Porters are available at each port to take your luggage and be sure it gets on the ship. These are not Carnival employees but it's their job to move thousands of pieces of luggage past security checks and on to the ship. It is customary to tip them $2 per bag.
Be sure your luggage has one of the Carnival tags you received in with your cruise documents. If you need more, porters have them. Be sure they are filled out, clearly, ahead of arrival. I'd also be sure to put something inside your luggage to identify it in case your tags get lost. I usually print up 8 1/2 x 11 sheets on a computer that include our name, address, and travel itinerary, then put them in each piece of luggage, right on top.
If you booked a "guaranteed" cabin, not knowing what your cabin number or deck you would have, the porters will know. They have a manifest of all the passengers on each ship and where their cabins are. You'll need that cabin number on your luggage. We tried a guaranteed cabin once and one of the things I didnt like was that it seemed to take longer to get our luggage, but that might have been a fluke
This will remind you a lot of the security checks you go through at the airport. They'll scan your luggage with an x-ray machine and run you through a metal detector. TIP: Don't try to bring alcoholic beverages on board in your carryon luggage. They will take it from you and hold it until you return.
Your Shipboard Account
About 85% of the cost of your cruise is included in the price. Additional purchases and charges go on an account set up for each passenger. The ships are basically a cashless system and on embarkation you are issued an individual "Sign and Sail" card which is accepted instead of cash for almost everything you would need or want to purchase or use while on your cruise.
Here's how it all works:
1. Every passsenger has a "shipboard account" to which every "extra", not included in your cruise fare, that you buy or use is charged. Thats like gift shop items, spa treatments, booze, In-room movies, booze, telephone calls, booze, or even casino chips and bingo cards (although they will take cash for those only)
2. Before you even get on board you get a card called a Sign and Sail card that works much like a charge card
3. Right up front, at the beginning of your cruise, you "guarantee" that you have the funds to pay off whatever ends up on your account. You may choose a credit card, debit card, VISA check card, travelers checks or make a cash deposit.
4. Everyday, the Purser (beancounter) takes a look at your account and decides if he/she wants to keep letting you charge. If you put up a cash deposit and are getting close to using it up, they may send you a little note asking for more. If you used a credit or debit card they will check with your card company (or bank) to be sure you have the funds available to cover what you have spent.
They do this by sending the card company a "hold" request. This amount is not really charged to your account yet, that will take place at the end of your cruise, but is verified to be available. The only tricky part of this is if your card company has a daily cash advance limit of, say, $300 and the ship puts a hold on $267.54 of it (what you charged today) and then you go to the ATM machine and want $100. Your ATM transaction may be declined because that $100 would put you over the daily cash withdrawal limit.
I learned this the hard way (did not know about Cruise Critics board at the time) and thought someone had raided my account and taken all my loot.
What they're saying is "Hey I got Thurston Howell the Third here who's charged $400 in the casino on his Sign and Sail account, does he have the money?"
It's just that simple.
5. On the last night of your cruise they will slip a statement of all your charges under your cabin door. If there's anything wrong you can go to the Pursers desk and get it straightened out. Common things wrong are extra movies being charged (you didn't know how the system to order worked), You want to adjust the amount of the automatic gratuities charged to your account, you got charged $3.00 for a Snickers bar from your mini-bar and stuff like that.
The cool thing is FunVision, an in cabin multimedia tv thing that lets you check your account at any time. I do daily just to keep on top of things.
Proper travel documentation is required at embarkation and throughout the cruise and is the responsibility of the guest. Any guest traveling without proper documentation will not be allowed to board the vessel and no refund of the cruise fare will be issued.
United States citizens must present proof of citizenship in the form of:
1) A passport (valid or expired for less than 10 years)
2) Original birth certificate, state-issued certified copy of a birth certificate from the Department of Health and Vital Statistics
3) U.S. Military ID (no dependent IDs), or
4) Original naturalization papers
In addition to the above requirements, all guests 16 years of age or older must provide an official photo ID.
It is important that guest names on travel documents (passport, birth certificates, etc.) be identical to those on the cruise and airline tickets. Otherwise, proof of name change (i.e., a marriage license) OR a valid driver's license or government issued photo ID (i.e., U.S. Military ID) must be presented.
U.S. Resident Aliens need a valid Alien Resident Card.
Canadian citizens must present a valid passport, original birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate.
Non-U.S. citizens need a valid passport and a valid, unexpired U.S. Multiple Re-Entry Visa, if applicable. Non-U.S. citizens eligible to apply for admission under the Visa Waiver Pilot Program must still have a valid, unexpired passport.
For sailings calling on Canadian ports-of-call, certain foreign nationals must obtain a Canadian Visa, in addition to the multiple-entry Visa.
Non-U.S. citizens must contact the appropriate consulates, U.S. Embassy and U.S. Immigrations office to inquire about necessary travel documentation. Carnival assumes no responsibility for advising guests of Immigration requirements.
All non-U.S. citizens and U.S. Resident Aliens must surrender their passport and/or green cards at the time of embarkation. These documents will be returned upon completion of the Immigration inspection.
In addition to the above requirements, all guests 16 years of age or older, must provide an official photo ID.
It is important that guest names on travel documents (Alien Resident Cards, etc.) be identical to those on the cruise and airline tickets. Otherwise, proof of name change (i.e., a marriage license) OR a valid driver's license or government issued photo ID (i.e., U.S. Military ID) must be presented.
Debarking in Mexico Over 24 Hours
To debark for more than 24 hours in Mexico, guests must have obtained a Mexican Tourist Card from either a travel agent or a Mexican consulate prior to their departure. Additionally, if debarking with children, guests must have a notarized affidavit from any absent parent indicating permission to travel with the accompanying
Now that you've dropped off your luggage, made it through security and document inspection it's time to wait again- but for the last time! No you're waiting for the ship to be cleared by authorities from the previous cruise. Shortly thereafter, boarding will begin. It is possible that they may begin boarding passengers early, advising them that they are welcome to baord but that their staterooms might not be ready for a while. Who cares? Let's Eat!
When it's time to board you'll get your picture taken, twice. The first one is your first contact with the talented photographers of Carnival. They'll take a commemorative photo of you as you board the ship with your party. Buy this one for sure. The next picture they will take will match your face with your Sign and Sail card which is also your boarding card here and in ports of call.