery gets really busy on the last night of the cruise because everyone is trying to purchase their photos. If you want to avoid the crowds, consider going in the morning or afternoon of your la

10 Don’ts for Cruise Disembarkation Day

1. Don’t Book an Early Flight Home

One of the biggest mistakes a cruiser can make on disembarkation day is booking an early flight home. Although the disembarkation process usually starts around 7-8 am, getting your luggage and going through customs can take time.

Book an afternoon or evening flight to avoid the stress of having to rush to the airport on disembarkation day. This way, you can have breakfast, get off the cruise ship, and head to the airport without stress.

2. Don’t Stay Out Late the Night Before

Although you may want to keep the party going on the last night of your cruise, you will pay the price in the morning! Most cruise lines require passengers to vacate their cabins by 8:00 am.

By staying out too late, you’ll be extremely tired during the disembarkation process. You’ll want a good night of rest since traveling home after your cruise is going to be tiring.

The last thing you want is to be tired when checking your cabin and end up leaving one of your personal belongings behind!

3. Don’t Overstay in Your Cabin

virgin voyages cabin

Cruise lines typically ask guests to vacate their cabin by early morning on disembarkation day so the crew members can prepare for the next batch of passengers. Since the crew members have limited time to prepare the next group of guests, be sure to vacate your room on time.

By overstaying in your room, you’re making the job harder for the crew members. Crew members appreciate when cruise passengers vacate their rooms on time so they can begin setting up for the next wave of guests.

4. Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag Number and Group Color

It’s important never to forget your luggage tag number and group color. If you forget, you will have trouble finding your luggage at the cruise terminal.

I always take a picture of my luggage tag on my iPhone to remember the luggage tag color and number. This way, I will always be able to find my luggage at the cruise terminal.

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5. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Pack

Packing cubes packed in luggage for cruise

Don’t get me wrong—packing isn’t fun. Plus, you’ll want to make the most of your last day on the cruise. However, waiting until the last minute to pack can result in rushing and forgetting to pack important items or leaving an outfit out for the following day.

Instead of waiting until the last minute to pack your belongings, return to your cabin before dinner and pack your bags. This way, you can put your luggage out in the hallway and enjoy your last evening on the cruise ship.

Related: 30 Household Items You Should Be Packing for a Cruise

6. Don’t Forget to Pick Up Your Liquor Purchases

Whether you pick up a bottle at the duty-free port or on the cruise ship, you must pick it up before you disembark. Typically, cruise lines will hold the alcohol until the last night of your sailing, so you’ll have to drop by the duty-free to pick it up.

If you’re flying home, you’ll want to pack your bottle in your luggage. Remember this before you let your stateroom attendant take your luggage!

7. Don’t Forget to Plan Your Transportation in Advance

A big mistake some cruisers make is getting off the cruise ship and “winging it.” By doing this, you’ll be stuck waiting in long taxi lines or paying increased Uber fares due to surge pricing.

Whether you’re booking a driver or having a family member or friend pick you up, arranging your transportation beforehand can save you a lot of time and money.

If you have an early flight, you’ll want to arrange your transportation. Disembarkation day can be hectic, so it’s a good idea to be prepared!

8. Don’t Take the Bathrobe and Towels

You might love the plush bathrobes and pool towels, but don’t bother taking them home.

Although they may be comfortable, taking your bathrobe, pillows, or towels will likely result in a post-cruise extra charge. Unless you are okay with being charged $25 or more for these items, you’ll want to keep them in your cabin.

9. Don’t Forget to Check Your Safe

With so much going on during disembarkation day, forgetting to check your safe is unfortunately a common mistake. Before leaving your cabin for the last time, check the safe to ensure nothing was left behind.

The last thing you want is to forget cash, important documents or passports, or other valuables in your safe. If left behind, retrieving them is a process and it is possible that some items may never be found.

10. Don’t Forget What Your Luggage Looks Like

Although your luggage will be sorted into groups, there will still be hundreds of different suitcases to look through. Knowing what your luggage looks like will make the disembarkation process much faster.

Some cruise passengers will put a string or a ribbon on their suitcase so it stands out from the others. Furthermore, being able to identify your suitcase will come in handy in the rare case that your luggage tag falls off.

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Final Thoughts

Although cruise passengers dread disembarkation day, knowing what to expect will make leaving your cruise ship at the end of your vacation will make it easier.

What are some things you do or avoid doing on disembarkation day? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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Author Bio: Ethan Schattauer has been cruising with his family since he was four years old and has been on more than 30 cruises. As a frequent traveler, Ethan shares his unique perspective on what cruising is like from a young person’s perspective. Ethan also writes about men’s fashion, travel and college advice on the website WhatToWearMen.com.


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