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11 Things You Should Never Do on Embarkation Day


Embarkation day is one of the most highly anticipated days on any cruise vacation. Not only does it mark the first time that you'll see the ship in person, but it signifies the true start to your vacation. Hours after stepping foot onboard, you'll be sailing away and watching the coastline disappear. 

Amidst all the excitement, however, there are some common embarkation day mistakes that you should avoid making. Though not all will ruin your vacation, you certainly don't want to start off on the wrong foot. 

Here, we break down 11 things you should never, ever do on embarkation day

Schedule your arrival flight 

taking off airplane

Budgeting for pre-cruise transportation is an important aspect of the planning process. Those who do not live within driving distance will have to find alternate means of transportation, such as flights. Travelers, however, may explore other options like train travel, especially with the prominence of the Brightline service in Florida. 

Scheduling your flight on the same day as the ship's departure is risky. One delay or cancelation could result in your missing the ship, as it won't wait for those who are late. 

Plus, flying in the night before means that you'll have a more relaxed embarkation day. Rather than stressing over flight times or waking up at the crack of dawn, you can sleep in soundly knowing that you're minutes away from the terminal. 

Depending on how far the airport is from the terminal, it may be wise to prearrange transfers, too. If, for instance, you're flying into FCO (Rome) and have a cruise departing from Civitavecchia, it is in your best interest to figure out how you're going to get to the port ahead of time. 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

Arrive outside of your scheduled arrival time


When you check in for your cruise, you'll be tasked with selecting an arrival time. There are pros and cons of selecting an early and late time; however, you'll want to abide by whatever you choose. There's a chance that you won't be allowed inside the terminal if you arrive earlier than indicated. 

Before making a decision, consider whether or not you want to dedicate more time to exploring the ship before sailaway. Those who are one of the first onboard will have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat, unpack, and check out of the amenities before hitting the high seas. 

On the other hand, some guests may prefer to arrive later to ensure immediate access to their stateroom. Plus, the buffet tends to be less hectic during off-peak times. Those who board around 1:30 or 2:00pm will typically find shorter lines and less congestion at the buffet, allowing for a more leisurely dining experience. 

Read more: Everything you need to know about cruise boarding times

Forgetting to pack a carry-on bag


When you arrive at the terminal, you'll be greeted by a porter who will assist you with your larger pieces of luggage. Rather than haul them onboard, they will be delivered outside your stateroom later in the day, meaning that it will be hours until you see your bags again. 

Because you won't have access to your suitcases, you'll want to ensure that you pack important documents and valuables in a small carry-on— think of passports, medication, jewelry, electronics, swimsuits, etc. 

You don't want to send your suitcase off just to later realize that it's holding your passport! You need it to finish the physical check-in process. Thankfully, most porters will ask if you have your passport (or other documentation) on hand. 

Read more: 25 items you should always pack in your cruise carry-on bag

Attempt to sneak prohibited items onboard


Packing for a cruise is unlike packing for a land vacation. Rather than being able to drive to the nearest drug store (or have something delivered), you're subject to the inventory of the ship, which is often pretty limited. Though you have to be more intentional about what you pack, there are some items that you're able to take to a hotel or resort that are prohibited onboard cruise ships

If you try to sneak something onboard inside your carry-on, your boarding process will be delayed. Likewise, those who try and smuggle prohibited items in their checked bags may find that it takes longer for them to be delivered. 

Banned items include drugs, including medical marijuana, weapons, steamers, irons, fireworks, alcohol (exceeding the amount allowed on embarkation day only), extension cords, and candles, among others. 

Read more: 20 things cruise lines really do not want you to bring on ships

Skip the muster drill


Before the ship can set sail, guests must complete the muster drill, which is meant to ensure that all passengers are aware of emergency protocols, such as their assembly station. Today, many ships have converted to a virtual muster process, which allows guests to watch certain videos and visit their assigned station on their own time, rather than having everyone onboard visit at once. 

Amidst all the excitement of embarkation day, completing your muster drill may slip your mind. Thankfully, the ship's crew will make frequent announcements reminding everyone how important it is to go ahead and get it done. 

