How Should I Plan for the End of My Cruise?
When booking a cruise vacation, travelers often spend hours picking out the perfect destination and ship for their adventure. Then, they take considerable time to put together a pre-cruise checklist and travel plan. However, what often gets forgotten is the end of the cruise. To ensure that you have a relaxing, uncomplicated ending to your cruise, we recommend taking the following actions:
- Book a Late Flight
Disembarking from a cruise ship usually takes a while, and you never want to feel pressured or rushed in case of a delay. Therefore, we recommend always booking a late flight if you are required to fly home. By booking a late flight, you can casually disembark the ship, grab lunch or dinner, maybe see a local sight, and still have plenty of time to make it to the airport early. If you really want to explore the area, you can also book a night or two after your cruise at a local hotel.
- Schedule a Cruise Transfer
After arriving at the port, you will likely need transportation from the pier to a hotel, airport, or perhaps straight home. Unfortunately, you are going to be competing with thousands of other travelers in securing transportation, and no one wants to wait hours for the next Uber! We suggest scheduling cruise transfers in advance. You can rest assured that you will have a car ready to fit your entire group, and your luggage, and be safely transported wherever you need to go.
We do suggest performing a bit of mental math prior to scheduling a cruise transfer, however. You will need to calculate when you are estimated to disembark; how long it will take to get your luggage, the time it will take to go through customs (if needed), and the distance you will need to walk to get to a parking lot. We suggest giving yourself a little extra wiggle room for delays so that you never feel rushed.
- Get Your Documents in Order
One aspect of traveling that often slows people down is the documentation. If you want to disembark the ship efficiently, we recommend paying any outstanding balances in advance, being prepared to pay for any duty-owed item purchases, and filling out any required declaration forms. You should also have all of your required documents, such as transportation itineraries/tickets, passports/IDs, and anything else you need to show, neatly organized in a readily accessible folder.
There is a high chance that you will be asked for paperwork multiple times throughout the process, so we recommend keeping it on hand at all times until you are completely off and away from the ship. If you have a large family group, we suggest having one capable adult in charge of their own paperwork in addition to handling the work for one or two other children or elders. This will help split up the responsibility, so you don’t end up with one mom holding 30 passports.
- Get Informed on the Cruise Line’s Process
Every cruise line works differently, with various preferred processes in place to disembark their guests. We suggest researching the process before the day of, and ensuring your whole group is aware of that process. For example, there are specific times when luggage must be provided to porters and the departure time may be staggered to minimize chaos. If you and your group are in different departure zones, you should plan for where and when to meet up after leaving the ship to prevent confusion for all parties.
Plus, if you have a later departure time, you may be able to squeeze in one last complimentary breakfast. Again, check with your cruise line to see when and which onboard restaurants will be open during disembarkation and if you’ll have reasonable time to eat before your scheduled time to leave.
- Be Packed and Ready to Go
If you have a tight schedule to keep and are physically able, many cruises allow passengers to sign up for self-assist. Self-assist is when you take care of your bags yourself. You will personally transport your bags from your room and off the ship. We want to note that you will likely have to manage your luggage in tight areas, around lots of distracted travelers, and be able to lift it up and down stairs and gangplanks.
Of course, you can always let the porters care for your luggage for you, but this is an excellent way to save time if you need it. However, if you do decide to have your luggage managed for you, most cruise ships will provide you with a colored luggage tag. The night before, you will be required to pack, tag, and place your luggage in the hallway for collection. Just remember that you won’t see your bag again until collection time the next day. Therefore, in your carry-on bag, you should always keep essential items like medication, toiletries, electronics, and whatever else you might need in the morning. Don’t forget the documents we mentioned earlier!