Embarkation day

Video: Royal Caribbean boarding day tips


The first day of your cruise is such an awesome feeling, and I have some great tips for making it as super smooth as possible.

There is a lot happening on boarding day, so to ensure you avoid any hiccups, I have some basics for keeping things trouble-free.

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

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So check out the video and then let us know: What is your best tip for having a great first day onboard?

How early can I board my Royal Caribbean cruise?


The day your cruise begins is full of excitement, and naturally, you may be wondering what time you can board the ship.

Many guests are curious how early they can board a Royal Caribbean ship on embarkation day, so here is a guide for what to expect.

In the weeks leading up to your cruise, be sure to complete online check-in. Royal Caribbean suggests completing check-in no later than 3 days prior to their cruise.

If you do not complete Check-in 3 days prior, you will be required to complete this process at the pier at least two hours prior to the published sailing time. 

When you complete online check-in, you will be assigned a check-in time.  These check-in times are rarely, if ever, enforced for cruises from the United States or Europe.

In North America, cruise terminals typically open at, or around, 10am. This is when you can pass through security, and meet the pier agents to check-in for the cruise.

The exact time your ship will begin allowing passengers to board depends on a variety of factors, such as:

  • When local officials clear the ship
  • How quickly all the passengers from the previous sailing debark the ship
  • When the crew is ready to begin welcoming new guests

In most cases, boarding begins around the 11am hour.  It can begin earlier or later, but the earlier you check-in for the cruise, the earlier you will board the ship.

Of course, you are welcome to arrive later in the day. Typically, most guests arrive around noon to 2pm.

Keep in mind there is a cut off to when you can check-in for your cruise at the terminal. Royal Caribbean requires all guests to be checked-in and onboard the ship no later than 90 minutes prior to the published sailing time or you will not be permitted to sail.

How Royal Caribbean will make check-in, Adventure Ocean and its app easier & faster


Royal Caribbean has a reputation for being a leader in a variety of areas, including integrating technology to make the guest experience easier.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. SVP Digital Experience Jay Schneider has been at the helm of Royal Caribbean's next-gen tech, known as Project Excalibur, for three years and shared the plans, challenges, and successes the company has with leveraging technology.

The origins of Project Excalibur

All good stories have a beginning, and Project Excalibur began with a simple task from the very top of Royal Caribbean.

"Project Excalibur started as a result of really a passion from Richard (Fain); Seeing what was happening elsewhere, both across the industry, travel and hospitality overall, and just frankly, the planet. With more and more Millennials sailing with us, with more and more digitally enabled consumers at all ages, it really became an opportunity for us to step back and look at how do we transform our company through the use of technology."

"It really became an opportunity for us to step back and look at how do we transform our company through the use of technology."

"It wasn't really an idea of what it exactly meant, but the goal was to unpacking how to digitize everything. Digitize the things that we could remove the hassles from guests, put them on vacation faster, pull friction out of the experience."

"We see friction in a number of different ways; It's interacting with the Cruise Planner website, it's doing your check-in process... Friction can be digital, it can be physical. There's real friction: your key doesn't work, you'll have to go Guest Services. Sitting through muster is friction. Not being able to get into your room is friction. Not wanting to have to wait in line for a cocktail, or have to run down to Sorrentos, is friction."

App development isn't easy

Like all software development, creating a brand new Royal Caribbean app that sought to simplify the cruise experience for guests is not an overnight task. Moreover, developing an app to work on a cruise ship comes with its own set of challenges.

"Everything you expected on land, is designed for you to be on land. Your phone wakes up through a push notification, because you're connected to the cloud somewhere, whether through WiFi or cellular. There are so many ways where technology on land is easier."

"The problem is we also operate 50 data centers at sea that have to work in a redundant way, and so if you think about that, our challenge is to figure out how, you, the consumer can work with us when you're on land and then when the guest is onboard, how everything is localized."

How close are we to chat across the fleet

One of the most-requested features for Royal Caribbean to offer is a guest-to-guest chat communication feature. Royal Caribbean has been testing a chat function in its app on Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas for months, so we asked Mr. Schneider when chat will roll out to the entire fleet.

"One of the things we've gotten complaints for, is the pace of our evolution. In fact, the number one reason people rate us poorly in the app store is, 'You're not on my ship.' That's deliberate. We want to make sure that the technology we put onboard every ship works flawlessly, and chat isn't there yet."

