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10 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day

Carnival ship in port

The worst part about any vacation is when is it over and realizing that reality is right around the corner. It is hard not to get a little upset when you think about returning to work or school, cooking your own meals, and having to clean your home. 

Unfortunately, your cruise will come to an end, but you will return home with precious memories to share with others. You may even be planning another cruise before your current one ends! Before you can get home, though, you have to disembark the ship one final time. 

About halfway through your cruise, you will be given information regarding disembarkation and asked to fill out a form requesting your departure information. You will then be given luggage tags that correspond with your given disembarkation time. 

Disney Cruise ship in Port Canaveral

Alternatively, you can opt to participate in self-assisted disembarkation, which means that you can be among one of the first people to get off the ship. Instead of leaving around 8:00 or 9:00am, this usually means that your departure will be closer to 7:00am. The catch is that you will have to carry your luggage off by yourself. 

Despite ending your vacation a little bit earlier and wheeling your own suitcase, here are 10 reasons that you should get off the ship as early as possible. 

What is the difference between regular and self-disembarkation?


Those who do not want to worry about the hassle of carrying their own luggage off of the ship will want to utilize regular disembarkation in which will receive a luggage tag that corresponds to a specific departure time and leave your suitcase(s) outside of your cabin the night before. 

When your luggage tag group is called, you will be able to get off the ship, collect your bags, get your documents checked, and be on your way. If you are opting for this method, be sure that you do not pack your passport, cruise card, medication, and other valuables in your luggage! It is best to keep those things on your person. 

With self-disembarkation, you will not be given any luggage tags and will be responsible for transporting your bags off of the ship. If you have larger bags, you may not want to lug them off the ship, down the gangway, and through the cruise terminal. 

You do, however, have flexibility in when you want to get off. You can either get off first thing or hang around the ship a little bit longer if you are trying to kill time before heading to the airport. 

Read more: All You Need to Know About Cruise Embarkation and Disembarkation

There is little to do on disembarkation day

NCL Bliss in Canaveral

No, you will not be able to go for a morning swim before getting off the ship. Other than grabbing a bite to eat for breakfast, you will not find any of the fun activities open on disembarkation day. 

The next set of passengers will begin to board shortly after everyone from your cruise is off. It is all hands on deck to get the ship ready for them while assisting with disembarkation, so the crew members are unable to dedicate any time to entertainment.

Even though the main dining room is usually open, it is best to skip it and head to the buffet. While it will probably be more crowded, you will be able to grab something quick to eat, return to your stateroom to grab your luggage, and get off the ship as early as you can. 

Lingering over a breakfast in the main dining room will just hold you on the ship longer!

You will be off the ship before you have to vacate your stateroom

Balcony stateroom Royal Caribbean

On disembarkation morning, you will be asked to vacate your cabin by a certain time. This is to help stateroom attendants prepare all of the rooms for the next set of guests; it is a fast-paced operation! Can you imagine the manpower it takes to turnover sometimes up to 2,800 staterooms in a couple of hours?

If you get off after the requested time, you will be stuck waiting around on the ship. Each assigned time has a dedicated "lounge" per se for guests to wait in until their group is called.

With everything being closed, this will not be much fun, especially if you have young children or are just tired after a fun vacation. Plus, you will have to lug your carry-on bag with you.

Read more: 20 cruise ship disembarkation day mistakes to avoid

Avoid lines

Disembarkation line

Cruise lines have worked to perfect the disembarkation process so that lines are minimal; however, that does not mean that they are not possible. In most cases, you have a better chance at avoiding any potential lines by getting off the ship as early as you can. 

With fewer people getting off at the same time as you, you will also have a better chance of avoiding any jams when it comes to checking your documentation in the terminal, especially if you are traveling with a birth certificate and official government ID instead of a passport. 

Read more: Can you go on a cruise without a passport?

Hail a taxi or call a ride share service with ease


Quickly moving through the disembarkation process means that you will have less guests outside of the terminal, too. This is advantageous if you are flying and need to get to the airport, as you will spend less time waiting in line for transportation. 

With thousands of passengers trying to get on their way, it is no surprise that the demand for cabs and ride share services increases. Those who get off the ship later might end up waiting longer than they thought for transportation. 

Even if you are able to confirm a driver with a ride share service, they may get stuck in traffic, delaying your arrival to the airport. 

