Embarkation Day Stress Busters
In all endeavors, there is never a shortage of things that can go awry.
Embarkation, the process of boarding your cruise for a fantastic cruise vacation is certainly no exception.
Most advice about taking the stress out of cruise ship embarkation, starts with the suggestion of flying into your port city a day early and ends with dire warnings to avoid the Lido Buffet, by all means possible.
Here are some of my embarkation day habits that help keep my blood pressure in check and my anxiety at bay.
Triple Check your boarding and travel documents and have them easily accessible.
Prepare ahead of time. Early in your vacation preparation, make sure that your travel documents, passports and any required visas are all in order and valid.
Check your passport expiry date. Your passport should be valid for 6 months after the last day of your travels.
I thought this was common sense until I sat beside a family at a restaurant, this summer, who missed their trip to Walt Disney World because they didn’t check for expired passports until the night before their departure.
Check-In Online: Carefully complete your online registration before the cut-off date and make sure you print a copy of all the required forms to show at the pier.
Organize your documents. I highly recommend getting yourself a pouch, portfolio or folder to carry all your boarding and travel documents.
Strategically stow your documents. Make sure you know where your important documents are in your carry-on luggage. If you store them in your checked luggage they will be in the bowels of the ship by the time you need to check in with them.
Use your Smartphone. Keep a digital copy or photo of your documents on your phone, just in case.
Luggage Tags: Print enough luggage tags and then print an extra or two.
Label your luggage. This is a new habit for me. While it’s imperative that your checked luggage has an appropriate tag, you should also make sure that each piece carry-on luggage has a tag as well.
The benefit of this is twofold. Firstly, if you were to misplace a piece of carry-on luggage, it would arrive in your cabin rather than in lost and found. Secondly, you can never forget your cabin number or location if you have luggage tags with you as you start your search for your new home onboard.
Stateroom Searching? Most luggage tags have a simple diagram of the ship that shows the general vicinity of your cabin
Why print out extra luggage tags? Just in case you end up with any additional or last-minute items to carry on board.
Tag your luggage before you go to bed. The best time to tag all your luggage is the night before the cruise in your pre-cruise hotel.
Tired of stapling your luggage tags? Purchase specially made luggage tag holders. They are great.
Use your Smartphone. When cruising with others, this summer in Europe,(July 2017, Celebrity Reflection) we took pictures of each other’s luggage tags on our phones for later reference. Everyone knows their cabin number by the end of the cruise but no one knows it very well on the first day.
Double Check your Sea Pass or Sign and Sail Card
Why Double Check? Several issues that arose with the issue of our SeaPass cards this summer at the Roma Cruise Terminal in Civitavecchia, (July 2017, Celebrity Reflection) illustrated that just when you think things are going smoothly, they aren’t. For starters, for some reason our cards were not prepared and ready for us before we checked in. They should have been, but things happen. The printing of cards quickly halted our previously quick progress of getting on board. Our newly minted cards had a few problems, as it turned out.
Check for your Beverage Package When I first tried to use my card to get a beverage, I found out that there was no record of my pre-purchased beverage package indicated on my key card. Thanks to a super helpful bartender who made a quick call, I had a sticker on my card in no time at all. Problem solved!
Check your Dining Details. When I walked by the Main Dining Room and decided to check on the location of my table, it wasn’t printed on my card, either. From prior experience with such a problem, I took a deep breath and remembered that the Maître D’ would be able to help me out prior to my dinner seating. Problem Solved!
Check your Key Card. When we arrived at our cabin, (quickly and easily because of my extra luggage tags) I found out that not all three of our cards opened the door as they should. A trip to Guest Services took care of all my issues when they created new cards for each family member. Problem Solved!
The moral of this story? Check that you can see evidence of your beverage package printed on your SeaPass, look for your MDR dining details, check to make sure your card(s) open your cabin door and get down to see the good folks at Guest Services if you need something fixed. Luckily, they have all officers on duty and there usually isn’t much of a line at Guest Services on Embarkation Day.
Embrace the Queue!
Queue Up. Cruising involves a lot of queues. Queue up to get on and off the ship, queue up for coffee, queue up for food, join the line on the stairs for the muster drill. . . you’ll queue up a lot and it all starts on embarkation day.
Embrace the Queue? Is it possible to entertain yourself in a long snaking queue on Embarkation Day? With a little creativity, it can be more enjoyable.
A Queue Pool? It’s not what you think. I first thought of adding interest to lining up after watching a large family prepare to enter the check-in and embarkation queue at the Baltimore Cruise Terminal.(December 2016- Carnival Pride) These intrepid cruisers created a way to wager on checking in for a cruise. They created what amounts to a “Queue Pool”. I’m not sure of the stakes, but each family member registered their prediction of the time it would take to navigate the line from the beginning of the line to the moment they got onboard with a designated pool coordinator.
Eye Spy, anyone? Other ideas for passing the time, especially with kids, might be “Eye Spy”, a scavenger hunt or even pre-made BINGO cards. Here are some ideas; locate a family with matching shirts, a certain foreign passport, an anchor tattoo, a pillow, a crazy tropical shirt etc. If you have been cruising before, you know about some of the crazy things you can see in a cruise terminal.
Finally, One Last Piece of Embarkation Day Advice!
Give the Lido Buffet a try. This might seem counter-intuitive but hear me out. If everyone follows the advice of so many travel sites to avoid the buffet, there is a chance that you might encounter no lines there at all. It’s worth a shot.What are your Embarkation Day Stress Busters?
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