You’ve had a great cruise and it’s time to get out. What’s the best option for the best disembarkation? You have two types of choices.
The Cruise Handles Your Luggage
Keep in mind that a great way to end your vacation is to not rush home, but rather spend some more time visiting. I typically stay in a hotel for at least one night after my cruise. That way, I can check-in, drop my bags off, take a nap (if needed), and then visit the local area. If you’re from Miami and leave from Miami, obviously that doesn’t apply to you.
However, if you have to fly in, you may find that flights are cheaper because they aren’t on a busy cruise departure/arrival day when many more people book flights. In any case, the idea is to slowly ween yourself off the amazing time you had on your cruise and do it in a relaxed fashion.
The advantage of letting the ship’s porters handle your luggage is that you don’t have to worry about getting it off the ship. Once you walk off the ship, you go pick up your bags from the cruise terminal and you’re all set.
There are certainly situations where someone else handling your bags are advantageous. If you have kids, it may be more difficult to manage your bags and the little ones at the same time. Many elderly couples, particularly those with limited mobility, prefer to have someone else take care of their luggage for them. Some passengers have so many bags that it’s too impractical to carry them all out on their own. I once came across a couple that had 6 bags for an 8-day cruise!
If you have an early flight, some ships may let you disembark early, setting aside your bags for you as the first ones off the ship. You have to inquire on board because this is a case-by-case type of situation.
One downside of letting the cruise staff take care of your bags is that you must pack them up and place them outside your door the night before. That means that you must decide what you want to wear on the last night of the cruise, what you’ll wear to bed, and what you want to put on the next morning.
What I’ve done in the past is that while I was at home packing my suitcase, I put in one of those bags that fold into a small ball with a drawstring. So on that last night, I open it up and put in the last few items of clothes and toiletries (like a toothbrush) that I want to keep with me and walk off the ship with. Of course, a backpack, beach bag, or large purse could work as well.
Another limitation of letting the cruise handle your bags is that in the morning, you have to wait for your floor to be called. So you may get up, eat breakfast, and be ready to leave but you won’t be allowed to until your floor is cleared to leave the ship.
Cruise Luggage Valet Service
This service is similar to the above in that the crew takes your bags off of the ship for you. However, instead of leaving them in the cruise terminal for you to pick up, they send them directly to your house (for a fee). They will also pick up your bags from your house and bring them to the ship when you first board.
Carry Your Own Bags Off
A second option is to walk off the ship with your bags. Pack up, eat breakfast, go back to your room to get your bags and walk off when you’re ready.
I’ve tried rolling my luggage off the ship and must say that I prefer doing so. You can leave later, you don’t have to worry about preparing clothes to sleep in, you can keep your make-up and toiletries, and overall I find it less stressful.
In some cases, you may want to rush off the ship because you have a flight to catch. Well, I can tell you that ending a wonderful cruise with the an onslaught of stress is not the way to go! I strongly recommend taking a later flight so you don’t have to rush home (if possible, of course since timing is everything).
I’ve heard people say that for people who are walking off, if you wait too long, there may be a delay at customs but I have yet to encounter that type of problem whether I was in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York City, or Civitavecchia (Rome).
Keep This In Mind!
Remember that the cruise wants to clean the room and get ready to set sail a few hours later that day. As such, they want you out of there so you’re free to roam the cruise ship itself one last time, eat a little (or a lot!), take the sun and so on. But! They typically want you out of your room by around 9am. So you may have your bags to drag around with you as you do all of these things.