Those who fail to show up or complete the virtual muster drill will have their name and stateroom number handed over to crew members, who will be responsible for tracking them down. Passengers will be given another opportunity; however, if you fail to complete it again, the cruise line has the right to kick you off the ship without issuing a refund. 

Read more: Simple tips to safely take a cruise ship vacation

Consume too much alcohol


Vacation is a time to let loose, within reason. While passengers with a drink package will want to take advantage of its benefits, it's important to remember your limits, as you don't want to get too intoxicated on your cruise, especially on the very first day! 

When drinking alcoholic beverages, especially in places like the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Mediterranean, it's important to drink water, as alcohol dehydrates you faster since it is a diuretic. Those who drink too much risk dealing with the negative effects of a hangover, including nausea and headaches, neither of which you want to experience while on vacation. 

While it's okay to indulge more than you usually do at home, don't push yourself too much. Know your limits and drink responsibly. 

Read more: Are cruise drink packages worth it?

Forget to turn off your cellular data

airplane mode

Before you pull away from the port, make sure that you've turned off cellular data on your phone. Roaming fees aren't cheap, and if you forget to turn on airplane mode, you may return to a shockingly large cell phone bill. 

Last summer, I went on a 7-night cruise onboard MSC Seashore. Because I was on a solo trip, I didn't want to be without service in any of the foreign countries I was visiting, including Italy, Spain, and France. Thankfully, my Verizon plan allows me to purchase individual day passes for $10. 

After returning from Marseille, France, I forgot to turn my cellular data off. Shortly after departing, I received a text message saying, "Welcome aboard. With INTL TRVL 50MB 1MO you get 50MB of data for $20.00 to use while on board." I had already paid for Wi-Fi, so I was a bit frustrated to realize my foolish mistake. 

Read more: 12 Annoying Mistakes I've Made on Cruises

Miss the sailaway party

Carnival Jubilee

The sailaway party is a hallmark of any cruise, as it signifies the true start of your vacation. While the nature of the parties varies based on which line you're sailing with, you don't want to miss this event! 

Make sure that you arrive a little bit before it's scheduled to begin, especially if you want to grab a cocktail from one of the nearby bars. As you might suspect, it's a popular activity that many passengers prioritize! 

Even if you don't want to be in the center of all the action, you won't want to miss watching the ship slowly pull away from the port and sailing into the open sea. 

Read more: 10 things I look forward to every time I go on a cruise ship

Skip meeting your cabin steward

Cabin Attendant

Like standard hotels, cruise ships are equipped with crew members, called cabin stewards, who essentially function as housekeepers. Their primary duties are to ensure that your cabin is clean and tidy throughout the voyage. However, they're responsible for more than that. 

In addition to making your bed, refreshing your towels, and emptying any trash, they'll also deliver important documentation to your cabin, including disembarkation and port-specific information. 

On the first day, you should take some time to introduce yourself. Not only does this help establish a working relationship, but it will ensure that you're able to get any requests met, such as a certain bed configuration or daily ice. 

Read more: Top 25 cruise cabin hacks to improve your stateroom's functionality

Go straight to your cabin


Speaking of your cabin, if you're one of the first people onboard, you should not assume that you'll have immediate access to your stateroom. Typically, cabins open up in the afternoon, usually somewhere around 1:00pm to 2:30pm.

Those who have an arrival time of 11:00am or so will have to enjoy lunch and explore the ship before dropping off their carry-on belongings.

If you plan on carrying a bit onboard, such as soda or limited quantities of wine, you may want to select a later arrival appointment, so you don't have to worry about lugging heavy items around.

Read more: Best rooms on a cruise ship

Wait too long to unpack


Cruise lines strive to deliver suitcases promptly. There have been many instances in which my bags have arrived before sailaway! Whenever I notice that they're outside my cabin, I immediately devote some time to unpacking. Though not the most exciting embarkation day activity, it ensures that I'm able to settle into my "home away from home" even faster.

It will also make getting ready for dinner easier, as you won't have to shuffle through your suitcase looking for your cosmetics for a quick touch-up or change of clothes.  

Don't forget that the best place to store suitcases is underneath the bed! That way, they won't take up valuable floor and closet space. Because they're able to be tucked away, it's even more important that you prioritize unpacking, as you don't want to have to constantly pull your luggage out.

Read more: Essentials to bring on a cruise

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