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marluvs2go

To the Pier Early? Pros? Cons?

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All our cruises we have arrived super early to check in.  I am thinking this is really not necessary as you just end up in lines and groups waiting to stampede on board.  I do like  getting on board "early" hit the Buffett  before it has huge crowds.  However I am starting to think it maybe nicer to just have lunch somewhere and go over to the Pier around 1ish (boarding time) for sail at 5PM.    This will be our home port of San Diego and only one ship leaving that day.  I have often wondered about the folks I see casually walking thru the Terminal and just boarding no lines no groups.  I also wonder if you board earlier that perhaps you get your luggage delivered earlier?  Just wondering what your experiences have been. Seems HAL may or may not have room for everybody in dining room? I think they have stopped the "Mariner status" only.  I most likely will continue early as it just seems exciting and you want to get there and start as soon as possible?  But I  would not mind a change.  Thanks 

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I usually stay at my hotel as long as I can, which usually means an 11 am or 12 pm checkout.  I don't usually rush to get to the terminal, because an early arrival usually means waiting in a crowd.  If there's some delay with debarking the cruise before, the wait is even longer, not to mention the crush in the Lido.  I prefer to get my cruise off to a more leisurely start.  Don't know about the luggage.  I think it's more a function of the deck/section of the ship your cabin is located in rather than when you check in.

 

Roz

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My wife and I are creatures of habit.  We always get there early to be among the first groups on board.  Being Five-Star Mariners helps assure this of course.  Also, there is something refreshing about the lack of crowds onboard when we go into the Lido and find that they have begun serving. 

 

Moreover, the early approach really paid off one time years ago when we drove the whole family to the pier, parked and unloaded the car, and then realized we had left one suitcase at home!  We had enough time to get some replacement clothing on land and return to the ship in plenty of time.

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Drop your luggage off as early as you can so it can get into the cabin delivery queue, but the rest of your plan sounds perfectly fine. Enjoy a nice dock side restaurant and wait for the crowds to thin.  Too bad that wonderful old-fashion family fish restaurant got closed - Anthony's?  Otherwise it is more likely crowds, lines and hard seating at the earlier hours.  Just for a "free" lunch"?  

 

All the more so to avoid this, if there are two ships in port on the same day and the former serpentine security lines did not get fixed. Great to have the cabins ready immediately upon embarkation now, but that means no longer the much earlier embarkation one could run into in the past while having to kill time onboard instead of now where you are forced to spend that time in the often spartan port facilities.

 

Enjoy. Heading down to a San Diego departure myself in a few weeks, and hope I shall avoid the really awful hang-ups this port was famous for  too many times in the past. Five star did not matter one bit to get past the security gauntlet in San Diego (two ships in port that day and we all had to first go through security together) and to even get into the building to the Five Star HAL embarkation line.  Be sure to report back what you find.  I think there were enough complaints that San Diego did make some changes - hopefully all fo the better.

Edited by OlsSalt

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Since we live in Florida I usually drive to the port if it is in Ft. Lauderdale, we usually plan to arrive at 11am.  First we go to our favorite Greek restaurant and have a leisurely lunch.  Afterwards 1 - 1:30 pm we go to the port.  Just a better way to start our vacation!!!

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The one time we did board late in San Diego, we were visiting friends, and got to the pier about 2PM. There were no lines and we basically just walked on. It was nice. But normally we get to the piers about 11AM and board early. I like being on the ship almost the whole first day. And now I/we dine in the MDR which is really a nice way to begin the cruise.

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I like to get to the terminal in 10:45-11:30 A. M. time frame.  As a 5 Star Mariner, having a separate check-in line does help avoid the usual longer check-in line.  If I have to sit and wait for awhile after check-in before embarkation begins, that's OK with me.  Gives me an opportunity to "people watch" and converse with others near me.  As to earlier delivery of luggage, sometimes an early arrival makes a difference; sometimes it doesn't.  On one sailing, one of my two bags arrived shortly after I arrived in my stateroom.  The other one did not show up until after we had sailed.

