Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cruise Recap : Boarding/Departing

**I've decided to do my cruise recaps on Tuesdays.**

Talk about being a bad blogger...I took maybe 3 pictures during the boarding process, and those were basically in the car or while we were on our way to the ship after check in. Opps.

So we cruise with Royal Caribbean exclusively as of right now. The only other cruise line we intend to use is other cruise lines owned by RCI, or maybe a Disney crusie. Call me a snob if you will, but I have cruised with Carnival before, and I just wasn't impressed. My mom just got back from a Carnival cruise, and she loved it. To each their own. C wants to try out Carnival, but I am going to try and avoid that at all costs. So in saying that, my recap is more or less Royal Caribbean exclusive. Lots will be transferable to other cruise lines, but please don't get mad at me if you travel with Carnival or another cruise line and things aren't the same...

So on to boarding and departing. Our ship allowed you to board starting at noon, or at least no one boarded before noon. We left from Port Canveral, FL. Parking was $120.00 for 7 days, and we parked in a parking garage so the car wasn't "left out in the elements." When we pulled up, porters helped us unload our checked luggage. If for some reason you don't have the cruise specific luggage tags that let them know which room your luggage goes to, the porters usually have some extra. Be kind and tip these guys. We usually just give them a $5. From there, we found a parking spot, and got our carry on bags ready to go. Be sure to remove any items that you don't want seen in your car. We have a radar detector, and we took it down. Our car was empty of everything except a small overnight bag. I get worried someone will brake into my car.

Carry on luggage goes by TSA rules and such. I carried on a backpack, and C carried on a North Face duffle/backpack. With RCI, you are allowed to bring 1 750 ml bottle of wine per person, so we packed 2. Side note though, if you open your wine in a public place (dining room, bar, etc), you are charged a corkage fee. We took bottles that had screw on caps and enjoyed them in our room. While you are going through security, be kind and go ahead and take off watches, belts if they have large metal buckles, etc and put them in your carry on. All of our stuff had to go through the security screening. If you have anything that isn't allowed on the ship, they will take it here and give you a receipt to get it at the end of your cruise.

From there, it was upstairs to check in. RCI has you do online check in, and that really helps speed up the process. We had our "Set Sail Pass" filled out entirely, and our onboard charge account was already linked to my credit card. You need your passport, or other suitable ID (be sure to check with your cruise line on what you have to have), your credit card (or cash) for your on board account, and your boarding pass(Set Sail Pass for RCI). From there they give you your SeaPass card (again RCI calls it this, other lines call it something else) which is your card for getting on an off the ship, your card to get in your room, and your card to charge anything on while on the ship. Keep this card handy as you will need it a few more times in the next few minutes.

Once that is done, it is on to actually boarding the ship. RCI has places set up so that they get your pictures. You can opt out of this if you like, but hey you are on vacation, go ahead and let them take your picture. And then you are on the ship! Our rooms were not ready until about 1:30 pm but good news is that we pulled into the port around 12:45 pm and by the time we got through everything, we only had to wait a few minutes to get to our room.

Departing :

We picked Express Departure. In my opinion, this is the way to go. That means you carry your luggage off. If not, you are assigned a number and you set your luggage out the night before and you meet your luggage at baggage claim. We were allowed to depart at 6:45 am and we were in our car leaving by 7 am. You could still be on the ship until around 9 am if you don't do express departure. I prefer not to get backed up in customs, so we always do express departure.

Make sure you have your SeaPass card, passport, and customs form accessible as you leave. Customs for us was a breeze. They look at your passports, and your customs form, ask a few questions and if you don't have any reason to cause concern (they will decide if you or your luggage needs to be searched, or if you need to pay taxes because you bought more that $800 a person, or you are bringing in to much alcohol.) You can bring back $800 tax and duty free per person, 1 liter of alcohol per person, 1 carton of cigarettes (200 cigarettes) per person, and a box of non Cuban cigars (100 cigars) tax and duty free. Anything over that, you will have to be taxed on. (I am pretty sure I got the numbers right, but you can ask someone at Guest Relations to make sure on totals.) From there, it is just to your car, pay for parking, and head home!

If you had a receipt for anything that you weren't allowed to take on the cruise, you will pick it up on your way out.

Be looking for the next part of my Cruise Recap!

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