Getting To The Port On Embarkation Day
I recently received a question regarding boarding times, distance to the cruise port, and recommendations for getting to the ship on time. The general rule of thumb to address all three of those areas is to pay close attention to the documents provided by the cruise line. Specific cruises differ with regard to the time that guests should arrive to “check in” at the port. Keep in mind, that most, if not all, cruise lines require online check-in which will then produce cruise documents for guests to print and take along to the port. So although I say “check in” at the port, what that entails on embarkation day is usually guests presenting their printed cruise documents, along with their passports, for a fairly quick process at the counter with an agent from whom guests will receive their stateroom keys and a number to be called to board the ship.
Cruise documents include information on the boarding process. For example, for My Cruising Family’s upcoming cruise, our cruise documents state that “Boarding begins at 12:00 PM. Please note the time you have selected to arrive at the pier. Guest arriving to the pier before your select arrival time will be asked to come back at the appropriate time. Departure time: 5:00 PM. All guests must be on board the ship no later than 2 hours prior to the departure time noted on these documents or they will not be permitted to sail.” It should be noted that, during the online check-in process, there is usually a section that asks guests what time they will arrive at the pier, and that section may include a range of times.
Distance to the port varies from location to location, so it will take some research in order to determine the best way to and from the port. That may also help in determining when to arrive in the city of embarkation. It is highly recommended that guests arrive in the city of embarkation at least one day before the scheduled embarkation day. That helps to remove some of the anxiety about arriving on time, and it also allows for guests to get some well-needed rest after the hustle to the port – whether that be by flying, train, or driving – and before officially starting their cruise. Otherwise, guests may be very tired on the first day of the cruise. My Cruising Family has done both.
For My Cruising Family, the port of embarkation and the set sail time play a part in determining whether we will fly in on the day of embarkation or whether we will fly to the embarkation city in advance. If the port of embarkation is a very busy port like Miami or Fort Lauderdale to which there are many flights out of New York, daily, then we may decide to fly in very early on embarkation day. That decision will only be for ships setting sail at or after 4:00 PM. If the ship will sail before 4:00 PM, even if it is sailing from a busy Florida port, then we will likely fly to the embarkation port at least the day before embarkation in order to allow ourselves enough time in case of flight delays, heavy traffic, etc. If we are traveling to the embarkation city on the day we set sail, then we book the earliest flight of the day. Also, if you have been reading my blog posts for a while, then you know that we will have travel insurance, which allows us to confidently make alternate flight arrangements if needed. If setting sail from virtually any cruise port other than New York, New Jersey, or the Florida ports, then we will likely fly to the embarkation port at least the day before embarkation. Also, My Cruising Family recommends getting to the city of embarkation at least one day in advance of setting sail if traveling during the winter months because of the possibility of snow storms and delays and/or cancellations due to such storms or other sorts of winter weather.
Quite honestly, although we have traveled to the embarkation port on the day that we set sail, we really and truly do subscribe to the idea that getting there a day ahead of time is best. Having experienced both, we can attest to that. So, why have we flown in on the day of? There are a number of reasons, including, but not limited to (1) work or school scheduling not allowing for departure a day earlier; and (2) avoiding the cost of a hotel and additional transportation and food costs that may be incurred in that additional day or two, so that we can keep the cruise within a reasonable cost. Again, My Cruising Family reiterates that purchasing travel insurance is key in allowing us to make this and other decisions.
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