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Royal Caribbean's Stress Free Boarding Process


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I've had an opportunity to cruise a few cruise lines during this 2021 cruise restart.  All of them have been with reduced capacity.

Having recently encountered two terrible boarding day procedures I've got give credit to Royal Caribbean for implementing the best boarding day process I've experienced.

On those other lines it took hours for me to board the ship.  Neither of them improved the muster drill routine to a notable extent.  For both the other cruise lines their boarding day process cast a dark cloud on the start of my cruise vacation and in both cases it took a few hours after finally getting on board before it felt like I was on vacation.  Even then I felt exhausted and didn't feel like doing very much on the first night.

Contrast that with Royal where I was car to cabin in 20 minutes.  Upon boarding I was free to grab a bite to eat and a beverage then I could visit my muster station at my convenience for a one-on-one safety briefing that took less than 60 seconds.   

Upon boarding Royal I immediately felt like I was on a cruise vacation.  It was like I got an extra cruise day to enjoy.  I was quickly into vacation mode and it was all stress free.  

I will say people arriving before their appointed time is a problem on all cruise lines.   Don't be that person.  If you arrive before your time you are part of the problem and you deserve the long wait times you will encounter.  However once you are allowed inside the terminal there is no excuse for the other cruise lines to make boarding such a stressful and lengthy process.  

Hat's off to Royal for creating the best boarding day process.

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2 minutes ago, Matt said:

What do you think is the aspect of boarding other lines struggle with the most?

I feel like the other lines haven't put any effort into looking at the process with fresh eyes.  

Instead they put up signs to wear a mask and have put more hand sanitizing stations in the terminal but that's about it.  Even then that's the port doing that, not the cruise lines.

For muster in one case they made it a longer process with more standing in long lines.  For the other they immediately directed me to go to muster upon boarding with my carry on luggage.  Do not pass Go, do not collect a beverage.  Sit and wait for enough guests so they can perform a safety demonstration and only then are you free to start your vacation.  I feel like their "new" restart procedures were developed by an outside agency that has never cruised before.

Royal put a lot of effort into rethinking boarding day when they created Oasis class.  They had to in order to manage the higher passenger count.  All ships benefited from that reimagining the process.  For the cruising restart I feel like Royal once again took a deep dive into the boarding day process and spent some time to look at it from the moment you step out of a car or off a bus including the muster process. 

On those other lines I feel like they haven't invested very much effort into looking at the boarding day process.  It's like they think of the cruise starting once you are on the ship.  "Boarding sucks and it was will always suck and that's just the way it is.  That doesn't matter because the cruise only begins on the ship and not a minute before.  We have no control over what happens in the terminal before the cruise begins".  

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Boarding the Oasis in Port Liberty was a breeze! Just like you...car to ship 20 minutes or less. More than enough port workers who knew what they were doing. Clear, friendly, welcoming and all on the same page. No confusion. I particularly appreciated the emails in the day or two before warning guests to NOT come before their assigned time or they would be turned away. I think they were very effective. And the new muster procedure via the app is absolutely amazing! Kudos to Royal!!!!

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3 hours ago, twangster said:

On those other lines it took hours for me to board the ship.  Neither of them improved the muster drill routine to a notable extent.  For both the other cruise lines their boarding day process cast a dark cloud on the start of my cruise vacation and in both cases it took a few hours after finally getting on board before it felt like I was on vacation.

What is this "other cruise lines" you speak of?

image.png.43cf874e324b64b323bc63928900f8fa.png

 

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1 hour ago, spursfreak21 said:

So are more people carrying their luggage on the ship since you can go straight to the cabin? vs waiting for the luggage to be delivered? Any observations around this?

Not really seeing much change with luggage.  On short 3 & 4 night cruises more people carry on.  It's always been that way.  

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2 hours ago, Aulayan said:

Sadly, due to my strategic error in flying in the morning of, I will be showing up early.  Carrying luggage to restaurants or sightseeing with luggage is...not a fun thing.  I won't expect early entry.  More like hanging out nearby with a phone/tablet.

https://luggagehero.com/?lh_expID=Kv6a4vdUQgWwD6SHo-TNmg&lh_varID=0

Not sure where you are cruising from but this is a cheap option if you have a desire to do some sight seeing.

