10 things to do between the time you board the ship and...

10 things to do between the time you board the ship and the muster drill

Rob prepping for the muster drill.

It’s the day of your cruise! (Lucky you if you are going on a cruise today). After patiently going through the embarkation process, you are now on board the ship ready to relax and enjoy your vacation. Thousands of passengers will be embarking. This is an exciting time and I would argue a time when you will see the most happy people.

If you’ve cruised before, you know all about the muster drill. When we got married on Carnival in the port of Tampa, after our ceremony we had a fun reception and then those who weren’t sailing had to get off the ship. We shot a few wedding photos. But then, we were instructed to grab our life vests from our stateroom and go to the muster drill. Nothing was more awesome than being in my wedding dress and Rob in his tux with the lovely bright orange life vests worn over our wedding clothes for the drill. It actually was a fun and unique moment!

The muster drill can be an annoying interruption as you start your vacation, yet it is very important and attendance is mandatory. What you will find yourself doing is planning your first day with the muster drill in mind, or what we call – what to do before the drill.

Most ships typically depart between 3pm and 5pm and you can arrive just 2 hours before your depature (not recommended by the way). If you are like us, you like to get on board as soon as the ship will allow which can be as early as 11:00am in some cases.   Since your luggage has been checked with the porter, and your room will not be ready as soon as you board, you will find yourself wondering what to do until your cabin is ready and your luggage has arrived. So what are you going to do for the next 3-5 hours before the drill? Here are 10 ideas to kick start your cruise from the time you get on board to the time of the muster drill:

  1. Take a selfie (or two or three or more) with the ship in the background so you have a nice documentation to share on social media and rub it in.
  2. Call two friends who aren’t traveling with you when you get on the ship to brag about the cruise ship. This phone call is even more effective if you call while lounging at the pool with a cool drink in hand and party music in the background.
  3. Download the ship’s app from the app store for your smartphone that the cruise line offers. (May or may not apply to to your cruise.) You will have cell service in port if you are departing from a US port so you can download these apps without huge internet access fees charged on the ship. You can use the apps to do things like connect with other passengers on your cruise, make reservations, review the deck plans, see list of activities. Good thing to get familiar with as soon as you are on board.
  4. Go to the top deck, grab a lounge chair and enjoy the pool. Be sure to pack your swimsuit, sunscreen and whatever else you like to bring to the pool in your carry on. You can change in the restroom if your room isn’t ready or just wear your swimsuit under the clothes when you board if poolside is your plan.
  5. Tour the spa: the spa will be open for tours on embarkation day. You can take a tour and then book a spa at some great rates. The spa will offer some specials to encourage you to book right then. It will be busy so bring your patience (and maybe grab a cocktail to carry along with you on your tour).
  6. Tour the ship: grab a map of the ship layout. We suggest you start at the top deck work your way down. By the time you complete your self-guided tour, your room will probably be ready. Things to check out are where your dining room is, where the activities on board are (like rock wall, sports courts, slides, arcades, theater, etc.) You will also want to find the lower decks that you can walk from end to end. You can’t do this on all decks so it’s a good thing to discover early. Even on smaller sized ships, it’s always great to check everything out on your self-guided tour and then make notes of places you want to come back to. Since most people will be up at the buffet and pool, you will feel like you are the only one on the ship. It’s also a great time to take photos of the ship without having a ton of people to work around. And you will probably find a few spots that few people will ever discover.
  7. Grab a drink and people watch. This is a fun way to meet some of your fellow cruisers, relax and break in your beverage package. You may also want to enjoy a drink of the day (DOD). Be sure to ask which bars are open. The bars by the pool deck will be packed and also the bar in the atrium. You may find a shorter line at a bar around the corner or on another deck.
  8. Have lunch. This is perhaps what everyone does. Makes sense. Just know that there will be a ton of people doing the exact same thing as you. Lines will be long and tables may be hard to find as the food options for embarkation day are pretty limited. We like to grab a small plate and save our appetite for dinner. One of the soft serve ice cream cones however is always a good idea.
  9. Unpack. Your room will be ready in the early afternoon. Since you will have to grab your life vest (in most cases) from your room anyway, might as well spend 15 minutes unpacking your luggage and getting organized. This way, after the muster drill you are ready to head up for the sail away party.
  10. Drink…this is a popular activity between embarkation and the muster drill so it gets two spots on our list. Based on a cruise forum we read, this seems to be the number one activity. Just don’t overdo it too much before the muster drill. They don’t like that for some reason. And you really don’t want to miss your first dinner on the ship.

Bon voyage! Share your ideas in the comments below.