Cruise ships are, without a doubt, floating cities. They’re full of hundreds or thousands of people going about their daily routines while the ship travels from one port to another on an exotic adventure. But what happens when you disembark? Do cruise lines take care of everyone’s needs once they reach land? Or do passengers have to fend for themselves at the airport?
The 24 hours before you leave your cruise ship comes with a frenzy of instructions. That includes everything from assigning time for passengers to leave the vessel, giving them options on what they’ll eat when it’s time, and guidelines about luggage handling during this process.
For those staff members working both cruises together (which can happen often), there is even higher importance behind following these steps correctly because their turnaround day starts immediately after one ends. At the same time, another begins, meaning any errors made here could lead to complications later down the road.
When guests board, they often make new friends and explore the wonders of foreign locales with newfound enthusiasm. However, once they arrive in port, many travelers find little organization as far as getting off the boat goes.
The responses were mixed when we asked readers how long it took them to get out of their cruise ship after disembarkation (we’ll refer to flights rather than buses since most cruisers can catch public transportation within their destination). Some said it was no big deal; others reported waiting for hours before finally making it back home. Here are some of the best tips we received.
Disembarking On An Island In The Caribbean
“I’ve been on three different Carnival sailings, including two trans-Atlantic crossings, so I think I know what it takes to leave the ship.” says reader “Samantha.” We agree! Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your itinerary changes. If anything, you should be more prepared for this scenario than planned.
Most cruisers tend to book excursions well in advance, which means that other groups may have already left for less popular destinations by the time you get to shore. This leaves those who still need to go ashore scrambling to figure out where they want to go next.
There isn’t much Carnival does better than its Concierge services. Book online 24/7, pick up the phone, call any day of the week, talk to someone, and get whatever help you need. Samantha notes, “the concierges went above and beyond my expectations.
My flight got delayed twice due to the weather, and they found my gate agent for me. They even had a free lounge seat on my plane for me! All I did was show up late and say, “Hey guys – could you watch my stuff?” They helped me through TSA too!”
If Carnival wasn’t enough, here are additional suggestions courtesy of our readers:
Call the airline directly to see if extra seats are available. Sometimes airlines will sell these unassigned tickets to travel agents like yours truly, but only when they become available.
Call hotels locally ahead of time to reserve rooms. Many offer special packages with discounted rates if you stay several nights during your trip.
Get a taxi voucher early. There aren’t always taxis around waiting to transport passengers to airports. You might have to wait an hour or more until one becomes available.
In addition to the information provided by Carnival itself, here are some other helpful hints offered by our commenters:
Check out Tripadvisor reviews of previous cruises. See what other customers experienced and whether they recommend the line.
Don’t expect every terminal to look exactly alike. Different terminals handle luggage differently.
You won’t know where your car is located until you get there. Ask locals for directions to rental agencies on arrival. Also, check Google Maps beforehand before you set foot onshore.
Don’t rely solely on your passport. Always bring your ID. Even though you don’t usually have to present it on board, things happen, and sometimes security personnel asks to see proof of citizenship. Bring a driver’s license or something else, just in case.
Use Yelp and TripAdvisor to research restaurants, bars, and activities near your hotel. These sites also provide customer feedback and ratings.
Once you’ve landed, use Twitter to keep track of delays and cancellations.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Another commenter suggests contacting Carnival before departure to inquire about food options. Although Carnival offers plenty of dining choices, it tends not to prepare meals specifically for each guest. Instead, diners are grouped based on meal choice and ordered accordingly. However, the menu typically includes everything needed to satisfy appetites, from pizza to pasta to sandwiches.
While Carnival has made strides toward providing a smoother experience, it hasn’t eliminated all frustration. Other readers shared horror stories regarding sloppy baggage handling, slow service, and lost items.
One user reports that her bag didn’t appear until she arrived at her connecting point, and the bags weren’t appropriately sorted. Another mentioned that he waited 45 minutes for his room key and couldn’t locate anyone to assist him, leaving him locked outside for 30 minutes. Still, another claims that staff members stole money from his suitcase.
The good news is that these issues aren’t unique to Carnival. Our own Matt recently wrote about a list of annoying experiences on cruise ships. While most complaints are related to passenger behavior, some also involve poor management practices.
For example, Matt writes, “it seems like nobody knows where the bathroom facilities are located.” So, try to anticipate potential problems before boarding. Make sure to confirm amenities such as Wi-Fi access and gym locations. Check out ports of call ahead of time to familiarize yourself with what you’ll encounter when disembarking.
Use social media to follow updates about areas you plan to visit. Finally, patience is required when dealing with crowds and unexpected situations.
Airport employees may seem overwhelmed on days when large numbers of cruisers descend upon the area, but they work hard to ensure everyone gets safely onto planes. Airport officials receive training to deal with sudden traffic increases, especially during peak times like holidays when thousands of passengers fly out in a single day.
Ports Of Call That Require Transportation
Some ports require visitors to arrange transportation. Others offer shuttle bus services between specific locations. Knowing where to begin can save you lots of stress later. Readers suggest researching shuttles close to the port of debarkation. Look into schedules and prices before setting foot onshore. Depending on the size of the city, you may want to consider renting a vehicle instead.
Many ports offer organized tours. Find out which ones exist and speak to guides to learn about attractions nearby. Tour companies may charge fees to cover costs associated with running these types of operations.
GPS devices are valuable tools, but they can only tell you where to start. It’s easy to get turned around when trying to find your way to unfamiliar places. Always carry maps and a guidebook. Having a general idea of where you’re headed helps reduce confusion. You may also wish to invest in a portable navigation device (like Garmin).
As previously noted, it’s important to remember to pack light. Keep valuables and IDs separate from everyday possessions.
Many websites are designed to help travelers navigate unfamiliar territory for those planning trips abroad. From finding cheap flights to tracking down bathrooms, traveler review sites serve as ambassadors for various countries and regions worldwide.
It’s uncomfortable sitting for extended periods, and hunger pangs are inevitable. Plus, you never know how long the queue will be. Anita shares this handy tip: Pack snacks and drinks for long waits.
Finally, you may opt to rent a car. Be aware that driving conditions vary widely depending on location. Drivers must possess licenses appropriate to the country they’re visiting. International auto insurance coverage may be necessary. Gas stations, rest stops, and grocery stores can be few and far between remote areas. Local drivers can prove invaluable.