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13 hours ago, Aulayan said:

Sadly, due to my strategic error in flying in the morning of, I will be showing up early.  Carrying luggage to restaurants or sightseeing with luggage is...not a fun thing.  I won't expect early entry.  More like hanging out nearby with a phone/tablet.

Have to agree with you here. We fly to all sorts of different ports for boarding cruises and arrive at as many different times. 

I try sometimes to book flights that arrive sometime around noon, but it usually does not work out that way. Problem is, if you book a flight for noon to one pm or so, and there is any kind of delay, you risk not making it in time. Ideally I would normally like to arrive at the dock about 2 pm and avoid the rush. That's cutting it close to boarding time if your flight is delayed for any reason.

Sometimes that certain flight that gets you there at that special time is a pile of money MORE. 

Sorry twangster, I will be that guy. I can't see the added chores and expense of finding bag storage for a couple hours in Orlando, FLL, Newark, Tampa, Galveston, etc., etc.  I will try though !😃

Could fly in a day early, lets add another couple hundred for room and meals. Flight could be more or less?

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7 hours ago, 12thman said:

Thanks for the link. Didn't know there was such a thing. Have you used this service?

I have, I used it in Chicago.  Very easy to use, book online and drop off the luggage....usually it is in another business and you would never know they also store luggage, sometimes it is a hotel even.  We were going to do this after our cruise this coming week as our flight is at 8p but I just asked the hotel that we are staying at pre cruise and they will keep for us, so I will just tip generously.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/20/2021 at 3:17 PM, Aulayan said:

Sadly, due to my strategic error in flying in the morning of, I will be showing up early.  Carrying luggage to restaurants or sightseeing with luggage is...not a fun thing.  I won't expect early entry.  More like hanging out nearby with a phone/tablet.

You can drop your luggage with a porter, as long as it has your RCL bag tags.  Then go outside of the terminal and explore until your boarding time!

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So is suite class not allowed to show up an hour early? I was planning to show up an hour early because we are in a suite and we will also have to wait while my daughter is tested and then for the results…I’ve heard it adds about an hour to the boarding process. 

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In regards to all the people showing up early...is it badly impacting the rest of us? Does it clog up the line or are they just causing a lot of people waiting outside? Clear lines for each boarding time or are you in kine with people whose time is well after tours?

Sorry for all the questions! Just trying to manage expectations in Miami in nov!

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6 minutes ago, Marlena said:

In regards to all the people showing up early...is it badly impacting the rest of us? Does it clog up the line or are they just causing a lot of people waiting outside? Clear lines for each boarding time or are you in kine with people whose time is well after tours?

Sorry for all the questions! Just trying to manage expectations in Miami in nov!

We cruised from Miami in August and they had lines of people based on boarding times.  There were people there 3 hours before their time and it did clog up the front of the terminal.  
 

I understand that even with the best planning you may arrive early,but 3 hours means you just didn’t follow then protocol.

 

we actually arrived about 30 minutes before our boarding time. We had a party of 7 staying at a hotel on Hollywood Beach, and scheduled a transfer with Larry’s Limo service. The service arrived a little early and then there was like zero traffic to the port and we were there early.  Not much we could do about that. It’s a hard game to try and schedule your ride so you’re there on time and don’t miss your window.

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45 minutes ago, Reigert2008 said:

We cruised from Miami in August and they had lines of people based on boarding times.  There were people there 3 hours before their time and it did clog up the front of the terminal.  
 

I understand that even with the best planning you may arrive early,but 3 hours means you just didn’t follow then protocol.

 

we actually arrived about 30 minutes before our boarding time. We had a party of 7 staying at a hotel on Hollywood Beach, and scheduled a transfer with Larry’s Limo service. The service arrived a little early and then there was like zero traffic to the port and we were there early.  Not much we could do about that. It’s a hard game to try and schedule your ride so you’re there on time and don’t miss your window.

 

I can't fault the people there. The cruise line check-in process really does need to be cognizant of just how people arrive to sail. Except for locals, there's very little control people have over their arrival time; it'll be based on a flight arrival time or based upon a hotel checkout time. Because when you've got your luggage, and don't have your own transportation, what exactly does a cruise line expect you to do?

