The neverending challenges of the cruise line check-in staff

With the cruising industry slowly returning to service after suspending sailings due to the Coronavirus, there is much anticipation about who will be sailing when. For months on end, millions of guests have been anxiously waiting for this moment. Guests are indeed excited to get back to sailing the high seas. The cruise terminal check-in staff too are looking forward to returning to work after being on a long hiatus stemming back to March. Many check-in staff can remember the last ship they worked before the Coronavirus pandemic began. Without the check-in staff, no sailing day would be possible. The guests cannot board the ship without their hard work and dedication. However, the guests need to be made aware of the time and energy the check-in staff take out of their daily lives to make their sailing day possible. Shockingly, there are guests out there who don’t make it so easy. There are guests who tend to be tremendously challenging. Let it be brought to light the top five challenges that guests bring to the cruise terminal on a weekly basis. What are they?

5) Guests arriving late: Guests arriving late is among the ongoing challenges the check-in staff contend with on a weekly basis. It is imperative that all guests arrive at the cruise terminal on-time. Sounds like preaching to the choir, right? Indeed! Some guests push their arrival at the terminal to the very last hour, cutting it close to the muster drill. Guests arriving late are flustered from being stuck in traffic, getting lost looking for the terminal, unable to find their cruise tickets, or they cannot find their travel documents. Guests arriving late puts an unnecessary level of stress on the check-in staff, having to stay longer, and on top of that…having to expedite the check-in process without being friendly and welcoming on the spot. Being on-time is the right time!

4) Being difficult over security pictures: Time to time, guests can be challenging with regards to security pictures. This happens sporadically. It does, however, become frustrating for the check-in staff. To complete the check-in process, all guests are required to have security pictures taken of them prior to boarding. Sounds easy? It’s not always the case. There are times when guests make a huge scene over security pictures. Guests often question whether their pictures will be used in the cruise line’s advertisements and whether their photos will be on display in the ship’s photo gallery. At one time, a group of guests argued over having their identity compromised. At times, guests like to make a scene at the check-in counter, getting their hair right or fixing their outfit so that their picture comes out properly. Guests sometimes think that getting their security pictures taken is about making a fashion statement. Relax! Guests’ security pictures are never, ever used or abused by the cruise line. Note: Guests who refuse to have their security pictures taken ARE NOT permitted to board. That’s a fact! More importantly, the guests must let the check-in staff get them embarked as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

3) Not completing the on-line check-in process: In the cruising industry, a vast majority of the cruise lines feature an online check-in process. Guests have an ample amount of time to complete the online check-in process. Online check-in is actually a misnomer. It’s loosely known as “online registration”.  They can complete this process as early as up to two months before sailing. The guests’ common deadline is forty-eight hours prior to sailing day. When completing the online check-in process, guests need to enter their personal and emergency contact information, passport information (unless using a birth certificate w/ photo identification), on-board charge information, and last but not least…pre- and post-cruise information. This normally pertains to non-US guests or any guests staying in the port area before or after their cruise. Unfortunately, NOT ALL guests complete the online check-in process as directed. This is among one of the challenges the check-in staff wish they would not have to contend with, but they face it professionally. When guests don’t complete the online check-in process, they wind up completing manual paperwork at the check-in counter and forcing the check-in agent to do the rest. Completing the online check-in process truthfully saves significant time at the check-in counter. Ultimately, it makes the guests’ check-in experience and the check-in agents’ jobs all the more easier, and EFFICIENT.

2) “My travel agent said…”: Yes, there are travel agents who are highly knowledgeable and efficient. Yes, there are travel agents who go out of their way to make things happen for their clients. Many kudos to them! A travel agent is still the most viable resource guests use when booking a cruise. Unfortunately, there are travel agents out there who misinform their clients on a wide variety of matters. It’s without question, very unprofessional of them doing so. On almost every sailing day, the cruise line check-in staff hears the guests bring up the dreaded line, “My travel agent said…”. Guests often become argumentative with the check-in staff, claiming what the travel agent said. It could be about documentation, the type of stateroom they were booked in, what dining time they were assigned, etc. Unfortunately, the guests cannot always point the blame on their travel agent.  A successful and memorable cruise vacation rests on two words-common sense. Guests should not always trust their travel agent 100% of the time. The famous line is, “Trust, but verify!”. To avoid being misinformed, guests should contact the cruise line and verify the information relayed to them by the travel agent. Having done so, the inconvenience and the drama at the check-in counter are averted. 

1) Having inadequate documentation: Documentation is the bread and butter of every cruise vacation. Inadequate documentation is the most repetitive of all challenges the check-in staff face. Without the proper travel documents, guests are not permitted to board. Documentation is more than just passports and birth certificates. Documentation includes parental consent letters, medical letters for pregnant guests, service animals, and proof of infants’ age. When guests don’t have the proper documentation, they often get argumentative and hot under the collar with the check-in agent. Even then, the guests bring up the dreaded line, “My travel agent said…”. Facing this challenge has its ups and downs. When guests leave their documents home, the check-in staff have to find ways to get the documents forwarded to the pier. Sometimes the situation is resolved successfully. At other times, the guests aren’t so fortunate. Being prepared for sailing day, having the right documentation, and having the required paperwork needed for whichever scenario goes a long way. Guests who are prepared and do their due diligence truly score brownie points with the check-in agent. When prepared, they will undoubtedly make the check-in agent’s day. 

The check-in staff, regardless of port city, are the life blood of the pier. Without question, they’re the life blood of every sailing day.  They are sincerely, essential workers. Without the check-in staff, no guests board the ship. Certainly, no one gets off the ship on disembarkation day without shore staff. The shore staff, especially the check-in staff, put in a full hard day of work informing the guests on steps leading to their cruise vacation. From checking passports, to swiping credit cards, to taking security pictures, to issuing stateroom key cards, it’s a fun line of work. Guests are known to pack more than their belongings. They bring along their challenges too. At the day’s conclusion, the check-in staff go home and reflect on their long work day. Some reminisce about the sweet sixteen group that got denied boarding for not having their parental consent letters. Some chat about the guests they checked in who were first-time cruisers or newly weds. Arriving at the cruise terminal on time, not causing a scene with security pictures, and successfully completing the online check-in process are among the must-do’s which guests must get into the positive habit of doing. Last, but not least, being prepared and not throwing the travel agent under the bus are among the many habits guests must adapt post-Coronavirus. Difficult challenges, yes, but to the check-in staff, it’s all in a day’s work. As long as guests follow through on doing so, it will assure the check-in staff that their time, energy, and professionalism are utmost appreciated.  

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