Carnival Breeze Lido

We wait all the time during our daily routines -- in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the dentist's office, in traffic on the highway -- and that's exactly what we're trying to escape when we cruise. With that in mind, there's little that gets our dander up more than having to wait when we're supposed to be on vacation. To board the ship. To get on an elevator. To snag some food at the buffet. To exit the ship for a shore excursion. Not to worry. We're here with six ways you can avoid crowds and skip lines on a cruise; they might just leave you feeling like your vacation is actually, well, a vacation. For starters ...


Booked? Find your Roll Call, and get advice and tips before you go!

1. Be Loyal

Just about every major cruise line offers a loyalty program to reward its passengers for coming back. As cruisers spend more days onboard, they accrue points that allow them to move up in the ranks and access perks -- including priority embarkation and disembarkation -- that increase in number (and generally value) with each subsequent tier. Being a valued repeat customer will eventually get you onboard faster and more comfortably (via special, shorter lines and dedicated waiting rooms) and allow you to more quickly debark in port (with priority tickets that allow you to exit before even those with ship-sponsored shore excursions are allowed to do so). Unfortunately, it can take some time to rise through the ranks, so it might not be the best immediate solution. Instead, you can always ...

2. Pay for the Privilege

Carnival allows booked passengers to pay extra for its "Faster to the Fun" (FTTF) program that offers priority embarkation and disembarkation, along with other perks like early access to cabins on embarkation day. It's a great way to guarantee you'll avoid lines and beat crowds on your next cruise. The catch is that FTTF is only open to a set number of passengers, and slots fill up quickly. (Plus, it's only available on Carnival ships, so you're out of luck on other lines.) If you'd rather spend money on something that will get you a larger room and added perks ...

Eurodam Signature Suite

3. Book a Suite

Suite inclusions might be special spa access and amenities, dedicated butler and concierge service, in-room dining and access to dedicated lounges and restaurants for suite passengers only; that means you have options besides waiting in line at the buffet or for a table in the dining room. Although specific perks vary from cruise line to cruise line, if you have the means, booking a suite for your next voyage is another way you might also be able to access more expeditious check-in, quicker boarding and priority disembarkation. If neither purchasing an early-embarkation package nor booking a suite is in your budget, you can always ...

4. Wake up Early

They say the early bird gets the deck chair. If you're a morning person (or can force yourself to become one during your sailing), you'll be able to beat the buffet lines for breakfast, get a jump on reading through the day's activities and secure a sun lounger in a prime location on the pool deck -- if you're actually planning to use it. (Remember: Nobody likes a chair hog.) As an added bonus, you can also use your wee-hours wakeup call as an excuse to watch the sun rise. For those who look forward to sleeping in on vacation, you might instead choose to ...

Leonardo dining room

5. Stagger Your Mealtimes

This piece of advice is twofold and allows you to cut down on your wait times for a table at dinner and experience onboard attractions with fewer crowds. If you opt for flexible dining -- which allows you to eat in the main dining room whenever you want between set hours -- choose to have dinner during off-peak hours, when there are less likely to be lines at the dining room entrance or wait times to get a table. But, staggering the times at which you eat (even during breakfast and lunch) will also allow you to explore normally crowded areas of the ship and try activities that you might otherwise pass up. While everyone else is busy stampeding to the buffet at noon, there's a good chance you can avoid the rush by waiting until a little later. You're also likely to find fewer lines at the water slides and more empty treadmills in the gym at prime dinner times. If all else fails ...

6. Stay Onboard During Port Days

Port days often involve a mad dash to the gangway as soon as the all-clear has been given for passengers to start the disembarkation process. Those booked on ship-sponsored shore excursions are generally given priority, but people still cluster at the exits, causing backups and shoulder-to-shoulder conditions that can leave you sweating before you've even stepped out into the humid Caribbean air. If you want to avoid all the hubbub, stay onboard (or leave the ship a bit later in the day). Should you choose to forgo your port day -- especially if you've already visited a particular port on the itinerary -- you can avoid crowds at the pool, in the spa, at the buffet and just about anywhere else on the ship.