Early Boarding

As with most cruise ships, embarkation day before you sail away oboard Princess Cruise Lines can be hectic, as thousands of passengers are trying to get onto one ship in a matter of hours for the first day of their cruise. Getting on board the ship early means that you can enjoy a lunch buffet or meal at the dining room and explore the ship without having to stand in line for hours waiting to check in. However, on Princess Cruises, early boarding is a privilege limited to few. Follow these cruise tips to figure out if, and how, you can take advantage of these perks.

How to Do It

Be a platinum or elite Captain's Circle member. Any who has sailed on at least one previous cruise with Princess Cruises is automatically a member of the Captain's Circle, which has three tiers of membership. Gold membership is for those who have taken two to five Princess cruises, platinum is for six to 15 cruises and to reach elite status, you must have taken 16 or more cruises. While each tier has perks, only platinum and elite members can get in the priority boarding line at the embarkation port. Additionally, elite members get priority disembarkation at ports of call and at the end of the cruise. This is Princess Cruise Line’s version of a loyalty program. Don’t worry if this is your first time cruising Princess, though, there are still other ways to expedite your boarding process.

Book a suite. If you book a full suite stateroom on any of the Princess Cruise ships, you qualify for priority boarding as well as priority disembarkation at cruise ports. This significantly cuts down your boarding time, and can give you extra time at your shore excursion because of the early arrival time. Suite guests also get access to a private lounge where you can wait until you are allowed to disembark at the end of the cruise. Mini-suites do not receive this perk.

Call ahead for special-needs early boarding. In most cases, if you or someone you are traveling with has a special physical need, such as a medical issue, or has a mobility device, your party will quality for early boarding. This must be figured out pre-cruise, though: You must call Princess Cruises at least 30 days in advance to inform representatives of any special needs.

Purchase a Bon Voyage Experience. This program allows you to invite up to four guests who are not going on the cruise on board early for four hours to tour the ship and eat a four-course lunch before the ship leaves the port. You can spend more time with loved ones, while Princess hopes to entice new customers to book a cruise. It costs $39 per person as of publication. If your guests decide to book a cruise later on, they can put that $39 toward their first cruise.


If you do not qualify for early boarding, make your way to the cruise terminal as early as possible on the day of embarkation and you will still be among the first to get on the ship after the priority boarders.

The early boarding process is similar on Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, MSC cruises, and Disney Cruises, but cruise passengers should refer to the websites for specifics on the check-in process for each cruise vacation.