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Things to do on embarkation day
The day you have been planning and waiting for has finally arrived – cruise embarkation day! You’ve traveled to your port city and been through the check-in process. Finally, you’re on board the ship, ready to set sail! However, you may have a few hours before you can get into your stateroom or get your luggage. With embarkation still potentially hours away, what do you do to fill the time? These traveler tips can help you enjoy your cruise even before the ship leaves the dock.
Use embarkation day to prepare
Explore the ship
Cruise ships are getting larger and larger all the time, and finding your way around makes it a challenge with so many decks and passageways. Why not take this time to acquaint yourself with the ship’s layout and learn the most convenient routes to dining, entertainment, and amenities? You can download maps of the ship in advance or ask for one at check-in. You’ll know your room number even if you can’t get into it yet, so start there. Most ships have a large formal dining area or ample theater space at the rear (stern) of the ship, exercise facilities or a spa near the front (bow), and retail shopping in the center (midship).
Cruise lines are constantly one-upping each other, so what you have on your ship may vary widely. Take the time to find out what is unique to your vessel (hint: ask a crewmember) and be on the lookout for quiet nooks to enjoy a book or a few hours alone. Keep in mind that the starboard (right) and port (left) sides of a ship may not be mirrored images, so don’t assume you can travel the same path on either side of the ship. Getting the lay of the land before you embark can save time and frustration later.
Most people book their shore excursions well in advance, and with some cruise lines, it is the only option available. But, for others, waiting until they are on board allows them to be sure of the weather that week and book tours accordingly. Cruise lines often change excursions at the last minute, and passengers cancel excursions for various reasons, so there may be a spot on that rafting trip you had your eye on after all!
If you are interested in visiting some out-of-the-way destinations not on the ship’s itinerary, the excursion staff is still the best place to start. They can tell you more about what destinations are popular and which to avoid, as well as offer advice on avoiding scams and which tour operators they trust. The excursion staff will be their busiest on embarkation day, so get to the desk as early as possible.
Book onboard amenities
There’s so much to do onboard cruise ships these days that you might never want to leave! Waiting for embarkation is the perfect time to visit the ship’s spa for a tour and to book the services that appeal to you most. Consider booking a vigorous massage after a strenuous excursion such as hiking or a weight-loss treatment near the end of the week to help counteract the fantastic desserts you are sure not to resist.
Stop by the salon to book a mani/Pedi and new hairstyle so you look your best for any formal dining plans. Each ship has unique amenities, including mini-golf, skeet shooting, and even ice skating, all of which require advanced registration. Use your time on embarkation day to learn what’s new and unique on your ship.
Make dining reservations
Most cruises offer either traditional dining, where everyone eats in the main dining room at one of two set meal times, or flexible dining, where you visit different restaurants throughout the ship. For relaxed dining, be aware that reservations are recommended and required if you want to dine at the most popular spots. While most cruisers make reservations in advance, visiting each option may change your mind about where and when to eat. You may also notice a particularly romantic table that is worth the wait.
Like excursions, cancellations happen, so check back often if you have your heart set on something that wasn’t available pre-departure. For traditional dining, embarkation day is the time to change your meal time between early and late if you are unhappy with your assignment. It would help if you also asked about the dining schedule for the week, as some cruise lines offer a mix of formal and casual nights. You might want to skip a casual night to order a pizza and dine al-fresco or rent a tuxedo for a formal night and live it up!
Take this time to relax
Hit the hot tub
You’ve been traveling a while, with lots of walking and standing lines – before you get on board. What better way to pass the time until your room is ready than relaxing in a hot tub? Because hot tubs tend to get crowded after you embark, day one is the best time for soothing sore muscles. Pack a bathing suit and sunblock in your carry-on, and you are ready for a soak: the ship will offer towels and a place to change. Sitting in a hot tub is also the perfect cover for those who enjoy people-watching, a great embarkation day activity because everyone is on the move!
Head to the bar
The sun is shining, breezes are blowing, and the excitement of a vacation lies ahead, but you’re still stressed out. Air travel, parking, and worrying if you left the iron on; can be challenging for some of us to relax and let go. Thankfully, cruise ships have specialists on board to help with the transition: Bartenders. Nothing helps to melt away stress like a colorful, fruity drink with an umbrella on it, with or without the alcohol. Visiting the bar before you embark allows you to meet the bartender and talk about the best things to do on the ship. You’ll likely meet some experienced travelers who can also make suggestions.
Grab a bite to eat
Your room may not be ready, and your luggage may not have arrived yet, but one thing is for sure: there is food to eat somewhere on board. Whether you prefer casual poolside dining or an intimate restaurant experience, your ship is sure to have plenty of options available. Dining is a big part of the cruise experience, so there’s no time like the present to get started. Popular eateries tend to be less crowded on embarkation day, so it might be your only chance to hit the hottest spot on board.
Enjoy the spa
Time in the spa can often book up during a cruise, but on embarkation day is generally pretty quiet. Head straight to the spa and see what is available immediately. It’s a great way to unwind, and since all you’ll need is a bathrobe, not having your luggage is no problem. You may even get a reduced rate for a service if you agree to be a model for arriving guests taking a tour of the spa. People will be staring as you relax without a care in the world!
Get some exercise
Cruise ships offer fantastic exercise facilities that rival the best gyms on land. As passengers start counting the calories they have collected at the buffet, it can get harder and harder to find available exercise equipment. Embarkation day offers the perfect opportunity to jump-start your workout routine and get to know the equipment and classes the ship provides. Working up a sweat helps to cut stress, allowing you to relax faster and get to sleep easier once the ship embarks and heads to sea.
So whether you choose to prepare or relax, you should consider embarkation day, the first day of your cruise. Please don’t waste time sitting and stressing over how long it is taking for your luggage to arrive; pack a few essentials in your carry-on and start enjoying yourself immediately!