7 Tips for a Stress Free Cruise Disembarkation

No one likes the last day of a cruise. We show you how to reduce the stress of cruise disembarkation with these seven helpful tips.

7 Tips for a Stress Free Disembarkation

No one likes when a cruise is about to end. The dreaded last morning of your cruise is probably the worst day of your vacation, but unfortunately, you will need to leave the ship at some point. Don’t let this disembarkation process make matters worse on this already sour occasion. Here are our 7 tips for a stress free cruise disembarkation.

7 Tips for a Stress Free Cruise Disembarkation

Repack Your Bags Over the Week

A great time saver is to start repacking your bags over the course of the week. We repack items after using them, especially dirty clothes, in one of our suitcases. Many cruisers also swear by using packing cubes to help organize clothes during packing and repacking. Take some time each evening to put away items that you no longer need. Waiting until the last night of the cruise is a recipe for headaches, arguments, and inevitably leaving something behind in the cabin. Do be sure to re-check the cabin on the final morning to ensure you didn’t forget anything.

7 tips for a stress free cruise disembarkation

Use the Self-Checkout Option

Most cruise lines offer capable cruisers the ability to walk off the ship first. This “self-checkout” option means you will have to be able to carry your luggage off the ship. We always do self-checkout, and it is usually a huge time saver. On many occasions, we have literally walked right off the ship and been on our way to the airport in less than 30 minutes. If you do elect self-checkout, we suggest leaving as early as possible. This time varies from one cruise line to the next and from one port to the next, but it will be announced once you are allowed to start disembarking. Leaving early will ensure the shortest lines. If you are unable to do self-checkout, you will need to put your luggage outside on the previous evening and wait until the number on your luggage tag is called. You will not be able to leave until that designated time.

Be Sure to Settle Your Account Before You Leave the Ship

If you have linked your onboard charges to a credit card, you will want to ensure that you check the bill before leaving the ship to ensure accuracy. This can usually be done on the TV or the smartphone app if applicable. Some cruise lines will also leave a printed copy of the bill outside your stateroom door the evening before disembarkation. If not, you will want to go to Guest Services to obtain a copy to make sure all the charges are accurate, as it will be almost impossible to dispute them once you are home. If you have decided to pay for your purchases in cash, you will also want to ensure your account is settled before you head to the gangway or you will be flagged and not allowed to leave until you are paid in full.

Have All Required Documentation on Hand

Currently, the U.S. Customs process is being revamped. It appears that in most ports, cruisers no longer have to complete the U.S. Customs declaration form unless they are returning with more than $800 of merchandise. Either way, make sure to complete all the paperwork the night before. Also, be sure to have your cruise card and passport in hand when exiting the ship. You will need to use your cruise card to scan off the ship for one final time. You will then need your passport to go through customs. So, keep the disembarkation process flowing smoothly by have all documentation in hand instead of digging through your belongings to find them.

Avoid the Buffet for Breakfast

Many cruise lines still offer room service continental breakfast for free or have cafe-type options for some quick grab and go breakfast treats. Either way, save yourself some time and aggravation on the morning of disembarkation and skip the buffet. Inevitably, there will be long lines and little to no seating at the buffet as everyone on the ship is trying to get one last meal before heading home. Stay ahead of the crowds by grabbing a quick snack and making your way to the gangway to disembark.

7 Tips for a Stress Free Cruise Disembarkation

Opt for Private Transportation

Avoid the buses and shared vans on the morning of disembarkation. Instead, arrange for private car transportation. You do not need to pay an arm and leg for this service. In fact, share ride services like Uber and Lyft are “private” options for a very affordable price. Lately, we have been able to secure a ride within 5 minutes of leaving the Customs area. This ensures that we are not waiting on others passengers to fill up a bus or van.

Schedule Your Departing Flight at a Reasonable Time

Delays can happen during disembarkation, so be smart when planning return travel. There is nothing worse than waiting in line on the ship and hearing the people next to you say that they have a flight to catch in an hour. We don’t like waiting at the airport either, but we most certainly would prefer waiting in the airport with WiFi and Starbucks, than having the headache of trying to reschedule a missed flight. We usually avoid booking any flight before noon time.

No one wants vacation to end, but do not add undue headaches and stress to your disembarkation by not planning ahead. With our 7 helpful tips, your cruise disembarkation will be efficient and carefree. This will give you more time to begin planning your next cruise vacation!


Do you agree with our tips for a stress free cruise disembarkation? How do you make this inevitable process more efficient? Drop us an anchor below to share your helpful hints.

7 Tips for a Stress Free Disembarkation

7 Tips for a Stress Free Disembarkation

7 Tips for a Stress Free Cruise Disembarkation
Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
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4 comments on 7 Tips for a Stress Free Cruise Disembarkation

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  1. My husband and I are going to Alaska in May. So glad I ran across this on tips for the cruise, especially on leaving that morning, had not even thought of these tips!… We have never been on a cruise before, so this is a whole new experience for us! But we are Super Excited!!

      We are glad you found us too Phyllis. You will have a great time in Alaska. We went on an Alaskan cruise in 2014 and are returning to the region this year. Let us know if you have any questions. We appreciate the comment.

    HI DB and Princess. I happened upon your site over the weekend and it couldn’t be more perfect timing. We are cruising on the Norwegian Escape this Saturday and loved reading all about your experiences on the ship. Thank you!

      Thanks Paula for the comment. Glad to hear you found our NCL Escape information useful. We would love to hear about your trip!!