Pre-Excursion Checklist: 16 Things to Do Before a Cruise Port Day

pre-excursion checklist for port days on a cruise

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Visiting a cruise port of call is one of the most fun things to do on a cruise! However, it can be overwhelming to know how to prepare, what to bring & what to do. This pre-excursion checklist will ensure you don’t forget a thing!

After a sea day or two, getting off of the cruise ship in a port of call is a completely different experience. These cruise tips will help you make the most of your port days and avoid any potential mistakes.

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Preparing for Cruise Excursions and Port Days

cruise ship and passengers port days

1. Research Your Ports and Plan Ahead

Research the destinations you’ll be visiting to understand the local culture, attractions, and any specific customs or guidelines.

Review your shore excursions and select the activities that interest you the most.

2. Travel Documentation

Ensure you have all necessary travel documents, including your passport, visas, cruise line key card, and any required ID.

Tip: Make photocopies or take photos of your important documents and store them securely

3. Shore Excursion Tickets and Confirmation

Have your shore excursion tickets, reservations, and any tour confirmation details readily accessible. 

If your cruise line delivered tour tickets to your cabin, pack them in your shore excursion bag.

If you have your shore excursions on your cruise line app, screenshot them and save them in an album for easy and quick access.

4. Pack a Shore Excursion Bag

Pack a small day bag with shore excursion essentials like sunscreen, water, a hat, sunglasses, and any prescription medications.

Dress comfortably for the day’s activities, considering the weather and type of excursion. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes!

5. Money and Currency

Bring local currency or small bills for small purchases, tips, and transportation. In many Caribbean ports of call US dollars are fine. However, it’s always a good idea to research your ports of call and plan accordingly.

For example, if you’re going on a Mediterranean cruise, you’ll need Euros. If you’re doing a Canada New England cruise , you’ll want to bring Canadian dollars.

It’s a good idea to notify your bank about your travel plans to prevent any issues with your credit/debit cards, unless you’ve been advised otherwise.

Tip: Always bring at least 1 credit card in case of emergencies

6. Communication

Although not a requirement, consider taking an international plan with your mobile phone provider. Know how to access Wi-Fi if needed.

Save important contact numbers, including the cruise ship’s emergency contact information. You’ll find this on the daily cruise planner or your cruise card.

7. Charge Your Phone & Electronic Devices 

Remember to charge your cell phone, portable charger and any other electronic devices the night before your day in port.

You’ll want to ensure that your phone is fully charged. Since you’ll probably be taking photos and videos, the battery will get used up quickly. Be sure to pack a good portable phone charger to avoid any issues.

Related: 50+ Must-have Cruise Essentials from Amazon

8. Take Note of the Ship’s Time

Take note of the ship’s time, as it might be different from the local time in port. To avoid confusion, consider purchasing an inexpensive watch that is always to the time onboard your cruise ship,

You can also set your smart phone manually and maintain awareness of the difference in time (often only 1 hour).

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9. Safety and Security

Never wear expensive or flashy jewelry in the cruise ports. Leave valuable items in your cabin safe or a secure location in your cruise ship cabin.

Related: How to Keep Your Belongings Safe on a Cruise Vacation

10. Water and Snacks

Be sure to pack a bottle of water or a refillable bottle to stay hydrated during your shore activities.

Consider packing some dry packaged snacks like granola or protein bars, especially if your excursion doesn’t include meals.

Tip: Always follow the rules for what foods you can’t take off the ship. This is typically fruits, vegetables and meat.

pre-excursion checklist for cruisers
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11. Medicine and First Aid

Bring any necessary medications and a small first-aid kit for minor issues that could happen while you’re off the cruise ship. A few bandaids for blisters or a small cut, as well as alcohol wipes are handy.

If you’re doing a boat excursion, bring over the counter motion sickness medication if you’re prone to seasickness.

12. Check the Excursion Schedule

Familiarize yourself with the meeting time and location for your chosen shore excursion. Be sure to arrive at the designated meeting point well ahead of time.

13. Language and Cultural Awareness

These tips will help you navigate your port days and pre and post cruise stays:

  • Learn a few basic phrases in the local language.
  • Respect local customs and cultural sensitivities, such as dress codes or photography restrictions.
  • Know the culture and rules before you enter into religious buildings, historic sites or local environments
  • For example, when entering churches and synagogues, it’s customary for women to cover the shoulders and short shorts are frowned upon. If you’re on a Mediterranean cruise and plan on visiting the Vatican when in Rome, heed this advice. Otherwise you’ll be given a blue fabric to tie around your upper body or legs to maintain the religious dress code.
  • When visiting some cruise ports of call, there may be environmental guidelines. As an example, some destinations have banned sunscreen with b….. Pack a reef friendly sunscreen when visiting Hawaii, St. Thomas and Chankanaab National Park in Cozumel, Mexico.

Related: 7 Things Not to Wear in Cruise Ports (local customs & guidelines)

14. Stay Informed

Keep an eye on the ship’s daily newsletter or program for any last-minute changes or important announcements. Occasionally the cruise ship port schedule can change and you’ll want to be aware.

15. Emergency Contacts

Share your itinerary and excursion details with a friend or family member back home.

Know how to contact the ship in case of any delays or issues. On the daily planner the cruise ship number and port agent are often listed. The cruise ship may post additional information that can be useful on screens onboard the ship.

16. Stay Organized

Use a backpack or shore excursion day bag to keep all your essentials organized and easily accessible. Remember to keep your cruise key card (or equivalent for cruise lines that use a different system) with you at all times.

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Final Thoughts

By following this pre-excursion checklist, cruise passengers will optimize their safety, convenience, and overall enjoyment during their port visits. These travel tips will help you to be well-prepared for the day’s adventures!

Happy Cruising!


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