Friday, October 25, 2013

Surviving Cruise Debarkation Day Part 2

Evening Before Debarkation

Most cruise lines now offer an "Easy Walk-off" option for those that don't have a lot of luggage, or for those that have early flight arrangements.  It is important to note that if you plan to use this method, you must be able to handle your entire luggage on your own. The crew will not be allowed to assist you.

For those that want to avail themselves of the normal process, bags must be packed and placed outside your cabin by the stated deadline.   This is usually shortly after late dining is completed.

Plan for What You Need in Morning

If you attended the cruise director's talk, he may have told you stories of passengers forgetting that they would need clothes in the morning and having to walk off the ship in a towel.  This may sound silly, but you do need to think about what items (clothing, toiletries, medicines, etc.) that you'll need in the morning.

We always have at least one carry-on bag with us so that we'll have a place to put our sleepwear, shavers, 3-1-1 bags with all our toiletries, and souvenirs that we don't want to pack in our larger suitcase.  Of course, you'll need your passports and other important travel documents with you as well.  Pack your large suitcase(s) and also have your carry-on packed, or at least know what will go in them, before placing the bags to be picked up outside your cabin.

Cruise Isn't Over Until 
the Paperwork is Done

Before retiring to bed, we suggest that you fill our your U.S. Customs Declaration Form and place it together with your passports.  Only one form is needed per family that are traveling and living together back home.   You'll need to know how much you spent in port and on the ship for things like souvenirs, jewelry, liquor, and clothing.   Anything that you purchased and are bringing off the ship must be counted.  You will have an allowance per family and the good news is that for things like liquor, your children count in determining the allowance.

Since the morning is an early one (usually all guests must be out of their cabins before 8 AM) you'll want to complete this the night before.  Doing so will allow you time for breakfast and a smooth, hassle free departure.
Once Docked, Crew  No Longer in Charge

Disembarkation is controlled by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection.  You'll find that there are several areas of the ship that will be blocked off and traffic patterns are strictly enforced.  You don't want to attempt to enter a controlled area.   It is for this reason that waiting areas are suggested by the crew in the instructions.   Don't proceed to the disembarkation point until your luggage color is called.  This will help keep the process moving for all passengers.

Go have breakfast and try to keep your entire traveling party together.   This way when an announcement is made for your luggage tag group, you will be able to disembark the ship.
There is a definite order of disembarkation and that will be listed in the instructions.  You might want to keep a copy of that handy so that you can tell when it is close to your time to disembark.  That allows you time for that one last bathroom break for example.

Note that the times listed for debark time are only approximate.   It is possible that the process may be halted several times to allow for crowd control.  There are a maximum number of passengers that can be in the terminal at a given time and as we mentioned, this is strictly under the control of the CBP.   Therefore, if there any doubt that you'll need more time, take the earlier tag when picking your luggage tags.

Getting to the Airport

Cruise lines sell "transfers" which can be prepaid or purchased on board the ship up to the stated time.  This is the easiest method for transferring to the ship because the ship's personnel will direct you to waiting buses for the trip to the airport.  You'll be amongst the earlier groups to depart the ship as well (ordered by flight times).  Caution: this could be a higher cost that arranging your own transportation, but it typically be the easiest.

Your travel professional can go over the various options applicable for your pier and airport location and can assist in booking the arrangements with the cruise line or other provider.   Remember, to be sure to allow sufficient time for the debarkation process.

Post-Cruise Tours

In many ports it is possible to book a post-cruise tour through the cruise line.  This is very similar to booking transfers but in addition to the transportation to the airport, you will also see one or more local sites.   This is a great option for those that booked later flights.  Consult the shore excursion sight before your cruise or during to determine your options here.  

  • Pack your luggage early so that you can enjoy your final evening onboard
  • Leave clothing and other essentials for the morning
  • Complete your Customs paperwork before retiring for the evening
  • Pre-book transfers, tours, or know options for transfers to airport in advance
  • Have a nice breakfast and listen for announcements
  • When your luggage group is called, gather your belongings and head for the debark point
  • Planning will help keep the stress levels down
  • Also see Surviving Cruise Debarkation Day (Part 1)

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