October 25, 2000
On a recent Holland America transatlantic cruise from the port of Harwich, near London, we endured a two-hour bus ride to the port, then another hour-long delay in a big, ugly terminal while we waited, often in lines stretching outside the door, to check in. But that most unsatisfactory cruise beginning may slowly become a thing of the past. Carnival Cruise Lines recently announced the development of a fabulous new port embarkation system that allows its check-in folk to process embarking cruise passengers before they even arrive at the ship. Which means you can check-in from locations ranging from a hotel, airport, or bus terminal, then simply walk on to the ship. No lines, no delays. How does it work? Staffers who greet arriving guests (or passengers checking out of hotels on the way to embarkation) enter their booking information into a hand-held computer system and then issue boarding passes. Passengers, upon embarkation, simply flash the pass. Currently the system is only available on Carnival’s Destiny, which sails Caribbean itineraries from San Juan, because sailings from that port typically attract the line's highest ratio of air/sea guests (and Destiny’s one of the line’s biggest ships which means, obviously, more passengers to check-in in the first place). The experiment has been so successful that Carnival is considering expanding it to other North American homeports.