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Answered: What Time Should I Arrive for my Galveston Cruise?

Cruise BoardingWhen it comes to arriving at the port, timing — as they say — is everything.

In a single day, a ship is unloading 3,000 passengers, cleaning the entire boat, re-supplying for an entire week, and loading another 3,000 passengers. That’s a lot to get done in less than a day.

Needless to say, the port on embarkation day will be busy. And with 3,000 people trying to board at the same time, if you schedule your arrival at the Galveston port at the wrong time, you could be looking at a wait of an hour or more to get on board the ship.

So what time should you get there? We’ll tell you…

Before we get too far, there is one thing you should know — you should never arrive late to the cruise terminal. Cruises are required to report a manifest to authorities 90 minutes before scheduled departure. Arriving late can delay the entire ship… or worse, cause them to leave you behind.

Every cruise line will give you a boarding time window on your cruise documents. For example, a recent Royal Caribbean cruise that leaves Galveston at 4:30 has a boarding time from 12:00 to 3:00.

So does that mean you should arrive at noon, or even earlier? Sure, if you like to wait in line.

Some people arrive at the port at the start of boarding or even earlier. Yes, those people that arrive earliest will be the first in line, but they simply have to sit and wait until the cruise line begins boarding. That time is rarely before the stated boarding time. So anyone arriving at 11 a.m. for a noon departure has guaranteed themselves at least an hour-long wait.

And anyone arriving at noon or just after are likely to be caught in some of the biggest boarding crowds of the day.

What’s more, those people boarding earliest are also likely to have to schlep their bags around for a few hours.

Just because you are allowed to board the ship doesn’t mean your cabin is going to be immediately available. While you are free to roam around the public areas of the ship and grab a bite to eat in the buffet, your cabin is likely to still be in the cleaning process. That means you’ll have to lug your carry-on bags with you everywhere you go.

If that’s the case, what’s the best time to board? We think it’s best to board about an hour before the end of the embarkation window.

At this time your cabin is more likely to be ready, and if it’s not, then it shouldn’t be a long wait. The majority of people will have already boarded, meaning you shouldn’t face much of a line. Best of all, while people will have immediately hit the buffet, it should be cleared out by now, giving you a chance to grab a bite to eat in peace.

Plus, you’ll still have an hour left in your boarding time, leaving you plenty of time to get checked in before the 90-minute regulation.

Update: Carnival now has staggered check-in, which allots a 30-minute window for you to arrive at boarding.

Photo: Christian Lambert

3 Responses so far.

  1. Ernesto says:

    I am looking for a limo company that will work from residential to the bay port cruise terminal. Everyone else is quoting rates to Galveston to go to Bayport. Thank you.

  2. Galveston Cruise Tips says:

    Ernesto —
    Check out our page on getting to the terminal. There are quite a few options. If worse comes to worse, you could always take a taxi.

  3. Christine Ravely says:

    We have bought the Faster to the Fun deal on the Carnival Magic, we are going in September. This is a limited deal, probably no longer available for this cruise, but it allows us to board the ship earlier than everyone else, outside of the Platinum/Gold members (I think those are the levels). It’s a separate line, it guarantees our cabin will be ready, it even gives us priority for tenders, has a separate line for Guest Services, etc. Worth every penny!

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