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Royal Caribbean check-in process

04 Jun 2019
Jenna DeLaurentis

Before your Royal Caribbean cruise vacation can begin, you must complete the check-in process. Although the multi-step process may seem difficult at first glance, it only takes a few minutes of your time both at home and in the cruise terminal.

Photo credit: AdamsAway

There are two parts to Royal Caribbean’s check-in process: the online check-in and checking in at the cruise terminal. Online check-in is the first step, and it’s where you’ll input your documentation and credit card information and select an arrival time at the terminal.

The second part is on embarkation day. Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, your documentation will be checked and you will pass through a brief security screening. Before you know it, you will be in the waiting area anxiously awaiting to walk onboard and start your vacation.

Here is everything you need to know to help you prepare for the Royal Caribbean check-in process.

How to complete Royal Caribbean online check-in

When can I check in online for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean’s online check-in process opens 45 days prior to your cruise departure date. We recommend that you put a notification on your calendar of the exact date check-in opens so you can complete the process as soon as possible.

Both the Royal Caribbean website and app will list the exact date that online check-in opens for your cruise. To view the date, simply sign in to your Royal Caribbean account and view your upcoming cruises. If your cruise does not show up on the website or app, link the sailing to your account by adding your reservation number and surname.

Documents needed to check in for a Royal Caribbean cruise

To complete the Royal Caribbean online check-in process, you will need the following handy:

  • Personal information for each guest checking in online
  • Identification document information for each guest checking in online
  • A picture of each guest checking in online (for security purposes)
  • Crown & Anchor Society Membership Number (if you are a C&A member)
  • Onboard expense account information (the credit card you will link to your onboard account)

You will need to input the legal name, birthday, and address of each person you are checking in online, so be sure to check (and double check) the information is correct before hitting submit.

In addition, you should have your identification documents handy when completing the online check-in, as you will need to input documentation information (ID number, expiration date, etc.).

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

The last thing to input is your debit or credit card information. While onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, you use your SeaPass card to make any payments as opposed to carrying around your personal debit or credit card.

Your SeaPass card will be linked with whichever card you input during the online check-in process. At the end of the cruise, your personal card will be charged the total amount of all purchases made onboard.

Selecting a check-in time

Another important step of completing Royal Caribbean’s online check-in process is selecting a check-in time.

All guests on a Royal Caribbean cruise select a check-in time, which indicates the time at which they can arrive at the cruise terminal on embarkation day. The earliest check-in times are usually around 10:30AM with the latest around 2:30PM.

You can select the check-in time yourself, but slots are reserved on a first come, first serve basis. Unsurprisingly, most guests hope to select the earliest check-in time possible for their cruise, which makes snagging one of these spots more competitive.

Related: 11 reasons to get as early a check in time as possible for your cruise

Snagging an early check-in time is the main reason we suggest keeping track of the day online check-in opens for your cruise. The earlier you start the check-in process, the better chance you’ll have at selecting an early check-in time.

Online check-in: Royal Caribbean website versus Royal Caribbean app

Although you can complete Royal Caribbean’s online check-in process on either the Royal Caribbean website or Royal Caribbean app, we suggest using the app for a few reasons.

First, you can use the Royal Caribbean app to scan your passport instead of inputting information manually. This can help save time, especially when checking in multiple members of your family or travel party.

Related: Royal Caribbean app walkthrough and tips

Second, using your phone instead of a computer makes uploading a security photo easier. You can take and upload a selfie photo directly from your phone to the app instead of having to transfer a photo to your computer first.

Lastly, by using the Royal Caribbean app, you can quickly select a check-in time without going through the entire check-in process. On the website, you must complete all parts of the check-in process before selecting a check-in time. The app allows you to select a check-in time first and complete the rest of the process later on.

What happens if I forget to do the online check-in?

The online check-in closes 48 hours prior to your sailing. If you forget to do the online check-in process before your cruise, you can complete it at the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

Obviously, we advise against waiting to check in until you arrive at the cruise terminal. Not only will it take much more time, but the online check-in process is so easy that it does not make sense to wait until embarkation day to check in.

