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9 Things To Do As Soon As You Board A Cruise Ship


Stepping on your cruise ship is an exciting feeling. Though you might be hours from sailing away, your vacation has officially begun! Amidst all the excitement, however, there are a few important things that you'll want to cross off your embarkation day to-do list. 

Even though it's the first day of your trip, there are some logistical things that you need to take care of before you can completely transition into vacation mode. Forgetting could lead to unnecessary stress and disappointment later on, whether it's not being able to dine at a specific specialty restaurant or missing out on important safety information during the muster drill. 

Here are 9 things you should do as soon as you board your cruise ship to help ensure smooth sailing. 

Make dining and entertainment reservations

NCL specialty dining

One of the first things you should do when you get onboard your ship is finalize all of your reservations. From specialty dining to theater productions, spa treatments, onboard activities, and more, the longer you wait, the fewer choices you'll have. 

My partner and I, for example, were on the fence about booking specialty dining for our 5-night cruise onboard Celebrity Reflection. In the end, we decided it would be worth the splurge; however, there were very few times available for Tuscan Grille, so we ended up with an 8:30pm reservation on the last night. 

Similarly, you'll want to make sure that you make reservations for shows and onboard activities. Whether it's a Broadway-style musical, cooking demonstration, or wine tasting, securing your spot as early as possible ensures that you won't miss out on any experiences that you've been looking forward to. 

Read more: 16 hidden cruise ship extra charges you should know about

Complete your muster drill

Celebrity Muster Drill

Before your ship is able to sail away, all guests must complete the required safety drill, which is meant to familiarize passengers with certain protocols in the event that there's an emergency. Today, many cruise lines have transitioned to a virtual muster drill, allowing guests to watch safety videos on their own time before reporting to their assigned assembly station. 

While it's understandable that you'll be eager to start your vacation, you'll want to take some time to watch all of the videos and visit your station as soon as possible. That way, you do not have to worry about it right before the sailaway festivities begin. 

Those who forget to complete the muster drill will be tracked down by the ship's crew members and given another opportunity to fulfill this important safety requirement. Guests who don't complete it face being kicked off the ship

Connect to the ship's Wi-Fi


Typically, my service gets pretty spotty when I step on a cruise ship— my phone has even entered SOS mode inside my cabin before, so I connect to Wi-Fi as soon as possible. If you board and realize you forgot to pre-purchase it, you can often get it right through the app. If not, you'll want to seek out the connectivity desk before a line forms! 

Speaking of Wi-Fi, you'll also want to put your phone on airplane mode, so you don't have to worry about remembering in the middle of the sailaway party. By turning off cellular data as soon as possible, you eliminate the risk of accidental data usage and roaming charges, which could result in a hefty bill upon your return home. 

Read more: Do cell phones work on cruise ships?

Grab a bite to eat

MSC Cruises food

Though unlikely, you shouldn't forget to squeeze lunch into your embarkation day schedule. The buffet is the first stop for many, which means it's pretty crowded during peak boarding times. 

You can either wait until later in the afternoon or consider eating somewhere else onboard. On Carnival, for instance, you can choose from BlueIguana Cantina for some delicious made-to-order tacos or hit up Guy's for a juicy burger. 

Some ships may even have a specialty restaurant open if you're looking for a laid-back lunch. On my upcoming Quantum of the Seas cruise to Alaska, my dad and I decided that rather than venture up to the Windjammer, we'd prefer to start our vacation with a leisurely lunch at Jaime's enjoying some fresh pasta and other Italian treats. 

Read more: 11 Things You Should Never Do on Embarkation Day

Cross off any must-do activities


After you've finalized your reservations and finished your muster drill, consider trying out the popular activities onboard. Since guests' arrival times are scattered, there will be fewer people in line for things like the surfing simulator, roller coaster, go-karts, and more compared to sunny sea days

Plus, crossing off these must-dos early on ensures that you aren't left disappointed later in the cruise if they're closed to inclement weather. 

For instance, when I sailed on Carnival Celebration, I reserved BOLT for the final day of the cruise. To my surprise, it was closed for the first half of the day due to strong winds. Had I not made an early reservation, I would have missed out on this unique opportunity, as they wouldn't let anyone else reserve time slots for the evening. 

Read more: 31 cruise ship embarkation tips and tricks

Inspect your cabin 


Unless you have a later arrival time, you shouldn't plan on heading straight to your stateroom. Typically, cabins become available around 1:00pm or 2:00pm, as cabin stewards need enough time to thoroughly clean them between sailings. 

As soon as you're able to enter your room, though, take some time to inspect it. Is anything, for example, broken or missing? If so, you'll want to make sure that the stateroom attendant is aware, so they can resolve the issue(s) as soon as possible. Speaking of your cabin steward, when you introduce yourself to them, you'll want to make any special requests, such as a specific bed configuration, daily ice, additional towels, etc.  

Moreover, becoming familiar with the layout of the cabin and locating certain features, such as the safe, mini-fridge, and storage spaces, will help you begin your cruise on a comfortable note, allowing you to settle into your "home away from home."

Read more: 16 Things To Do As Soon as You Get to Your Cruise Cabin

Register your children for the kids' camps 


Part of the reason cruising remains a popular vacation choice for families is the complimentary youth programming. While parents are enjoying a cocktail on the adult-only sun deck, children are kept entertained by the trained staff, enjoying supervised activities like scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, video game tournaments, and more.

For children to be dropped off, though, they must be registered. On embarkation day, the youth clubs will hold an open house, allowing parents to check out the facilities and complete any necessary forms. 

Stopping by the youth clubs relatively early in the day ensures that children can begin enjoying the programming and making new friends as soon as possible, giving parents some much-needed alone time.

Read more: 5 Kids' Cruise Lines the Whole Family Will Love

Explore the ship


Dedicating some time to getting a lay of the land on the first day is important. This will prevent you from getting lost later in the cruise. You'll feel like a pro being able to navigate from your cabin to all the onboard amenities, whether it's the Main Dining Room, lido deck, adults-only sun deck, or karaoke bar. 

You never know when you'll stumble upon a hidden gem, either. When I was sailing on Symphony of the Seas, it took me a few days to discover the alcoves on the running track, which were home to ping-pong tables, comfortable seating, and amazing ocean views away from the crowds on the top deck. 

Check out the app to see what activities are going on

Carnival Jubilee

Embarkation day is full of ship-sponsored events, from general trivia to live music on the lido deck. It is the first day of vacation, after all! To ensure that you do not miss any fun activities, check the ship's app as soon as you're connected to Wi-Fi (This is available to those who don't purchase an internet package, too!). 

Typically, you can scroll through the lineup for the entire cruise, so you can begin scheduling your time onboard and prioritize experiences you don't want to miss. 

Whether you're looking forward to themed deck parties, original production shows, or live music, getting an idea of what's available and when will help you maximize your enjoyment and take advantage of everything the ship has to offer. 

Read more: 40 Fun Things to Do on a Cruise Ship

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