How Long Does it Take to Get Off a Cruise Ship? *Disembark

Imagine you are on an intercontinental vacation on a cruise ship or hey maybe you’re even on one right now, and you are going on a trip from country to country. But as your cruise ship prepares to leave for port, you wonder to yourself ‘how long does it take to get off a cruise ship?’.

You’re on vacation, and of course, you’d love to take the time to enjoy yourself while you’re on the ship. But the problem is what if you’re at port, wouldn’t you just love to experience the local atmosphere and really appreciate the foreign culture?

However, as they say, time is gold and you only have a limited amount of time to disembark the ship and enjoy what the locals have to offer.

As you take note of all the prime inland destinations and tourist attractions you’re planning to go to, you also have to take into account the amount of time it takes to disembark. So without further ado, here’s some insight on how long does it’ll take to get off of a cruise ship.

How Long it Usually Takes to Get Off a Cruise Ship at Ports of Call

First of all, cruise ships are massive. Ocean liners in particular can host somewhere around 3,000 to 5,000 passengers plus the crew, and that’s a lot of people.

A cruise ship is designed with luxury at the least amount of hassle for the passengers in mind. However, moving this many people all at once without inconveniencing a majority of them is a logistics nightmare.

Make no mistake, the crew is trained for these events and have a set amount of guidelines for each passenger to follow to ensure that disembarking goes as smoothly as possible for everyone. Now these guidelines may vary from one cruise to another but they all operate in a similar respect, so you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

The Process

Whenever your cruise ship arrives at a certain destination, it will either anchor itself at sea and use small boats to ferry passengers to port or dock at a port capable of accommodating such a large vessel.

Can't Dock at Port:

If the ship cannot dock at the port, it will make use of these small boats to allow passengers to get off the ship. However due to the nature of how these boats are boarded, you must be physically fit enough to cross the gap between the boat and the ship without any assistance. Should you be unable to do this, officials will not allow you to disembark the ship.

This method takes longer depending on the distance of the ship from shore and the number of available boats and can take somewhere around 15-45min per trip.

Can Dock at Port:

Now if the ship can dock at the port, as soon as the inspection is done and the ship is secure you can practically walk off the moment the doors open. However, that only happens when the ship has been thoroughly inspected, which depends on the local inspectors, so the time it takes can vary and the crew cannot do anything about it.

After the inspection and the crew receives the all-clear signal, the doors to port along with a set of stairs will open a path for you. Do keep in mind that you are not the only passenger disembarking and as such there will be queues whose length depends on the popularity of the destination.

From the moment the all-clear signal is given to you stepping foot on the port, should take only about 10-15min. But the time it takes from the moment of arrival to the all-clear signal varies heavily, so remember to take that variable into account.

How Long it Usually Takes to Get Off a Cruise Ship at the End of a Cruise

disembark cruise ship

For starters, even though a cruise ship is similar to a hotel, the process for getting off of it at the end of a cruise is far from checking out of a hotel.

This is because, unlike a hotel, the crew has to absolutely make sure that you are on the right destination and that all of your papers are accounted for. A normal hotel has no issues with international laws and local laws during check out, but a cruise ship does.

Understand that what may be allowable in one port is not necessarily legal in another. Plus you have to clear customs to ensure that you do not carry anything illegal or any diseases, COVID-19 in particular.

Going through all this is a necessary step and cannot be skipped no matter how much you spend on getting the highest priority possible, thus always assume the worst delay when it comes to these things.

Everything You Need to Know and Expect

Now that we’ve set some ground rules on the unavoidable time required for those things, let’s focus on the stuff you can do to lessen the total time spend when getting off of a cruise ship.

Disembarkation Procedures

Usually, on the last day of the cruise, an announcement will be made and a briefing will be held in a large area like a theater or multi-purpose hall. This is to announce to the passengers on what procedures they will need to do for disembarkation.

Attendance is advised, but if you’d rather enjoy your last day at sea, you are definitely free to do so. These procedures will be printed out on flyers and sent to each cabin or will be available at the information desk.

Extra procedures will be taken as COVID-19 is still an issue as of the writing of this guide.

Account Settling

Of course, you can’t just leave without paying for everything you spent on the cruise. That said to avoid any further hassle, do pay in advance and try to keep spending to a minimum on the last day of your cruise, as queue lines can get horribly long especially on the last day, regardless of whether you use cash or credit.

Luggage Logistics

Although most cruise liners offer a lot of ways to carry your luggage off the ship, it all boils down to two methods and these are generally what you have to choose from. Either you carry it around yourself on the day of disembarkation, or pack it the night before, and have crew members carry it for you. Sometimes this is free, but do take it up with the cruise information desk so that you don’t end up with unintended costs.

Carrying it yourself does have some advantages in that you still have your stuff with you on the last day. Whereas leaving it with the crew members means that everything has to be packed and you only have a minimum amount of things with you.

Land Ho

All your luggage has to be scanned and made sure that nothing illegal is stored within. Your carry-ons will also have to pass through customs to ensure that any souvenirs you’ve bought are well within the cruise’s allotted tax-free limit.

Examples of Cruises & How They Usually Deal with Disembarkation

carnival cruises

Royal Caribbean International

For a cruise on the Royal Caribbean, guests will have to leave the ship on the final day of the cruise around 10-11am local time. Everyone must leave the ship before the next batch of passengers will be allowed on board. A flyer will be provided to each guest with exact details on how to depart.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Getting off of a Regent Seven Seas cruise liner requires you to be prepared shortly after your arrival at the port, as you will be vacating the suites soon after. 

As for the order of disembarkation, some suites will be given priority over others however Regent Seven Seas implores the passengers not to book a flight at least 4 hours after disembarkation, to account for any unforeseen circumstances that might cause delays.

Carnival Cruises

Preparation starts at the night before debarkation, where guests are offered two options for disembarkation the following morning, the express debark and the checked luggage debark.

The express option is faster but it will require you to carry your own luggage, but as soon as the shop opens its doors to port you can walk right off, provided all accounts and payments were settled the day before.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Their guest services desk will be more than willing to provide you with specific details, but regarding disembarkation time, it varies depending on the priority you are given, as well as exclusive check-in and check-out lines.

Oceania Cruises

Follow most standard procedures that other cruise liners do but have added precautions by collaborating with local authorities and medical institutions before allowing anyone off the ship. Expect to be delayed.

Conclusion

Settle all your accounts at least a day before disembarkation time, to prevent any unwanted delays. Since we are still considered to be in a state of a pandemic, extra steps will be undertaken at certain ports which will increase the disembarkation time.

Allot at least a minimum of 4 hours after your scheduled disembarkation time for any activity that requires your immediate attention. Although the time it takes to get from suite to port varies depending on the number of passengers and the protocols of the ship this answer should suffice to the question of how long does it take to get off of a cruise ship for most if not all cases.