How to Maximize Your Disembarkation Day

by Dana McMahan

How to Maximize Your Disembarkation Day

by Dana McMahan

When you pick your cruise, you often take the disembarkation port into account. However, many cruisers forget that — since cruise ships tend to arrive in the wee hours of the morning — if they book the first flight out on the day they march off the ship, they won't actually get to see their final port at all. Plan ahead, though, and you don't have to book extra nights to check out the port. Here are five strategies for fast, efficient ways of seeing some of the sites in your final destination without adding extra days to your trip. 

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Miami Beach / iStock / Meinzahn
Park Güell, Barcelona
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1. Book a shore excursion.

Cruise lines often offer disembarkation day excursions that remove all the hassle. You — and your luggage — go on a leisurely sightseeing day and when it's over, you're whisked right to the airport in plenty of time. It's easy and low effort, but there is a caveat. This is the least personalized way to spend the day in port, and you'll usually just get a basic introduction to the highlights. 

Cruise lines often offer disembarkation day excursions that remove all the hassle. You — and your luggage — go on a leisurely sightseeing day and when it's over, you're whisked right to the airport in plenty of time. It's easy and low effort, but there is a caveat. This is the least personalized way to spend the day in port, and you'll usually just get a basic introduction to the highlights. 

You'll be reunited with your luggage at the airport.
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2. Send your bags ahead.

Some cruise lines offer the option to whisk your bags right to your home airport. Sign up for a program like Royal Caribbean's Luggage Valet, Disney's Onboard Airline Check-In, or Holland America's Luggage Direct and you'll hand your bags over to the cruise line while on the ship, and see them next on the luggage carousel at the arrivals terminal when you get home. Unencumbered by luggage, you can explore the city on your own for the day before heading to the airport — bag free — to catch your flight.

And, if your cruise line doesn't offer the service, you can arrange for an outside agency such as Luggage Forward to get the job done. Luggage Forward takes the process one step further by sending your bags straight home, so you don't even have to worry about picking them up at the airport. 

Some cruise lines offer the option to whisk your bags right to your home airport. Sign up for a program like Royal Caribbean's Luggage Valet, Disney's Onboard Airline Check-In, or Holland America's Luggage Direct and you'll hand your bags over to the cruise line while on the ship, and see them next on the luggage carousel at the arrivals terminal when you get home. Unencumbered by luggage, you can explore the city on your own for the day before heading to the airport — bag free — to catch your flight.

And, if your cruise line doesn't offer the service, you can arrange for an outside agency such as Luggage Forward to get the job done. Luggage Forward takes the process one step further by sending your bags straight home, so you don't even have to worry about picking them up at the airport. 

Stash your luggage in the trunk
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3. Hire a guide and driver.

Plan ahead and hire a guide with a car in your disembarkation port, and you can stash your bags in the trunk while you spend the day sightseeing. Best of all, the guide can create a customized itinerary for the day based on your interests.

Plan ahead and hire a guide with a car in your disembarkation port, and you can stash your bags in the trunk while you spend the day sightseeing. Best of all, the guide can create a customized itinerary for the day based on your interests.

Hotel spa
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4. Book a spa treatment or lunch table at a hotel.

If you make a reservation at a spa or restaurant within a large resort or luxury hotel, the bell desk will hold your bags for you for the day while you enjoy their facilities. Ask ahead, but generally they won't mind if you drop them off early and leave them there late so you can, say, catch a museum before your massage. 

If you make a reservation at a spa or restaurant within a large resort or luxury hotel, the bell desk will hold your bags for you for the day while you enjoy their facilities. Ask ahead, but generally they won't mind if you drop them off early and leave them there late so you can, say, catch a museum before your massage. 

Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach
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5. Book a day room, cabana, or day pass at a resort. 

If you're in a resort-style port that's less about sightseeing than sunshine and pool time, look for a hotel that offers day rooms, cabana rentals, or day passes that include access to the hotel's beach, pool, and spa facilities. Leave your bags with reception and kick back for a day of relaxation before returning home. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and take advantage of the hotel's Wi-Fi  — and the spa's showers and changing rooms — while you're there. 

If you're in a resort-style port that's less about sightseeing than sunshine and pool time, look for a hotel that offers day rooms, cabana rentals, or day passes that include access to the hotel's beach, pool, and spa facilities. Leave your bags with reception and kick back for a day of relaxation before returning home. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and take advantage of the hotel's Wi-Fi  — and the spa's showers and changing rooms — while you're there. 

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