 

Embarking the Zaandam in San Antonio last December, I was among the first bus load of guests that boarded.  I never had such a sense of an "empty" ship; it was an odd feeling.  Going to the MDR for lunch, I was guest #6 for lunch that day.  My arrival completed a table for six.

 

 

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There are pros and cons to arriving early.  We have tried all  different times and found that early suits us the best.  Why?  Getting aboard means you can enjoy lunch at the normal lunch time.  We then like to relax and perhaps spend some time just in a deck lounger (if the weather is good) people watching.  Usually by 3 we will go to our cabin and if any luggage has arrived we can unpack before the muster drill.

 

Arriving late has its advantages because there are generally no lines.  We have done this when we were embarking at some fun ports (mostly in Europe or Asia) and preferred to spend some extra time in the port before heading over to the ship.  Arriving late is fine for us since we dine late (usually after 7:30) in open seating so we still have plenty of time to unpack, relax and get ready for dinner.  But many HAL cruisers prefer to dine at "tea time" and for those folks a late arrival really puts them in a time crunch.  The real early diners are often running from the muster drill to the MDR!

 

We do think the dining times make a huge difference on that first day and even in many ports.  It is common to see some cruisers coming back from an afternoon or full day excursion and running directly to the MDR or Lido for dinner.  Another advantage of dining late is having plenty of time to unwind after a day ashore.

 

Hank

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We like to get to the pier early -- around 10:30.

 

Since we stay either in a Pinnacle Suite or a Neptune Lounge and are 5 star Mariners -- we have been among those boarding early.  Now that I need a wheelchair for boarding and disembarking the ships, I am usually #1 or #2 to board the ship.

 

This gives us time to drop off our carry-ons, re-confirm all pre-booked specialty restaurant reservations, etc.  

 

Then we go to the dining room for lunch.

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We, too, like to board early, and go to the MDR for lunch.  We have never found it to be crowded, in fact, the opposite; it's like nobody knows about it!:classic_cool:

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25 minutes ago, Vict0riann said:

We, too, like to board early, and go to the MDR for lunch.  We have never found it to be crowded, in fact, the opposite; it's like nobody knows about it!:classic_cool:

You might be surprised how many of us do know about it and simply are not big fans of the embarkation day menu.  We have gone to that embarkation lunch quite a few times but often prefer to greater variety up in the Lido.  Other HAL cruising friends have the same issue.  The MDR lunch is really nice to escape the hustle and bustle of those first few hours, but sometimes my stomach has different ideas :).

 

Hank

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We expect to arrive at 11:00 AM at the SD pier for our Dec 4 ,2018 Eurodam cruise .We park across the street from the pier in reserved parking :classic_biggrin:

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11 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

You might be surprised how many of us do know about it and simply are not big fans of the embarkation day menu.  We have gone to that embarkation lunch quite a few times but often prefer to greater variety up in the Lido.  Other HAL cruising friends have the same issue.  The MDR lunch is really nice to escape the hustle and bustle of those first few hours, but sometimes my stomach has different ideas :).

 

Hank

 

I am somewhat in the same boat as you , that first lunch in the MDR can be a bit boring, but my DH does like a quiet table, with perhaps a few other people, and eating at our leisure.  

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We had always gotten to the port early (11 - 12), but one time our shuttle didn't get us there until around 1 and there were no lines and it was so nice to embark, that this is our new norm. 

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5 hours ago, marluvs2go said:

I also wonder if you board earlier that perhaps you get your luggage delivered earlier?

 

I believe that it's a first-in-last-out situation, because the first in get placed at the back of the staging area.

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I can assure you that arriving early has nothing to do with luggage delivery to your stateroom in San Diego.   On the contrary, the first cages are normally set aside to make room for the next ones....and so it goes until they are 4 deep and 6 wide or more!  

Scanning the luggage does not start until 1 pm.....why?

The porters have been hard at work since 7 am, off loading luggage from the ship and assisting those disembarking.

They take lunch shifts from 11:30 until 1 pm in 2 shifts.  

