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Disembarkation Day – Everything You Need to Know – Hints and Tips For A Stress-Free Day

In this post we talk about Disembarkation Day. Not the most exciting subject – but important!

Some people waste so much time and money on disembarkation day by not planning ahead – and there is really no need to!

On The Last Night Of The Cruise

Luggage Tags

  • On disembarkation day the cruise line will give you luggage tags. These are often left in your cabin one or two nights before the end of your cruise.
    • It’s always sad to see them laying there as it means your lovely cruise is coming to an end.
  • Luggage tags are normally different colours or different numbers, that denote the area of the ship you are on.
    • It is easier in the terminal because you can just head to the area with green luggage tags (for example) to find your suitcase.
  • You will need a disembarkation day bag to keep with you because on the last night of the cruise, you will be asked to leave your case outside the door.
    • Your suitcase will be taken ashore by the crew and you pick it up the next day in the cruise terminal.

Things to keep with you in your disembarkation day bag

You will be surprised how many people pack all of their clothes and haven’t got anything wear to disembark in! Don’t make that mistake!

Disembarking Emerald Azzurra, wearing my disembarkation day T- shirt, available at:

Emma Cruises Shop

  • Keep a set of clothes and a pair of shoes to wear on disembarkation day
  • Remember to keep out your toiletries, hairbrush, toothbrush etc.
  • Don’t pack your cruise card, you will need it to disembark.
    • Once you have disembarked you can keep your cruise card as a souvenir of your trip.
  • Keep anything expensive or important with you. For example:
    • Phone
    • Camera
    • Passport
    • Medication
    • Laptop or tablet computer

On The Last Morning Of Your Cruise

Changeover day is the busiest time for the cruise line and the crew

They have to get everyone disembarked, the cabins and ship cleaned, and then they embark all the new passengers.

MSC Preziosa cabin
All cabins must be cleaned and readied for new passengers

Everything on changeover day happens to a very tight schedule. You will need to be out of your cabin very early so the cabin steward can clean ready for new guests arriving.

  • You will need to be out of your cabin very early in the morning, 8 am – or 9 am if you are very lucky!
    • You will have time to go to the buffet, or for a sit-down breakfast in one of the main dining rooms.
  • Breakfast on the last day is normally very busy.
    • I usually just grab a banana and a roll and take it out of the buffet to eat elsewhere.
  • Check your onboard account before you disembark!
    • It is far harder to rectify mistakes after the cruise.
    • There have been times when I have been charged for things I didn’t have, or have been charged for drinks or bottles of wine when I had a drinks package that covered the cost.
    • Your onboard bill will be automatically charged to your credit card.
  • The colour of your luggage tag often denotes the time you get off the ship.
    • Everyone with your coloured tag will be asked to wait in a certain bar or theatre, and they will tell you when it is your time to disembark.
    • This stops everyone from trying to leave the ship at exactly the same time – that would cause chaos!

It is essential to check your onboard account before you disembark – once you have left the ship, it will be harder to rectify any mistakes.

Emma's Hudson suitcase
My suitcase, packed and ready to go!

Self Disembarkation

You are often offered the option of “Self Disembarkation” and I often choose this option. It means:

  • You don’t put out your suitcase, you take it off the ship yourself in the morning.
  • You normally have to be off the ship by a certain time, often quite early.
  • You must be capable of dealing with your bags yourself, you won’t get any help from the crew.
  • You don’t have all the hanging about waiting for your time slot to leave.
  • Be aware that the lifts/elevators are often full on the last day, and you might struggle to get one easily.

If you choose self-disembarkation, you may end up carrying your suitcase down flights of stairs. This is fine for me – but doesn’t suit everyone. Lifts/Elevators are usually very busy on the last morning.

When I Cruised on the Costa Smeralda, I was able to stay onboard until 4 pm in the afternoon – although I did need to be out of my cabin first thing.

This is because Costa have guests arriving and departing at every port – everyone doesn’t just embark and disembark at the same place.

To find out all about that cruise, watch the video below:

I was able to disembark at 4pm on Costa Smeralda. Normally, you disembark in the early morning

Tips For Your Journey Home

  • Be careful about booking your flights home
    • If you book an early flight, you might not make it if you don’t disembark the ship early enough, or if there is bad traffic or transfer delays.
    • If you miss your flights, it will cost you a lot of money buying more flights and hotels etc. You are unlikely to be able to claim back on your travel insurance if you booked a flight that was too early and you missed it.
    • Lunchtime flights are the most popular – and the most expensive. You might find that if you take a flight in the late afternoon it is a lot cheaper. If you are travelling as a family, this might save you hundreds of pounds/dollars.
  • Use public transport to get to the airport
    • There may be a shuttle bus you can use – do your research!
    • If you travel light like me, this could be a good option. If you have lots of cases and bags, it probably won’t suit you.
  • Share a taxi to the airport with other passengers
    • You may have made friends with other passengers on your cruise, or been in a cruise critic roll call group or a Facebook page where you met other passengers. If so, you can post and ask if anyone wants to share a taxi and split the costs.
  • Arrange your transportation in advance
    • The more organised you are the cheaper it will be.
    • Pre-book your taxi rather than trying to hail one at the terminal. It will be far less stressful for you.
  • In the UK and Europe we don’t tend to tip porters, although we do tip taxi drivers.
    • In the USA tipping for everyone seems to be expected.
  • If you have been sailing from your home country, you may be able to work for part of the day to save your all-important days off from work.
    • I live within a couple of hours of a major cruise port, I can easily be home by mid-morning. I could work in the afternoon if necessary.
    • This isn’t so important to me, as I now work for myself, and can work when it suits me. Not everyone is so lucky.
    • When I took a Disney cruise from London, Tilbury, I was amused to see that many of the parents dressed their children up in their school uniforms and were clearly planning to take them straight to school on that Monday morning!
taxi gatwick airport to southampton cruise port

And finally…

Learn by my mistakes, and make sure you don’t leave anything in the cabin! You may never see it again!

I left some expensive professional photo portraits I had taken on the Norwegian Spirit in my cabin, just before the pandemic.

I was never able to find them again! The cabin steward said he hadn’t seen them when I returned to the cabin to look for them. Who knows where they ended up!

Norwegian Cruise Line Formal Nights
My Lost Photos from Norwegian Spirit – I never saw the orginals ever again!

Before You Go

When you leave the ship, the day’s work has only just started for your hard-working room steward! Find out all the work of the cruise housekeeping team here:

Cruise Ship Housekeeping: Responsibilities, Salaries and Benefits

If you are anything like me, you will be thinking about booking another cruise as soon as you get home. Find out when is the cheapest time of year to book your cruise below:

When Are Cruise Prices At Their Cheapest? Hints and Tips To Help You Book At The Right Time

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources

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