Just read my docs for my cruise out of Tampa and boarding is staggered by deck starting at 10:30 am with suites and Crown & Anchor boarding at anytime. Is this a new boarding procedure? Last cruise in November out of Canaveral was the "usual" don't get here too early. Has anyone experienced this boarding process? It sounds like a formula for chaos with passengers getting off and new ones coming on. I'm sure the cabins still will not be available until 1:30. Where does everyone go?
They do this in New Orleans too, and a couple other places. It has been in effect for a few years at ports with smaller terminals. The terminals are not large enough to have a lot of people checking in and sitting or standing around, so they ask that people arrive at certain times to minimize crowding, hoping that at least some will comply. It worked well in New Orleans when we cruised out of there last month. If you show up prior to your 'scheduled' time they won't deny you boarding.
It is always nice to get onboard nice and early, have lunch and stroll around the ship. Yes, usually you can't get into your cabin until after 1:00, but the pools are open and you can also check out the dining room and see where your table is if you are doing traditional dinner... Lots to do before sailaway.
I love getting on the ship early! You can explore before the crowds arrive. Have the swimming pools and hot tubs almost to yourself!
Carnival Fascination 11/01/04, 5N
Crown Princess 3/27/10, 7N RCCL Oasis of the Seas 10/20/12, 7N
Celebrity Silhouette 2/09/14 7N
RCCL Quantum of the Seas - 12/01/14, 11N
NCL Epic 3/8/15 7N
NCL Escape 2/13/16 7N
Carnival Vista 11/18/16 11N
Harmony of the Seas 12/31/16 7N ???
We're different than most in that we like to arrive a little later. That way we almost always encounter no lines, no waiting, and our cabin is usually ready for us as soon as we get onboard. So we are able to casually board the ship, drop off our carry-on luggage in our cabin so we don't have to lug it around, and then go up to a less-crowded meal.
If you get there early, there's almost always long lines (we hate standing in those lines) and it's chaos trying to process everyone so they can get onboard. Then, since most of the time the cabins are not ready for occupancy until about 1:30, everyone takes their carry-on luggage and heads to the buffet area on the Lido Deck. So it's very noisy and becomes very crowded with people pushing and shoving to get as much food as they can as quickly as possible. Sorry, but to us that's just not a fun way to start a nice cruise and much rather spend 2 hours less time on the ship to avoid all the hassles. But to each their own; everybody is different on what they like to do.
Don't pay alot of attention to those assigned or suggested boarding times as they're not going to say you have to wait until your time is called. It's just their way of trying to stagger arriving times in an attempt to make it less crowded since most people want to get there and on the ship as early as possible.
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Honestly, you'll encounter like a very small line if you go over between 11:00AM and 11:30AM; that "crowd" that mentioned is like always gone by then and you can still enough your lunch onboard. Plus, they serve lunch through like 3-4pm anyway. Just have a nice breakfast wherever and enjoy lunch onboard. I've sailed with Royal more than 50 times; this has never failed me and I've never waiting in any lines (even on Allure/Oasis). Have a great cruise, it's vacation!