By way of background, this was my fifth cruise and my girlfriend Paula's first. I am 41 and she is 33. The previous cruises I have been on were NCL Dawn out of NYC, Celebrity Century out of Fort Lauderdale (twice) and an RCCL ship out of Miami whose name escapes me.
We arrived at the Pier at approximately 2:45 or 3 p.m. or so. We were able to walk right up to a check-in counter, then we waited about five minutes in the line to get our room-key cards, and after that it took maybe ten minutes to go through security and then go through the final line to actually get on the ship. Total time for embarkation: Maybe 20 minutes or so -- very smooth, even a little bit easier than getting on an airplane these days!