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I finally got to try Royal Caribbean's faster Express Boarding. It was so easy, but not everyone knows how to get it.

20 May 2024
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean quietly introduced a faster embarkation process at one of its cruise ports, and it promises to get you on the ship as fast as possible.

I got Express Boarding and it was so easy

Express Boarding first showed up in November 2023 on Freedom of the Seas as a test to prepare it for the arrival of Icon of the Seas in January 2024. When I sailed on Icon, I did not get the Express Boarding option, but I finally was able to get it for my 4-night Freedom of the Seas cruise.

There's no cost or "catch" to getting Express Boarding, but you'll need to complete a few pre-check-in steps in order to qualify for it.

If you do manage to get it, then expect the simplest terminal check-in process possible.

Express Boarding sign

Royal Caribbean's check-in has always been quite easy, so why is it necessary to even have an express option? Essentially, it rewards those that do everything they're supposed to do before the cruise begins and keep those people moving through the cruise terminal faster. That keeps lines shorter for those that didn't complete the steps, and rewards those that did.

For the time being, Express Boarding is only available for Royal Caribbean cruises sailing from Terminal A in PortMiami.

How Express Boarding works

Boarding Wonder of the Seas

When I completed my health questionnaire the day before my cruise, I was alerted by the Royal Caribbean app that I had qualified for Express Boarding.

The app made a big deal of it, showing virtual confetti and updating my SetSail pass to show I have Express Boarding.

Notification of Express Boarding

The instructions in the app was to bring all my travel documents and follow the signs for Express Boarding.

Once you get to the cruise terminal, look for the Express Boarding line.  It's one of the three "special" lines you can enter, in addition to the regular line.

Boarding lines

I showed the port agent my boarding pass, which had the Express Boarding icon on it and he admitted me in.

Lines welcoming guests
SetSail Pass with Express Boarding

When you get to the primary check-in area, there's a special line for those with Express Boarding. The idea is it's more of a checkpoint to verify you have everything.

Express Boarding sign

The agent scanned my Set Sail Pass and my passport, verifying everything was correct.

Read more: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

I was surprised she took my photo again, but I breezed through check-in with no line.

After being check-ed in, you essentially rejoin the regular flow of guests. I went through security and then went to the boarding area.  Freedom of the Seas had already begun boarding, so I never stopped walking.

In the cruise terminal

The process was very easy, and I went from being dropped off at the terminal with my luggage at 10:37am to boarding Freedom of the Seas at 10:43am. A total of 6 minutes, and that includes a quick check of my carry-on bag for a non-existent extension cord.

Even if you don't have Express Boarding, the check-in process is pretty quick.  The difference is you waste less time re-verifying things. Plus, your check-in line may be shorter with this option.

The only people that probably wouldn't care if they got Express Boarding are anyone staying in a suite, as there's a special line and check-in area for them.

How to qualify for Express Boarding

Miami terminals

There's no cost to get Express Boarding, you just need to complete a few key steps.

First, you must use the Royal Caribbean app to complete all steps of your check-in.  You cannot use the Royal Caribbean website. Keep in mind it's only available right now at Terminal A, so only Freedom of the Seas and Icon of the Seas offer it.

Boarding pass

Once in the app, you need to complete all the steps including scanning your passport.  You cannot manually enter information.

  1. Scan your passport
  2. Enter all personal and contact information
  3. Take a selfie photo and upload it
  4. Complete the health questionnaire 24 hours before your cruise begins

You won't see the Express Boarding option until you complete the health questions.  Assuming you did everything else, you should get confetti and a notification in the app that you qualify for Express Boarding.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost experts on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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