As the saying goes – all good things must come to an end. We never look forward to the end of our cruise however it’s an unavoidable reality we all face after what has been a great and memorable holiday.

While disembarkation day is generally a sad and hectic day for most guests, there are some key things you can do to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible. From ensuring that your paperwork is correctly filled out to listening to announcements, we have compiled some of our favourite tips to ensure the end of your cruise doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Settle your onboard spend account early

On the morning of your last full day aboard (the day before you disembark), pay a quick visit to the Guest Services desk and request a print out of your onboard account.

Then, take the time to go through it carefully to ensure no nasty account surprises or charged have popped up prior to disembarking. It will also give you a chance to ensure any surplus cash paid onto your account can be refunded without delay, as guest services have been known to periodically run out of cash on disembarkation day.

If you’re paying with cash, settle your account and ask guest services to then associate a credit or debit card to your account for any final day purchases and to ensure you aren’t cut off from a few farewell drinks or some last minute shopping before heading home.

Staffed pretty much around the clock, the Guest Services staff are there to help you with anything they can.
Staffed pretty much around the clock, the Guest Services staff are there to help you with anything they can.

Attend the disembarkation talk

Even if you’re an experienced cruiser, have cruised on that ship before or arrived into your disembarkation city before, each “turn around” day as cruise lines call it, can be different.

Based on the planned arrival time of your ship, different disembarkation schedules may apply; sailing specific policies and procedures may be different to your last sailing or other arrangements may be in place for your disembarkation. It is therefore quite important to attend any disembarkation talk hosted by your Cruise Director as it will provide an thorough and clear insight into the easiest and most hassle-free way to disembark your voyage.

This briefing will also give you handy tips and tricks to ensure you and all of your luggage disembark the vessel at the right moment and are quickly reunited.

Be careful to fill out your disembarkation paperwork correctly

After your cabin steward has finished cleaning and setting your room on the day before you’re due to disembark, it’s highly likely you’ll return to find luggage tags, customs forms and other paperwork to facilitate your departure.

When these forms arrive asking you to think about how you’re going to leave the ship, pay very close attention to the options you’re selecting. Inadvertently selecting the wrong option – or selecting options different from your travelling companions can lead to a world of hurt, stress and confusion the next day.

Cruise lines allocate limited spaces to each group, so making an incorrect selection initially will most likely see your group split up.

Filling out all paperwork correctly will ensure you aren't left with a self induced headache.
Filling out all paperwork correctly will ensure you aren’t left with a self induced headache.

Respect the disembarkation process and listen to announcements

Disembarking a cruise ship requires a certain level of military precision. It really is like herding cattle – the line needs so many people all moving together at the right time and in the right direction to ensure the process runs as efficiently as it can.

If you are not self-disembarking and carrying your own bags off the ship, you will be allocated a group number. It is then imperative that you adhere to this staggered process.

If you disembark prior to the allocated time for your selected group, you will most likely find your luggage is still on the ship and you’re in a state of limbo. Maritime regulations mean you are unable to go back onto the ship as you have cleared immigration, but you also can’t proceed back into the outside world without your luggage.

It’s also of paramount importance to listen to announcements and to watch any information screens which will detail which group is being disembarked at any one time.

Think about where you’re going to wait

If you have any type of mobility issue which hasn’t already been advised to the cruise line, you will need to consider that the ship’s elevators, stairways and passageways will be full of guests and their luggage.

It can be quite dangerous in fact, as there are plenty of opportunities for you to be bumped, knocked over or inadvertently hit by a person or their possessions. Moving to a lounge or bar near the gangway to wait until your group is called will ensure you are out of the way and minimising the chances of being tripped over or made uncomfortable in any way.

There's no need to rush. At a predetermined time, your group will be called to an orderly departure from the ship.
There’s no need to rush. At a predetermined time, your group will be called to an orderly departure from the ship.

Leave notes on your door handle

Before going to bed on your final night, one handy hint is to wrap a note around the cabin door handle. On this note, detail anything that you might not see as you leave your room, but can’t leave out in the open.

These might be things such as medications, toiletries in the bathroom, or even checking the safe – it should generally appear on this note, with the idea being you then use it as a pseudo checklist to ensure you have cleared every nook and cranny in your cabin.

Look at options other than the buffet for your breakfast

Most people automatically default to the buffet or another casual eatery for breakfast on the final day, but many passengers don’t realise that often, one of the main dining rooms is serving some type of breakfast menu.

Additionally, guests staying in suites or one of the other higher tiered accommodations may find one of the speciality dining venues exclusively open for their use on disembarkation day. These tranquil havens, shielded from the disembarkation chaos outside, are a great way to kill some time or enjoy a more relaxed breakfast if you’re waiting for one of the later groups.

The main dining room is often an option for breakfast on and can provide a more relaxed environment than the buffet.
The main dining room is often an option for breakfast on and can provide a more relaxed environment than the buffet.

Write your phone number on your children

Yes you read that right – write your phone number on your children.

With up to 5,000 passengers disembarking a ship such as Ovation of the Seas during each turnaround day, it’s no surprise children can sometimes get lost among the crowds – particularly if one parent thinks the other has the child.

Writing your phone number on their arm or hand will ensure port staff can quickly get in touch with you should you get separated from your child. It’s also handy if you’re disembarking in a city like Sydney, where you may need to walk a little bit to your transport options such as the train station or bus stops.

Look for a porter

If your cruise ends in a foreign port – particularly in the United States or Europe, look for a porter. These strong burly people will happily help you with your luggage for a tip, which can be well worth it, and will save you struggling with all of your bags.

In addition, shelling out some currency for porter assistance will often gain you access to the express lines, which are in use to ensure these porters can get back and help more guests as quickly as possible. This great time saver will generally set you back about US$2 per bag but can save you hours in lines throughout the terminal.

What are your tips for making disembarkation as smooth as possible? Leave a comment.