Sadly all good things must come to an end. I don’t even like to think about leaving the cruise, but we all know it’s inevitable. Let’s start with the basics. In case you’re new to cruising, debarkation is basically leaving the ship. The process actually starts the night before we arrive back in Miami. Sometimes the cabin steward will deliver special luggage tags to your cabin along with customs forms. Staying organized the night before will help make the process go much smoother in the morning so make sure you take a look at all that stuff.
The morning we arrive back in Miami, expect a very early wakeup call, probably around 7 or so. The captain or cruise director will come on the loudspeaker to start making the announcement that we’ve arrived in Miami and that essentially it’s time for us to leave. Room service is generally not available but breakfast will be served in the main restaurant as well as the buffet. After you eat, there really isn’t much to do but sit around and wait in one of the lounges for your number to be called. Once you’re called to leave the ship, have your custom forms ready. If you’ve chosen the general debarkation, you can pick up your bags which will be organized by color or number. If you’ve chosen self-assist debarkation, just continue on through and make your way home. Which brings me to my next point. It's important to know there are 2 options for debarkation: Self-assist or general debarkation.
Self-Assist Debarkation- You take your own bags off and leave whenever you want.
You should choose this option if you don’t have a lot of bags and you are able to carry them off the ship yourself. Also choose this if you are in a rush to get off the ship to catch a flight.
Pros- You keep all your stuff with you until you leave. Don’t have to worry about packing your luggage before you head off to dinner on that last night.
Cons- Can be burdensome carrying all your own luggage off the ship.
General Debarkation- You put your luggage outside your door the night before you arrive back to your home port, and the cruise line will carry the luggage off for you. You will have an assigned time of when you can leave the ship.
You should choose this option if have bags that you are unable to carry yourself off the ship. Think of this process as checking your luggage on a plane. The cruise line will handle getting your bag off the ship for you and you will pick it up later at the terminal.
Pros- Don’t have to worry about your bags in the morning.
Cons- You are restricted on when you can leave the ship and you are without your luggage the morning that you leave. If you choose this, make sure you think about everything you will need the next morning and don’t pack it! This includes a change of clothes, medicines, toiletries, etc.
Which Method I Prefer
Personally, I ALWAYS choose the self-assist debarkation option. In my mind it’s just so much easier. I just take my bags with me when I leave and can do so at my pace. My concern with the general debarkation is that I always fear that they will lose my luggage. While rare, I’m just paranoid about that. Also, I don’t like waiting around for my number to be called when most everyone else just leaves at their leisure.
Another thing you want to think about when leaving the ship, make sure to say your goodbyes to your friends the night before you leave. I unfortunately made the mistake last year of not doing this, and missed on saying goodbye to a lot of my friends. Trust me, that last morning there is just too much else going on. First you will may to settle your bill from the trip. Though if you setup your account in the beginning with a credit card, it will automatically be charged so you don’t have to do anything. The only reason you might have to go to the purser’s office is if there is a mistake with your bill, or you paid cash and need to reconcile the differences.
I also found myself running around that last morning trying to grab a quick breakfast, attempting to find friends but failing, and of course packing. You will inevitably be shoving last minute items into your suitcase, and of course they won’t fit as well as they did on the way in. So that becomes stressful in itself. You’re also aware that you have a flight to catch and depending on how early you booked it, you may be rushing to the airport. And most importantly, you’re probably trying to find one of the backstreet boys to steal one last precious glimpse before you leave. Keep in mind, this is all happening around 7 in the morning after you were probably up until 5am the night before (if you were lucky enough to get any sleep). Definitely not my favorite part of the cruise.
So this post is just about as much fun to write as I’m sure it is to read, but when the time comes you’ll be glad you have the info.