It is the responsibility of the guest to make sure they arrive at the cruise ship on time. It is also advised to check in well ahead of schedule with your travel agent to confirm boarding and departure times. Keep in mind that your ticket reservations will be held as late as 60 minutes before your vessel is scheduled to depart, and the boarding ramp will be pulled 30 minutes prior to sailing. Failing to arrive in time creates the risk of automatic cancellation, otherwise known as a no-show. And, with your booking canceled, you will also be charged a cancellation fee.
Generally, you are allowed to board 3 to 4 hours before the ship embarks. Early arrival will allow you to settle in comfortably and get a good feel for your surroundings. When you walk up the ships gangway, you can expect to be met by a member of the cruise staff who will put you through all the appropriate paces. Your luggage will of course be delivered to your cabin shortly after its arrival on the ship. The only thing you will carry on board is your hand luggage. Most cruise ships will offer an appealing buffet along with refreshments as your ship embarks. If you are going on a Cruise in a warm climate and the port happens to be in a warm climate bring your bathing suit in your hand luggage. They won't let you in your room for quite some time so it's nice to take a dip and cool off.
It is highly recommended that you carry your passport if planning to travel domestically. If you do not have one, then a birth certificate (original), plus a picture taken by a federal, state, or local government agency will be required. Do the homework and check with local Passport Services for applications and further assistance concerning Visas or Visa Waive Programs if applicable. Properly planned, a cruise can be the experience of a lifetime.
Of course bring money and your thirst. You can purchase drinks from the bar well before the first room is open or you could hit the casino and do some gambling.
Either way, it's nice to board a cruise way ahead of time. Get familiarized with the ship and enjoy it before it gets packed. You will be without your luggage so it's important to bring those few items we mentioned above in your hand luggage.