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Embarking & Disembarking

Everything You Need to Know About Embarkation and Disembarkation on a Cruise Ship

If you’ve booked a cruise for the first time, you are likely to have come across all sorts of new terminology, and may have been left wondering ‘what is embarkation and disembarkation’? While this process might be second nature to seasoned cruisers, it’s something that can appear confusing if you’re not used to it.

Don’t worry because help is at hand. We’re here to explain exactly what embarkation and disembarkation is, and what you can expect when you head off on your cruise holiday.

What is embarkation?

Simply put, embarkation is the process of getting on your ship – it’s the cruising equivalent of boarding a plane! While the embarkation procedure may vary slightly between the different cruise lines, it will fundamentally remain the same and require you to have similar documents to hand.

Bear in mind that the embarkation process may vary depending on whether your cruise departs from the UK or an overseas port, and where exactly it’s visiting once you’re on board.

As a general rule, the embarkation procedure will require you to have your:

  • passport
  • tickets and other travel documents
  • visas (if necessary)
  • travel insurance details
  • a credit or debit card that can be linked to your onboard account

What happens at embarkation?

When you arrive at the cruise terminal, you will be directed towards a certain check-in point to begin embarkation for your cruise. Once at the desk, you’ll be asked to present the documents above, so make sure you have them to hand to speed up the process for everyone involved – the faster you are, the quicker you can start eating (well, that’s what’s top of our agenda anyway).

You will set up your onboard account and be given a keycard for your stateroom. Have your best smile at the ready, because you’ll need to have your photo taken so it can be linked to your account. Every time you disembark and embark your ship in port, you’ll need to scan your card and the photo will confirm you are who you say you are. Some cruise lines now issue wearable devices, including Princess Cruises, so you might be given one of these instead. This will give you access to your stateroom and double up as your card for adding onboard expenses to your account.

Once you have embarked on your ship, you might not be able to get to your cabin straight away. You’ll be told when it is likely to be available, or you can listen out for the announcement over the public address system once you’re on board. Don’t worry, many of the eateries and bars will be open, and it’s the perfect opportunity to start exploring your ship!

A key part of the embarkation procedure is taking part in a muster drill. This is a legal requirement under maritime law and you’ll be asked to congregate in a certain area of the ship at a specific time to learn more about the safety procedures on board. Details of where you need to be and when will be made available to you during the embarkation process – you’ll also be told what you should take along with you.

What happens when I disembark my cruise?

You might not want to think about disembarkation before you’ve even boarded your cruise, but it’s important to know what the procedure will be once you reach the end of your holiday.

Again, the disembarkation process will vary depending on where you are getting off the ship, and whether you need to fly home. You’ll start to receive details a few days before you reach the end of your cruise so you can be fully prepared for when the time comes.

In most cases, you’ll need to have your luggage packed and left outside your stateroom the night before you disembark, usually before midnight. The best piece of advice we can offer here is to make sure you have enough in your cabin to get you through the night, and the morning. A change of clothes, toiletries and a whole host of other items aren’t much use to you if they’ve already been whisked away by one of the porters! Some cruise lines may offer self-disembarkation, where you’ll take your own luggage off the ship, so this won’t be a problem.

Once your luggage has been removed, you’ll be able to collect it again from the cruise terminal to continue your onward journey. If you’re flying home, there’s every chance you won’t see your cases again until you reach your destination. Again, this varies between cruise lines so double-check whether you’ll need to collect your cases yourself.

We know what you’re thinking – will I be able to eat before I disembark my cruise? The answer is yes, there will be at least one dining option available to you on the day of disembarkation, depending on what time you need to leave the ship. Whether it’s the buffet or main restaurant, don’t worry, there will be somewhere to get your food fix before you get off.

What time will I disembark my cruise?

The disembarkation time you are allocated will depend on a number of factors, including the time your ship will arrive in port, what your onward travel plans are. Different groups will receive a time, where you’ll be required to gather in a certain location on board, such as a lounge, cafe or public area. You will need to wait there until instructed to leave the ship.

It may be possible to alter your disembarkation time, but this will be at the discretion of the staff on board the ship. You will need to approach guest services and ask whether this will be possible.

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