What You Need to Know About Disembarkation Day on Cruises


All good things must come to an end, and that means going through the disembarkation process and leaving the ship. It can be a little stressful at times, so knowing what to expect and how to approach is invaluable – you don’t want a little thing like leaving the ship putting a blemish on your otherwise stellar cruise, do you?

Here we’ll let you in on everything you need to know about disembarkation day.

  1. How do I find out about disembarkation times?
  2. Finalising payments
  3. What do I do with my luggage?
  4. What about customs and immigration?
  5. How long does it take?
  6. Last-minute tips

Suitcase on disembarkation day | Woman kneels on suitcase during cruise disembarkation | Cruise1st Australia

How do I find about disembarkation times?

On your final day at sea, the cruise director usually holds a briefing in the main theatre or another large area in the ship. If you can’t attend, it’s usually broadcast on your suite’s TV, but if you don’t fancy sitting in on your last day at sea, the relevant information will be featured in the ship’s daily newsletter.

Finalising payments

On the final night of the cruise, you’ll have a printed tally of your onboard account delivered to your room. When you’re paying, watch out for any errors or discrepancies; you don’t want to end up paying for something you didn’t order. Lines to settle errors are usually long, but if you fret over things like this, you can check your onboard bill at any time throughout your cruise. It’s well worth doing so at least once to keep track of your spending without having to stand in a long, slow-moving queue.

What do I do with my luggage?

There are two options for getting your bags off the ship. Crew members can help lighten the load and carry them off themselves, but you’ll need to have your bags packed, tagged with colour-coded tags that the ship will provide you with, and left outside your cabin door at a specific time. The bags will then be carried off the ship and placed in sections according to tag colours.

Be advised that this method has some inconveniences. Everything you need on your final morning should be left out, including the clothes you’ll travel home in. Theft isn’t a major issue, but has been reported by some, so consider putting cable-ties on your bags to keep them secure.

Alternatively, most cruise lines offer “self-debarkation”, so you can keep your bags with you and leave the ship at any time during the debarkation process.

What about customs and immigration?

Once your ship is at its debarkation port, local immigration officials must clear the ship before anyone can disembark. If the ship terminates in the US, you may be required to fill out customs forms and show your passport to immigration officials in the cruise terminal. It’s entirely dependent on the country where your debarkation port is based. If you’re unsure, instructions will be given onboard before you depart.

If you’ve purchased souvenirs on your cruise, it’s wise to check the allowance for goods such as alcohol, cigarettes and cigars when you’re bringing them back into Australia. Make sure you keep the receipts too, as you could be asked to report the value of all goods purchased abroad. If you’ve gone over the limits, then you’ll be taxed for some of these items.

How long does it take?

It takes a few hours to get all passengers off the ship. From the time your group is called, it may only take 15 minutes, but you have to deal with getting to the correct deck with all of your bags, and crowds of people all waiting for the elevator, which is then followed by long lines to show your cruise card before you properly exit. Due to the long delays, it’s advisable to not book your flights for too early a time on disembarkation day. If you do have an early flight, then let the front desk know at least a day in advance and they’ll give you priority disembarkation to make things easier. 

Because everyone is in the same boat (literally), the process is slow-going, so if you have a later flight, it’s worth just relaxing if you can – you’ll only be allowed to disembark when it’s your designated time, so take it easy if you can.

Woman watching ship on disembarkation day | Cruise1st Australia

Last-minute tips

  • Be sure to check your safe before you leave

Since you have to leave your bag outside your room, you could well end up forgetting about a few important items. The last thing you want to do is be off the ship only to realise you’ve left your passport, phone, jewellery or wallet in your cabin’s safe. Similarly, make sure you don’t leave your keycard in the cabin, as you’ll need it to get off the ship.

  • Don’t skip out on breakfast

If you don’t have to get off the ship at an early time, then treat yourself to one final breakfast before you leave. Don’t think you can make it through the process on an empty stomach.

  • Stay in your cabin as long as you can

Some cruise lines offer a room-service breakfast on the morning of disembarkation. Not only is it worth filling up before you leave the ship, if your room has a balcony then it’s the perfect opportunity to savour that last bit of paradise and extend your holiday that little bit longer.

  • Spring for VIP for disembarkation

If you can, it could be worth paying for this service. For a fee, you’ll be able to stay on board until just before the ship departs for its next voyage. This allows you to wait until the crowds have dispersed, and you can still use all the cruise’s facilities 90 minutes before the ship leaves. 

Now that you know what to expect, why not head over to our dedicated homepage and get planning your next trip, or give our friendly customer care team a call on 1300 522 460?


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