The new effort aims to eliminate the old process, which involved the customary and absurdly early wake-up call, requirements to abandon cabins at the crack of dawn, and wasted time spent loafing in public lounges waiting for a color-coded tag to be called amid incessant loud speaker announcements. RCI's new effort aims to create a send-off that's more efficient and requires fewer shipwide announcements.
The new "As You Depart" policy is now available on all ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet. The departure day procedure involves the following:
An "As You Depart" flier, provided to all passengers on the final night of the cruise, will outline the departure day agenda, including key details of what you need to do that evening (put out your luggage if you want porterage), as well as info on location of waiting areas and debarkation times for designated luggage tag colors.
Passengers are now able to stay in cabins longer than usual -- right up until the time they're supposed to be at their designated area -- and in-cabin entertainment will also be extended.
Instead of shipwide announcements, most announcements will be made only through in-cabin TV's and in actual departure lounges.
Departure lounges will offer refreshments and "light" entertainment (violin quartet, guitar player). There will also be a dedicated Family Zone departure area, which will include refreshments, toys and games. A Royal Caribbean staff member will escort folks to the gangway when it's time.
Suite passengers will have a designated area (Concierge Lounge on Freedom-class ships, for instance) where they can enjoy a Continental breakfast.
And of course, if you're able and willing to carry off your own luggage, the self-disembarkation process is always available. Cruisers who choose to do so get first crack at getting off the ship.
Royal Caribbean is one of the last big-ship cruise lines to abandon the old tradition that requires passengers to vacate cabins early and wait in lounges. Already, Norwegian Cruise Line (which pioneered this more relaxed debarkation style), Holland America, Princess and Celebrity have moved to a more flexible departure day schedule.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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