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What Happens On Embarkation Day?

Embarkation day is always an exciting part of any cruise holiday. The anticipation of seeing your ship for the first time, getting on-board and forming your first impressions, excitedly exploring the facilities, and looking forward to the amazing cruise ports that await is a wonderful start to your holiday. The embarkation process may seem a bit overwhelming, but the good news is most cruise lines have got the organisation of embarkation down to a fine art.

Planning Ahead

We think a smooth embarkation day starts with a little pre-planning. Most cruise lines will give you access to an online portal that contains a wealth of information and options for you to pre-plan and customise your cruise ahead of boarding. See our article ‘What Do I Need to Do Before My Cruise’ for more details.

Arriving at the Port

However you arrive at the port, the first person you’re likely to speak to is a luggage porter. These hard-working staff are there to do one thing: whisk your bags on to the ship. If you’ve put luggage labels on to your bags already, they will just check the information and jump into action. If you haven’t (or the cruise line doesn’t offer advance luggage labels) then they will normally ask you for your cabin number and/or luggage tagging information and then write out a tag for you on the spot. Please note that in certain destinations (USA and Canada commonly) it can be known for luggage porters to ask for a tip from you, and even suggest a suitable amount (normally $10 - 20). Just as with a porter at a hotel, this is entirely optional and at your discretion. 

The next time you will see your bags will be in your cabin, at some point in the afternoon. This means that you’ll need to put whatever you will need for your first day into hand luggage, which you will carry on-board. Think about things like medication, sun lotion, swimwear if you intend to jump straight in the pool, flip flops, and if you’re travelling with kids, anything they may need such as nappies or baby food. 


Ahead of boarding, you will be given a time period for your check-in. This helps ensure that everyone doesn’t arrive at once. At the check-in desks a helpful member of staff will check your reservation, swipe a credit card for any purchases and issue your personal ship card. This ship card will be required to make any purchases on-board, and for getting on and off the ship – so keep it safe! (They can issue you with another one if you lose it however, so don't worry in that case!) If you have completed your details online beforehand, this is normally a very quick process, if you have not then this will take a little time as they'll need to enter all the details into the computer. It is common for there to be a bit of a queue at check-in, but don’t worry, it normally moves pretty fast as the cruise line wants to get you on-board just as quickly as you do! Often suite or premium guests will have a separate and shorter queue, which also helps speed up the process even more.


After check-in you will head to the boarding area. Just like at an airport, you will have to pass through a security area where you will have your hand baggage scanned as you go through a metal detector. As part of the boarding process you may also have to submit a medical form to a representative, declaring any recent illnesses, and they may take your temperature here too. If they have any concerns, they may take you to one side and ask you for a little more information, but don’t worry, it's for the health and safety of everyone on-board. After this it's time to board the ship and you will normally head up a gangway or across a bridge on to the ship. As you board, a member of the ship's security team will take your personal card, scan it and then let you through. If you’re lucky, at this point someone will be waiting for you with a nice refreshing welcome drink and then direct you where to go next. 

First Afternoon

Once you’ve boarded, your holiday can begin! On the first day, some of the ship's facilities will already be open for you to start enjoying. Most commonly, the buffet restaurant and pool grill will be serving lunch if you’re hungry, a number of the bars will be open if you wish to get a drink, and the pool deck will be ready if you're wanting to jump straight in the pool! If you’ve boarded early then your cabin may not be ready straight away, and an announcement will be made once the cabins are ready; this tends to be mid-afternoon.

Some people do use this first afternoon to get a little organised, so if you’ve not had the chance to pre-book any excursions, restaurants or spa treatments using the online portal, then you can head to each of these venues now and book in everything that you fancy. Most speciality restaurants will be set up and have menus available to tempt you, a therapist can show you around the spa and perhaps work out a treatment programme with you, and for any fitness fanatics it's worth stopping by the gym and seeing the classes and programmes they have available there too. 

Muster Drill

Normally once boarding is complete and before the ship sets sail, there will be a Muster Drill. Participation in this will be mandatory and the crew will insist you take part. It can be a bit of a drag, but just remember it is for your safety and only has to be done once! Each ship operates this in a slightly different way, so follow the instructions given by the ship at this time. It will require you to attend your muster station and be marked down as being in attendance. 

Sail Away

Once the muster drill is completed your adventure can begin! At some point in the late afternoon or early evening, your ship will cast off and sail away for the first time. This is one of the most exciting moments of any cruise, so enjoy it – why not grab a celebratory drink and head out on deck to join in the atmosphere, or perhaps just sit out on your private balcony and watch the world go by. Upon departure, any facilities of the ship that were closed until this point will now normally open. 

First Evening

The first evening will be your first chance to experience the delicious cuisine on-board your ship. Most passengers will head to the main restaurant, and if you intend on meeting with fellow guests then we highly recommend doing this for your first night. However, if you are planning on keeping more to yourselves during your cruise, then sometimes the speciality restaurants that normally have an extra cover charge will have a reduced price for the first night, as they tend to be quieter, so this can be worth a look.

Most cruise lines will mark the first night with a welcome party or captain's welcome drinks. It's well worth attending these events as they always have a great atmosphere. It’s also a chance to enjoy a free drink or two, as well! 

Please note some of the information contained within our cruise guide may differ once cruising resumes in the wake of Covid-19.

Ready to plan your perfect cruise holiday?

