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What Happens On Embarkation Day – And You Can Avoid Additional Costs

In this article we look at what happens on Embarkation Day – and how to avoid any additional costs.

Embarkation day is very exciting – you are finally going on your cruise! We look at what happens, and what you should bring with you on the day.

Checking in at the Cruise Terminal

  • You are normally given a set time for your check-in.
    • Stick to the time you are given, it should save you from any unnecessary hanging around
    • If you are able to do your check-in online beforehand, do it. It will make things quicker. If you can’t don’t worry, they will check you in at the terminal.
  • If you do arrive at the terminal hours before your checking-in time, you may be able to leave your cases at the terminal, and then go off and explore the town.
    • This will save you from having to pay extra at a “left luggage” office.
  • Check-in at the check-in desk is like a simplified version of an airport check-in.
    • They will want to see your passport and documentation – and your credit card if you haven’t entered the details of that online previously.
  • Drop off your luggage.
    • Usually, you will already have your luggage tags so put them on your bags before you get to the terminal.
    • If you don’t, there will be a desk where they will give you the tags you need.
    • Your luggage will be scanned in the same way as at an airport. This is to make sure there is nothing unsafe in there, or that you aren’t trying to bring forbidden items, like alcohol onboard.
  • Once you have checked in, you will go through normal airport-style security with your hand luggage, then board the ship.

When I took a bargain out-of-season cruise on the Ironically named “Norwegian Sun” It rained torrentially – even though we boarded in normally sunny Portugal.

I was so wet, I had to dry my hair under the hand dryer in the public toilets/restrooms onboard! Find out all about that trip, and whether it ever stopped raining here:

I had a very wet embarkation day when I sailed on Norwegian Sun

Muster Drills

Carrying out a “Muster Drill” is a legal requirement.

If you miss the Muster Drill, they will give you the chance to do it again later. If you won’t do it – they will disembark you at the first available port – and that will be your own fault!

  • The Muster Drill tells you about safety onboard – and where your Muster Station is so that you know where to find it in an emergency situation. You learn what the ship’s alarms sound like, and what to do if they do sound.
  • Pre-pandemic muster drills were often done in the lounges, the theatre or on the promenade deck. Now you mostly watch a short film on the cabin TV, then go and check in at your Muster Station. You will then know how to find your Muster Station in case of emergency.
Celebrity Virtual Muster Drill

Find out all about Muster Drills and what to expect here:

What is a Muster Drill on a Cruise? Everything You Need to Know (REVIEW of Traditional and Virtual Muster Drills)

Your Luggage

Your luggage will appear magically outside your cabin.

Normally it arrives in the early afternoon, but it can be as late as after dinner on the first night.

Celestyal Olympia
Keep all your important stuff in your hand luggage – Celestyal Olympia
  • I always have a carry-on bag.
    • In this, I keep my Passport, Phone and Credit Cards.
  • Keep anything expensive or irreplaceable with you.
    • Don’t pack an expensive laptop, medicines or important paperwork in your suitcase.
  • Sometimes I pack a swimming costume in my carry-on bag.
    • I can then go for a swim when the pool is quiet on embarkation day. Most other people won’t have their swimming things, so can’t join me!

Other Things To Save Money On, On Embarkation Day

  • Embarkation day photography There will normally be a photographer, waiting to take your photo before you board, often with a backdrop of the ship.
    • As a child, I loved having these photos taken and couldn’t wait to go and look at them when they were displayed in the photo gallery onboard!
    • Now, My Dad and I often pull a funny face at the last minute – it always gives us a smile when we go and find them later in the cruise.
    • You can refuse to have your photo taken if you don’t want to be bothered with it.
    • Cruise lines make a huge markup on photographs, so are keen to encourage you to buy as many as possible!
  • “Sailaway” Cocktails in Souvenir cups!
    • There is often a “Sail Away” party on the pool deck – or inside if the weather isn’t good. You will be encouraged to buy these drinks in a souvenir cup
    • You can buy the drink without the cup – is it something you would be likely to ever use again? Probably not…
  • Put your phone on to Airplane mode as soon as you start to sail!
    • You don’t want to rack up massive charges on your phone bill.
    • I once had a £45.37 charge to receive one email, when my phone had connected to the Maritime Network. You don’t want to do that!
    • If you are more phone savvy, you can change the phone settings to only allow it to connect to certain carriers who you know won’t charge you a fortune.
    • You can connect to the ship’s WiFi to use the cruise line’s Apps free of charge. Learn more about that here: ​Wi-Fi on Cruise Ships​

Other Money-Saving Tips and Hints For Things You May Not Have Thought Of

  • Convert any currency pre-cruise. You can do it on board but there will be additional fees and the exchange rate is likely to be bad.
    • Order your currency online or pick it up at larger supermarkets
    • If you do need cash, get it out of ATMs in the port. Your own bank is more likely to give you a better exchange rate and charge less in fees.
  • Bring alcohol onboard if it is allowed. Many cruise lines let you bring on a certain amount of alcohol.
    • Some will charge you a “corkage” fee if they open it at the restaurant for you.
    • Norwegian Cruise Line charge you a corkage fee per bottle, as soon as you bring it on to ship. So It might not be worth it. Do your research beforehand.
    • Many cruise lines will allow you to bring onboard alcohol and if you just open it and drink it on your balcony, they don’t make a charge.
    • Sometimes you can bring on soft drinks/soda too.
    • You must be able to physically carry it onboard yourself in your carry-on bag.
    • Sometimes the alcohol allowance is per cabin. My brother doesn’t drink, so if I am sharing with him, I use his alcohol allowance!
  • Avoid fees for withdrawing currency by using your casino account.
    • This is a little controversial, but on some cruise lines, you can save money this way.
    • Transfer money into your casino account, and you can then withdraw it in cash, without paying fees.
    • I wouldn’t do this for large amounts of money, but if you just need the odd $50 it is worth considering.
    • Some cruise lines do charge a small fee though, so do your research beforehand.

Get Freebies!

  • There are often free “Welcome drinks” when you first get on board the ship.
    • Look out for Captain’s Cocktail parties with free food and drinks.
  • Join the cruise line’s free loyalty program
    • You may be invited to free loyalty program member events.
    • You might receive loyalty members scheme perks – like a free bottle of sparkling wine or canapes in your room.
Free Sparking Wine and Canapes

My Final Favourite Tip For Embarkation Day

My final tip would be to check the daily schedule straight away when you get on board to see if the main dining room or another restaurant is open for lunch.

Norwegian Prima Main Dining Room Hudson's
Norwegian Prima Main Dining Room Hudson’s

So many people just pile into the buffet, and it can be really busy.

I would prefer to sit down and be waited on for a change – and it makes me feel like my holiday has really started!

Before You Go

You might be wondering what is the difference between eating in the buffet or the main dining room when you cruise. Is the food the same? Find out everything you need to know here:

What is the Difference Between Eating in the Buffet or the Main Dining Room on a Cruise Ship?

Many people think that cruise ships are very formal, with set dining times, dress codes and table sharing at every meal. I dispel this myth – and 35 others – here:

36 Things You Are Getting Wrong About Cruising – Cruise Myths Busted!

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.