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Embarkation day for your cruise vacation is an exciting day. You get to board the ship and check into your stateroom. You’ll likely have a glass of Champagne or other drink in your hand within moments of boarding, activating vacation mode.

Before you board, it’s good to know what to expect so you can maximize the first day of your cruise and not miss out on anything exciting. Being prepared for embarkation day also means your cruise will start off on the right foot, so it’s smooth sailing (figuratively speaking; we’ll take care of that in the literal sense!) for your entire time on board.

What is embarkation day?

Woman being welcomed with drinks by crew

Embarkation day is the first day of your cruise. It’s the day you arrive at the cruise terminal to embark on your vacation.

Disembarkation, similarly, is the last day of your cruise, when you disembark from the ship, whether you’re staying an extra day in port or catching a flight back home.

What time can you board your cruise?

The time you can board your cruise varies depending on what kind of stateroom you have and what time your cruise departs.

Couple ordering food

You can always check the Celebrity Cruises mobile app to confirm what time your ship sets sail on embarkation day. Be prepared for an initial rush when boarding begins and another rush right after lunch.

To avoid long lines at security and the check-in desk, plan on getting there right when boarding begins. Lines also tend to be much shorter during the last hour of boarding, but then you’ll be missing out on a few hours on board on embarkation day!

If you’re planning to arrive later, make sure you know when embarkation check-in ends, as this is usually before your ship sets sail. For coast guard purposes, the check-in time ends earlier, and if you get there after that cut-off time you won’t be able to board, even if the ship hasn’t pulled away from port yet.

What do you wear on embarkation day?

People casually hanging out on a cruise ship

Comfort is key on embarkation day, and it’s okay to keep it casual on the first day of your cruise.

Many people wear bathing suits underneath their clothes or pack their suit in their carry-on so they can head to the pool right away. Others prefer to dress up so they can have nice photographs taken of the entire family as you board the ship.

Because you may be waiting for your luggage to be returned to you, some people pack an extra outfit in their carry-on to change into for lunch or dinner. It really depends on your preferences. We recommend bringing a sweater or light jacket in case you get chilly in colder climates, or a hat and shorts if you’re cruising to a tropical destination.

Find out more about what to wear on a cruise.

How do you check in for a Celebrity cruise?

Couple sunbathing on a deck of a cruise

One of the best ways to start your vacation and get onto the ship quickly and easily is to use the Celebrity Cruises online check-in before you arrive at your embarkation port.

While checking in online, you can provide all the information needed to expedite your time at the port so you can get on your ship faster. You’ll receive a handy Xpress Pass, which indicates that you’ve completed check-in.

Keep in mind that checking in for cruises isn’t the same as checking in for a flight. While you may be used to checking in for your flight no more than 24 hours before it takes off, with Celebrity Cruises, online check-in time is cut off a few days before embarkation day, so don’t leave checking in until the last minute.

Government regulations require cruise lines to submit their final list of departures at least an hour prior to sailing, so don’t procrastinate on getting to the cruise terminal if you didn’t complete the check-in process online.

Celebrity Cruises Concierge Class Stateroom

Another way to avoid lines on embarkation day is to book The Retreat, which comes with priority check-in and a host of other benefits that will make your vacation unforgettable.

If you’re sailing on Celebrity Edge, you can upload a photo of yourself using the check-in app. Then, when you arrive at the state-of-the-art terminal, your face will be recognized and you’ll be whisked inside in mere minutes.

Woman holding a USA passport

Make sure you arrive with the proper documents in hand, like a passport (if you need one for your cruise). You’ll also want to have any applicable visas with you if required for international ports you’ll be visiting.

When planning your pre-embarkation day to-do list and schedule, it’s also wise to book a flight that gets to the embarkation port a day before. That way, you have time to spare to account for any flight delays and still get to your ship on time. In fact, Flights by CelebritySM can even help you out with that. Flights by CelebritySM gives you competitive rates for airfare, flexibility so you can personalize flight plans, and 24/7 assistance available with any of our specialists. Leave the details to us for a seamless vacation from start to finish.

What do you do with your luggage on embarkation day?

