How to Never Wait in Line on a Cruise

by Kayla Becker

How to Never Wait in Line on a Cruise

by Kayla Becker

We can all agree that waiting in line is no one’s idea of a stress-free vacation. And though lines come with the territory on mega cruises, where up to 6,000 other people are along for the same ride, there are ways to reduce your wait times. Stick with us and you’ll zoom right past those snaking embarkation lines and lengthy waterslide queues — all you need are these seven tips to feel like you’re actually on vacation.

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On a Princess cruise / Princess Cruises
Norwegian Pearl
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1. Check in Online Before Embarkation Day

On mainstream lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, and Princess Cruises, you can check in on your cruise line’s website with your reservation number and ID before you get to the pier, meaning you can bypass the check-in line, boarding pass in hand, and head straight to get your documents validated. That’s one less hoop you have to jump through, bringing you closer to that tropical drink and your feet up on deck.

On mainstream lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, and Princess Cruises, you can check in on your cruise line’s website with your reservation number and ID before you get to the pier, meaning you can bypass the check-in line, boarding pass in hand, and head straight to get your documents validated. That’s one less hoop you have to jump through, bringing you closer to that tropical drink and your feet up on deck.

Oasis of the Seas' AquaTheater
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2. Make Yourself a Frequent Cruiser

If you’re a loyal cruiser who returns over and over again, you earn points that add up to a VIP membership with access to all kinds of perks, such as exclusive rates, complimentary dinner, and — you guessed it — skipping the lines.  

Take your pick: If you’re a Carnival Very Important Fun Person (VIFP), you board the ship first, skipping everyone in line on embarkation day, and have the option to disembark early or late. When you’re in port you also get priority service from ship to shore. Disney’s Castaway Club and Norwegian’s Latitude Program, too, give you priority check-in and disembarkation while Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society gives you the same perks, plus priority seating at packed theaters, ice shows, and Aqua Theater events.

If you’re a loyal cruiser who returns over and over again, you earn points that add up to a VIP membership with access to all kinds of perks, such as exclusive rates, complimentary dinner, and — you guessed it — skipping the lines.  

Take your pick: If you’re a Carnival Very Important Fun Person (VIFP), you board the ship first, skipping everyone in line on embarkation day, and have the option to disembark early or late. When you’re in port you also get priority service from ship to shore. Disney’s Castaway Club and Norwegian’s Latitude Program, too, give you priority check-in and disembarkation while Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society gives you the same perks, plus priority seating at packed theaters, ice shows, and Aqua Theater events.

Sail Away party on Carnival Glory
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3. Buy a Pass

What if you don’t have loyalty status? If you’re willing to pay a little extra, around $50 to $60, Carnival’s Faster to the Fun Program whisks you past the crowd at check-in and boarding — meaning you get to bypass everyone except VIFP Platinum and Diamond loyalty guests, in the general boarding lane on embarkation day. Plus, you have the option for early or late disembarkation, and priority tender service from ship to shore. Goodbye, crazy wait times. There’s one caveat: Carnival is the only cruise line that offers this kind of pass, and though anyone cruising on a Carnival ship can purchase one, the numbers are limited.

What if you don’t have loyalty status? If you’re willing to pay a little extra, around $50 to $60, Carnival’s Faster to the Fun Program whisks you past the crowd at check-in and boarding — meaning you get to bypass everyone except VIFP Platinum and Diamond loyalty guests, in the general boarding lane on embarkation day. Plus, you have the option for early or late disembarkation, and priority tender service from ship to shore. Goodbye, crazy wait times. There’s one caveat: Carnival is the only cruise line that offers this kind of pass, and though anyone cruising on a Carnival ship can purchase one, the numbers are limited.

Blu on Celebrity Silhouette
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4. Book a Suite

Passengers who book suites on some major lines such as Norwegian and Carnival get exclusive access to exclusive suite-level restaurants and decks which are never crowded. On Celebrity ships, suite guests have exclusive access to the upscale Blu restaurant, for example. And if your ship has “ship within a ship” construction, you have access to exclusive areas that's only for suite members, such as the Havana Pool deck on Carnival Vista and The Haven lounge, restaurant, and deck on Norwegian ships.

Passengers who book suites on some major lines such as Norwegian and Carnival get exclusive access to exclusive suite-level restaurants and decks which are never crowded. On Celebrity ships, suite guests have exclusive access to the upscale Blu restaurant, for example. And if your ship has “ship within a ship” construction, you have access to exclusive areas that's only for suite members, such as the Havana Pool deck on Carnival Vista and The Haven lounge, restaurant, and deck on Norwegian ships.

Carnival Vista's SkyRide
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5. Avoid High Traffic Times

Want to try out the cool new 10-story slide on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas or put the pedal to the metal on Carnival Vista’s high-flying aerial bikes? Choose the time wisely. Your best bet is to go is on port days, when the majority of cruisers vacate the ship, leaving you the freedom to roam the vessel with a little more space. Or, check your daily cruise schedule to see when big events are happening, such as a comedy show or theater performance — they too, draw crowds away from popular attractions. And, if you want to avoid a line at the buffet, don’t go at 12 pm or 5 pm — consider going at least 30 minutes later, since it’s usually busiest at the beginning of food service. Even better, use that time to watch the sunset, or grab a pre-dinner drink at the bar.

Want to try out the cool new 10-story slide on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas or put the pedal to the metal on Carnival Vista’s high-flying aerial bikes? Choose the time wisely. Your best bet is to go is on port days, when the majority of cruisers vacate the ship, leaving you the freedom to roam the vessel with a little more space. Or, check your daily cruise schedule to see when big events are happening, such as a comedy show or theater performance — they too, draw crowds away from popular attractions. And, if you want to avoid a line at the buffet, don’t go at 12 pm or 5 pm — consider going at least 30 minutes later, since it’s usually busiest at the beginning of food service. Even better, use that time to watch the sunset, or grab a pre-dinner drink at the bar.

Norwegian Pearl's Main Restaurant
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6. Or ... Skip the Buffet

One of the best ways to skip the line at the buffet? Avoid it altogether. While everyone is queued up, you can find open seats in the quieter main dining room at breakfast and lunch.

One of the best ways to skip the line at the buffet? Avoid it altogether. While everyone is queued up, you can find open seats in the quieter main dining room at breakfast and lunch.

Ready to disembark
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7. Disembark Last

Being the organized cruiser you are, you probably think heading to disembark first will probably get you off the ship fastest. Not so. Wait it out, and you’ll miss the lines. If you’re in no rush to get to the airport, it’s best to let all the other passengers off the ship first, and exit only when the last call is announced. Bonus: Your bags will be much easier to find now that most other passengers have cleared out.

Being the organized cruiser you are, you probably think heading to disembark first will probably get you off the ship fastest. Not so. Wait it out, and you’ll miss the lines. If you’re in no rush to get to the airport, it’s best to let all the other passengers off the ship first, and exit only when the last call is announced. Bonus: Your bags will be much easier to find now that most other passengers have cleared out.

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