Cruising with MJ – The Series

Cruising with MJ – Setting Sail on Your Own the MJ Way

Cruising with MJ – A Word on Picking the Right Cruise Line for You

Cruising with MJ – You’ve Booked Your Cruise So Now What?

Cruising with MJ – Let’s Get Packed

Cruising with MJ – It’s Almost Time to Cruise! What Do I Do Now?

Cruising with MJ – Three Days Until Sail Away

Cruising with MJ – Embarkation Day (It’s Time to Play)

Cruising with MJ – Sea Day

Cruising with MJ – Port Day (On shore excursions, and doing your own thing)

Cruising with MJ – Disembarkation 🙁

Like all good things, your cruise must eventually end. In 31 disembarkations, I’ve learned a few things and I will share them with you here. As always, you may have your own ritual for disembarkation that works great too, and I’d love to hear what you think. First, a few basics that apply to almost any cruise. Around two days before your cruise ends, you will receive disembarkation instructions and your luggage tags. Everyone is a little different, but the gist of these instructions is basic information on where you should wait for your luggage tag number to be called for clearance to depart the ship. Your luggage tag will typically be a certain color and have a number, i.e. Green 26. That’s the number you’ll listen for the morning of disembarkation. Some lines tell you to just camp out in your stateroom if you wish, or you may choose to go have breakfast and then go to your assigned departure lounge.

For me, disembarkation really begins the evening before. I prefer to get my bags packed early, so it’s all done with the exception of the things you will need for the morning (toiletries, clothes to wear off the ship). By getting packed “early,” I mean prior to dinner on the last night of the cruise. This allows me to really go out and enjoy the evening on the ship without worrying about getting back to the room to get packed. From this point, things pretty much go one of three ways depending on your method of disembarkation.

Self Assist

Self-assist disembarkation is intended for cruisers who either don’t need or want the ship’s staff to collect their luggage and deliver it to the terminal. In my humble opinion, it was intended for those who know how to travel light – a carry on and a personal item if you will. In reality, self-assist disembarkation has proven attractive to many because you will be the first cruisers off the ship, whether you pack light or not. I frequently see one person attempting to herd off enough bags for an infantry division on their own. Don’t be that person. On short cruises, we frequently use self assist as there’s no sense sitting around waiting in a lounge when we can just walk off with one bag each and head home. Better yet, our elite status gives us priority for the door, and I actually have been one of the first 10 out of thousands to disembark. If you are a person who travels with a reasonable amount of luggage, go for self-assist. If you’re not in a hurry to leave, there’s no problem with taking your time, enjoying breakfast, and just walking off when you are ready, with your luggage.

Standard Disembarkation

With this, you’ll tag your bag and leave it outside your stateroom door prior to midnight on the final evening. It will magically relocate into the massive cargo hold sometime during the night and be waiting for you in baggage claim the next morning. We frequently hold back a small tote or something else to place our toiletries and clothing from the evening before to carry off. Once we have our bags, we just consolidate what’s in the tote back into our normal luggage. On the morning of disembarkation we typically take breakfast in the dining room before heading to our departure lounge. More often than not, our baggage tags have already been called by the time we finish breakfast.

Airline Check (or some variation of that)

Many cruise lines offer the option to print your airline luggage tags and boarding passes on the ship. You leave your bags outside your stateroom normally, claim them to pass customs the morning of disembarkation, then leave them with the airline representatives waiting right after you exit customs. Next time you see your bags will be at baggage claim at your home airport. There is a fee for this, $20 dollars last time I did it for the two of us, and if you are subject to checked baggage fees by the airline you are flying, those fees will be charged on board. Whether or not this service is offered and the particulars of how it is offered varies by port and ship, but if it’s available you will receive information on how to participate in your stateroom. If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, and flying out same day, I think it’s a worthwhile choice.

Disembarkation can be one of the more stressful experiences of your cruise if things don’t go well. I rarely book a flight departing before noon on disembarkation day, and if you can swing it, staying a day or two in a good hotel after your cruise can really be a nice bookend for your vacation. If you decide to get fancy and book a 10:30am or 11:30am flight, I highly recommend self-assist disembarkation so you can get off the ship early. Other than that, the practices covered here have worked really well for me when cruising.

This completes my “Cruising with MJ” series on “how to’s” for cruising. I hope you’ve found something here you can use to travel well on your next cruise. If you can’t tell, cruising is something I’m very passionate about, and I love helping people discover the joys of cruise vacations. If there’s something I haven’t covered in the series that you want to discuss, feel free to comment. Enjoy your cruise!

-MJ, April 26, 2013