"We know people want chat. We know it's the number one feature they ask for, and it's something we're trying to rush to the market."

"I hope in early 2020, we will be able to light chat up on every ship that has the app. I think we're a couple months away of final testing."

"You asked the question around why it's hard to put technology on a ship, chat is the hardest. There is a number of ways Apple, and even Google on an Android platform, expect you to operate that doesn't exist at sea in the ocean."

"We know people want chat. We know it's the number one feature they ask for, and it's something we're trying to rush to the market."

How to make embarkation super smooth

We asked Mr. Schneider how his team's work is making embarkation as easy as possible, and he shared a few easy tasks anyone can do to take advantage of the cruise line's expedited arrival process.

1. Create a guest account with Royal Caribbean before the cruise.

2. Download the Royal Caribbean app from either the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

3. Begin check-in and make sure you do a few steps:

a. Fill out all the questions in the short form provided.
b. Scan your passport with the app (do not manually enter the passport information).
c. Take a security selfie photo. Make sure you do not have a hat on or sunglasses, and have as muted a background as possible.

Adventure Ocean: A new challenge

On Oasis of the Seas, the Project Excalibur team faced a brand new challenge: Adventure Ocean kids programming.

"The reboot of Adventure Ocean on Oasis is amazing...We wanted to bring technology to the experience that was contextual for each of the different age ranges that we serve."

"We wanted canvases that we could continue to tell amazing creative on, and digital gives us the ability to do that."

"You'll see technology that we've partnered with companies and bought. You'll see custom content that we've created. We wanted canvases that we could continue to tell amazing creative on, and digital gives us the ability to do that."

"I think one of the game changers is kids registration, instead of filling paper out for parents. Parents no longer have to fill paper out, it's tap your SeaPass card, we know who you are; tell us what we need to know about your kid and go on.  Eventually that'll be available pre-arrival in the app, so you could just do it pre-arrival and not even hassle onboard."

"For kids, there's games they've never played before, stories they haven't come through yet, really ways to entertain them that we haven't put on ships yet, that I think is going to be awesome."

Video: Mistakes to avoid on the first day of your cruise


The first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise should be the start of an amazing vacation, so be sure to avoid these common embarkation day mistakes!

Before you set foot on that cruise ship you have been dreaming about for months, you will want to skip any of these gaffes for a great beginning to your cruise.

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

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So check out the video and then let us know: What is an embarkation day mistake you always avoid?

Royal Caribbean offering guest expedited arrival options to speed up check-in process


Royal Caribbean is now offering an expedited arrival option on about a half dozen of its ships that aim to get guests onboard quicker than ever.

With expedited arrival, available for select ships and terminals, guests can go from sidewalk to ship faster and easier than ever. All it takes is three simple steps:

Step One: Download and check-in via the Royal Caribbean International app to obtain their mobile SetSail Pass. 

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Step Two: If eligible for Expedited Arrival (indicated on their mobile SetSail Pass), follow the Expedited Arrival signs at the terminal to pass through accelerated checkpoints.

Step Three: Skip the check-in desk, scan their SetSail Pass at the gangway, and board the ship!

Expedited Arrival is currently available when embarking the following ships at these terminals:

PortMiami (Terminal A)

  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas

Port Everglades (Terminal 18)

  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas

Port Canaveral (CT1)

  • Enchantment of the Seas

Spotted: New Boarding Day Quick Guide


Embarkation day on any Royal Caribbean cruise is an exciting and busy day, and it appears Royal Caribbean is trying to simplify that first day for guests with a new boarding day quick guide.

So far we have heard from Royal Caribbean Blog readers on a couple of ships that they have seen a new style boarding day quick guide. 


Mariner of the Seas quick guide. Photos by Twangster.

Enchantment of the Seas quick guide. Photos by Twangster.

Empress of the Seas quick guide. Photos by Thomas Bissland.

The new guide is a quick flip open pamphlet, as opposed to the old style boarding day guide which tended to be a single sheet of paper with important information listed. The new guide lists important places on the ship, provides a deck plan overview, and explains which restaurants and bars are open on embarkation day.

An example of the previous boarding day guide style.

