Embarking and disembarking a cruise ship on your way to and from a voyage on a cruise liner is quite unique, and the experience is slightly different from that of a train or flight. Exercising just a little bit of preparation in advance can make all the difference to the quality of your experience.

Here is a walkthrough of the process to help you prepare for your next cruise holiday.

Setting out – embarking

Before the ship sets sail, you should have been provided with all the information regarding where and when embarking will take place. The wheres and whens differ, but in general it starts in the early hours and carries on until late afternoon and all travellers are aboard. Travellers are given set times to arrive and check-in, so double check which arrival time band you’ve been allocated.

In most cases your cruise ship will have docked early from a previous cruise; all passengers have alighted, and the cleaning teams are tidying up in preparation for the next departure. If you think you can become an early-bird by arriving ahead of schedule, you might find you’re asked to wait on land before checking in.

However, make sure you arrive in good time. Even if your cabin isn’t ready, it’s the perfect opportunity to settle into the experience, to explore the ship, lounge in the afternoon sun next to the on-deck pool, or to relish in a early lunch as the first lot of passengers begin to embark.

It is a good idea to have a small hand luggage carry-on to bring with you containing a few necessities for the first hours on board.

Around noon and early afternoon, peak boarding ensues. For late arrivals, there usually isn’t much that can be done except to peer glossy-eyed over the horizon from the shore. Rarely do cruise-liners lag behind schedule, and anyone who misses the departure will face having to travel to the next port or lose the cruise altogether.

As that’s the case, you might want to fly in a day earlier or so. This will save you from the added concern about potential flight delays – and you can make a comfortable start to your holiday.

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Going aboard – cruise embarkation procedures

You should find that embarkation and check in procedures are well-run; not much different from the check in procedures of a flight.

Luggage is safely taken care of by staff, and often tagged with your room number and colour-coded. You can rest assured that your belongings will be lugged to your quarters. You might want to keep valuable items and a change of clothes with you in your hand luggage in case of a delay.

Check in at the embarkation counter with your boarding documents and passport in hand. In the event of arriving at peak time, and much like at an airport gate, you’ll be given a letter or colour-code and will have to wait until yours is announced.

Expect a minor security and ID-check at the entrance and a polite scan of your hand luggage. Boarding documents and passports are then checked, you get your electronic cruise card – and you’re all set!

Cruise cards are a common currency on board cruise ships nowadays, and require either registration of your credit card or a cash deposit at reception. Take care of this card. It is your right of passage, and contains your ID information. It is the key to your room and to all the amenities aboard.

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Coming ashore – disembarking

Regrettably all good things must come to an end, and that includes your serene cruise holiday in the lap of luxury.

Much like those before you, for the convenience of the next lot of cruise-goers you are required to disembark in good time so the ship can be set to sail with the next troupe of passengers whose adventure is about to start.

All the needs-to-know about the disembarkation procedure and schedule will in all likelihood be announced the evening before the ship comes to port, or be available within your cabin – more than likely you’ll be given a time to disembark, or a number.

Your luggage will need to be labelled again and placed outside your door before the wee hours of the morning to be rounded up by the deckhands while you are sleeping. In the morning it will be waiting for you at the on the dock or cruise terminal. Once again, hand luggage will come in handy with items for the last evening and morning – pack a wash kit and a change of clothes.

On the last evening of your cruise settle any and all outstanding accounts at reception, unless you gave your credit card details upon embarkation. In that case, all you’ll have to do is to check your invoice is in order.

Enjoy your final breakfast on the cruise ship. One by one, the number will be announced, and when it is yours that is called out, it is your cue to disembark.

In case you have to catch a flight back home, consider booking a flight that departs at least a couple of hours after docking.