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What Not to Do at Cruise Ship Disembarkation

Dori Saltzman

Last updated
Mar 5, 2024

Read time
5 min read

It's disembarkation day. You've had an excellent cruise, so don't let a mistake on your very last day drag the entire experience down. From unexpected charges and forgotten items to empty stomachs and overweight suitcases, cruise ship disembarkation can be riddled with pitfalls. But if you avoid these rookie mistakes, you can hold on to your happy cruise buzz for just a little longer.

Here are nine things disembarking cruise ship passengers should never do.

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1. Walk off Without Checking Your Bill

It goes without saying you should always check your bill to make sure you haven't been charged for something you didn't purchase. But if you wait to do this until after you're off your cruise ship, you might be out of luck when it comes to getting reimbursed. As any veteran cruiser will tell you, customer service on a cruise ship is very different from that off a ship. It's much easier to convince the guy or gal behind the counter at Guest Services that you didn't purchase six Cucumber Sunrises at the Alchemy Bar than to try and get someone on the phone at Carnival's land offices to authorize a refund.

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2. Buy Photos

Waiting to buy photos until the morning of disembarkation can be a bit of a crapshoot. All might go well, but we've sadly heard stories of people discovering the photo gallery staff had already started tossing pics by the time they headed over to make their purchases -- this is especially true the later you show up on that last morning. If you've got your heart set on purchasing photos as cruise souvenirs, it's much better to do it on your last night. Whatever you do, don't leave the ship without purchasing photos if you want them; even on ships where photos are stored electronically, once the cruise is over, those photos are discarded.

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3. Leave Your Stuff in the Safe

The night before disembarkation can be a hectic one. Trying to get in some last-minute fun, while also getting your suitcase packed up and out in the hallway before the pick-up deadline could understandably lead to a few things left behind. Part of your cruise ship morning disembarkation ritual should always include checking your safe before walking out the door to make sure you've definitely remembered your passport, phones, tablets, jewelry or anything else you deemed important enough to lock away.

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4. End up in PJs or Slippers

Speaking of packing up your stuff on the last night of your cruise, don't forget to leave out something to wear on disembarkation morning -- including shoes! We've heard plenty of stories of people stuck in their overnight best because they forgot to leave a pair of pants and a top out to wear the next day. If you do end up in your PJs or a pair of slippers on your last morning, hold your head high and don't feel embarrassed as you leave the ship. You'll never see any of these people again.

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5. Forget Your Keycard in the Cabin

Getting off a cruise ship is not like leaving a hotel. You can't just leave your keycard behind in the room and walk out the door. Ship security staff needs to monitor who is on and off the ship at any given moment; this is especially important at the end of a cruise when a ship must be officially declared cleared of all previous passengers before new cruisers can get on. To do this, everyone must swipe their card one last time when getting off to record their departure. If you've forgotten your keycard, you're going to have to go back to your cabin to get it. You won't be allowed off the ship until you do.

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6. Take the Bathrobe

While any slippers you might be given in your cabin are yours to take home with you, the same cannot be said of bathrobes. These are only for your use on the ship. Don't think waiting until the last morning when you've already received your bill will enable you to sneak off the ship with one without paying for it. You'll still be charged for it; the charge will just appear on your credit card bill separately from the rest of your onboard bill.

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7. Skip Breakfast

Unless you're on a tight timeline and need to reach the airport in order to make your flight, don't feel like you have to rush right off the ship. Take the time to have one last (free) breakfast. You can even have sit-down service if you get up early enough as the main dining room will be open, along with the buffet. Why not extend your vacation that extra half-hour?

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8. Linger Where You Shouldn't

Want to drive the crew crazy? Staying in your cabin past when you've been asked to leave or lingering in the atrium before your debarkation group has been called will do both as these will slow down the entire disembarkation process, delaying everything. Cabin stewards are under a lot of pressure to get rooms cleaned as quickly as possible and lingering in the room will make that significantly more difficult. Hanging around in the atrium also slows things down by making lines longer and forcing crew to control a milling crowd -- all of which mean waiting passengers have to wait longer. Instead choose a lounge to relax in with a book or stay a little longer in the buffet.

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9. Opt for Self-Assist Disembarkation if You Can't Handle Your Luggage

Self-assist really does mean what it sounds like. Each cruiser is responsible for carrying all of his or her own luggage. There is no porter service; the random crew member in the hallway is not available to help you up or down the stairs. If you can't carry everything you brought with you by yourself, don't choose self-assist. Instead, put out your bags the night before, wait for your debarkation group to be called in the morning, and pick up that heavy luggage (or pay a port baggage handler to do it for you) once you reach the cruise terminal.

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