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Cruising for the first time: What to expect on board 

Written by Fiona

March 19 2024

Stepping on board a cruise ship for the first time may be a slightly overwhelming experience. Many cruise ships are vast vessels equipped with just about everything you could find in a small city. Modern cruise ships are getting bigger and better, with cruise lines competing to be “the first at sea” and offering a wide range of activities, from zip-lining across the deck to go-karting, rollerblading and sliding down water slides. So, when you first step on board, where do you begin? 

This article will explore everything you need to expect from stepping on board a cruise ship for the first time, from the security checks at embarkation to finding your cabin and discovering the many facilities and amenities ready for you to enjoy throughout the duration of your cruise holiday.

Embarkation – the first steps onboard 

Embarkation is the beginning of your cruise experience. The process in which you undergo the relevant checks to step on-board for the first time. This process can be expected to take up to a few hours. This starts at the port where your cruise itinerary begins, and passengers are expected to arrive within plenty of time. 

The exact amount of time it takes for the cruise crew and port staff to complete embarkation will depend on the size of the cruise ship, the number of passengers and the specific cruise line you are travelling with, as well as the country in which the port is located. 

While at the port you will be required to present relevant documents to personnel at the port. These documents will allow you to board so they must be readily available when you get to the port:

  • Identification documents including passports 
  • Boarding documents that will have been sent to you by your cruise line 
  • Any visas required to enter particular countries
  • Luggage tags 
  • Credit card ensuring you can make purchases while at sea

Once your documents have been checked, you will then hand your luggage over to the baggage porters who will ensure that these are placed on the ship. Later in the day, your bags will be delivered to your cabin by the crew onboard.

You will then go through a very familiar style of security, much like that found in airports, although some rules may differ. Be sure to confirm with your cruise line what you can and cannot take onboard the ship.  

Passing through these stages you will then be asked a few questions, often regarding the health of you and your fellow passengers. This is an active method that cruise operators will undertake in order to prevent the spread of sickness and disease on the ship. If you are feeling unwell, it is recommended that you avoid travelling. 

Much like when boarding a plane, a ramp of some sort will be used to allow passengers a safe way to board the ship. This process is very simple and stepping onboard should provide a feeling of excitement and joy as your holiday can begin! 

Unlocking the wonders of your new home at sea 

Your first day on-board is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with the cruise ship, the crew onboard and fellow passengers. Often cruise lines will host welcome drinks, tours and meetings where passengers can learn everything there is to know about the ship and plans for the cruise itinerary.

This point is also a good time to learn about the shore excursions during the cruise and pre-book these with staff onboard. Any other questions or concerns you may have should be directed to the staff welcoming you aboard. 

Another important element of your first day is finding your cabin and exploring your new sleeping quarters. Here you can test out the comfort of the bed, discover the toiletries in your bathroom and become familiar with the other features of your room. This will be your new home for the duration of your stay, so get comfortable! 

While a huge new space to explore, there’s something very exciting about stepping onboard for the first time. Take your time, listen to the guidance of the crew, and explore the ship at your own pace. After all there’s plenty to see and do, with so much time to uncover it all. So step aboard, relax, and enjoy your cruise holiday. 

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