Now I'm local to Cape Liberty, NJ, so technically I'm pretty flexible or could be, at least, on my check-in time. But it's also my trip, so I'm gonna pick the earliest time I can to maximize it. Now someone flying in may not have many choices but to arrive well before the first check-in time they could possibly get. And all things considered, shouldn't it be those facing no alternatives who get some level of check-in time priority?

So while Royal Caribbean may think of this methodology as functional; it's not going to scale at full occupancy well, because too many people will have no other place to go to wait for their check-in time. There needs to be some additional work done on the flow of people through check-in and boarding that can better adapt to the real world timetables people follow on their trip.

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1 hour ago, Marlena said:

In regards to all the people showing up early...is it badly impacting the rest of us? Does it clog up the line or are they just causing a lot of people waiting outside? Clear lines for each boarding time or are you in kine with people whose time is well after tours?

Sorry for all the questions! Just trying to manage expectations in Miami in nov!

Depends on the port  In some cases yes early people do contest traffic flow. 

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Doing a back to back on the Oasis from Bayonne NJ.  Like @dswallow, I’m local to the port. I arrived to the terminal at my assigned time (12:00) and found no traffic, no problem parking in the garage, no waiting out front, breezed through the terminal and onto the ship. Car to ship about twenty minutes. Easiest check in I have ever done. 
A week later, on turnaround day, as we were being escorted through customs, I could see lines of people crowding the front of the terminal waiting for it to open. I guess if you have no choice due to flight or other issues, then you’ll be part of the crowd. But I’m sure there are others who just ignore their assigned time and try to jump the line…adding to the mass. As usual. Based upon my experience, when I come back, I’ll go with the easy no-stress twenty minute car to ship process.

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I can see how having a mid-afternoon check in would be a pain if you fly to the port.  
 

I feel fortunate that we have a noon check in for our upcoming cruise and the hotel has a noon checkout.  
 

If our check in was later, we’d have to find a place to wait….and realistically that would most likely be around the port area. 

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9 hours ago, dswallow said:

 

I can't fault the people there. The cruise line check-in process really does need to be cognizant of just how people arrive to sail. Except for locals, there's very little control people have over their arrival time; it'll be based on a flight arrival time or based upon a hotel checkout time. Because when you've got your luggage, and don't have your own transportation, what exactly does a cruise line expect you to do?

Now I'm local to Cape Liberty, NJ, so technically I'm pretty flexible or could be, at least, on my check-in time. But it's also my trip, so I'm gonna pick the earliest time I can to maximize it. Now someone flying in may not have many choices but to arrive well before the first check-in time they could possibly get. And all things considered, shouldn't it be those facing no alternatives who get some level of check-in time priority?

So while Royal Caribbean may think of this methodology as functional; it's not going to scale at full occupancy well, because too many people will have no other place to go to wait for their check-in time. There needs to be some additional work done on the flow of people through check-in and boarding that can better adapt to the real world timetables people follow on their trip.

I can see both sides of this, and see why you say can't fault the people. My only issue with that, though, is when we sailed out of Miami on 9/20, many people tried to get into earlier lines than they had for check-in.

If you want to show up early and wait, so be it, far from me to tell anyone else what to do, but if you have a 3:00 pm check in time, and you stand in the 12:00 line, that's a problem.

We had a 12:00 pm check in time, and when we got there around 11:45, the 12:00 line was huge, probably over 125 to 150 people. The 1:00 line had maybe 15 to 20 people, and the 2:00 line had about the same, maybe a few more. There was no line for after that, that I could see. Thankfully for us, right around the time we got there, a Port employee came over and started giving instructions for times/lines/etc. and checking people's time's on their passes or app, and then our line "miraculously" cleared out to about 25 people, and the other 2 lines grew exponentially. 

I can understand showing up early, getting in your line, and then if the earlier lines clear out, they would take you and check you in. I'm all for it. But those that do show up early just have to respect and understand the process in place and allow it to work. Then it will actually go quicker for all of us, I would think.

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Other lines and ports like Sydney have enforced check in times for years.  People manage.  

In Sydney, even as Pinnacle or Suites there was no getting in before your time on Ovation.  Only Star Class had priority check in.  At least it's an urban area with stuff to do once you drop off luggage.  Same with Port Canaveral - you can walk to a restaurant/bar.  Other ports like Cape Liberty, Miami and Port Everglades not so much.  

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