Excited about your Royal Caribbean cruise? Usually, my cruise excitement is tempered a bit as I prepare for embarkation day – which can often be long and stressful. However, there are definitely some things to do to prepare for the day. Here are our Royal Caribbean embarkation tips for your first day.
We have been on complimentary media sailings on Royal Caribbean but have also paid our own way. This post contains affiliate links and a purchase/click through one of those links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.
Royal Caribbean Embarkation Tips for Your First Day
Before leaving for your cruise vacation, be prepared that it’s probably going to take a little time before you really feel like you are on vacation. Once you get these things out of the way, you are ready to have a great relaxing time on your cruise.
Check-In On the Royal Caribbean App
Most of the Royal Caribbean ships utilize the app, which is the best way for you to stay connected to all of the cruise happenings (in addition to the Cruise Compass). Well before your cruise, I recommend that you download the app and connect your reservations.
When it’s time to do online check-in on the app, you’ll be guided through the process. There are various things that you’ll need to input, including a front-facing photo of yourself, your passport information, credit card information, and your vaccine data. Each of your family members will need to check in with their information.
Once you do all of this, you’ll be able to choose your port arrival time. The boarding time does need to be followed, so make sure you choose the best time that will work for your travel plans.
I prefer to arrive early so that I can get the boring things out of the way and start my vacation. But if you can’t make an earlier time, it’s best to choose the most accurate time. You generally will have a 30-minute window to arrive. Keep in mind that you will need to fully pay for your sailing and complete your online check in before you are able to choose a port arrival time.
The day before you sail, the app will alert you when it’s time to complete your health questionnaire. You’ll also need to test before your sailing. Check the Royal Caribbean website for exact details on this since they are always changing and updating.
Organize All of Your Paperwork
Checking in at the port can be chaotic. You are usually wrangling multiple bags, kids, paperwork, etc. Because you’ll need to show them a variety of things, I recommend getting organized in advance.
I use a travel document organizer (here’s a reasonably priced option on Amazon.com) to keep all my cruise documents in one place. You’ll want to add medical documentation, passports, and test results so that you can access everything as you need it. Make sure that it’s in your carry-on bag and is easy to grab.
Once you are in your stateroom, you can store this in the safe. You may need some of the documentation on port days depending on the port, but it’s a good idea to keep these documents securely stored.
Pack a Day Bag
Once you give the cruise porters your luggage outside the cruise terminal, you won’t see it again until later. Bags are usually delivered in the late afternoon, but they can sometimes arrive after dinner if you have an early reservation time in the main dining room.
Packing your cruise day bag is important so that you have everything you need for your first day. You’ll want to include all of your valuables, medications, and documentation. If you plan on visiting the pool deck, you’ll want a bathing suit, sunscreen, and other pool essentials. You may also want to pack a dinner outfit, especially if you are going to dine in a specialty restaurant and arrive at the terminal in very casual clothes.
Remember that you will have to carry this bag with you until your stateroom is ready, which is often 1-2 pm. So, if you have an early port arrival time, you’ll want to make sure the bag isn’t too heavy to lug along as you will need to bring it along everywhere you go.
Prepare Your Luggage
Your luggage will contain everything else you need for your cruise. Porters are available curbside at the cruise terminal, and you can hand off your largest items to them. Remember to add an ID tag to your luggage, as well as the Royal Caribbean luggage tags. I like to use plastic covers to protect the printed bag tags (you can find them on Amazon here).
As you pack, you’ll want to review Royal Caribbean’s list of prohibited items on board. If you pack any of these items, they will be held for you at the cruise port to pick up after your cruise is complete.
If you arrive the night before your cruise, you may want to separate out your pajamas and the clothes you are going to wear on embarkation day. That way, you won’t have to dig through your packed luggage to get to the things you need.
Arrive the Night Before
Speaking of which, I highly recommend that you arrive the night before your cruise if you are going to fly. Flight delays and cancellations are always a risk, and staying overnight can help you avoid those risks.
When we traveled on the Odyssey of the Seas, we enjoyed our stay at the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel. It’s close to the port and was very comfortable.
After handing off your luggage, you’ll enter the port. There are several different checkpoints you’ll pass, depending on the specific port. You’ll have to go through security, show all of your documentation, and provide any additional information that is necessary. Then, you may need to wait before boarding the ship or will be guided on.
You will have to show your SetSail pass (which serves as your boarding pass) on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line app, so make sure your cell phone is fully charged and accessible. Once you reach your stateroom, your key cards will be on the door.
Do Your Muster Drill Early
Veteran cruisers know that the cruise ship’s security briefing can often be the most frustrating part of the sailing. However, one of the recent changes (called Muster 2.0) definitely makes the muster drill easier to do. On Royal Caribbean, you’ll need to watch a security video on the app, and then visit your assembly station to check in.
Unlike in past years, there isn’t a dedicated time to check in. However, it will need to be done before the ship departs. We recommend that you go to your muster station as soon as possible after boarding so that you can check it off your list and have time to enjoy exploring the ship.
Once your statement attendant brings your bags, you’ll want to unpack. There’s usually plenty of room for everything to be put away, and you’ll want your clothes to be as unwrinkled as possible. After unpacking, you can usually store your bags under the bed.
Book Things Onboard
While you can definitely pre-book and pre-purchase things like drink packages, soft drink packages, specialty dining reservations, an internet package, spa appointments, and shore excursions, these can also be purchased once you arrive. Typically crew members will be walking around and stationed in common areas so that you can make your purchase. You may also be able to book certain activities as well as entertainment once you are on the ship’s WiFi.
Keep in mind, however, that the most popular activities and restaurants do book up in advance. So if possible, reserve these in the Cruise Planner before the first day of your cruise.
If this is your first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship, you’ll want to do some research on the specialty restaurants available on your ship. These are not typically included in your cruise fare and have a separate cover charge. They are a great experience though, and if it’s in your budget, I’d recommend you go to at least one. A dining package is available if you plan to mostly dine at the specialty restaurants.
Explore the Ship
Royal Caribbean ships (especially the Oasis-class ships, like the Wonder of the Seas) are so packed with activities, restaurants, and more. So you’ll want to spend some time exploring the different things you can experience while onboard.
Once you’ve done these things, sit back and enjoy your cruise!