Money is to be made by meeting you on the pier, not by working inside the terminal.

Once scanning starts, they have to begin with the cages being brought in, since they begin to run out of them.

There are 2 scanning machines for the longshore folks.....(now about 30% female and very capable for the job).

The second screening machine does not go into operation until 2:30 pm....when nearly all of you are onboard and the majority of supplies (food, beverages, etc.) have been placed on the ship to re-supply....and bodies are available to do the job.

In the last 2 hours before your ship sails,  ILWU workers have everything running smoothly, and they finally scan about 2,000+ bags and ultimately those "buried" first cages.

"Priority" luggage tags are not separated at this terminal.

"Naughty" bags are set aside and loaded last.....and then they go to a separate place onboard until you claim them.

 

David

P.S.  If you leave your passports in your checked luggage, it will be nearly impossible to find them until very late in the day.

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55 minutes ago, Krazy Kruizers said:

A couple of times we have found the main dining room to be very busy on embarkation day -- don't know why.

A friend has a theory.  One upon a time the Embarkation lunch was limited to Mariners and at times was further restricted to 3* +.  Mariners thought it was a very special perk and often crowded into the MDR where there was limited staff on that busy day.  Now that they have opened the luncheon up to everyone, many of those same folks no longer go since it is not "exclusive" to the Mariners.  And before folks trash me for talking about the snobism of some Mariners, we are 5 Star Mariners...although we generally avoid Mariner functions.  In fact, the best part of the various Mariner luncheons is that the Lido is not as crowded :).

 

Hank

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Since we are in the port a day early anyway, we try to get to the pier around 10:30 am.  Usually (not always) the security and check-in lines are not very crowded and we quickly get to the seating area.  We board as soon as possible, drop the carryons in the cabin and go to lunch in the MDR.  Afterwards we take care of any reservations, shore excursions, etc.  and then back to the cabin to unpack (most times the bags are there or soon afterwards.

 

Works for us.

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We are in no rush. Do not care about the ships buffet or MDR for lunch.   We do not like lining up.   We typically get an extended checkout time at our hotel.  We are happy to have a leisurely brunch or lunch and then head to the ship in the early afternoon.

 

We only do carry on so we like to board a little later when we have access to our cabin and no registration lineups.

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When we started cruising in the early 90’s we were living in Northern Virginia.  Back then we were cruising mostly the Caribbean in peak season January to March out of Ft Laudedale.   Not only both of our birthdays but our anniversary fell in that 90-day period.  Add that we’d endured through months of dark cold so the thought of going into the dining room was not attractive.  We don’t particularly like sitting around the hotel embarkation morning so barring a late checkout we leave around 10:30-11:00 AM for the terminal.   Typically we’d board around 11:30-12:00,  take our carry-on to our cabin if it was ready, and grab lunch at the Lido and take it out to an open deck area.  We needed sun and fresh air!  That became our habit and we’ve never changed even after we moved to a more moderate climate.  While we’ve expanded our cruising to more distant destinations, seven straight years in Europe and the Med, our habit has stayed pretty much the same.

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Waiting to board in the cruise terminal no longer sucks.  Everything has changed with the advent of smart phones.  Get there early and keep yourself updated with news, sports, TV and whatever is happening in the world of knitting and yarning.

 

They will be calling your number before you know it.

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16 hours ago, mcrcruiser said:

We expect to arrive at 11:00 AM at the SD pier for our Dec 4 ,2018 Eurodam cruise .We park across the street from the pier in reserved parking :classic_biggrin:

Dec 4, 2018 on Eurodam?   We are on the ship that day but in Mazatlan and don’t get back to San Diego until the 9th-are you sure of the date? 

 

 

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We like to get there early and as soon as we get on board, we head to the dining room for a nice relaxing lunch.  Back to the cabin where we usually have our luggage waiting for us, unpack, relax on deck with some bubbly, and people watch.  

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1 hour ago, canadianbear said:

Dec 4, 2018 on Eurodam?

They posted on the Dec 9th roll call, so this 4th mention is likely just a typo

 

Edited by catl331

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