What to do between completing the online check-in and embarkation day

After completing the online check-in 45 days before your cruise begins, you still have a while to wait before the start of your cruise vacation. However, there are a few things you can do to prepare for embarkation day in the weeks leading up to your cruise.

Reserve travel and hotel arrangements

Hotel with shuttle

We recommend that you make travel and hotel arrangements several months before your cruise, but if you haven’t made arrangements a month before your cruise begins, it’s important to do so as soon as possible.

If you’re flying to your cruise port, be sure to arrive the night before your cruise begins to allow extra wiggle room in the case of flight delays and cancellations. Arriving the day before means you will have to book a hotel in your embarkation city, and it’s best to do this sooner rather than at the last minute.

Here are some of our best hotel recommendations in popular cruise ports:

Those driving to their cruise should research parking options and the best routes for getting to the cruise port. We prefer parking directly at the cruise port for convenience, but you may find cheaper parking options in the port’s surrounding area.

Research your ship and ports of call

Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral

It’s helpful to research your cruise ship and itinerary before your vacation begins. In the months leading up to your cruise, research your ship’s activities, entertainment, dining venues, and layout so you’re better prepared once onboard.

One of the easiest ways to become familiar with your cruise ship is by watching a ship tour on YouTube. These informative tours provide a full walkthrough of your cruise ship, allowing you to learn about everything the ship offers.

Having an idea of what is offered on your cruise ship helps make sure you don’t miss out on any unique activities and programming during the sailing, whether trying the indoor skydiving simulator or watching an AquaTheater show.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

In addition to researching your cruise ship, spend time learning about the ports of call on your itinerary. Researching shore excursion options, the top things to do in each port, and information about local culture and cuisine can greatly enhance your time on shore during the cruise.

Complete the health questionnaire

All passengers must fill out a health questionnaire before boarding a Royal Caribbean cruise. This questionnaire asks if you have had any symptoms of illness within the past 10 days, including nausea, a sore throat, cough, and muscle aches.

The questionnaire aims to ensure all passengers onboard are healthy, thus lessening the risk of a contagious virus spreading onboard. Answering yes to any symptoms on the list could possibly result in the denial of boarding.

The health questionnaire can be completed in the Royal Caribbean app. You will receive a notification the day before your cruise stating that the health questionnaire is ready to fill out. If you forget to fill it out, you will be asked the questions in person once in the cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean cruise embarkation day check-in process

New Galveston terminal

The day has come and it’s time to board your Royal Caribbean cruise. Completing the online check-in is an important first step toward boarding your cruise, and the check-in process continues once you arrive at the cruise terminal.

Moving thousands of passengers through the cruise terminal and onto a cruise ship is a massive undertaking. Luckily, Royal Caribbean has streamlined the process to make it as seamless as possible for passengers.

Nonetheless, it’s helpful to know how the check-in process works at the cruise terminal to ensure you’re as best prepared for embarkation day as you can be.

Arriving at the terminal

Galveston terminal drop off

You should arrive at the terminal at your scheduled check-in time on embarkation day. Most cruise terminals adhere to scheduled check-in times, although it’s possible you can arrive earlier and be admitted into the cruise terminal.

There are several ways to arrive at the cruise terminal on embarkation day. If you’re driving, we recommend arriving early to ensure you can find a parking spot and beat the traffic. For those who flew to their cruise departure city, an Uber or Lyft is your best option for traveling from the airport or your hotel to the cruise terminal.

Related: How to get to Royal Caribbean’s cruise terminals and how much parking will cost

Regardless of transportation method, make sure you are traveling to the correct cruise terminal! Some cities may have several different cruise terminals, and they may even be located miles away from each other. Confirm the terminal address via the Royal Caribbean website or by looking through your cruise electronic documents, which is a PDF sent to your email prior to your sail date.

Some ports, such as Port Everglades and Port Canaveral, use digital signage at the port to indicate which terminal you should go to to board your ship.

