Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler.

So you’ve enjoyed a fabulous cruise which is, sadly, coming to an end. Are you confused and worried about the chaos of disembarkation or debarkation? Don’t worry! These ultimate tips will lead you and your family to a smooth last morning aboard! 

The experience is different from checking out of a resort — and more akin to several large planes landing at the same time at the airport. Instead of a small stream of individuals checking out, all of your fellow cruisers, between 3,000 and 6,500 of your newest friends will also be leaving.

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These ultimate tips will help cruisers, from novices to even the most experienced pros, have a hiccup-free morning!

11 Tips for Disembarkation Day Preparation

1. Attend the Disembarkation Day Talk 

Whether you do so in person, or watch the replay on the onboard TV in the comfort of your cruise cabin, a responsible party in your group should attend. Because various ports and cruise lines alter their policies all the time, the Disembarkation Talk is your most accurate and up-to-date information on what to expect. 

Most cruise lines will also provide a handy written handout placed by your room steward to prepare you. But if it is your first time, or you’ve got questions, consider watching the presentation.

Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of open suitcase with laptop, sunglasses and other items being packed

2. Find Your Group Number 

Depending on your cruise line, you’ll be assigned a group number for disembarkation. You’ll need to attach the group number to your luggage. The group number may be related to your next day’s plan (for example those with earlier departures may get a smaller number) or to your priority group.

Some cruise lines (like Carnival) require you to grab a Group Number while others (like Holland America) deliver it to your cabin. 

3. Pack Your Bags for Disembarkation Day on the Last Night

Nothing is as somber a reminder of the end of your cruise as making your way back and seeing all the packed bags in the hallways. Make sure to keep valuables, medications, and any essentials needed for the next day with you and pack everything else.

While you blissfully sleep the night away, the crew loads all the luggage and prepares it for disembarkation.

If you carried your suitcase on board and prefer to do the same thing as you leave, it gives you greater flexibility to disembark within a larger time frame and you do not need to put your bag outside the night before.

Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of inside of bus

4. Double-Check Your Ground Transportation

Do you have a flight out? Please don’t book any flights before noon – while disembarkation is often scheduled around 8 am, the cruise does depend on the ocean and weather circumstances as well as the immigration and customs clearance before passengers can safely disembark. 

If your plan is to spend some time at your arrival destination, check whether transportation is provided from your terminal to the hotel. Likewise, if you’ve rented a car, make sure you are clear on where to expect the pick up. On our recent trip, Hertz was the only car rental dealership authorized to pick up at the Miami port, so we saved ourselves a few dollars by choosing to rent directly from them.

5. Gather All Documents

Sure you had all the documentation like passports and visas when you boarded the ship, but make sure that you have them in hand as you disembark as well. Users of the free version of the Mobile Pass app should update within a few hours prior to arriving at their US port.

6. Complete All Disembarkation Day Paperwork

Some cruise companies send a form a few days prior to disembarkation day to gauge and assign departure groups. If you’ve stopped in other countries, a customs declaration form may also be provided so that you don’t have to fill it out while standing in line.

7. Check Your Onboard Account

If part of your experience has been to be blissfully unaware of all the charges made to your onboard account, embarkation day is your last chance to check them and dispute them in person. You will still be able to dispute them once you return home but may forget.

8. Tip and Thank your Most Helpful Crew Members

Did you receive great service from your waitstaff? You should give them a tip and/or a thank you note the last night. There won’t be enough time to find them during disembarkation day and they will be busy with other duties.

Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of Carnival Conquest at night
Our ship looks so peaceful at night!

9. Get a Good Night’s Rest Before Disembarkation Day

Most disembarkation times are between 7 and 9 am. With all the excitement of everything going on, it may be difficult to go to sleep. Making your night even shorter will be an early morning wake up if you plan to get breakfast first (which you should!).

10. Expect to Leave your Cabin Early on Disembarkation Day

Depending on your cruise line, you will likely have to leave your cruise cabin no later than 8 or 9 am. The crew only has a few hours before the next cruise’s passengers are allowed access to what will now be their cabin by 1:30 pm.

11. Grab Breakfast

Breakfast is available on the morning of disembarkation day. Having paid for it, enjoy it. While the buffet is always available, the dining room may offer some limited choices on that last day. 

Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of cute towel animal on cruise ship bed
Bye, bye, little towel animals!

What is Disembarkation Day Like?

As your group number is called, you’ll proceed to the appropriate deck for disembarkation. Crew members will guide passengers at the stairs and elevators. Passengers with mobility issues have priority for the elevators. Avoid a potentially long wait by taking the stairs.

As you exit the ship, you’ll walk back through the same gangway and waiting area you used on embarkation day. You’ll stand in line for immigration (if you’ve left the country) where you’ll have to present your passport or visa. Once you’ve passed the immigration checkpoint, you’ll proceed to the luggage carousels. Luggage is off-loaded by group numbers, so there is no point in disembarking early if the cruise line has your luggage. Once collected, you’ll pass through the customs line (if you’ve left the country) to declare any purchases and turn in your customs declaration.

Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of many suitcases stacked together

From there, you’ll proceed outside to various transportation options. Whether you’re waiting for a shuttle from your hotel, a shuttle to a parking garage, a taxi or ride-share, or a tour operator, you’ll find them all usually clearly labeled outside the terminal doors. Remember though that while the cruise line makes every effort to space out the groups, you’re still disembarking with 3,000 to 6,500 of your newest friends, so expect that there may be a wait.

Some ports offer a shuttle to nearby airports. However, many port to airport shuttles are not free. The Miami port to airport shuttle costs $17. Calculate whether the shuttle is your best option. Consider a tour operator which drops you off at the airport two hours prior to your flight time. A ride-share app may also cost less.

The main thing to remember is to take a breath! While it can seem a little chaotic for a cruiser, especially on a large ship, these cruise companies do this several times a week and their personnel are there to help you. While it is the saddest day of your cruise vacation, it can be just a quick step before the next part of your holiday.

What about you? Do you have disembarkation day tips to share? Share them in a comment below!

Happy travels,

Annick, The Common Traveler

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Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler.
Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler.
Top 11 Tips for a Smooth Disembarkation Day featured by top US travel blog, The Common Traveler.