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Make the most of the day in your disembarkation port, which will run all the more smoothly with a little preparation and planning.

Disembarking a cruise ship is not the same as checking out of a hotel on your last day. Disembarkation day is a carefully choreographed event. It has to be, with sometimes 2,000 guests or more and their luggage to move from the ship to the cruise terminal and beyond in a short time.

Your Celebrity Cruises crew are highly experienced in this logistical exercise, though, and will do all they can to make that bittersweet goodbye as easy as possible.

What is a disembarkation port?

Disembarkation port - Fort Lauderdale

A disembarkation port is a port where a cruise ends. Most passengers will leave the ship here, apart from those who have booked back-to-back cruises.

The ship will then be “turned around”—cleaned top to bottom, refueled, and re-provisioned with everything that’s needed for the next voyage.

Once all the disembarking guests have left, after a brief lull, new arrivals will begin to check in, ready for the next cruise.

Typical disembarkation ports tend to be gateway cities with good air and road access, like Miami, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale in Florida; Cape Liberty, New Jersey; and San Juan, Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.

In Europe, disembarkation ports include Barcelona, Rome, Athens, and Southampton, England. Sydney, Australia and Singapore are two of Celebrity’s disembarkation ports in the Asia-Pacific region.

What happens on disembarkation day?

People aboard Celebrity Solstice

Disembarkation day is a busy day on a cruise ship. You’ll be invited to put your luggage outside your stateroom the night before. It will be collected by the crew overnight and will be waiting for you in the terminal when you leave the ship.

You’ll make sure your final bill is settled the day before, pack your carry-on luggage, and have breakfast. When your pre-allocated disembarkation time comes, make your way to the gangway.

You will then identify and claim your luggage in the terminal, clear customs, and take whatever onward transportation you’ve arranged.

Read: Everything You Need to Know About Embarkation Day

How will I know on board what to expect on disembarkation day?

Disembarkation port - Guest Services

Towards the end of your cruise, there will be a talk on disembarkation procedures. This will be shown on your stateroom TV, too, in case you miss it. You’ll also find details in the daily program.

You will already have been asked about your arrangements on disembarkation day. These might include a transfer to the airport arranged by Celebrity Cruises, or a shore excursion that ends at the airport.

You may have made independent plans, in which case you will need to add your flight details to the form you’ll be given, or the time your private pickup is booked.

A day or so before the voyage ends, your stateroom attendant will deliver a disembarkation letter and a set of colored luggage tags. The letter will tell you what time you are due to disembark. On the day, you will be called by group number or color code. You should stick to these staggered times to avoid congestion at the gangway.

If you’re not happy with the time you have been allocated, take it up with Guest Services as soon as possible rather than waiting until disembarkation day.

Do I have to put my luggage out for collection the night before disembarkation?

The vast majority of cruisers put their luggage outside their stateroom door, color-tagged and locked, the night before disembarkation. It’s more convenient and practical, as dragging heavy bags into crowded elevators and down a sometimes steep gangway is no fun for anybody.

Woman packing luggage

But if you feel strongly about hanging onto your bag, or are perhaps traveling light with only a small wheelie on a short cruise, you can opt for “self disembarkation”. This usually means you can leave the ship as soon as disembarkation has begun.

How long can you stay on the ship on disembarkation day?

Disembarkation port - Celebrity Ascent's Infinite Veranda

Disembarkation day isn’t a time to linger on board as the crew has to work hard to prepare the ship for the next voyage. Normally, there’s a window between around 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. for disembarkation. If your flight isn’t until much later, you will be given a later slot in this window, but this isn’t a day to expect to sleep in.

If you’ve booked a back-to-back cruise, you can relax on board during disembarkation day, or join a shore excursion while the new guests are checking in.

You will normally be asked to vacate your stateroom by 8 a.m. so the stateroom attendant can prepare it for the next guest. If your allocated disembarkation time is later than this, there will be public areas on the ship where you can relax with your carry-on before you leave.

Read: The Only Cruise Packing List You’ll Ever Need

How early can you get off?

A ship will usually only have a short distance to travel from its penultimate port to the disembarkation port to account for any delays or weather issues; no cruise line wants to arrive late on turnaround day. So you may find you’re docked alongside very early in the morning.

But the ship has to be cleared by the local authorities before anybody can leave. Luggage has to be offloaded, too.

When you book your cruise, you will be told about the earliest reasonable flight departure time to choose. A very early morning flight, for example, is usually impractical. If you do have a relatively early flight, this will be factored in when disembarkation groups are allocated.

Disembarkation times vary from port to port, but it is unusual for the process to begin any earlier than 7 a.m.

Is there time for breakfast?

Woman enjoying coffee from Café al Bacio

Of course! You are still on vacation and will never be sent away hungry. Most of the usual breakfast venues will be open, including Café al Bacio for coffee to go.

Restaurants may be busier than usual as everybody is preparing to leave within the same short timespan, and some people may have already left their staterooms and will be carrying their hand baggage with them.

