The #1 Website for Cruises from Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa and More


When Should I Arrive to Board my Cruise?

Posted October 2nd, 2013 in tips and tagged by Admin


When you think about everything that happens on a cruise ship during departure day, it seems like a miracle that it can be done at all.

In the span of just about 8 hours a cruise ship will debark as many as 6,000 passengers, unload all the garbage generated during that cruise, clean thousands of staterooms, process and screen thousands of new passengers and set sail again. And most of the time, this same process is ongoing for several ships at the port.

It goes without saying that the port is plenty busy when you come for your cruise. If you decide to board at the wrong time, you could find yourself waiting for an hour or more in a crowd of thousands. That’s not how you want to start your vacation. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In a moment, we’ll tell you the best time to arrive at the port for your cruise. First, we want to make one thing clear…

You should never arrive late to the cruise terminal. Because of immigration policies, cruise lines have to report a manifest of all passengers aboard the ship to the port authorities 90 minutes before scheduled departure. If you arrive late, it can mean the entire ship waits… or worse, you may be left behind.

To account for this 90-minute time frame, every cruise line will give you an “embarkation window” that ends well before the deadline. For instance, your boarding window may be from 1 p.m – 4 p.m. for a cruise departing at 6 p.m. All you have to be sure of is that you make it before the 4 p.m. deadline.

But we don’t suggest arriving to board when (or before) this window opens. There are some passengers who are so excited to sail that they start lining up in advance. Sure they may have a spot at the front of the line, but if they arrive an hour before boarding begins, they’ve also secured at least an hour’s wait.

As well, remember that it takes several hours to clean and prep staterooms. These early passengers are going to have to lug their carry-ons around the ship until their room is available.

So when do we suggest boarding? We like to wait until about and hour before the close of the boarding window. So if the boarding time ends at 4 p.m., we suggest arriving to board at 3 p.m.

First and foremost, the hour before boarding closes gives you plenty of time if a problem should arise. Just as important, the large bulk of passengers will already be on the ship. That means shorter (or no) lines to board. Even better, boarding later likely means your cabin will be ready for you, so you can go set your luggage down before setting off to explore the ship.

2 Responses so far.

  1. I have a cruise coming up in june, I have purchased the “Faster To Th Fun” on Carnival Victory and it departs at 4pm but where we bought that, it says it allows us to get on between 11-12. Do you all know anything about how that would work? What and where do we take our luggage and carry on items? We were planning on boarding at 11 “when allowed to abaord, get our stuf in stateroom “figuring since faster to the fun allows you to go to your room upon getting on the ship and they said theyd carry our luggage ect. thats what i got from reading it, if im wromg please correct me.
    thank you, hope to hear from you soon!!!!1st cruisers!!!

    • Admin says:

      Bradley —

      The first-time cruise jitters! Don’t worry. They know that a lot of people are first-timers and make it super simple. Show up as early as 11 to the port and follow the signage. It will tell you exactly where to go. They will assist you in taking your bags and going through security.