You can be among the first on your cruise ship with VIP access.

It’s Day 1 of your cruise holiday and more than likely, you are beside yourself in anticipation at being able to get onboard and kick back for several days of caring about nothing except which bar or coffee shop your next beverage is coming from.

A natural inclination therefore is figuring out how you can find a way to get onboard as quickly as possible. After ensuring everybody in your travelling party has the right documents to completing your cruise line’s online check in process before arriving at the port, there are a range of ways you can expedite the process.

There is also one surefire way to see you embark your voyage even quicker – gaining access to the special VIP Express Line. It’s hard to miss them as they’re all over the cruise terminal with the priority treatment beginning at the terminal doors where a red carpet greets the cruising elite.

But how do you access these special lines? We’ve taken a look at your favourite cruise lines to give you some insight into how you can jump the queue before your next voyage.

Royal Caribbean

The different tiers of Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society.
The different tiers of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society – some of which offer priority ship embarkation.

Royal Caribbean is one of the most generous when it comes to offering priority check in and boarding, with guests eligible to use the special Gold and Emerald priority check in from as early as their second cruise with the line. Additionally, guests in all suites (except junior suites) are entitled to join Diamond level guests in the Diamond priority line. Guests requesting special embarkation assistance can also use the expedited check in lines.

Carnival Cruise Line

If you’re hoping to take advantage of priority embarkation on voyages with Carnival Spirit or Carnival Legend (or any of the line’s ships for that matter), you’ll need to book a suite. Additionally, Platinum and Diamond members of the “Very Important Fun Person” (VIFP) loyalty program are eligible for priority check-in.

Suite guests travelling with children who themselves might not be eligible to take advantage of priority check in can have their children join them in the priority line. However, these guests will be asked to stick to the assigned check in time chosen on their boarding pass.

If your Carnival cruise is taking you further afield to any of the line’s home ports in North America, you can also purchase “Faster to the Fun”, a unique program entitling you to priority boarding, early access to your stateroom on embarkation day and even allowing you to choose what time you disembark at the end of your cruise. Program pricing starts from USD$49.95 per stateroom – NOT per person – one price covers everybody in your cabin. As yet though, “Faster to the Fun” isn’t offered on Carnival Legend’s departures from Honolulu.

P&O Cruises Australia

A Penthouse on Pacific Eden
If you’ve booked the Penthouse on Pacific Eden, you will definitely be among the first onboard on sailing day.

As one of the few cruise lines currently lacking a loyalty program of its own, P&O’s priority boarding lines are actually a little more exclusive than those of its competitors. Access is limited to guests staying in Suites on Pacific Dawn, Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden and Pacific Explorer and Mini Suites on Pacific Jewel, while in a new development recently announced, the first 100 bookings made per voyage will receive priority embarkation and VIP access to tender boats – giving you an extra reason to book P&O as far in advance as you can.

MSC Cruises

A line with Italian culture ingrained in its DNA, priority guests aboard MSC sailings are treated like royalty, with numerous staff on hand to escort VIP guests through the check in process. This is open to guests staying in Suites, those booking the Aurea pricing tier, Black-tiered members of MSC Voyagers Club and those in the MSC Yacht Club. In fact, Yacht Club guests will be escorted by their private butler to ensure a speedy and private embarkation process.

On selected sailings from South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, guests can pay a fee to access the expedited boarding lines. Costs for this service vary and interested guests should contact MSC or their travel retailer for additional information.

Princess Cruises

The Royal Princess Suite on Princess Cruises brings multiple perks including front-of-line boarding.
The Royal Princess Suite on Princess Cruises brings multiple perks including front-of-line boarding.

Princess operates a series of “preferred” boarding lines throughout its boarding process. Guests holding Platinum-tier status or above in the Princess Cruises Captain’s Circle loyalty program and those booked in suites, except mini suites, will automatically receive special green boarding passes which inform port staff of your VIP stature and that you’re entitled to be whisked through and onboard quickly.

Additionally, those entitled to this preferred check in process should also receive special bag tags to ensure your luggage is delivered in the quickest possible manner.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Like Celebrity, Norwegian can be another which can sometimes seem to have more people in the priority lines than not. Expedited boarding is actually open to all members of the line’s Latitudes loyalty program – all of them. Additionally, those who have booked a full-size suite, accommodation in The Haven or a Penthouse can check in at a special VIP embarkation lounge set up shoreside. It seems like it would be faster to board at regular speed.

This exclusive check in zone is pure luxury before you even board, complete with canapés and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy while embarkation formalities take place.

Holland America Line

Guests in suites and five-star Mariners Society members can enjoy priority boarding on Holland America Line.
Guests in suites and five-star Mariners Society members can enjoy priority boarding on Holland America Line.

With a higher number of suites than most of its competitors, Holland America Line is rather restrictive in who is able to join the priority lines. All suite guests are entitled to enjoy the perks of priority embarkation, along with 5-star members of the line’s Mariner Society.

It’s important to note that this policy can be amended with little notice. Selected sailings can tend to see larger numbers of these 5-star Mariners onboard, which may result in priority check in being restricted to suite guests.

Celebrity Cruises

American line Celebrity Cruises – operators of one of the largest ships in Australian waters in Celebrity Solstice – runs a fairly complicated process when it comes to priority boarding.

Guests staying in Aqua and Concierge class suites are all entitled to priority check in and expedited security passage, with each having their own separate line. On top of this, Captain’s Club members holding “Select” status or higher are entitled to the same, which can actually sometimes lead to a bit of a line-up in the very lines designed to avoid this.

Have you enjoyed priority embarkation on any of your voyages? Tell us all about it.

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