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Royal Caribbean boarding process walkthrough

30 May 2024
Calista Kiper

What do you need to do before getting onboard a cruise ship?

Boarding Process for a cruise

Boarding a Royal Caribbean ship is different from other boarding processes, like on an airplane.

You're not just getting ready to ride a mode of transportation, but also entering your home for the length of the cruise.

There are a lot of moving pieces to ensure that passengers get on safely and quickly.

In general, you can expect embarkation day to go smoothly, and run a lot quicker than at an airport.

However, that doesn't mean it doesn't take preparation and effort to embark on your cruise.

If you're concerned about what to expect, this guide serves as your walkthrough of the entire boarding process.

From your online check-in to stepping onto the gangway, here's how embarkation day works.

Read more: How long does it take to board a cruise ship?

Check-in online

About 45 days before your cruise, check-in will open online.

Royal Caribbean’s app and website provide an efficient guide to checking in online. 

Similar to how airlines provide online check-in, you can prepare for your cruise completely online.

Simply create an account on the app or website, and use your information to prepare for the cruise.

Check-in signs

Check-in will involve entering identifying information, scanning your passport or ID, and taking a security photo. 

You will also add an emergency contact (someone who is not traveling with you) and a payment method for any onboard expenses.

Online check-in closes 48 hours before embarkation day. 

You can still check in at the terminal, but it is ultimately quicker and easier for you to complete it online.

Choose an arrival time

Once check-in is completed, you can choose an arrival time to enter the terminal.

The arrival times will be listed in half-hour slots, usually ranging from 10:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.

These arrival times are first-come, first-served, so the earlier you check-in, the more time slots will be available.


Most cruisers prefer to select the earliest time slot offered, as it gets them onto the ship faster.

Read more: 15 Royal Caribbean boarding process tips for a fast embarkation

Complete the health questionnaire

Health questions

The health questionnaire, also known as the wellness check, will open on the app the day before the cruise.

A notification will pop up on the screen, and you can open up the wellness check by clicking on it.

These health questions vary depending on the requirements of the port you’re sailing from, but you should be sure to answer them truthfully.

Being dishonest can delay your boarding process or expose others to disease.

Gangway to cruise ship

The questions at North American ports usually involve some variation of the following:

  • Will you be 23 or more weeks pregnant at any point in your cruise?
  • Have you experienced any of these symptoms within the past 24 hours: Fever Chills, Muscle Aches, Fatigue, Sore Throat, Nasal Congestion, Runny Nose, Cough, Difficulty Breathing, New Loss of Taste or Smell, Nausea, Vomiting, or Diarrhea?
B2B setsail passes

After completing the wellness check, you'll have access to your SetSail pass, the digital pass that allows you to enter the ship on embarkation day.

From here, you can add it to your Apple Wallet, Google Wallet, or Samsung Pay for quick access.

If you are completing check-in on the Royal Caribbean website, you can also print out your Set Sail Pass.

Arrive at the port and hand off your luggage

Now you've reached embarkation day!

In preparation for smooth boarding, we recommend getting to the cruise port the night before your cruise.

That way, any traffic or delayed flights won't affect your expensive vacation.

As you reach the cruise port, remember to check which terminal your ship is located at. Royal Caribbean uses 1-2 different terminals, depending on the port.

Terminal A

When you arrive at the terminal, you will see porters outside accepting luggage.

If your bags already have printed luggage tags on them, you can simply hand them off.

If not, the porter will be able to add luggage tags that tell staff where to deliver your suitcases.

Luggage in the terminal waiting to be picked up

Porter services are free, but passengers are expected to tip $1-5 per bag.

After handing off your larger luggage, make sure that you have your travel documents readily available.

This will ensure a speedy boarding process when you enter the terminal.

Enter the cruise terminal and go through security


Next, enter the cruise terminal to begin boarding. Make sure that you enter the right queue for your stateroom—usually, there is a separate line for suites and a standard line.

After entering these lines, you will go through a series of security checks.

The number of security checkpoints varies depending on the terminal. 

At each one, they will usually check your passport or ID and your SetSail pass (located on your phone or printed).

Terminal A check in

Next, passengers go through a security scan. This operates much like the TSA checkpoints at an airport, but it is a little less intense.

You won't have to take off your shoes or take out liquids.

Simply send your carry-on bags through the X-ray scanner and walk through the magnetometer.

Port Canaveral line

After this security check-in, you'll go through one less documentation checkpoint.

Here, staff will take another security photo of you if the one on the app seems outdated.

After this, you'll be good to board the ship!

Complete the e-muster

Crew member emuster

After you board the cruise ship, don't run off for a cocktail immediately.

Every passenger has to complete a safety drill, called a muster drill before the ship can leave.

The first part of this muster drill can be completed on the app anytime on embarkation day.

You'll watch a tutorial on how to put on a lifejacket and listen to a sample of the emergency horn.

For the second part of the muster drill, you'll need to find your muster station and check in with the staff there.

You can find your muster station on the app or your SetSail Pass.

If you have any further questions, Royal Caribbean staff will be everywhere onboard, ready and able to help you.

Royal Caribbean boarding process walkthrough

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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