Thursday, October 24, 2013

Surviving Cruise Debarkation Day

Ending Cruise on a High 

The final full day of the cruise has arrived and fortunately it is a sea day.  That means you don't need to rush breakfast and get ready to go into port.   You plan to take full advantage of the ship and let any remaining stress melt away.

Last night you didn't have time to read the daily paper, so you pick it up and start to see what activities are planned by the staff.   Scanning through the list of morning activities, you see one that catches your eye ... "Debarkation Information - hosted by Cruise Director".  There is a note that says, one person from each family should attend.   Wait, what - I'm on vacation - what do you mean?


Especially if you are a cruise rookie (first time cruiser) it is highly advisable that you attend any briefing offered by the Cruise Director or staff.   This will make your life much easier, since they will provide all the information you need and answer any questions.   On most ships, this information is disseminated in multiple ways, so if you have some conflict, you can skip the session.

For example, there should also be more information either in the daily paper or as a supplement covering everything you need to disembark the ship.  Often the debarkation talk is recorded and available for viewing on the ship's TV station during the rest of the day.

Flight Times Dictate Departure
Just Say When

When you listen to or read the information about debarkation, you'll soon discover that by mid-morning everyone is expected to be off the ship so that the crew can welcome aboard the new set of passengers.  There is a lot of activity that happens to make this possible.


You may not realize it, but your departure time was determined by you when you booked your trip and made travel arrangements.

How's that you ask?   When you picked your return flights, or made other arrangements for your return home, you determined the time that you needed to be off the ship in order to make your flight on time.   Upon leaving the ship you'll need to collect your bags, process through Customs, and board a taxi, shuttle bus, or other means of transportation to your departure destination (airport, bus, train station, rental car etc.).

How much time do you need?

There are a lot of variances in terms of when the cruise line calls your luggage group and when you are outside with bags in hands.   It may take some time to catch an elevator and actually get to the disembarkation point on the ship.  Once through there, it's usually a walk along a ramp, down the escalator or elevator to the lower level, where you'll find your baggage sorted by color tag.  There are porters to assist you in finding your bags and getting you through Customs.

In most cases, the pier isn't far from the airport, so you may have about 30 minutes to an hour for transfer time from pier to airport.  There are several ways to get to the airport, but for now, let's just assume you need to factor in some travel time.    Since you will be checking bags, and there will be several hundred or more of you arriving at the airport at the same time, you'll need at least 1.5 to 2 hours for checking in and clearing airport security.

The rule of thumb is that for flights before noon, you'll want to be in one of the first groups off the ship but for later flights you can take your time.

Key Take-A-Ways

  • When booking your return flights, be sure to factor in the time it will take to disembark and travel to the airport
  • Ask your travel professional for guidance before making arrangements
  •  It is best to book flights later in the day to avoid having to rush - why add stress to your vacation after you have finally started to relax
  • Be sure to attend any information talks and/or read and follow printed instructions
In Part 2, we'll talk more about preparation the night before debarkation as well as what to expect in the morning.

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