Completing the online check-in for your cruise is a really important thing to do right after the booking is made, for a number of reasons. Travelers often view registering with the cruise line the same as checking in for a flight, something they do shortly before the date of departure. That’s a huge mistake, for a number of reasons
- Find mistakes now, while it’s free to fix them– Some cruise lines charge a fee for changes made to bookings after a certain time. If you told them your name is Bob Jones and your legal name, the one that appears on the passport, is Robert Cecil Jones you can be denied boarding without compensation. How that plays out is that everyone else in your party is on the ship having a good time while you argue with the cruise line at the pier to let you on the ship. It happens. If it happens to you, don’t call your travel agent from the ship, there is nothing they can do for you at that point.
- “Registering” and “Printing A Boarding Pass” are two entirely different functions. Register with your cruise line on its website as soon as the booking is made. That may trigger a series of emails from the cruise line, the captain of your ship and others. In addition to catching mistakes early (see #1), registration allows us to perform functions like signing up for shore excursions, sending Bon Voyage gifts to ourselves or others and more. Registration has to be done before a Boarding Pass can be printed, a function that happens later, usually at about 30 days prior to sailing.
- Know your travel agency is real and did not head to Mexico with your money– Waiting until the last minute to find out that your booking does not exist is a bad idea. I wrote an article not long ago about an agency that took payments from a big group of students for a graduation cruise and skipped town. Tragic? Yes but also quite avoidable. If any one of those people had tried to register online and the cruise line website did not recognize their booking number, it would have been a big red light flashing that something was wrong.
- The cruise line knows how to count and has fun with it– Once the online registration is complete, every time you go back to visit, many cruise lines count down the days until you sail. This is supposed to be fun and getting ready for your cruise is one of the most fun parts. Get into the whole thing by visiting the cruise line website frequently to see what is going on with “your” cruise line. Study the deck plans of your ship to get an idea of your way around and where things are.
- Book shore excursions, spa treatments and more– You will need to have completed online registration to book shore excursions and spa treatments. Some lines even let you pre-order beverage packages, show tickets and make specialty restaurant reservations. Shore excursions alone are a good reason to complete online registration early. Some tours are more popular than others and fill up fast. Yes, you can visit the Shore Excursion desk once on the ship and that is probably a good idea if you need help deciding but booking in advance, even if you are not sure, is also a good idea. Check your particular cruise line but most allow you to cancel later without penalty.