Read: What Is Food on a Cruise Really Like?

What documents do I need for disembarkation and customs?

You will need your passport and receipts for any duty-free goods you have bought, in case you get stopped at customs. Normally, the ship will have been cleared by the local immigration authorities, but you may still be required to show a passport to officials when you disembark.

If you have already checked in for your flight and feel happier with a paper boarding pass, you can print this out in the ship’s internet center. If you’ve parked your car at the port, make sure you have the receipt and know where it is.

You will also need your SeaPass key card to leave the ship for one last time.

How long does it take to get off a cruise ship?

Disembarkation port - Fort Lauderdale

If everybody follows the instructions they have been given and shows up at the gangway when invited, getting off a ship is quick and easy. You should be able to disembark in 15 to 30 minutes, including collecting your baggage in the terminal.

There can be delays, though, and the ship is at the whim of the local immigration authorities. This is another compelling reason for leaving plenty of time between your scheduled disembarkation time and your flight home.

If you have booked an airport transfer or a disembarkation day tour with Celebrity, your transportation will wait until everybody is present.

How do I choose the right disembarkation port for my cruise?

Couple exploring Barcelona, Spain

First, to be clear, you can’t choose where to disembark your cruise. Unless there is some kind of personal emergency or you have booked two back-to-back cruises, everybody disembarks on the same day in the same port.

It’s worth thinking about where your cruise ends, though, and what you might want to do to extend your vacation. If, for example, you’ve always wanted to see Athens and you’ve booked a cruise that ends in the Greek capital, you’re not going to actually see Athens unless you extend your stay there. The transfer from the port to the airport will not take you through the city center.

The same applies to Rome and Barcelona. So by all means pick a disembarkation port that you want to see, but bear in mind that unless the ship arrives there the day before the end of the cruise, you will need to add on a night somewhere, or book an evening flight and plan your day carefully.

Read: What Is a Tender Port?

Can I arrange transportation from the disembarkation port to the airport or other destinations?

Port of Southampton, England

Yes, of course. Celebrity Cruises offers airport transfers, which can be pre-booked, either as a group transfer by coach or a private car or van. If you haven’t pre-booked and decide that you would like an airport transfer, this can be done on board through your Guest Account or the Celebrity Cruises app up to five days before the end of the cruise.

In the vast majority of disembarkation ports, taxis will wait to pick up independent travelers. But do your research first; in some instances, the airport is a long way from the seaport. If you disembark in Southampton, England, for example, the drive to London Heathrow Airport is at least one hour and a taxi will be expensive.

What happens if my flight is in the evening?

Couple in a resort in Puerto RIco

An evening flight means you have the whole day to enjoy your disembarkation port. But this needs to be planned, as you will most likely have luggage. There’s no fun in going straight to the airport and sitting there for eight hours or so—and your flight check-in will not be open, in any case.

There are various ways to make the most of your time in your disembarkation port. You could go to the airport and deposit your bags in a left luggage locker and then take off for a day in town. This is only practical if the airport is not too far from where you want to go, though.

Booking a day room in a hotel is an option and also means you can freshen up before your evening flight. Be sure to book somewhere that will allow early check-in.

Celebrity Cruises offers tours with airport and sometimes rail station and downtown hotel drop-offs in most ports. In Sydney, for example, you could join a city tour taking in the Opera House and Bondi Beach before being dropped off at the airport.

From Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, Italy, there’s the option of joining a wine-tasting tour in the Italian countryside before heading to the airport.

If your Alaska cruise ends in Vancouver, you could take a trip to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, deep in the forest, that ends with an airport drop-off.

Couple exploring Denali National Park in Alaska

Best of all, you could extend your stay. Celebrity Cruises offers a comprehensive City Stays program, which means everything will be organized for you.

In Alaska, you could pre-book a Cruisetour to extend your vacation, heading off to the wilds of Denali National Park to see a different face of the 49th state.

What are some things not to do on disembarkation day?

  • Don’t pack all your clothes in your suitcase and leave it for collection the night before. Nobody wants to be disembarking in their PJs.
  • Similarly, don’t pack your travel documents in your checked luggage. Keep them with you as you may need to show your passport in the customs hall.
  • Don’t party too hard on your last night; while it’s tempting, disembarkation day is busy and comes with an early start, so a clear head helps.
  • Don’t forget the valuables that you put in the safe on the first day.
  • Don’t wait until disembarkation morning to check your final bill. If you need to ask questions about your account, this will delay your disembarkation. You can view your statement on your stateroom TV.
  • Do not expect to use the ship’s facilities on disembarkation day; this is not the time for a last swim or a workout, and the onboard shops will be closed when the ship is in port.
  • Don’t leave your key card in your stateroom. You will need it to leave the ship for the last time.
  • Leave the bathrobe. The slippers are yours to take, but if you walk off with a bathrobe, the cost will be added to your account, even after you have left the ship.

Read: Things Not to Do on a Cruise

Disembarkation port - Celebrity Ascent Infinite Veranda

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