CHECK-IN CHECK­LIST

An in­side guide to the big­gest mis­takes peo­ple make em­bark­ing – and how to avoid them

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM CRUISING - PE­TRA O’NEILL

Check­ing in for a cruise should be a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence, with wel­com­ing staff to take care of your bags, usher you through the cruise ter­mi­nal and as­sist with get­ting you checked in and on­board. In the­ory that’s how it should be, but things don’t al­ways go to plan. Work­ing in the in­dus­try has given me an in­sider’s take on cruis­ing and the mis­takes that can hap­pen.

CUT­TING IT TOO FINE

With cruises de­part­ing in the late af­ter­noon you wouldn’t book a flight with an af­ter­noon ar­rival time un­less you were look­ing for trou­ble. Worse still, con­sider if the flight is de­layed.

But there I was at the air­port for a meet and greet anx­iously wait­ing for Michaela S. to trans­fer her on to the ship. She emerged at 2.10pm in­sist­ing she needed to touch up her makeup and buy a few mag­a­zines.

“Re­ally?” I protested. At 2.45pm she did a dou­ble take of her bright pink suit­case be­fore yelling: “This is not my suit­case!” Her bright pink suit­case was lo­cated still spin­ning around on the lug­gage carousel. We ar­rived at the cruise ter­mi­nal with only min­utes to spare. That night she filed a com­plaint say­ing the cruise line did not prop­erly ad­vise her of the need for an ear­lier flight, and her trans­fer guide was overly stressed.

If you are fly­ing to join a cruise, have time up your sleeve. Bet­ter still, ar­rive a day or two be­fore­hand. You’ll be re­laxed, ad­justed to time zone dif­fer­ences, and ac­cli­ma­tised – all es­sen­tial for a pos­i­tive mind­set for when it’s time to em­bark.

CHECK, CHECK, CHECK

Tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for your own bags and mak­ing sure you have ev­ery­thing with you seems like a given. Then again, take Ge­orge W. of Townsville who flew to Syd­ney be­fore re­al­is­ing he’d left his med­i­ca­tion bag on the kitchen ta­ble. No op­tion for Ge­orge but to fly back home.

Or the fam­ily who ar­rived at the cruise ter­mi­nal re­al­is­ing they were one bag short, left on the back seat of the taxi. Lucky for them the taxi driver re­alised and de­liv­ered it to them just in time.

PACK THOSE BAGS RIGHT

When you ar­rive at the cruise ter­mi­nal, drop off your bags with lug­gage tags fas­tened and strength­ened with tape so they can’t tear off. Be aware that peo­ple can have items con­fis­cated that in­clude irons, hair dry­ers, cof­fee mak­ers, can­dles, drones, ex­ten­sion cords and power boards. Hand over ev­ery­thing but your valu­ables, es­sen­tial med­i­ca­tions, break­ables like your wine bot­tle (pro­tected in a spongy padded bag if al­lowed on board) and your cruise doc­u­ments.

Given your cabin won’t be avail­able un­til the af­ter­noon, you’ll want to ex­plore the ship with­out lug­ging wheelie bags around.

GET­TING CHECK-IN RIGHT

While ev­ery­one seems to ar­rive all at once be­tween noon and 1.30pm, Celebrity Cruises Aus­tralia and New Zealand man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Adam Arm­strong of­fers this ad­vice: “Big­gest mis­take guests make at check-in? I would say ar­riv­ing out­side of their al­lo­cated check-in time.

“We know ev­ery­one is keen to get on board and start their hol­i­day – per­haps to take a dip in the pool or re­cline on the real grass on Celebrity Sol­stice – but with 2800 guests to board, it’s just not pos­si­ble to get ev­ery­one on early.

“All guests are al­lo­cated a board­ing time when they check in on­line and stick­ing with that time helps en­sure a smooth, ef­fi­cient board­ing process.”

As you en­ter the cruise ter­mi­nal have your on­line check-in doc­u­ments ready to show, your pass­port open at the photo page and a pen handy to fill in the health ques­tion­naire that will be handed to you. It’s likely you will need to queue for some time so if you have mo­bil­ity is­sues, re­quest wheel­chair as­sis­tance – but let the cruise line know be­fore­hand.

Also, if you are en­ti­tled to pri­or­ity check-in say so, and you’ll be di­rected to a line with min­i­mal wait time.

Check­ing in should be easy but slip-ups do hap­pen.

What was meant to be a sur­prise cruise to cel­e­brate their mum and dad’s 50th wed­ding an­niver­sary turned sour when Dad’s pass­port was found to have ex­pired. No one thought to check. Dad waved his ex­tended fam­ily off.

Or el­derly Betty and Barb, friends since pri­mary school. To go over­seas, Barb asked: “Should I have brought my pass­port or will a driver’s li­cence do?” I strongly sug­gested as one of the check-in agents for that cruise, “Bet­ter get your pass­port, Barb.” Af­ter a $300 taxi ride they re­turned wav­ing the pass­port tri­umphantly.

You’ll be asked to pro­vide your credit card to cover on-board ex­penses. If oth­ers are trav­el­ling with you, con­sider who will be linked to your ac­count. Also, choose to be charged by your bank, rather than the con­ver­sion rate of­fered by the cruise ship.

The check-in agent will take your photo mi­nus sun­glasses and hat. You will be given a board­ing card for ac­cess­ing your cabin, get­ting on/off the ship and for your on-board ac­count. Have a lan­yard ready and at­tach it.

If a child is trav­el­ling with you and you’re not their par­ent, have a per­mis­sion let­ter from the child’s par­ents signed by a JP. Nieces and neph­ews, grand­chil­dren and school friends have all been sub­jected to fran­tic hours spent in the cruise ter­mi­nal wait­ing for their par­ents to ar­rive with the signed let­ter.

YOU’RE ON HOL­I­DAY – RE­LAX

When you ar­rive at the cruise ter­mi­nal, there may be queues and de­lays to board­ing, which can hap­pen. Af­ter check-in, you’ll pro­ceed through Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, on to the gang­way, and then you’ll be on-board.

The hap­pi­est guest I’ve ever checked in was an el­derly man, Brian B. His doc­u­ments were in or­der but he was trav­el­ling light, car­ry­ing only a bat­tered old Glo­bite school case and wear­ing his py­ja­mas with a jacket on top and slip­pers.

“Mate, you haven’t done a run­ner have you, you don’t have a lot of stuff.”

“Slept in, just grabbed my tooth­brush and not much else,” he said, with a twin­kle in his eye.

A SUR­PRISE CRUISE TO CEL­E­BRATE MUM AND DAD’S 50TH TURNED SOUR ON FIND­ING DAD’S PASS­PORT EX­PIRED

PIC­TURES: SUP­PLIED

SMOOTH SAIL­ING A pos­i­tive mind­set starts with the board­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Do it right and you’ll be re­lax­ing in no time.

BEST DRESSED

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