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Getting Off The Cruise Ship in Port – What To Expect, What To Take – And Other Useful Hints and Tips For A Successful Day Out!

In this post, we are going to learn about going ashore in the ports.

Sometimes I get so excited about going on a cruise and everything happening on the ship, I forget to think about what happens when we get to port. It’s quite a big part!

We are going to look at everything you need – and how to save money. There may be a few things included that you hadn’t thought of:

Things to Take When You Get Off In Port

  • A bag for a few essential items.
    • This doesn’t have to be a big bag, just enough for your bits and bobs.
  • Cruise Card.
    • You will need this to get on and off the ship.
  • Access to money.
    • A debit or credit card, and maybe a small amount of local currency.
  • Passport or some form of Photo I.D.
    • It will say in your daily schedule if you need to have your passport with you. I would not consider getting off the ship without some form of photo I.D.
  • Check the weather forecast and plan ahead!
    • You may need a coat, sunscreen, umbrella or a hat.
    • I have been known to go to Primark in big ports to buy something I have forgotten to pack!
  • Phone or Camera
    • I am never without my phone to film or take pictures.
    • You may also need chargers or battery packs.
  • Pack plenty of essential medication.
    • More than you should need, just in case!

When Getting Off The Ship

Most of the time, the ship just docks in the port, your card is scanned as you leave the ship, and you are free to get on with your day.


Tendering is when the ship can’t dock in the port, so it uses lifeboats or local boats to take you across to the town.

Tendering is usually only done when the port is too small for the cruise ship to dock, or there are too many ships in port

  • You may be asked to get a ticket and wait, or just line up when you want to get off the ship.
    • I normally get off an hour or two later, to avoid the main rush.
  • Priority for disembarkation is usually given to the cruise line excursions.
    • They have to leave at a set time because they have a schedule of sights to see.
  • If you have organised your own private excursion, make sure you give yourself enough time to get off the ship!
    • It can be very stressful if you know they are waiting for you and you are stuck waiting to get off.
  • Just because you are scheduled to dock, not tender, don’t assume that this can’t change!
    • Cruise ship itineraries often change and they might find another ship docked in their berth!
    • If you have any physical disabilities that make it difficult for you to get on to the tender boat, speak to the cruise line as soon as possible so that you can find out if it will be possible for you to go ashore.
  • The weather is far more important if you are tendering.
    • If the seas are rough, they may decide it is unsafe to tender at all.
    • Their priority is safety, and if they have passengers on land, they need to be able to get them back onto the ship again!

I enjoy tendering to port. Although I do get seasick, I have never felt sick on a Tender Boat.

I normally sit on the top deck, where I have plenty of fresh air and I can see where I am going.

celebrity tender boat
Celebrity Edge Tender Boat – docking at the unusual “Magic Carpet” Tender platform

You can get wonderful views of the cruise ship anchored at sea from the tender boat.

Normally the crossing to land is only about ten or fifteen minutes – It’s like getting a free boat trip!

Find out more about Celebrity’s Innovative “Magic Carpet” In the video below. As well as being a tender platform, it can be moved up and down the side of the ship. It is also used as a bar and a speciality restaurant.

When on Land

There are certain traps unknowing tourists can fall into, and easy ways to save money when you disembark your ship.

  • If you stop for a coffee or a drink in a main tourist area, it can be expensive.
    • A cup of coffee in St Marks Square in Venice can cost €15! If you go a couple of streets back it might only be €3.
    • For you it might be worth the experience of having your coffee in St Marks Square – for me, it isn’t! I don’t drink coffee anyway…!
  • Where I get included drinks on the cruise, I may take a can of soda or a bottle of water in my bag from the ship.
    • This saves me buying one on land.
    • If I do need to buy a drink or snack, I will head for a supermarket a few streets back from the main tourist area.
  • I often have a big breakfast, and don’t bother with lunch on land.
    • If there isn’t much to see in the port, I might get back onboard for lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing on the ship.
  • If you want to have lunch on land and enjoy the local cuisine, that is fine!
    • This isn’t for me though, I prefer to go back onboard and eat the food that I have already paid for!

Buying coffee or a drink in a main tourist area can be expensive. A cup of coffee in St Marks Square in Venice can cost €15! If you go a couple of streets back it might only be €3...

Viking Cruises Sea Breakfast Waffles The Restaurant Bacon
If you eat a big breakfast, you don’t need to buy lunch on land – unless you want to of course…

Learn About Local Scams!

It is a good idea to do a Google search and learn about scams in the ports you are visiting.

  • Don’t take part in street raffles.
  • Don’t take anything you are offered.
    • If someone gives you a rose or a bracelet, it won’t be for free! It is probably part of a scam so don’t get involved.
  • Take normal, sensible, safety precautions and keep a close eye on your purse and wallet when in busy port areas.
emma cruises in bruges with bag
Take sensible precautions – Keep a close eye on your bags/wallets/purses in busy port areas

Use an ATM in Port

Using an ATM in port is a great way to get out local currency at decent exchange rates – it is likely to cost you far more if you change your money on the cruise ship.

currency exchange
Exchanging money onboard the cruise ship is not a good idea, as exchange rates can be bad.

Again, avoid using ATMs in the most touristy areas, they may be subject to excessive fees and bad exchange rates.

Walk a few streets back from the main tourist areas, and try and find a big-named bank to withdraw your money from.

Buying Souvenirs

When I buy souvenirs in port:

  • I only buy small items like postcards or fridge magnets.
  • I don’t buy them in the main tourist areas, I find a shop a few streets back where they can be far cheaper.
  • Consider whether you really do need to buy souvenirs and take back gifts for other people. This is your holiday, and you don’t want to spend all your time in the shops looking for gifts for other people!

I like to keep documents as souvenirs. I have tickets for places I visited on my first cruises to Alaska and Hawaii when I was a child. They are really interesting to look back on.

I also keep my cruise cards as mementoes of ships I have been on. I used to turn them into fridge magnets, but now I keep them in a folder as I have so many!

cruise keycard room key cruising msc cunard nil drinks package

I don’t really feel the need to fill my house with endless souvenirs from my travels – but of course, that is my personal choice!

Before You Go

You may be wondering how long cruise ships actually spend in port. Find out all about that here:

How Long Do Cruise Ships Stay In Port? (My Experiences of Short Stays to Multi-Day Stays)

Sometimes I choose to stay on board when the ship docks. Usually, this is because I have been to the place before, or the port where the ship is docked is very industrial. Find out more about this here:

Staying on a Cruise Ship in Port: Here’s When You Can and Why You Would

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.