Before You Depart

Cruise Preparation Timeline

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3 to 4 Months Before Sailing 60 to 75 Days Before Sailing 30 Days Before Sailing 2 Weeks Before Sailing 1 Week Before Sailing 3 Days Before Sailing The Day Before Sailing Departure Day

Once your ideal cruise is booked, it's time to start getting yourself prepared for the trip. Some of the steps you can take are merely for your convenience, while others are really essential. Don't underestimate how important it is to prepare in advance for your cruise; if you wait until the last minute, an oversight could ruin your vacation.

3 to 4 Months Before Sailing

  • Check with your travel agent or the State Department for the identification required for your cruise.
  • Gather the necessary identification you need. If you need to replace a lost birth certificate, apply for a new passport, or renew one that's about to expire, start the paperwork now. Doing it at the last minute is stressful and often costly.
  • If you're cruising, but your kids are staying home, be sure to make child care arrangements.

60 to 75 Days Before Sailing

  • If you've only put down a deposit, make the final payment on your cruise fare. Failure to submit the balance on time can result in the cancellation of your reservation.
  • If applicable, arrange for a house sitter and make kennel reservations for your pets. (If you're traveling during a holiday period, you may need to do this even earlier.)
  • Make a packing list for each person you'll be packing for; begin your wardrobe planning and shopping for any missing items now.

30 Days Before Sailing

  • Make appointments for any personal services, like a haircut or a manicure, that you wish to have prior to your cruise.
  • Get out your luggage and check the locks and zippers; if you need new or additional luggage, purchase it now.

2 Weeks Before Sailing

  • Receive your cruise documents through the travel agent, or download them online. Examine them for accuracy (correct cabin number, sailing date, and dining arrangements); make sure names are spelled correctly. If there's something you don't understand, ask now.
  • Read all of the literature in your document package for suggestions specific to your cruise.
  • Pay any routine bills that may be due while you're gone.
  • Go over your personalized packing list again. Finish shopping.

1 Week Before Sailing

  • Finalize your packing list and continue organizing everything in one area.
  • Buy digital media (or film) and check the batteries in your camera.
  • Refill prescription medications with an adequate supply.
  • Make two photocopies of your passport or ID and credit cards. Leave one copy with a friend or family member and carry the other copy separately from the originals.
  • Get cash at the bank; get a supply of $1 bills for tipping as needed.
  • Arrange to have your mail held at the post office or ask a neighbor to pick it up.
  • Arrange for lawn and houseplant care or snow removal during your absence (if necessary).
  • Leave your itinerary, the ship's telephone number (plus the name of your ship and your stateroom number), and a house key with a relative or friend.
  • If traveling with young children, pack small games or toys to keep them occupied while en route to your embarkation port.
  • If you haven't already done it online, complete any other paperwork that the cruise line included with your documents (foreign customs and immigration forms, onboard charge application, etc.).

3 Days Before Sailing

  • If applicable, confirm your airline flights; departure times are sometimes subject to change.
  • Add a luggage tag with your name, address, telephone number, and itinerary with each bag.
  • Fill out the luggage tags that came with your cruise document packet and follow the instructions regarding when and how to attach them.
  • Pull out the luggage and begin packing.

The Day Before Sailing

  • If applicable, take pets to the kennel and water houseplants and lawn.
  • Dispose of any perishable food in the refrigerator.
  • Pay any last-minute bills.
  • Finish packing and lock your suitcases.

Departure Day

  • Adjust the thermostat and double-check the door locks.
  • Turn off the water if there's danger of frozen pipes while you're away.
  • If flying, arrange to be at the airport a minimum of two hours before your departure time (follow the airline's instructions).
  • Have photo ID and/or passport securely on your person and ready for check-in.
  • Slip your keys, parking claim checks, and cruise and airline tickets in your carry-on luggage. Never pack these items in checked luggage.
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