All aboard: what to expect on your first cruise day

The big day has dawned – you’re embarking on your first cruise. You’ve checked in online, printed your boarding pass and baggage labels, given copies of all your travel documents to someone responsible… so, what next?


Before you leave home, load up your carry-on bag with your travel documents (make a note of your cabin number somewhere obvious, like in your phone), passport and/or government-issued photo ID (domestic cruises only), camera and medications. As there are usually a few hours between checking in and your luggage being delivered to your stateroom, add swimmers, sunscreen and a hat so you can use the ship’s pools and waterslides as soon as you board. And don’t try to sneak any booze on board, as it will be confiscated!

If you’re travelling with kids, pack things to keep them entertained while you wait to board – there are always queues at the port, so it’s best to be prepared. When you check in at the port, you’ll register your credit card (charges may apply) and be given a Sail & Sign card – this acts as the key to your stateroom and as your on-board credit account to pay for drinks and incidentals. If you prefer to use cash for your Sail & Sign card, you can deposit this once on board; simply go to the Cash Desk on Deck 3 or use the kiosks.

Once you’re on board, pick up the ship’s daily newsletter, The Fun Times on Carnival, from Guest Services. Among other useful information, it will tell you what restaurants are open for lunch; the Lido Restaurant buffet is likely to be crowded, so why not try Guy’s Burger Joint or BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival Spirit?


While you’re exploring the ship, make time to visit the shore excursions desk on Deck 2 to book ship-organised tours, because they can fill up quickly. If you’re looking forward to some pampering on your cruise, head up to Spa Carnival™ on Deck 9 to make an appointment – or just take a tour of the facilities, including the two-deck fitness centre and enter the embarkation-day raffle to win a free treatment.

Fancy fine dining while you’re cruising? You can pre-book dinner at Nouveau* Restaurant online but if you haven’t, go along in person to reserve a table. And take it up another notch at the fabulous Chef’s Table fine-dining experience; this VIP event is limited to groups of 12, so early booking (at Guest Services) is essential.


The first day on board is the best time to introduce children to the kids’ clubs, and book them in – even if you change your mind and don’t use the facilities, it’s always good to know what’s available.

Once you’ve unpacked, met your cabin steward (if you need extra hangers, or want to borrow a multi-socket power board, or have any questions, this is the person to ask), the only thing you absolutely have to do is attend the safety drill. This is announced several times all over the ship so you can’t miss it and it’s always held before you leave port.

Then it will be time to sail away – head up to the top decks for music, cocktails and the first of many fun-filled festivities of the cruise.


*Charges apply