10 Tips for a Stress-Free Cruise Embarkation Day

Stress-free cruise embarkation day tips

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There’s something amazing about cruise embarkation day! The anticipation and planning for that special cruise finally comes to fruition.

However, it’s also undeniably stressful…

Many cruise travelers say that also they love boarding day, they wish it could be easier and stress-free.

With a little planning and preparation, the first day of your cruise can start with ease. In this post I share 10 tips and tricks that will help you have an easy and stress-free cruise embarkation day

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Stress-Free Embarkation Day Tips for Cruisers

best embarkation day

1. Book the Earliest Embarkation Time Possible When Doing Your Cruise Online Check-in

Try and do your cruise online check in as soon as possible, as you want to make sure all information is correct. Verify that your passport or other documentation is up to date, as you’ll have time to settle anything if needed (3-6 months before your cruise).

If all is up to date, be sure to do online check in approximately 30 days before your cruise.

When it comes to embarkation day boarding check in times, every cruise line is different. Keep an eye on this and snag the earliest time that works for you.

I like the earlier time slots (10:30-11:30 am). If there are delays at the cruise terminal, every time slot will be delayed. Since you’ll want time to explore the cruise ship and there are a few must-do’s once you board, more time just makes things less rushed and stressful.

2. Keep a File of Boarding & Other Documents

Print out all documents needed & keep them in a file, that will be ready for embarkation day. If you prefer to keep things digital, organize these in a file on your phone.

  • Boarding pass
  • Shore excursions
  • Hotel & other reservations
  • Print out luggage tags (remember luggage tag holders)

Tip: Keep both electronic and printed documents. Wifi is not always reliable & it can take time to find digital items on a phone, printed documents can speed up the boarding process.

3. Book Flights for 1-2 Days Before Your Cruise

Whether you’re flying internationally or domestic, flying in at least one day pre-cruise should be part of your cruise vacation planning. These days, flights are chaotic. However, even when it eases it’s always a good idea to leave some buffer room for flight delays.

Plus, by being in your embarkation cruise city or port, your vacation actually starts before you board your cruise.

There is nothing more stressful than flying in on the same day of a cruise and rushing to the cruise port!

Related: 37 Flight Essentials to Pack in Your Carry-on

4. Consider Booking a Priority Boarding Program

Fast boarding programs like Carnival’s Faster to the Fun and Royal Caribbean’s The Key offer an easy and special cruise embarkation experience.

I admit I wasn’t sure these types or early access programs were “worth it” in the past. However, based on comments viewers have left and speaking with cruisers who have booked these, many have found tremendous value in them.

Different cruise lines have different programs, advantages and pricing. Be sure to check often for promotions and sales in your cruise planner.

5. Arrange Hotel, Transportation &/or Parking in Advance

As people are cruising and traveling more, hotels are getting booked up early. Researching good hotels that are nearby the port , parking and even a shuttle over to the cruise port should be done in advance. 

Check for hotels that include a shuttle service to the port or a cruise and park option. If you’re planning to park off-site, research the parking facility ahead of time for price, safety and security.

There are some great services and options, depending on the cruise embarkation port. Planning in advance will mean an easy start to your cruise vacation.

6. Use AirTags or Trackers

Even if you’re flying carry-on only, pick up some airtags of trackers to place inside each piece of luggage both on the plane and even for boarding your cruise ship.

Even if your luggage is left down the hall (happened to us on a recent cruise), or part of the “lost luggage” that sometimes happens on cruises, it will be so much easier to find it and not stress.

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7. Have a Good Breakfast Before You Go to the Cruise Port

Many experienced cruisers share this smart travel tip. Don’t arrive hungry to the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

Having a good breakfast will make boarding day much easier. Whether all goes smoothy or you have some delays, you’ll feel more patient and be able to smile through it all.

8. Watch the Safety Video & Do Your Muster Check-in Immediately

Doing your muster safety check-in is mandatory on a cruise and must be done before the ship can sailaway. There’s no point in delaying this until later in the day.

Here are a few tips to get this done quickly and with the least stress:

Watch the Safety Video

Firstly, check your cruise line app to see if you can watch the safety video before you even board your cruise.

We were able to watch the safety video from our hotel room the morning of the cruise, saving us time once onboard. You can often watch the video from your phone in the waiting area of the cruise terminal.

Alternatively, once onboard you can watch the video on your phone or on the stateroom TV as you unpack.

Muster Check-in

Don’t delay going to your muster station once you embark. You can head straight over with your carry-on bags, before you get lunch, a drink, or head to your cabin.

By completing your e-muster straight away, you’ll have the rest of your day to enjoy!

9. Pack a Carry-on Bag

A mistake many first time cruisers make is not bringing a carry-on bag for embarkation day. It can take a few hours for luggage to be delivered to your cabin, so you’ll want to have first day essentials with you as you board.

You can also make life easier by having an extra cruise outfit in your carry-on bag. The first night of a cruise is “casual” dress code, so you may want to have your evening outfit already in your day bag.

Here are first day essentials to consider:

  • Bathing suit & sunscreen (if needed)
  • Medication
  • Valuables & electronics
  • Govt ID/Passports (or have on you – never in checked luggage)
  • Phone charger
  • Items to freshen up
  • Change of clothes

Read more: 23 Essential Things to Pack in Your Cruise Carry-On Bag

Video: 10 Tips for a Stress-Free Embarkation day

10. Purchase Cruise Packages Before You Board

Cruise ship wifi, specialty dining packages, drink packages, and even shore excursions are usually cheaper by booking them before you board your cruise ship. Pre-book and make reservations when possible.

Not only will you save money on your cruise, but you’ll also avoid wasting time in lines on embarkation day.

Related & Popular Posts

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Final Thoughts

Embarkation day doesn’t have to be so difficult. By being prepared and planning ahead, you can have a more relaed and stress-free first day of your cruise.

What tips do you have to make embarkation day easier and stress-free? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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  1. Jan Chapman
    February 20, 2024 / 6:43 pm

    Recently I have become mobility challenged. I took a walker on our MSC Seashore cruise 2 weeks ago.
    Since it was my first cruise with a walker, we contacted MSC to get boarding instructions.
    So glad we did! They had an elevator outside the terminal that a crew member escorted us to. Once in the terminal, we got preferential treatment and we waited in no lines!
    For muster, they came for me in a wheelchair and escorted us using the elevators.
    Diemarkation was also escorted and no crowd at all!
    We are sailing this week end on NCL Escape. We called ahead and let them know about my walker. We are anxious to see how they handle people with mobility issues.

    • February 29, 2024 / 4:01 pm

      Glad to hear how helpful they were. Thanks for sharing this and have a wonderful cruise!

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