The earlier you get off the ship, the less likely you are to encounter any wait for a taxi or ride share!

Less time spent in the parking garage

Parking Garage

Some people prefer to drive to the cruise port and leave their car in the parking garage. It might be because you live close enough that flying is not sensible, or you just would rather drive to save money, avoid airports, etc. 

On disembarkation day, it is common for long lines to form in the parking garage as everyone from your ship (and potentially others) try to leave the port around the same time. It is like trying to exit a parking garage after a concert or sporting event!

If you are tired, the last thing you want to do is get stuck waiting in your car when you could beat the traffic and get on the road sooner. By getting off the ship early, you can also be one of the first out of the parking garage. 

Read more: Why you should plan a cruise within driving distance

If driving, you are able to get home earlier

PortMiami ship docked

While you might not want to get home and face reality, it is an unfortunate part of any vacation. Depending on how long your drive is, you may be able to get home relatively early and begin to unwind before returning to work or school. 

This is especially true for cruises that return on a Sunday or other weeknight; you may not have an adjustment period!

Perhaps you will have the energy to do a load of laundry or go grocery shopping, so you do not have to worry about those things later. If you have a pet, they will be thankful that you are home earlier, too!

No searching for bags

Disembarkation luggage

One major benefit to self-assisted departure is that you do not have to worry about locating your luggage. Even though you are responsible for carrying your bags off the ship, you can walk right through the warehouse-like room to get your documents checked. In my opinion, it helps make the disembarkation process a little less hectic. 

While those who are getting of the ship as late as possible will probably be able to easily spot their bags, passengers disembarking with luggage tag numbers somewhere in the middle might be overwhelmed with all the people scouring the room for their bags. 

Potential lines at the airport

Airport security

Airports near popular cruise ports are used to heavy airline traffic. By chance, these airports happen to be some of the busiest in the world due to their location (i.e., Miami [MIA], Los Angeles [LAX], Orlando [MCO], and New York [LGA, JFK, and EWR]). 

Not only do you have to think about the security lines, but if you are checking a bag, you will have to account for that lines, too. 

On a recent cruise out of Miami, I waited 45 minutes to check my bag upon arriving at the airport. I had just been on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but there were Carnival and Norwegian passengers in the same line! 

It is important to remember that the airport will be filled with guests from other ships, as well as other travelers. If you are traveling during peak season, that is something to keep in mind, too. Airports, for instance see an increase in traffic during spring break.

TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, an airport membership service that speeds up identity verification, may reduce the time spent in security. 

If you do not have either of these or any other alternative priority screening, you will want to make sure that you budget for security lines. Far too often, people have missed their flight because they were stuck in line.

You might be able to make an earlier flight

Delta Airlines

It is a good rule of thumb to book your return flight that departs after 12:00pm. You never know if your ship's clearance will be delayed, or if there will be an unexpected traffic jam en route to the airport. 

If, though, you happen to arrive at the airport earlier than you thought, you can try to get on an earlier standby flight. You will have more luck if you are traveling to another popular airport, as smaller regional airports have fewer daily flights. 

It might be worth a shot, though, especially if you want to avoid sitting in the airport for an extended period of time; however, if you are unable to catch an earlier flight, you can rest knowing that you were not rushing to get through security. You never want to be the person that is sprinting to make their flight!

If you have a late flight, you can make the most of your day


Sometimes, you are stuck with a flight later than you would prefer. While trying for standby might be an option, it is never guaranteed. If you want to avoid potential disappointment, consider making the most of your time in the port. 

Today, many resorts offer day passes for those who would like to take advantage of the resort's amenities without staying overnight.

In Fort Lauderdale, for instance, you can get a pass to the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort starting at $50 per person. They also have daybeds and cabanas that are able to accommodate larger parties. Rather than waiting at the airport, you can relax at this oceanfront property that features a large swimming pool while sipping on your last vacation cocktail. 

If you are interested in options closer to an airport, they exist, too! Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon is located a short ten-minutes from the airport. Plus, a pass here is cheaper than those of oceanfront resorts. For $30 per adult and $20 per child, you will have access to their outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as the fitness center, outdoor showers, and poolside food and beverage service. 

You may even be able to find a luggage storage service if you would like to explore on your own. Regardless, make sure that you arrive to the airport in plenty of time to make your flight. 

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