When you’re on a cruise, of course, you want to take advantage of every last minute onboard. There’s nothing worse than wasting precious vacation time waiting in long lines. We’ve put together the following helpful tips so you can make the most of your next cruise!

Embarkation Day

Credit: Shutterstock

First and foremost, the government requires you to complete your online check-in at least four days before your cruise. Online registration typically opens up anywhere from up to 90 days before you sail. Be sure to have all the required documentation ready when you arrive at the counter. Most cruise lines start embarkation at 11:00 AM. Plan on arriving between 10:00 AM and 10:30 AM to avoid crowds. Instead of spending the afternoon waiting in the terminal, you could be soaking up the sun or sampling the buffet on board! If for some reason you can not get to the terminal early, you are better off arriving later in the afternoon; between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM. Remember, in most cases you can’t get into your cabin immediately (check with your cruise line for more information), so be sure to have your day bag packed.

Ports

Credit: Shutterstock

When you arrive at port, you may be tempted to rush off the boat, but everyone has the same idea. Enjoy your breakfast or coffee and wait an hour or so until the crowds die down. People requiring assistance, priority members, and those who book excursions through the cruise are first to get off the ship. Give yourself at least an hour buffer when returning to the ship. You never know what unexpected circumstances may arise.

Debarkation

Credit: Shutterstock

A few days before debarkation, you will receive a letter explaining the disembarkation process. If you travel light, with only a carry-on, you’re in luck. “Walk Off,” or passengers who do not have luggage, will be the first group called to disembark. If you have luggage, you will need to place it outside your door the night before. Be sure to have a day bag with clothes, toiletries, medications or anything else you need for the day. You will be assigned a color-coded number and time to disembark. Avoid lingering in halls and stairwells which get overrun with passengers who are in a hurry to get off the ship. If you don’t have to catch a flight, enjoy relaxing on the deck or savoring the last few minutes of your vacation in one of the public areas until the crowds thin. For an additional fee, some ships let you stay on board up to 90 minutes before the next cruise departure. It’s a great way to have a nice lunch or take a dip in the pool! If you have to catch a flight, be mindful of the amount of time it takes to search for your luggage among the masses in the terminal. To easily spot your bag, tie a ribbon around the handle.

With the proper planning, you can maximize your fun on board and minimize dreaded wait times.