April 22, 2017

Cruising Part One: Cruise Ship Embarkment

Cruising Part One:  Cruise Ship Embarkment
We recently took a cruise for the first time and loved it! 
Cross Mediterranean cruise OFF the bucket list!

We didn't find a lot of information on cruising that was useful-at least for families, so I thought I'd share with you a few things we learned.
I'll try to break it into sections for easier reading.  I'll be covering Cruise Embarkement, Cruising-Part One, Cruising-Part Two, and Disembarkment.

First off-Cruise Embarkement

The cruise company that we went on is MSC cruisesHere is their website.

The cruise we went on was one of the first of it's kind, meaning that even our travel agent hadn't seen a cruise that went to the locations we did.
If you wanted to find it again, you cannot get to it from the English MSC website.  You'd have to go to the German MSC website, located here.

Our cruise went to: 
Genoa, Italy
Civitavecchia, Italy
Corfu, Greece
Kotor, Montenegro
Split, Croatia
Venice, Italy

Here is the easy breakdown of our initial cruise embarkment, but continue reading for more details:
-Cut and place luggage tags from boarding passes onto your luggage
-Arrive at port
-Cruise employees will take your luggage and place it on the ship for you
-Walk down the port to the boarding station/building
-Enter boarding station:
  -welcome line
  -boarding line, where you wait to get your passport and boarding pass verified
  -waiting area/boarding group
  -security check point
  -loading bridge
  -cruise ship security check point
  -finding your room/getting your luggage/obtaining your cruise card
  -registering cruise card-Once you get your cruise card, you have to register a form of payment with  it.  I'll describe more about this on the next segment of my cruise blog posts.  Stay tuned.

When you embark to get to the cruise ship, it's similar to getting onto an airplane.

We arrived with all of our luggage (each family member was allotted one large suitcase-visit the MSC website for luggage guidance) at the end of the docking port.  MSC cruise employees collected our suitcases and placed our luggage tags on them for us.  The luggage tags came with our boarding passes and we noticed other people had laminated their luggage tags and already placed them onto their luggage.  We had never gone on a cruise before, so we had not had that ingenious idea.
Here is one of our four luggage tags
that was printed on the bottom of each persons boarding pass.
We walked towards the cruise ship, where we encountered a large building.  In the building was where you'll find lots of roped lines and sections:  welcoming section=cruise ship employees greeted us with water and orange juice and took professional photos of our family in front of a make shift ship wheel and backdrop (we never purchased these, but they were available at customer service if we wanted them).  Then we were ushered to roped off waiting areas to begin the boarding process.  Instead of waiting in line with everyone, we had purchased a special package when we bought our cruise ship tickets which included priority everything.  Honestly, we booked our cruse 6 months in advance and it was almost sold out.  I only had 2 packages to choose from to get our cruise tickets and drink package.  The cheaper of the 2 packages left to purchase still included 'priority' status.  In the end, it was great and well worth it!  Basically, we were waiting in line with everyone else and I took our cruise invoice to one of the employees ushering everyone in the lines.  EVERYONE employed with the cruise ship spoke English and was able to understand that I was wondering if we needed to wait in line with everyone or go ahead due to the priority status on our tickets.  The employee gave us a special priority card and ushered us to a separate area where no one was and we got expedited service.  We went to another desk where they verified our tickets, our passports, and gave us a boarding group number.  We were group 4, but when I showed the desk clerk our priority card, she told us we could go straight to the front of the line-which was a security area (similar to when you are trying to get on to a plane).  From here, we had to get our carry ons (backpacks and purse) scanned and walk through metal detectors.  It's just like an airport, where they will confiscate any weapons, liquids over a certain amount, food, etc.
Once through security, you'll walk outside of the doors to the embarkment bridge and onto the cruise ship.
After security, on our way to the embarkment bridge
This is where you will go through ANOTHER security check point where the cruise ship employees take your photo as you get onto the cruise ship. 
Security taking passenger's photos as you arrive to the ship.
This photo gets associated with a card that you get for the duration of the cruise.  This cruise ship card has your identity on it, your meal plan on it, cabin number, etc.  It's basically your exit and entrance pass to the cruise ship and you also register a form of payment to the card so it's used for EVERYTHING!  (I'll explain more of the card as you read on and I provided some more info in THIS-link to come late- post).  The card is also your key to get into your room.  After you finally get to step foot onto the cruise ship and have gone through the security check points you may go to your room.  Your luggage will be lined up outside of your room, or at least up and down the same hallway as your room-so you may have to go on a little bit of a search for it.  Don't fear though, it'll all be there for you.  We were amazed out the efficiency of this process.
In your room, you'll find a daily newsletter and your cruise cards.  Each member of your party gets their own card.

This cruise card will tell you everything you need to know.  Ours says 'Aurea' which meant that we had priority everything and that our drink package was included.  When you purchase your tickets, you have drink package options to chose from as well.  We are not big drinkers, but wanted to have bottled water and soda available-it was a great choice for us, because their cappuccinos were great and I fully indulged in those.  The 'Assembly Station' is where you go if there is an emergency and you need to evacuate the ship.  12065 was our room number and it was located on Deck 12.  We did not pay for the 'internet package', but our card came with an Internet ID in case we decided to purchase the Internet during the cruise.  The cruise ship was called MSC POESIA and the cruise lasted from April 2-8.  Dining times are assigned and the first seating is at 1830 and the second seating is at 1930.  Due to our 'aurea' status, we could eat at either dining times='My Choice Dining'.  The card comes with a barcode on it.  Remember when I mentioned that when you arrive on the ship, initially, that your picture gets taken?  Well, whenever you get on or off the boat you have to provide this card to security, who then scans the barcode.  When security scans your card, your picture pops up on a screen so they can verify that you are actually you.  It was also their way of getting a head count and knowing who is on or off the boat.  Pretty amazingly efficient, right?

To read more on Cruising-Part One, click Here.
To read more on Cruising-Part Two, click Here.
To read about Disembarkment, click Here.
***these posts are coming available over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned...***

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