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    Boarding a Cruise Ship with Ease


    Knowing that standing in line is not a pleasant way to start your vacation, cruise lines have been working to speed up the boarding process.

    Royal Caribbean serves up surprisingly swift boarding on its 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the largest ships in the world. Princess is using nifty handheld devices to check-in passengers on its new 3,650-passenger Royal Princess.

    Carnival passengers flying into Miami can check in right at the airport, get their cruise keycard and use special security lines at the ports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

    A fairly new option is paying for propriety boarding. Carnival, for one, charges an extra $49.95 per person for its Faster to the Fun program that also comes with other perks.

    Depending a lot on your attitude, timing and luck, getting onboard a cruise ship with thousands of other passengers can be an easy experience or a hassle. Some strategizing is advised.

    Experienced cruisers tend to use one of two strategies to avoid the rush; seasoned passengers either arrive before noon or after 2 p.m.

    The before noon crowd is determined to be first in line to get on the ship. They want first dibs on everything from the buffet to spa and specialty restaurant reservations, if they haven't made them in advance.

    The downside to arriving early: The ship may not be ready for boarding and once onboard, you must schlep around your carry-on luggage, as your cabin won't typically be ready until around 1:30 p.m.

    Those arriving after 2 p.m. stand a better chance of breezing onboard. They may miss the free lunch, but the trade-off is less stress.

    Personally, I lean towards the later group. I'm a classic Type A and hate lines.

    If you do opt to arrive later, keep in mind the ship is required to deliver a final manifest before the cruise. That means that boarding at least 90 minutes before sailing is mandatory.

    Remember, you can speed the process by filling out and printing the online boarding forms.

    By Fran Golden, Special to USA TODAY

    For more cruise news & articles go to http://www.cruisecrazies.com/index.html

    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more

    http://www.cruisecrazies.com

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    I'm an early guy... We get to the port around 10:30 and simply LOVE getting on board! With my first footstep on the ship my cruise has begun. We're Platinum with Carnival and boarding at our 'homeport' of Galveston couldn't be easier. After we check in and are issued our Sail & Sign cards we're ushered to the VIP lounge... a comfy spot at the base of the ramp heading to the ship. On our last four cruises we were onboard by 11:30 AM with our cabin available as soon as we got to the door. I can't tell you how valuable that little perk is! We don't have to drag our carry on bags all over the Lido Deck while we're trying to relax and enjoy the beginning of our vacation.

    Get me on the Lido with a drink of the day in my hand and I'm a VERY happy cruiser!!

    Jason... next time look for me kickin' back on the Lido Deck when you board... I'll buy you your first cocktail!!

    :wink2:

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    The before noon crowd is determined to be first in line to get on the ship. They want first dibs on everything from the buffet to spa and specialty restaurant reservations, if they haven't made them in advance.

    The downside to arriving early: The ship may not be ready for boarding and once onboard, you must schlep around your carry-on luggage, as your cabin won't typically be ready until around 1:30 p.m.

    Those arriving after 2 p.m. stand a better chance of breezing onboard. They may miss the free lunch, but the trade-off is less stress.

    We’re definitely among the early boarders, but some of the things in this article just don’t ring true to our experiences.

    We don’t want “first dibs” on anything – we just figure the sooner we board the ship the sooner our vacation starts!

    In all our cruises there’s only been one time we had to wait more than a few minutes and that’s because the ship had been held up clearing customs upon arrival.

    Our only carry-on is one backpack between the two of us – no “schlepping” required.

    “They may miss the free lunch”??? Really? Has anyone ever gone hungry on a cruise?

    Oh well, we'll just keep on boarding as early as we can!

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    We are also early boarders, and have never been denied access to our cabin when arriving on the ship - at least not yet. We don't arrive early to get first dibs at anything. In fact, I hate the buffet on embarkation day. We arrive early because we want our vacation to start as soon as possible!

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    We have always been early boarders... Not the ones that plan on camping out half the morning, but the ones that arrive just before the lines really start to form. Hubby isn't a good "waiter". We have done Carnival's "Faster to the Fun" program several times now and it is Fantastic!!

    I am with Mach... as soon as my foot steps on board my vacation is ON! The quicker I get there, the better!

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    We've done both - early and waited in lines; late and walked straight through.

    Our vacation begins the minute we hit the Tucson Airport. So getting on the ship early, early isn't as important to us as it had been years ago.

    We try to get onboard in time to have a nice meal, walk around, get the lay of the land, settle in the room and then hit the sail away party!

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    We have always been early boarders... Not the ones that plan on camping out half the morning, but the ones that arrive just before the lines really start to form. Hubby isn't a good "waiter". We have done Carnival's "Faster to the Fun" program several times now and it is Fantastic!!

    I am with Mach... as soon as my foot steps on board my vacation is ON! The quicker I get there, the better!

    Keep on cruisin'!!! Platinum can't be that far away and you'll LOVE it!!!

    :biggrin:

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    We have always been early boarders... Not the ones that plan on camping out half the morning, but the ones that arrive just before the lines really start to form. Hubby isn't a good "waiter". We have done Carnival's "Faster to the Fun" program several times now and it is Fantastic!!

    I am with Mach... as soon as my foot steps on board my vacation is ON! The quicker I get there, the better!

    Keep on cruisin'!!! Platinum can't be that far away and you'll LOVE it!!!

    I'm bummed I am not getting "grandfathered in" at the end of this year, but I will only be 23 sailing days away ... It won't be long :)

    :biggrin:

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    We have always been early boarders... Not the ones that plan on camping out half the morning, but the ones that arrive just before the lines really start to form. Hubby isn't a good "waiter". We have done Carnival's "Faster to the Fun" program several times now and it is Fantastic!!

    I am with Mach... as soon as my foot steps on board my vacation is ON! The quicker I get there, the better!

    Keep on cruisin'!!! Platinum can't be that far away and you'll LOVE it!!!

    I'm bummed I am not getting "grandfathered in" at the end of this year, but I will only be 23 sailing days away ... It won't be long :)

    :biggrin:

    Under the 'old' rules a three day is as good as a seven day! It still might happen!!! Keep those good cruisin' thoughts goin'!!!!

    :wink2:

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    We board early as well. We check in as much as we can and take 1 beach bag onboard with us with the necessaries (like a set of swim clothes) since we can't get into our cabin until 1 or 1:30pm. Being early also gives us a chance to tour the ship and so I can scope out the adult beverage areas and we can see what's where :rolleyes2:

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