Do you like the new boarding day quick guide design? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Royal Caribbean testing expedited boarding


Royal Caribbean is inviting select guests to try out a new way to board the ship that aims to improve the embarkation process.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader, Steve, shared with us an email sent with the invitation to try the expedited check-in for an upcoming sailing on Allure of the Seas.

Guests simply need to download the new Royal Caribbean smart phone app and then check-in on the mobile app prior to the cruise.

Once the mobile check-in is complete, guests might see an Expedited Arrival choice on their mobile boarding pass, which means they have been selected to participate in our boarding trial.

Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, there will be an Expedited Arrival lane for these guests, who may present their mobile boarding pass. 

Since this is a test, the exact process may change.  This may be a precursor to the "frictionless" check-in Royal Caribbean announced late last year

First time cruisers: What time to get to the cruise port for your Royal Caribbean cruise?


With your Royal Caribbean cruise right around the corner, you might be wondering what time should I get to the cruise port. 

The first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise is when all the fun begins, and what time you arrive to board your Royal Caribbean cruise has some implications for how the rest of your day may flow.

There are also two different times to consider: what time can you board your ship and what time can you arrive at the port to check-in.

What time to arrive at the port

Royal Caribbean cruises that depart from the United States will often open the cruise terminal for check-in sometime between 9am and 10am.  

This means the terminal will open up for guests to arrive and begin the check-in procedure. In most cases, the check-in procedure involves:

  • Parking the car/dropping off rental car/being dropped off by a car service
  • Giving porters luggage to be delivered to your stateroom later on that day.
  • Going through security screening.
  • Checking in at the counter with your cruise documents.
  • Waiting for boarding to begin.

After passing the security check, the check-in process will split guests up based on which deck their stateroom is on and their Crown and Anchor Society status.  Essentially, those with higher Crown and Anchor Society status will have a shorter wait to check-in.  Likewise, suite guests also have a dedicated line for them, which is shorter.

The good news is the check-in procedure is fairly quick, and if you have all of your documentation, it should go quite smoothly.

The key to figuring out what time to arrive is largely up to you and your travel plans. We recommend arriving to the cruise terminal before noon to avoid the longer lines that tend to appear in the afternoon.

Many guests tend to arrive in the afternoon, since their travel plans have them arriving the day of the cruise.  This leads to longer waits at the cruise terminal, compared to earlier in the morning.

Our best advice is at the very least, do not plan to arrive to the ship too close to the end of the boarding times.  Travel delays and other unforeseen issues can add unnecessary stress to what should be the start to a fun and relaxing vacation. In short, plan on a few hours buffer time as a worst-case scenario.

The future of check-in

Royal Caribbean is aiming to greatly simplify some of the embarkation day procedures with what it is calling "frictionless check-in".  

Royal Caribbean wants to streamline the check-in process to the point that it is as simple as walking in. Forget the forms to fill out, pictures to take, or agents to speak with. The new app will allow for a "frictionless check-in" that gets you onboard your ship very quickly. In Royal Caribbean's eyes, less time spent boarding means more time for vacation.

There is no timetable announced for when frictionless check-in will be available, but it is something that is coming in the near future.

What time to board the ship

Royal Caribbean will likely provide a boarding time in the afternoon, but many veteran cruisers will say in practice, boarding times are much earlier than what is stated. Royal Caribbean does this to help break up crowds.

When boarding does commence, Royal Caribbean will board their ships with Suite guests firsts, followed by guests based on their Crown and Anchor Society status, and finally, all other guests.  Regardless of your status, the earlier you check-in, the sooner you will board the ship.

The advantage of arriving to the cruise port early is you will likely find shorter lines, and board the ship sooner.  That means your vacation begins sooner, and you will have more time on embarkation day to explore and have fun. 

Keep in mind that if you do board in the morning, staterooms are not usually open to guests until 1pm at the earliest, so you will have to carry whatever you bring aboard with you until you can drop it off in your stateroom.

Boarding in the afternoon may allow for more convenient travel arrangements, and no waiting on the ship for staterooms to open up.  However, later boarding risks potential lines at check-in and at the Windjammer for lunch.  Boarding in the afternoon is hardly a mistake, but keep in mind that Royal Caribbean requires all guests to be checked-in and onboard the ship no later than 90 minutes prior to the published sailing time or you will not be permitted to sail.