photo: groveb / iStockphoto

Welcome aboard! Once you cross the gangway, your cruise has officially begun.


    After you’re greeted by the staff members awaiting your arrival, you’ll be directed to your cabin, or, depending on the cruise line, a steward will relieve you of your carry-on luggage and accompany you. Some upscale cruise lines will also hand you a glass of champagne as a welcome-aboard gesture. Here’s what to expect on your first full day on board.


      INSIDER TIPAn announcement will be made when cabins are ready for passengers if they aren’t ready at the time boarding begins.


      Settling into Your Cabin

      After boarding, you will either be able to go straight to your cabin, or you may be directed to have lunch in the buffet or in the ship’s main restaurant. Cabin stewards participate in the ship’s turnaround and are extremely busy, although yours will no doubt introduce him- or herself at the first available opportunity.

      It may be a while before your checked luggage arrives. In case your luggage does not arrive before dinner, as sometimes happens when you’re dining at the early seating, it’s a good idea to have toiletries and appropriate attire in your carry-on so you can freshen up and change.

        • Make sure everything in your stateroom is in working order.
        • Let your cabin attendant know immediately if something isn’t working.
        • Checked bags may not arrive for several hours after you board.
        • Cabins often feel warmer while ships are docked; they cool down when the ship is underway.
        • On most ships there will be a muster drill before the ship leaves port.
        • The first night’s dinner dress code is always casual.


      Your First Afternoon on Board

      You should find a copy of the ship’s daily schedule in the cabin when you arrive. Take a few moments to look it over; you’ll want to know what time the mandatory muster drill takes place (a placard on the back of your cabin door will indicate directions to your emergency station), as well as meal hours and the schedule for various activities and entertainments. For the rest of the afternoon and into the night, you may find other introductory activities scheduled, such as tours of the spa and fitness center, port and shopping talks, and casino gaming lessons. Check in with the headwaiter if your dining assignment isn’t to your liking.

        • Take a few minutes to get the lay of the land so you remember your cabin location.
        • Make optional specialty dining reservations as soon as possible.
        • Book spa treatments (there are sometimes specials on the day of embarkation).
        • If you have an assigned table at dinner, review its location and make changes if you need to.
        • Book shore excursions if you haven’t booked them in advance of sailing.
        • The muster drill will take place before the ship leaves port.


      Your First Evening on Board

      A highlight of embarkation day is the first dinner in the main restaurant, where you’ll meet your waitstaff and tablemates. If your ship has anytime dining, then you’ll be able to get your bearings at whichever restaurant you choose.

        • The casino and shops will open as soon as the ship reaches international waters.
        • Your cabin steward will tidy up and give you the next day’s program while you’re at dinner.
        • The cruise director and staff will have a welcome-aboard show in the main theater.