Couple carrying handcarry luggage on a cruise

As soon as you arrive at the port, you’ll be met at the vehicle drop-off area by couriers who will take your luggage and put it onto racks. From that point it will be brought onto the ship and delivered to your stateroom.

To make this process easier, you can print off luggage tags at home from your cruise account at the same time you check in. These luggage tags have your name and stateroom number on them and can be stapled around your luggage handle.

With Celebrity Cruises Open Access, you’ll have access to your stateroom as soon as you board, so be sure to pack your essentials in your carry-on so you can freshen up before exploring the ship.

What should you put in your cruise carry-on bag?

Woman packing clothes

Not all of your luggage should go with the couriers, however. Keeping a carry-on, duffel bag, or even a backpack with some key essentials in it is wise to have with you while boarding the ship.

Just like on an airplane, keep important items with you that aren’t easily replaceable on vacation, such as laptops, prescription eyeglasses, medication, and special jewelry.

People lounging by the pool

In your carry-on luggage, you’ll also want to pack a swimsuit or spa clothes. Your luggage may not be delivered to your room right away, even if you do have access to your stateroom.

If you’re cruising from Miami (or another sun-soaked embarkation port), you don’t want to miss out on pool time because you don’t have your suit with you.

Another cruise embarkation tip if you want to get to your room as quickly as possible is to pack a handheld that you can carry on the stairs. The elevators on embarkation day have a longer wait, since more people are utilizing them to get to their room or first point of interest after boarding.

Don’t worry–wait time for an elevator usually decreases drastically after embarkation day.

What do you do when you first board a cruise ship?

Couple relaxing inside a stateroom

When you arrive, it’s officially the start of your vacation. If you’re hungry, you can head to one of the onboard restaurants for lunch or scope out the bars and lounges. Grab some al-fresco bites by the pool, or head to the buffet for a variety of options. The Retreat guests can dine in Luminae for lunch on embarkation day as well.

Get to know the ship and discover all of the exciting things to do on a cruise. Go beyond your stateroom to worlds unknown, whether it’s your first time watching the skyline fade behind you from a cruise ship or first time exploring a gym at sea.

Couple swimming at the solarium

Watch: What To Do On A Cruise Ship

Post up in a sunny deck chair, or be one of the first to hit the pool. Stop in at the Destination Concierge desk to continue planning the day-to-day details of your trip, or get to know more about the destinations you’re sailing to.

It’s also okay to unwind and do nothing! After all, this is vacation, and you have plenty of time to unpack.

Cruise Embarkation Tips

If you haven’t cruised with Celebrity before, embarkation day can be filled with little unknowns and frequently asked questions. If it’s been a while since your last cruise vacation, you might need a refresher on what you can do on embarkation day that can benefit you for your entire cruise, from special offers at the spa and little known dining tips to ways make vacation even more fun for the kids.

We’ve put together seven tips to help you make the most of Embarkation Day:

Check for Special Embarkation Day Offers in the Spa

Woman relaxing at a spa

Persian Garden

If this is your first time cruising, you might not know this savvy spa secret: spa treatments are often discounted on embarkation day.

You can get a great offer on a massage, facial, body wrap, and other spa treatments on embarkation day at the onboard spa. Sometimes these offers even extend to the next morning.

Embarkation day is also a good time to ask for a tour of the cruise ship’s spa facilities and ask any questions at the front desk to learn more about your options for pampering during the cruise.

Woman standing at a reception of a spa

The Spa

In addition, there may be seminars you can attend that are led by spa technicians. At these seminars, you’ll learn wellness tips and more about treatments that will help your body and mind feel rejuvenated.

Make Restaurant Reservations

You can often find special embarkation day offers for the ship’s specialty restaurants. On the first night of the cruise, others are excited to check out their table in the Main Restaurant. However, if you can wait until the next night, you could benefit.

People hanging out at Eden Restaurant on Celebrity Cruises


Even if you don’t want to dine in a specialty restaurant your first night, embarkation day is a good time to make reservations for later on in the cruise if you haven’t already done so online.

Specialty restaurants do fill up, especially on days at sea or early departure port days, so don’t delay and miss out on the chance of dining at the restaurant of your choice.

If you think you’ll want to reserve numerous specialty restaurants, embarkation day is also a good time to review available dining packages.

