Tips for Boarding a Cruise Ship

Boarding a cruise ships is exciting, confusing and can be frustrating.  With more than 3000 people to get on board in a few short hours, there can be long lines.  But, with these tips for boarding a cruise ship you will be ready to set sail!

tips on boarding a cruise

4 Things you need prior to arriving at the ship:

1. printed copy of your boarding pass

2. printed out luggage tags

3. passports and any other landing documents (i.e Permanent Resident card, U.S. Visa, etc)

4.onboard account set up

The 411 on the boarding process

If you are new to cruising, the boarding of a cruise ship can seem like a laborious and at times tedious process. Like an airport, a cruise ship has strict security and needs to abide by the security requirements of your country of departure.

You will check your luggage outside onto luggage carts. Your luggage will then be transferred to large square luggage containers which are loaded onto the ship via a crew area. Luggage is then sorted into decks and areas and brought up to your staterooms by a variety of hard working, and often exhausted crew members. Note: your luggage may not arrive at your stateroom until after dinner so you need to ensure that you have anything you will needed before then in your carry on luggage (i.e. Bathing suits, change of clothes, supplies for your children – diapers, toys etc.)

Once you have checked your luggage, you will enter the cruise terminal. Each ship will have a cruise terminal dedicated to just that particular ship. Upon entering your boarding passes will be checked, then your passports scanned and authorized. Any important information needed will be checked and verified. Then, like an airport your carry on luggage will be scanned and you will need to pass through a metal detector. Once through security you will go up escalators/elevator to the level of the terminal where you will have your personal documents scanned again. Photos will be taken that are connected to your cruise card and are used to verify your identity on the ship for purchases and for entering and exiting the ship at ports. If you haven’t set up your onboard account, you will be asked for a major credit card, or a cash deposit to be given. Once you have completed this process you will be given your room cards, a map of the ship and any other necessary documents. Then, you will be ready to board!

Once you are on board

Usually boarding happens another level or two up (so that you can enter the ship on the right deck). Once you walk the gangway you will enter into a main foyer. You may then proceed to your stateroom to drop off carry on luggage but be prepared that it may not be ready if you board the ship early. Crew have only a few short hours to turnover the whole ship from the previous cruise so with an average of 10-15 of cabins per stateroom steward they need time to get it ready. Be patient, understanding and kind. Stateroom stewards have one of the most challenging jobs on the ship, especially on embarkation day.
Once you’ve settled in, head out to explore your new floating city, grab some lunch, a poolside drink special or just marvel at the beauty of the ocean.

tips on boarding a cruise

Miami Harbour from the ship


  1. This is so interesting. I’ve never been on a cruise so these things never even occurred to me but they are good to know!

  2. “Be patient, understanding and kind” Perfect advice for any travel really ;) Great post
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  3. I’ve actually never been on a cruise before! This post is so helpful for those of us who wouldn’t know what to expect. You truly are the travel expert!
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  4. Great tips! I’ve never been on a cruise but it’s on my bucket list.
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  5. Love it, love it – brings back sucn wonderful memories. We left out of that same port – twice. Once on the poor Triumph that has been so much in the news. My advice is to just relax and enjoy it. You are on vacation! If you are stuck waiting in the terminal for a while, spend the time making new friends. Last cruise, we found a marvelous couple that really made our cruise SO much more enjoyable. And AMEN to bring kind and friendly to the crew members. Those people work SO hard, but if you treat them nicely, it will pay off in many little kindnesses they will offer you.
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  6. We are leaving on another cruise in two weeks to the Eastern Carribean. The only thing I would add is the Muster Drill.. That was a surprise to me the first time.
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  7. It’s a lot of work just boarding and I always tell everyone my vacation doesn’t start until I set foot on the boat. LOL. Thanks for the tips!
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  8. This is great info to have if needed, now I just need a cruise to go on.
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  9. So much info. I never knew it was this intense. The love boat made it look like a breeze lol
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  10. Great tips! My husband really wants to go on a family cruise, but everything seems so unfamiliar and a little intense to me since we’re used to doing the all-inclusives. This is great info!! Thanks for sharing :)
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  11. So informative. I’ve never been on a cruise, so I’ve always wondered how this works. Thanks for the tips!
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  12. These are really useful tips. Thank you! I am strongly thinking my family will take their first cruise soon. We have never ever cruised and we need a winter holiday this year! Thanks!
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