5 Things to Expect at the Cruise Pier

By Sarah Phillips

I remember the very first time I arrived at a cruise pier. We’d flown into Miami for a trip on the Carnival Elation. We could see the 3 ships in port for miles away and I could NOT believe just how big they really were! I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the pier, so I put together some basic info of what to expect when you arrive.

1. Luggage Check

As soon as you open the car door, you’ll find a porter offering to take your bags. The porter will whisk them away and you’ll see them again in a few hours outside your cabin door.  Because your bags are checked so quickly upon arrival, there are two things you can do to ensure smooth sailing. First, make sure your cruise issued luggage tag with your cabin and name are on your luggage ahead of time. Second, have cash handy to tip the porters (the usual tip is $1-2 per bag).

2. Security

Think airport security, but much happier. You can generally keep your shoes and belts on here, but expect any and all carryon bags will be scanned and you’ll walk through the normal screening devices. In fact, pretty much anytime you get on the ship for the length of your cruise, expect to go through a security screening.

3. Check-in

To expedite check-in (aka get on your ship faster), have your documents in hand ready to go. You’ll need your cruise documents, your passport (or applicable document) and your credit card. The lines for check-in look deceptively long, but stay alert – they move fast! Some cruise lines and ports have started to install automated check-in, but for the most part, you’ll still check-in with a representative.

4. Photographs 

Cruise ships have entire decks dedicated to photographs taken during your cruise. And the photo madness starts before you even leave land. On your way to the ship, you’ll most likely pass the cruise line photographers waiting to snap your happy vacation face. For my first four cruises, I complied and smiled begrudgingly at the camera. Now, I just politely decline, skip the line and head onto my ship.  To take a photo or not is up to you, but know you’ll have to pass it to get onboard.

5. Vacation 

This is why you’re really at the pier anyway, right? It’s time for vacation. Cross that gangway, get your first drink and get ready to sail away for the vacation of a lifetime! Remember, you’re on vacation – no dishes, no cleaning and no work. Enjoy it!


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