Cruise Planning Part V: Shore to Ship
You've planned and packed and now you've finally made it to your cruise vacation!
But there is something standing between you and enjoying that fruity beverage at the pool: Check-in.
The good news is that while checking in at the pier can seem very daunting, the lines have made the process relatively painless considering all your family has to do to get from point A to point B.
You've got bags, tickets, camera and kids -- and you want to make sure everything gets into your stateroom. In your precruise documents, your cruise line will send you baggage tags -- two for each person -- that indicate the ship, the date, the stateroom and your name. So, for $1 a bag, you can hand your tagged luggage to a porter, who will take it and get it on the ship for you (although you might not see it for several hours). Do not give the porter your carryon luggage, this includes that piece we talked about in part IV (link) with your documents, medication and swimsuit.
If you've done the online check-in, this part will be very smooth. Make sure you have your printouts and passports for each person in your party. Everyone in your group will have to check-in, but not everyone needs to wait in line. Some terminals have seating or even televisions that you can watch while someone in your party waits in line. If you are concerned with getting your family's attention, and the line isn't that long, you might want to keep everyone together.
There might be several check-in lines -- don't worry, you don't have to wait in all of them. Some will be for international passengers, some are for return cruisers (the ones mentioned in part III), some lines are divided by deck number with the higher floors in one area and the lower in another.
You'll hand your passport, documents and a credit card (to link to your reservation) to the helpful cruise line representative who will give you a card. Do not lose this card. It is your identification for getting on and off the ship, your key, your charge card and will tell you your table for dinner, as well as your dining room on ships that have more than one. On your kids' card, it will also have a way to indicate that your child is under 18 and will not be allowed to order any liquor (very helpful for those 16/17 year olds). You'll want to keep your card handy as you will need to show it several more times before you actually board the ship.
At this point you might receive a copy of the ships' deck plans as well as a sheet indicating where you can have lunch, and other helpful information.
If you get to the check-in terminal too early, you will have to wait a little to board the ship. This is a good time to get yourself together and figure out what it is you want to do once you board. Some lines give out boarding numbers, which indicated when you may board. After a certain time, there will be open boarding, which means as soon as you check in, you may board.
More on Shore to Ship: In the Terminal