How Long Before a Cruise Should You Arrive [Explained]

Have you received the sailing information for your cruising journey? Now, you’re pondering, “how long before a cruise should you arrive?” You don’t want to be the early one waiting for your cruise embarkation all day. 

Guests should arrive within the selected time slot. Cruise lines recommend a complete check-in process three days before the sailing date. The previous passengers can take 2 hours to disembark. Before the sailing time, you should file up at the terminal.

There are many things like boarding types and timings to consider as well. 

Let’s dive deeply into cruise arrival instructions and set the sails!

When Should You Arrive Before a Cruise?

cruise embarkation day tips

It would help if you arrived at the cruise pier within the allocated time frame. The cruise service team recommends completing the check-in information three days before departure. File up your information at the port terminal desk. 

Government regulations require the cruise lines to give all the information regarding guests 90 minutes before sailing. So, as a last resort, you can only arrive 2 hours ahead. 

We don’t recommend getting there only two hours before as nobody wants to miss their cruise while still in line. Don’t you think so? So, to avoid such a scenario, be there within the time frame given.

All guests must board the ship 90 minutes before their time slots.

Cruise Boarding Times

When you arrive at the cruise terminal, it comes down to your boarding time. After your ship docks, boarding the previous passengers will take 1 to 2 hours. Following the boarding process can take more time. 

What? You would have to wait even after the last guest has disembarked. The service crew will refuel, restock food, and do the managerial tasks for your journey. The boarding timing is mostly at around 10 am to 1 pm.

Cruising can only begin after all the passengers are onboard. Yes, you may end up on board waiting for the last guest at the terminal. So, your cruise voyage won’t start at the crack of dawn but most probably late into the evening.  

Best Timing to Arrive at the Port

Best Timing to Arrive at the Port

The best time to arrive before a cruise is when you won’t have to stand in long lines. Usually, it’s early in the afternoon, between 1 pm to 2 pm. Most of the earlier guests have their proceedings done at around this time. 

So, if you can show up anywhere around this time slot, no long lines await you. You can even make the whole process smoother if you complete everything beforehand through the cruise line’s app.

There is no waiting if you’re among the special ones who subscribed for exceptional offers from the cruise lines. If you have to wait, there are extraordinary waiting rooms just for you. 

Such perk offers include the key in the case of Royal Caribbean and several more for other cruise lines. So, if you’re in the upper tier of guests even on the Carnival, then no worries. 

Types of Boarding

General boarding and staggered boarding are the two most used types of boarding among all cruise lines. 

General Boarding and Staggered Boarding

General boarding involves something simple. In this cruise boarding type, you had to get there 3-4 hours before your cruise arrived. This boarding style is like arriving at the airport long before to avoid the long waiting lines. 

In contrast to general boarding, in staggered boarding, you get a time frame for your Arrival. Cruise lines can manage so many passengers by dividing them into different slots. 

So, getting there for cruising depends on your allocated time. It can be even 3 hours before sailing. 

What goes on your Arrival at the Cruise Terminal?  

Don’t startle after looking at the crowd inside the cruise port. It can be a bit chaotic when you arrive, but always remind yourself of the vital things. Let the porters take your baggage. 

In the case of Royal Caribbean, having luggage labels on makes the process easier. Get to the desk and fill out the necessary information. But you might have to wait at least a bit for your turn. Yes, wait for your chance. 

However, if you have checked in completely on the cruise app, it’s all done, and you’re okay to go. The process can be faster if you’ve even posted your photo in your ship’s application.

Hence, you can make your pre-cruising process easier if you’ve done it all online through the app. But do expect security scanning for your luggage and yourself even though it won’t be as time-consuming as the airports.

How Long Does Boarding a Cruise Take?

Even after you’re done with the pre-cruising process at the terminal on the port, it might take a while. But why? Even though you’re on board, it doesn’t mean everyone is. So, how long does boarding a cruise take?

The time to set the sails straight for your journey depends on other passengers and the cruise line’s technology. Other passengers might be in line. They might not have lighter bags. 

What if the port is too crowded and requires more advanced equipment for pre-cruising? Only some passengers might be, even if you’re on time at the cruise terminal. So, a lot goes into it before your voyage starts. 

Final Words

The answer to “How long before a cruise should you arrive?” is simple. Get there within the time slot allocated. If you have already listed your information on the cruise line’s app, the process can be fast.

However, when subscribed for additional perks in special cases, it can become an easier and more comfortable process for you. It would help to have luggage tag holders and lanyards to secure your luggage bags while boarding.

We hope this helped you to make it in time for your cruise!

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