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9 Things To Do As Soon As You Board A Cruise Ship

31 May 2024
Calista Kiper

Once you get onboard a cruise ship, every moment counts.

First-timers especially need to be mindful of their next steps—whether it's your first cruise, your first vacation with Royal Caribbean, or your first time onboard a particular ship.

When you first step up the gangway, there will be an overwhelming amount of new sights and sounds.

The following hours will be some of the most important of your cruise, setting the tone for the entire vacation.

If you don't do some things within your first few hours onboard, you'll risk ruining your ideal cruise.

Line of people waiting to get inside the terminal in Galveston

A mistake during embarkation day could delay the ship from leaving port or cause you to lose your place at a specialty dining venue.

From meeting your stateroom attendant to completing the muster drill, here are the top 9 things you should do as soon as you board a cruise ship.

Read more: 25 things you need to know for your first day on a cruise ship

1. Find your muster station

Royal Caribbean's e-muster allows you to complete the majority of the safety process online.

Anytime before boarding on embarkation day, you can navigate to the safety section on the Royal Caribbean's app to view the muster drill lessons.

First, watch a short video on how to put on the lifejacket. Then, listen to the sound clip of the emergency horn sound, which shows you how to identify it.

The last step happens in person, once you get onboard the cruise ship.

eMuster process

As soon as you can, locate your muster station, which will be assigned according to your stateroom location and indicated on the SetSail pass. You can also see the location of the muster station on the app.

At the muster station, you and your party will check in with a crew member.

They will scan your SetSail or SeaPass to ensure that you've completed the e-muster drill.

Crew member emuster

Read more: Royal Caribbean: "we have no intention of moving back" to old muster drill

After this, you're finished with the muster drill!

This is an essential step to do as soon as possible because the vessel cannot leave until every passenger has completed the muster drill.

2. Explore the ship

Royal Promenade

This is one of my favorite tips for orienting yourself to a new cruise ship.

Especially on Royal Caribbean's larger vessels, such as the Oasis Class and above, you should get the lay of the land right away.

Start by exploring different neighborhoods, or simply travel the decks from bottom to top and bow to stern.

Harmony of the Seas pool deck and Central Park

This will make your entire cruise go more smoothly. You'll know where to find activities and venues right away, and you won't become one of those lost souls staring desperately at the maps in front of the elevators.

This is something I make an effort to do as soon as I get on board and finish the e-muster.

In fact, on the one cruise I did not tour the ship right away, I later found out that I missed an entire section of the ship—the part that held Schooner Bar!


I ended up neglecting several days of fun activities and nightlife, all because I hadn't explored the ship beforehand.

Read more: I've never been on a cruise, but spent a week researching what I need to know. My top 11 important lessons I think I learned

3. Eat lunch

Windjammer on Icon of the Seas

If you're ready for a bite to eat when you get onboard, there are plenty of dining venues to try.

For complimentary lunch, more cruisers prefer the Windjammer, which has a varied buffet of food and drink options.

There's certain to be a dish for everyone, but it will get crowded around lunchtime on embarkation day.


For less-crowded complimentary venues, you can look for Park Cafe, Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, Sorrento's Pizza, or El Loco Fresh.

Guests who have purchased The Key can dine in the Main Dining Room, where they'll receive a free specialty lunch from Chops Grille.

Some specialty restaurants onboard will also have their doors open for lunch on embarkation day.

You won't need to make reservations beforehand, so these venues will be first-come, first-served.

You can dine at Playmakers, Sabor, Johnny Rockets, Giovanni's Table, Jamie's Italian, and Chops Grille.

4. Check on your stateroom 

Royal Caribbean

When I get onboard a cruise ship one of the first things I do is check on the status of my stateroom.

Not only do you get to tour the room while it's all clean and fresh, but you also can set down your carry-on bags instead of lugging them all over the ship.

It's also worth going to your stateroom to check when it will be open.


Since staterooms are usually being cleaned from the last cruise of passengers, they aren't open right away on embarkation day.

A sign will inform guests when they can expect to access their staterooms; usually around 1:00 or 1:30 P.M.

Once the staterooms are open, you can grab your SeaPass card outside the door and use it to enter. 

Just like at the airport, when you go straight to the gate to confirm its existence, checking on your stateroom is an essential task when you first get onboard a cruise ship.

5. Change your clothes

Now that you've entered your clean stateroom, you'll also have a chance to change out of your travel clothes.

I usually wear long pants and sneakers for the boarding process, when I expect to be on my feet for at up to an hour.

But once I get onboard and the vacation has truly started, I want to change into shorts and sandals right away.


Those travel clothes can get sweaty and dirty, and start to feel uncomfortable onboard the cruise ship.

Since your larger luggage usually won't be delivered at this point (bags arrive later in the afternoon), this is one reason why we recommend you pack a change of clothes and a swimsuit in your carry-on bag.

Read more: 15 things to pack in your cruise carry-on

6. Meet your stateroom attendant


On your first day of the cruise, you should also make it a priority to meet your stateroom attendant.

Your cabin attendant is responsible for cleaning and restocking your stateroom once a day (twice for suites). 

Read more: 16 things to ask your cruise ship cabin attendant

Typically, they will stop by your stateroom on embarkation day to try to introduce themselves. 

They will ask what time you prefer to get your room cleaned, usually a morning or afternoon time slot.

I find this to be a key moment for embarkation day—you'll want to choose a time that works for your schedule.

Read more: Why you should get your cruise cabin serviced in the evening instead of the morning

Don't forget to also learn their name, so you can properly thank them for the work they'll do.

7. Make reservations

Unlimited dining package in Cruise Planner

If you've purchased a specialty dining package, such as a 3-Night Dining or Unlimited Dining Package, you'll need to make your venue reservations once you get onboard.

You can go to any specialty restaurant to request your reservations. 

Just keep in mind your top picks and the times you'd prefer to dine.


We recommend doing this as soon as you board the cruise ship so that it's early enough to get your desired reservations.

Specialty restaurants can fill up fast, especially on Royal Caribbean's larger ships.

When I sailed on Wonder of the Seas, I rushed to book specialty dining as soon as I boarded and still had to be put on a waitlist for Izumi Hibachi.


Royal Caribbean has announced that guests will soon be able to book specialty dining through the online Cruise Planner. 

At the time of this article, that has not yet been made available.

8. Switch on airplane mode

Airplane mode

Now that you're onboard, don't forget to switch your phone to airplane mode.

If you've purchased VOOM WiFi, this is a great time to log in and get your devices set up.

If not, you can connect to free ship WiFi which allows you to access the Royal Caribbean app.

ebook reader

Either way, you'll need to keep your phone on airplane mode as the ship begins to sail away from land. 

Keeping your phone on a cellular network will rack up insane roaming charges. 

9. Join the sailaway party


With all your logistics taken care of, it's time for the cruise vacation to begin!

Royal Caribbean ships will have a sailaway party as the ship begins to leave shore.

You can find information on the Royal Caribbean app or your Cruise Compass, but it usually takes place in the early afternoon on the pool deck.


A live DJ will play music, while crew members encourage everyone to dance and party.

Nearby bars will be open, with waiters taking drink orders around the deck.

It's an infectious moment of fun and the perfect way to set the tone for your cruise vacation. 

Read more: The best spot for sailaway on every Royal Caribbean cruise ship

9 things to do as soon as you board a cruise ship

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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