How To Disembark Without Stress

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Disembark depressed and stressed young woman

Not many cruisers look forward to disembarkation, but does it have to be stressful?

Are you a new cruiser wondering what disembarkation is like, or perhaps you just want to know how to make getting off the ship a little less stressful? We’ve got some tips for you. Getting off a cruise ship is probably every cruiser’s least favorite part of a cruise, but it doesn’t have to be horrible. We’ve been doing this for a while, and we’ve put together a few tips to help debarkation day go just a little bit smoother.

So, we’ve established that the LAST day of a cruise is not generally our favorite part of any cruise, right? Passengers are grumpy, anxious to get off the ship, and probably woke up a little too early, right? Plus, you may have a LONG travel day ahead of you, and it’s a tad depressing to see your hard-earned vacation come to an end.

Well, it’s never fun to say goodbye to your cruise, but a few simple tips can make it a bit less painful.

Attend the disembarkation program or read the materials:

On many cruise lines the Cruise Director will give a disembarkation talk. Typically these talks are hosted in person, or can be seen on the cruise lines TV station. If you miss the scheduled program, usually led by the cruise director & staff, fret not. Your stateroom steward will likely leave paper instructions in your cabin a few nights before the cruise ends, along with luggage tags you may need.

Even if you have disembarked many times before, these talks & handouts can be extremely helpful, especially during these pandemic months when cruise lines are changing protocols frequently. You can also find disembarkation information on the your cruise line’s website like this page from Carnival Cruise Line.

Consider how you pack the day before: 

We’ve recently discovered a new tactic for avoiding the “last day of the cruise blues”. That tip is…Don’t wait until the last minute the night before disembarkation to pack. Packing can be exhausting, so consider breaking it up a little. Sometimes we’ll pack one suitcase in the morning the day before debarkation. That suitcase usually contains non-essential things like dirty laundry, shoes we no longer need, and bulky souvenirs.

Then, we’ll pack up any final essentials before heading to bed, but the majority of the work is DONE early in the day. This allows you to enjoy ONE last show, trip to the casino, or evening at the bar!

Disembarkation young women packing suitcase

Don’t pack essentials in checked luggage:

If you’re leaving your luggage outside your stateroom for pickup the night before you disembark, be sure to pack a small carry – off  bag that contains things you’ll need like passports, wallet, any other important travel docs, medications, a change of clothes, and a toothbrush and SHOES. Oddly enough, shoes are a common thing to pack away and forget! Don’t pack your shoes in the luggage you’ll leave outside your cabin door.

Don’t book an early flight:

Arrival times to port on debarkation day can be unpredictable, and disembarkation can be plagued with unexpected delays. Fog, storms, mechanical issues, medical emergencies ARE common issues that slow ships down from docking on time, and you will avoid stress when you disembark by booking a flight home in the afternoon (never morning) following your cruise. It’s natural to want to get home as soon as possible, but be careful how early you book that flight. Give yourself some extra time padding between disembarkation and your flight home… better yet, stay an extra day if possible.

Disembark queue at airport customs

Don’t rush:

If you’re not in a hurry to catch a flight, consider relaxing and enjoying the ship on debarkation morning. You’ll probably find that you have time to enjoy a relaxing meal and one last stroll or photo opp around the ship. You’ll be in the minority if you linger onboard. Trust us!

In a hurry to get home? Consider self assist debarkation:

Most lines offer some form of express debarkation where you walk your own luggage off the ship. Usually, these passengers are the first to disembark. Remember, you’ll have NO help with your luggage, and may have to use the stairs at some point, so be careful if you choose this option. 

Know your Suite or Loyalty Perks:

If you’re in a suite, or have loyalty with your cruise line, you may have special disembarkation privileges or waiting areas. On many cruise ships, passengers in suites or higher loyalty levels will be directed to meet at a certain place and time to wait in comfort, rather than roaming the ship or crowding the gangways. Typically, seating is offered, and if you’re lucky, there may even be refreshments.

Bonus Tip – Have an exit strategy:

Another stress reduction tip is to have a plan for how you are getting to your next destination. Do you need to download the Uber or Lyft app? Did you book a shuttle? Did you research how to get a taxi? Do you remember where your car is park? A little planning goes a long way toward avoiding a flustered disembark process.

Thank you…

Thanks so much for reading! We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to direct message us on Instagram or Facebook with your thoughts, and until next time, we’ll see you on the high seas!

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Sheri and her family are California based cruise content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Sheri and her family as they travel the world by ship creating travel films. Sheri has visited destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, and has experienced 33 cruises on 6 cruise lines. She was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation in 2018 and 2019. Sheri has been quoted in the New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Prevention, and Business Innovator Radio. Her YouTube Channel, CruiseTipsTV has over 87,000 subscribers and 17 million views.