People eating at Luminae on Celebrity Cruises


If you have any concerns about seating, dietary concerns, or your scheduled dining time in the Main Restaurant, embarkation day is a good time to talk to the maître d’. They can help make sure your dining experience on board is as easy as possible.

Go to the Fun Factory Open House

Kids playing foosball

Kids Club

If you’re cruising with your family, you’ll want to explore the kids club, Fun Factory, on board. Embarkation day typically has an open house for the kids club rooms, during which you can stop by to tour the facility together as a family.

This gets your children comfortable in the space while having you there. It also gives you a chance to speak with the caregivers who will be interacting with your child and ask any questions you may have about the schedule or activities of the kids club.

During the open house, you can get your kids registered and sign any necessary paperwork so they’re ready to have an exciting and fun-filled cruise—and give you some much-needed adult time!

Take Time to Unpack on Embarkation Day

Once your luggage arrives at your stateroom, it’s a smart idea to take some time to unpack before dinner. While you’re at dinner, your stateroom attendant will come in to freshen up your room, turn down your sheets, and leave information for the following day of the cruise. It’s always nice to come back from dinner to a tidy room.

Couple reading inside a stateroom on a cruise

Sky Suite

You can then kick off your shoes and relax on the bed or couch with Celebrity Today, the daily itinerary you’ll receive each evening during your cruise that tells you what to expect on board or in port the following day. It comes with a comprehensive schedule that lists when and where every activity, seminar, and show is taking place, plus the opening hours for restaurants, lounges, the spa, and the Fun Factory.

People talking on a cruise

Sunset Bar

To enjoy this relaxing ambiance, take some time out from exploring the ship to unpack. Maybe get a glass of wine from the Sunset Bar or one of the other bars and lounges on board to enjoy before you do so to make the unpacking process more fun—after all, it’s embarkation day and you’re officially on vacation!

Don’t want to spend any time unpacking? Consider booking The Retreat experience, which comes with a dedicated team of attendants, concierges, and butlers who will unpack for you, giving you even more time to enjoy your vacation.

Introduce Yourself to Your Stateroom Attendant

Butler serving family on a cruise


Your stateroom attendant will likely end up being a highlight of your cruise. Our stateroom attendants are friendly and provide top-notch service. They want to make your accommodations as comfortable and as relaxing as possible.

You’ll likely see them in the hallways outside your stateroom, and they’ll be quick to say hello. This is a good time to introduce yourself and make any initial requests you may have, such as only stocking the mini fridge with red wine and not white wine, or changing the bed configuration if it’s not already to your preference (you can have the beds pushed together to make a king size bed, or split up to make two separate beds).

Head to the Sail Away Party

When your ship pulls away from port, it’s a fun time to be outside on one of the decks and watching your embarkation port get further and further away as you sail off into the horizon.

A fun way to celebrate this is at a sail away party, where you can order a glass of champagne to celebrate the start of your cruise and mingle with other guests who will be on board with you during the cruise.

People partying with live music

Check the schedule in your stateroom for embarkation day to see if your ship has a party on board to celebrate the ship setting sail. These parties are often on the sunset deck or pool deck and have live music.

Visit the Shore Excursion Desk

Woman talking to concierge

ShoreX Service

If you’re not sure what you want to do during days in port, stop by the shore excursion desk for help.

The most popular shore excursions fill up quickly—sometimes even in advance of the ship sail date since you can reserve them online. Top excursions that are still available on embarkation day will likely fill up soon after the ship sets sail as cruisers learn more about the different ports of call in informational seminars that are conducted the first couple days of the cruise.

Beat those guests to booking by having your own one-on-one consultation with the shore excursion desk, who will answer any questions you have about different excursions and the best fit for you and your interests in each destination.

People preparing for a zipline activity

Ziplining in Talkeetna, Alaska

Book Your Cruise and Get Ready for Embarkation Day Fun

A cruise is a special type of vacation since you get to start relaxing and having fun the second you get on board. All those other pesky vacation logistics like transportation, figuring out where to eat, and finding entertainment is all done for you. Browse itineraries on our website and get ready to sail on an incredible luxury cruise.

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Free Vacation Planning Services