There are thousands of people out who have never gone on a cruise. A cruise
vacation is the ultimate getaway from the ordinary. Did anyone know that only thirty percent (30%) of Americans have gone on a cruise? It’s true! That means, there are thousands more who are yet to be exposed to this one-of-a-kind form of traveling. For first-time cruisers, there is a smorgasbord of questions which need to be answered first-hand. Some first-time cruisers are a bit anxious, some are really excited, and some do show some frustration over the matter. For all first-time cruisers, there is nothing to worry about. Below is a helpful FAQ for all first-time cruisers.


Which cruise lines are the most children-friendly? This is the most asked question by first-time cruisers. It’s clear, cut, and dry. The four most children-friendly cruise lines are Carnival (the cheapest), followed by Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney. Disney has activities for adults and all ages below, including teens, tweens, and toddlers.

Can we be the first ones on board? First-timer cruisers should not feel offended when the answer is given. Unfortunately, no. Cruise lines follow a uniform boarding process. When the boarding process begins, special events are boarded first. This includes weddings and day guests. Day guests may include travel agent luncheons. Once they’re safely on board, guests in suites are invited to board. Next, the shore staff will begin boarding all guests who are in need of special assistance (wheelchairs, canes, scooters, and crutches). Following the special assistance guests, the ship will welcome those in the high ranks of the cruise line’s guest loyalty program (ex. Crown & Anchor, VIFP, and Latitudes). Finally, all remaining guests will be permitted to board.

What time should we arrive at the terminal? Cruise ships normally begin boarding within the hour after disembarkation is complete. Further, no guests are allowed to board until the last guests have cleared through customs. The average starting time for boarding is eleven o’clock. It solely depends on when disembarkation concludes. Guests should arrive at the terminal before eleven o’clock. Once guests are checked in and receive their stateroom key cards, they’re set to go. It’s just a matter of time until the shore staff is given the go-ahead. Once aboard, it’s buffet time!

Do we have to stay overnight in our departure port city? It is totally unnecessary for guests to stay overnight in a hotel prior to their cruise. It is only necessary for those guests who are unable to arrive by train or plane at a decent hour. Generally, non-US guests like to stay prior to or after their cruise, to allow them sightseeing time.


Do we need passports for disembarking at ports-of-call? Most guests do not need passports for getting off the ship at ports-of-call. Pier security is extremely tight at ALL ports-of-call. First, all guests must make sure they have their stateroom key cards in hand. With regards to identification, guests should carry a driver’s license, a passport card, or a school ID card. Non-US guests will need to carry their passports with them as they disembark and re-board the ship. When sailing out of foreign ports (ex. Southampton and Barcelona) passports are required. Passports are required for leaving and re-entering the country.

I already paid for my cruise! Do we need to have a method of payment registered for on board charges? Yes, all guests must have some method of payment registered for on their on board charge account. Whether using a debit card, credit card, or cash, the ship needs some form of payment on file to successfully complete the check-in process. Guests who wish to set up a cash account, they can do so on board at the guest services desk. Carnival allows guests to make cash deposits at the check-in counter, saving them a trip to guest services. Guests are welcome to change their method of payment at the guest services desk. At the conclusion of the cruise, the ship will route the on board charge balance to whichever form of payment guests have chosen.

How long will it take for our luggage to reach our stateroom? Cruise ships come in a variety of sizes, carrying guest loads of 2,500 to as many as 6,100. There is a staging and sorting process to loading the luggage on board. First, they’re sorted according to the area of the ship-forward, mid-ship, or aft. Next, they’re re-sorted by deck. From there, luggage is delivered to the proper staterooms. Guests should allow a time frame up to two hours for their luggage to reach their staterooms. All guests should decide carefully what items they might need during that time, including a change of clothes.

Do we really need security pictures taken? Absolutely! Again, security is extremely tight when boarding any cruise ship. It’s just as tight when disembarking and re-boarding at ports-of-call. At this step of the check-in process, all guests must not be wearing any head wear (except for religion reasons), and remove all eye wear (ex. sunglasses). More importantly, no comical faces are allowed. Guests who refuse to have their security pictures taken are not allowed to sail.


In the luggage hall, are the bags laid out according to deck? No, all bags are laid out according to the assigned luggage tag numbers or colors. Prior to disembarkation, all guests are provided their assigned number or color tags for the luggage. Guests must clearly print their contact information on each tag. All bags must be placed outside the stateroom door by midnight. If earlier, the ship’s staff will say so. If guests wish to do the self-assist program (f.k.a express walk-off), they must hold on to all of their luggage until the morning of disembarkation. Self-assist guests are the first guests allowed to leave the ship.

When is the latest time we can leave the ship? During disembarkation, the latest time to leave the ship is when the staff gives the final call. All remaining guests on board will be asked to make their way to the gangway on the main deck with their stateroom key cards, passports, and completed customs declaration forms in hand.

If I had an item confiscated on sailing day, where do I go? Who do I speak to? On sailing day, guests would receive a receipt for their confiscated item. During disembarkation, guests should present their receipts to either the ship’s security staff or the pier security staff. It solely depends on where they had the item(s) confiscated.

Outside the terminal, where can we find cabs, limos, and car services? Transportation pick-up and drop-off areas vary by cruise terminal. Upon exiting customs, guests should approach a member of the shore staff.

About Author

David Kriso has been a travel writer since August 2011. He is a contributing writer for both of his hometown's newspapers, The Gazette, and The Observer. His articles focus on cruise and railroad travel. David is also published online at, a cruise magazine based in Vancouver, Canada and at Amtrak's story site, David also writes for the publication On, he writes about cruise and rail travel. David is a long-time train traveler, avid cruiser, and a Disney traveler since age 4.

You might also enjoy:

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *