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Cruise Virgins – Checking in, by Harry Pope

You are there at the port, looking up at your home for the next few days or so. As you are a cruise virgin, it’s unlikely you will have been so close to a cruise ship before. My, but it’s big. Especially if it’s one of the newer ones, such as P&O’s Arvia or Iona, passenger capacity close on 6,000, with lots of crew to pamper your every need.

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Sunset or sunrise? View from balcony

If it’s a smaller one, like the 999 capacity Saga Spirit of Discovery, then you are looking at thirteen decks, the bottom four for crew. It is immaterial for the purpose of this article how you have arrived at quayside, train, private car, coach, overnight hotel as you live far away, you are here. You will have been allocated an embarkation time, try to keep to it if you can, it really does make the process go smoother. The procedure is so disciplined, you will be amazed at how smoothly it will all go.

There will be a porter to take your luggage (make sure you have labels affixed, with your cabin number), and a smiling assistant to point you in the right direction, ensuring that you have all relevant documents to hand. I saw a recent posting on a cruise site where a lady berated her husband for forgetting the travel document folder, they lived hundreds of miles away, they lost their three week cruise. That must have been some return journey. The departure area has banks of seats, you might go straight to a check-in desk if you are lucky, otherwise sit there with your hand luggage at your feet, clutching your paperwork. When you get to the check-in desk, there will be a supervisor hovering in the background, no shortage of personnel, they will check you in, take your photo, also credit card details, then you are ready for security. They will ask if you have had any recent covid symptoms, but not test you. The NHS app with vaccination history is now superfluous.

Valetta Harbour

Security is as you would expect, a metal screener, a conveyor belt, laptop removed from case, belt and shoes off, I have a pacemaker so avoid the screen, being patted down professionally with concern for personal proximity. Very efficient. In a way it’s like an impersonal game show, you are led through from one room to another by a uniformed professional, with the ultimate prize the successful arrival of you and your luggage in the cabin. We had a recent cruise where the electronic walkway wasn’t working, so we had to walk the gangplank. If anything it was better, because the walkway snaked back and forward getting higher at each level until you are alongside deck five, the usual one that is open. It is also close to the reception desk. 

The next stage depends on which ship you are on, and how much you have paid for your cabin. Seven Seas, Saga, and the like, when you step off the gangplank and set foot on the ship itself, there will be a concierge waiting, a smiling welcome aboard face on. Behind will be a row of stewards, one will step forward, take your hand luggage, and escort you to your cabin. You can almost guarantee that your luggage will not be there, but you can also be certain that it will not be lost. It will be there some time. Soon. The escort will have your two cabin keys, plastic credit card types that are your passport to spend money on board, also access your cabin. You will be asked if you are hungry. Of course you are, you haven’t eaten for at least two hours, they will provide you with a map of the ship, hopefully you will have paid attention during your walk from reception to cabin, but that is very unlikely.

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Pam in the freezing Arctic cold

You will examine the cabin minutely, especially the bathroom, commenting on the size of the shower, then use the loo. This operates on a suction, the noise is initially disconcerting. Don’t sit on it when you flush.

There will be a grill open, which will have panoramic windows, and there you will sit, feeling smug, ready for the next few days of pampered hedonism. But please, don’t click your fingers at the staff, it really isn’t the done thing.

Harry Pope runs the web page


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