I know, I never like using the D word but unfortunately if you start a cruise you have to end it. But at the very least you can make it as smooth as possible. This a mixture of information and tips for debarkation to hopefully take away some of the stress.
During the cruise
Depending on the cruise line and sometimes the ship, you might start preparing for debarkation a few days early. Some examples of this might be:
Day Before Debarkation
The day before is when you will really start preparing for debarkation. But don’t worry, if you do it right, it won’t take up much of your time on your last day on the ship.
They will typically place the debarkation information including instructions and possibly luggage tags in the cabin that morning or the night before. Read this information even if you are an experienced cruiser because processes can change and you don’t want to miss a flight or cause a delay for yourself.
Go to the debarkation talk. The entire family can go or at least one person from each stateroom or group should attend the talk. They will provide some great information and sometimes they have some giveaways.
Luggage. This is one of the most important topics because making a mistake here can be a hassle .
First, there are usually two options for getting your luggage off the ship. Carrying the luggage off and allowing the crew to take it off for you. The one you choose is based on your preference and what your plans are after the cruise.
Self assist is carrying the luggage off of the ship yourself. They will usually call for those using self assist by deck number but this can vary by cruise line.
You will be the group let off the ship first so if you are trying to make a flight or just want to get on the road early, this can be a great option for you.
You have to carry ALL of your luggage off at one time and cannot be assisted by crew. Remember, you will need to be out of your stateroom by around 8:30 AM so you will need to drag the luggage with you to where ever you go.
Luggage taken off by crew. In this case, you leave your luggage outside your cabin the night before and it will be picked up overnight and held downstairs. You will be given or you will pick up luggage tags for your luggage and then the numbers on the tag are called after self assist has debarked.
Remember, you will need to hold on to a carry off bag with items you might need that night or in the morning because you will not see your luggage until you get into the terminal. Don’t forget clothes for the next day, they will not let you keep the robe.
If you are not in a hurry and just don’t want to deal with all that luggage, this is a great option. I used it off and on, depending on the port and if I need to get on the road.
To me, the only con would be the waiting for your number to be called. But you can always grab a cup of coffee and just and enjoy the view of the port. Of course, if you are in a hurry to get off the ship, this is might not work.
One thing of note, whether you carry the luggage off your self or have crew do it, you will still need to carry luggage through customs. That brings me to the next step for luggage.
Once off the ship.
First off, make sure you have your sail and sign card to get off the ship. Don’t make people wait while you dig.
Next, make sure your passport or other proof of citizenship paperwork is easily accessible. You will need if for customs.
Once in the terminal, if you left your luggage outside your room the night before, you will go to a collection area. Some terminals have a carousel like at the airport but some (like Jacksonville) are just a warehouse and your luggage is separated into different areas based on your number. But don’t worry, they have huge numbers marking the section and its an easy process. You will need to collect your luggage and proceed to the customs line. If you carried off your luggage, proceed directly to customs.
Now, here is a trick only good in Port Canaveral. Grab a porter as soon as you get your luggage and they will take your through customs. In Port Canaveral, they have their own line so you can be out quick because its usually very short. Might be worth the few dollars to tip.
If you did not park at the port and no one is picking you up then you will probably need transportation to where ever your next stop is. Ports have plenty of options but try to plan ahead.
Cruise lines offer shuttles to the airports and can be booked ahead of time. Most will go to the closest but in places like Miami and Ft Lauderdale, they will service both airports. And if your flight is later in the day, you can book it as a tour in some ports. You can usually book these online before your cruise, set it up prior to getting off the ship or in some cases after you get off the ship. I recommend setting it up ahead of time.
I recently found out that Uber does not come in to the Jacksonville Cruise Port because they are charged an extra $10 by the JaxPort but in other ports, Uber and Lyft are great options. I took one to the airport in Fort Lauderdale and it was quick and think only about $10 with tip.
You will encounter plenty of options for taxis once you are outside the terminal. They will be lined up in a certain area so look for the signs or just ask a member of the terminal staff.
Most of the time there are shuttles to hotels but you will need to call them. But watch out for this. When I was in Miami, I found out the hotel that dropped me off could not pick me up. Never could get a reason why. So if you are dropped off by a hotel or staying at a hotel after the cruise, be sure to inquire.
I hope these tips will help on your next cruise vacation. Embarkation and Debarkation can be very stressful because everyone is going where you are going at the same time. But planning ahead and being prepared can take away a lot of the stress. Be sure to check out my blog on Embarkation Day.
I have a passion for travel and believe travel is about experiences. Experiences create memories and are the stories we tell to friends and family - even with a little fudging on the facts.