Simply complete the enquiry form to get in touch, or call our Travel Specialists on 0203 924 8888

Our Top Selling Cruises

Below is just a tiny selection of our best-selling cruise holidays. Get in touch to discuss your exact requirements and we'll help you find your perfect cruise holiday; 

12-Day Canary Islands with Princess
12-Day Canary Islands with Princess

This 12-day cruise with Princess Cruises departs from Southampton and heads for the warm sunshine of Spain and the Canary Islands. Enjoy 6 ports of call including Lisbon, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Madeira. During your days at sea you'll be able to enjoy the wealth of facilities on-board your Princess Cruise Ship including first-class entertainment and exquisite dining options. The best part of this cruise is that you don't need to fly, so your holiday begins the minute you step on-board!

September departures

Southampton  >  Lisbon  >  Gran Canaria  >  Tenerife  >  Lanzarote  >  Madeira  >  Vigo  >  Southampton

Cruise Holiday Includes

  • 11 nights accommodation on the ship
  • Full board whilst on-board the ship
  • Port fees and taxes

From £799 per person

Price based on two people sharing a Interior Stateroom in September 2021. Other dates and cabin upgrades available. Simply enquire below.

Transatlantic & New York Stay with Cunard
Transatlantic & New York Stay with Cunard

Enjoy this Westbound transatlantic crossing aboard the iconic Queen Mary 2. She is a remarkable flagship, her style and elegance are legendary. With 7-nights at sea the choice is yours. There is as much or as little to do as you please, with more possibilities than you'll have time to discover. After your cruise enjoy 3-nights in New York with 2 full days to explore the 'Big Apple!'

Year-round departures

Southampton  >  Transatlantic Crossing  >  New York

Cruise Holiday Includes:

  • 7 nights accommodation on the ship
  • 3 nights accommodation in Manhattan, New York
  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner included on-board ship
  • A welcome bottle of sparkling wine
  • Port fees and taxes

From £1,249 per person

Price based on two people sharing an Britannia Inside Cabin on November 2021 departure. Simply enquire below.

Alaska Hubbard Glacier with Celebrity
Alaska Hubbard Glacier with Celebrity

Enjoy a 8-day cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse as you set sail to discover the spectacular scenery and amazing attractions of Alaska. From the dramatic glaciers, majestic mountains and the amazing wildlife including whales, there is sure to be something to amaze you on this fantastic cruise. The price also include 2-nights in Vancouver at a downtown hotel. (CXC)

May to September departures

Vancouver  >  Inside Passage (Cruising)  >  Sitka  >  Hubbard Glacier (Cruising)  >  Juneau  >  Ketchikan  >  Inside Passage (Cruising) >  Vancouver

Cruise Holiday Includes

  • International flights from the UK in Economy
  • 7 nights accommodation on the ship
  • 2 nights accommodation in Vancouver
  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner included while on-board
  • Classic beverages
  • Gratuities
  • Transfers and taxes

From £1,599 per person

Price based on two people sharing an Inside Cabin between May and September. Simply enquire below.

Gems of the Danube River Cruise with Scenic
Gems of the Danube River Cruise with Scenic

Enjoy a classic 8-day river cruise along the Danube to discover the historical wonders of Europe from Budapest to Nuremberg. All while enjoying the elegant atmosphere and exquisite service on-board a 5-star vessel with Scenic River Cruises. (SCN)

April to October departures

Munich  >  Nuremberg  >  Regensberg  >  Passau - Linz  >  Melk - Dürnstein  >  Vienna  >  Budapest

Cruise Holiday Includes:

  • International flights from the UK in Economy
  • 7 Nights accommodation on the ship
  • 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners and premium beverages
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • All gratuities
  • Transfers and taxes

From £2,399 per person

Price based on two people sharing a Standard Suite between April - October. Itinerary also operates in reverse. Simply enquire below.

Chile's Carretera Austral Self-drive Adventure
Southern Caribbean with Holland America

What better way to see the Caribbean than on this amazing 14-day Southern Caribbean cruise with Holland America. The cruise takes in 9 diverse islands of the Caribbean on a round-trip voyage from Fort Lauderdale onboard the elegant and spacious Volendam. (HAL)

March to April departures

Fort Lauderdale  >  St. Thomas  >  St. Kitts & Nevis  >  St. Lucia  >  Barbados  >  Grenada  >  Guadeloupe  >  St. Maarten  >  Puerto Rico  >  The Bahamas  >  Fort Lauderdale

Cruise Holiday Includes:

  • International flights from the UK in Economy
  • 13 nights accommodation on the ship
  • 1 nights accommodation in Fort Lauderdale
  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner included while on-board
  • Signature beverage package
  • Gratuities
  • Port fees and taxes

From £2,599 per person

Price based on two people sharing an Inside Cabin between March and April 2022. Simply enquire below.

Singapore to Hong Kong with Silversea
Singapore to Hong Kong with Silversea

The names may seem familiar but nothing can prepare you for the epic beauty of Vietnam. From the natural beauty Ha Long Bay to the manmade artistry of the sacred temples and pagodas, to the rice terraces and beaches, Vietnam is more than a sum of its parts. Three days in wonderfully chaotic Ho Chi Minh City will excite even the most seasoned traveller while a final day at sea allows for plenty of R & R on board. (SVS)

October to January departures

Singapore  >  Ho Chi Minh (overnight)  >  Chan May  >  Ha Long Bay (overnight)  >  Hong Kong

Cruise Holiday Includes

  • International flights from the UK in Economy
  • 7 nights accommodation on the ship
  • 1 night accommodation in Singapore
  • All Inclusive
  • Gratuities
  • Butler service
  • Transfers and taxes

From £4,399 per person

Price based on two people sharing an Vista Suite in Decxember 2021. Cruise operates in varying lengths and itineraries during season. Price includes 10% early booking bonus. Simply enquire below.

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Enquire About Your Cruise Holiday

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