Dropping off luggage with the porters

Galveston terminal luggage drop off

Before entering the cruise terminal, drop any suitcases and heavy luggage with the porters. Porters work at the cruise terminal to take your luggage and deliver it to the ship. This frees you of having to lug suitcases onboard yourself, which makes the embarkation process much easier.

Each piece of luggage you give to the porters must have a luggage tag which tells crew members where to deliver the suitcase on the ship. You can print and attach luggage tags at home or you can wait until you arrive at the cruise terminal, where a porter will write the correct information on a luggage tag and attach it to your suitcase.

Luggage tags are found in the eDocs (electronic documents).

Have your identification documents and SetSail Pass in hand

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After dropping off your luggage, the next thing you should do is take your identification documents out of your carry-on bag. You will need to show these documents several times in the cruise terminal, and having them ready as soon as you enter the terminal can speed up the check-in process.

Additionally, have your SetSail Pass ready to scan on your phone (or a printout). Your SetSail Pass acts as a boarding pass to board your cruise ship, and you can find it on the Royal Caribbean app under the Check-In tab.

Entering through the correct line

Galveston terminal entry

There are several lines to enter the cruise terminal through, and it’s important to make sure you enter through the correct line.

If you are staying in a suite, look for the suites-only line, as this line will be quicker than the standard boarding line. Those who purchased The Key—a cruise add-on that allows for priority boarding—should look for the tall blue sign indicating the entrance for Key guests.

All other guests must enter through the standard boarding line.

Documentation and security checks

Galveston terminal security

Each cruise terminal has a slightly different layout, but it’s likely you’ll be asked to show your SetSail Pass and identification documents several times throughout the boarding process.

Depending on the terminal, you may be required to show your SetSail Pass at the cruise terminal entrance. Once inside the terminal, you will enter an additional line to have your identification documents and SetSail Pass checked by cruise terminal employees.

Because of this, it’s helpful to keep your passport (or other applicable ID) on hand at all times until you have finished the entire check-in process. This helps avoid taking your passport in and out of your bag several times in the cruise terminal.

You are also required to go through security in the cruise terminal. Fortunately, security screening for a cruise is not as intense as TSA at the airport (yes, your shoes can stay on!) and it only takes a few minutes.

Boarding the ship

Galveston terminal

Once you go through security and have had all documentation checked, you may encounter a brief wait in the cruise terminal until you can board the ship. This is more common for those with the earliest check-in times, as the ship may not have opened the gangway for passengers yet.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be waiting for long, though, and there are plenty of chairs to stay comfortable as you wait to board. As soon as your group is called for boarding, get your SetSail Pass ready, have it scanned once exiting the terminal, and walk onboard your cruise ship to kick off your vacation.

Do your eMuster drill

eMuster on phones

Before heading immediately to the pool deck for a rum and coke, you have one more check-in task: completing the eMuster drill.

Every guest must complete a muster drill before a cruise ship can set sail. This safety briefing ensures passengers know what to do and where to go in case of an emergency onboard, and it consists of three parts:

  • Watching a life jacket safety video
  • Listening to the emergency horn sound
  • Going to your muster station onboard

The first two steps can be completed on either the Royal Caribbean app (in the Safety tab) or on your stateroom’s television. The third step must be completed in person on the ship. Your muster station is indicated in the Royal Caribbean app and on the back of your cabin’s door.

Congratulations, you’ve completed the Royal Caribbean check-in process!


After completing the online check-in, getting through the cruise terminal, and checking off all three steps of the muster drill, it’s officially time for your cruise vacation to begin.

If the check-in process seems overwhelming, we promise it’s not nearly as difficult as it may seem. Once you arrive at the cruise terminal, there are dozens of workers available to answer any questions you have. Plus, the terminal is full of helpful signage indicating where to go.

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect, you’ll be prepared with documents in hand and an early check-in time, which should make the process even more efficient. Overall, it should only take around 10-15 minutes to complete the online check-in and around 30 minutes to an hour to go through the cruise terminal.

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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