First Time Cruiser Series: Get Checked In

As we chronicle our experience of getting ready to go on a cruise, there are a few steps that can be easily overlooked in advance that can lead to chaos in the final days. This article outlines some of the miscellaneous things to keep in mind during your preparation. We will talk about the cruise line’s apps and the check-in process.

Downloading the App

Before you leave home, you’ll want to search your phone’s app store for your cruise line’s app. It’s best to download this while you still have a reliable internet connection. Carnival’s app (Carnival Hub), for example, is nearly 100mb. On cruise ship WiFi, you’ll be home before it finishes downloading! For cruise lines like Carnival and Princess, you can really plan as you go once you board the ship. You’ll even be able to see your onboard spending account once you connect to the ship’s WiFi. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian give you access to your booking information ahead of time so you can familiarize yourself with activities onboard. You’ll want to make your reservations for shows and dining no later than the end of the first day of the cruise as time slots and seats fill up quickly.

Cruise tip: Planning out your week ahead of time can be a stressful experience for first-time cruisers – and even regular cruisers – as you attempt to figure out what you’re going to do on night 6 of your sailing. Grab yourself a drink or ice cream cone for this task and try to take a couple deep breaths before the scheduling sprint.

Required Documentation

Once you’re all paid and counting down the days until your cruise, there’s one more big step that you’ll need to take: you have to check-in for your sailing. As you get closer to your cruise sail away, you’ll need to make sure that everyone in your party has a valid passport (the passport must remain valid for at least six months past the end of the cruise). However, if your cruise begins and ends within the United States, you have several additional options. Keep in mind that if a picture is not present on a specific document, the traveler must present a valid photo I.D.

U.S. Citizens can show proof of citizenship with a birth certificate issued by a government agency along with government-issued photo identification. It is always best to check with your travel agent and/or cruise line to confirm what exactly is required for your sailing, including the ports of call you’ll be visiting.

“Proper travel documentation is required at embarkation and throughout the cruise. Even though a guest has completed registration using Online Check-in, it is still the responsibility of the guest to present the required travel documents at the time of embarkation. Guests should check with their travel agent and/or government authority to determine the travel documents necessary for each port of call. Any guest without proper documents will not be allowed to board the vessel and no refund of the cruise fare will be issued. Carnival assumes no responsibility for advising guests of proper travel documentation.”

Checking In

The check-in process across the various cruise lines are different, so we’ve outlined a few of the major lines here. For the most accurate information, just do a quick google search to find out when check-in begins for your cruise line.

Cruise LineCheck-in As Early AsCheck-in No Later Than
Carnival14-days before sail awayMidnight, the night before the cruise
CelebrityVaries based on status and package3-days prior to the cruise
Norwegian21-days before sail away3-days prior to the cruise
Princess Cruises75-days before sail away24-hours before the cruise
Royal Caribbean45-days before sail away48-hours before the cruise

As part of the check-in process, we strongly recommend linking your credit card with your on-board account. This makes purchases a breeze and allows everything to settle to the card on file at the end of the cruise. This also avoids waiting in long lines at guest services, signing documents, or worse, delaying the process of getting off the ship.

Note: The check-in process for your specific cruise line will walk you through the process of linking your card via the web if available. Not all lines allow you to do this ahead of sailing.

What’s Next?

Come back next week for the details about how to get to the embarkation port and what to expect on the first day!

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