An inside guide to the biggest mistakes people make embarking – and how to avoid them
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
SMOOTH SAILING A positive mindset starts with the boarding experience. Do it right and you’ll be relaxing in no time.