First-time cruise check-in
If you have never cruised before you will have no idea what to expect when you arrive to check in for your first-time cruise. It’s an obvious question for the first time cruiser as to what is the format of that first day of your cruise. You should have already checked in online, printed your eticket and your luggage labels, if not read our getting ready to sail.
- When you arrive at your port you need to check which dock your cruise ship is sailing from and make your way to that terminal. If you arrive at the local train station or airport, your taxi drivers will ask for the name of your cruise ship, so be sure to have that at hand. The cruise ship name is just the same as a hotel name so you need to know it when getting to the ship.
- Most cruise terminals will have a large indoor arrivals area where you will be greeted by staff and directed accordingly. In Southampton, most of the staff are on zero-hours contracts an only work when the ships are in, which has resulted in an older age group of staff, who are very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.
- If you have attached your luggage tags your cases can be given to the luggage porters to take on to the ship and leave outside your cabin. If you are on a short cruise or mini cruise as they are also known, you may wish to take your bags with you onto the ship. Luggage can go astray and if it’s a short cruise you don’t need the hassle of trying to locate a bag.
- At the cruise check-in desk, you will be asked to produce your passport and e-tickets in order for the check-in process to start. Just the same as an airport departure, a camera will take a picture of you to store on file against your boarding card. Every time you go on and off the ship this image will appear, on the ship’s screens when you scan your boarding card.
- Once checked in you will be given your boarding passes and cabin access keys which are credit card size. Most ships have a map of the ship in the boarding pass holder which acts as your key card holder. These are great as at any time you can get your map out and locate where everything is on the ship.
- As well as your cabin key cards you will be given the ships itinerary and newsletter explains everything that is taking place on the boat, from theme nights to entertainment schedule so that you can plan your cruise in full.
- You are now free to board the ship via security which is no different to that of an airport. All bags need to be scanned and remove any belts, metal and jewellery. As you board the ship you will be welcomed by the crew and asked to Scan your boarding card to register you being on the ship. This is required every time you board and disembark the ship.
- Pass through into the central part of the ship arrival area and on some cruises, the second person you will meet is the ship’s photographer. A quick photograph and you are on your way to enjoy the ship and explore as much as you wish.
- Cabins are not always ready as soon as you board your ship as they will still be cleaning from those that disembarked that morning. Some ships make announcements on each cabin category when they are ready, or you can go locate your cabin and ask the staff on that deck an estimated time of when it will be ready to check in.
- If you do get early access to drop your bags don’t unpack straight away, I’ve known someone to lose their shoes due to a cabin maid making a final check On a cabin and finding 2 pairs of shoes lone in the wardrobe thought they had been left by a previous passenger and removed them to lost property. Hunt your shoes is one game you don’t want to be playing.
- If you can’t check in head to one of the many restaurants open for lunch and take advantage of you’re 24-hour food options. If the weather is nice head up to the deck area where the sail away will take place and try to secure a good table in the sunshine. Sail away is part of the entertainment and normally starts with a live DJ and or a live band. Depending on what type of cruise you choose these can be fun lively events. Short mini cruises tend to be the liveliest hence their appeal to the younger cruise market.
This first afternoon is a great time to explore the ship, get your bearings and make any restaurant or spa reservations that you may wish to do. It can also be a time just to put your feet up and relax, enjoy the sail away and plan the rest of your cruise.
If you have chosen a formal dining table then check if you are first or second sitting and make your way to the allocated restaurant at the appropriate time. One tip for mini cruises, if you have onboard credit consider using it for a speciality restaurant for that first night. These restaurants are often quieter than the main formal restaurant and the buffet options.