Monday, May 27, 2013

Back in port: Cruise control

I had never thought about it. Why would I?

How do over 3000 people on a cruise ship all get off at once? The logistics are astounding when you do stop to consider it.

Embarking at the other end of the cruise is a bit different. Not everyone arrives at the same time, all giddy to walk that gangway to start the fun. Your travel or cruise agent informs you that there is a window of time for boarding, several hours long, that travelers can use to plan their journey from home to port, so boarding is spread out over that time.

But getting off? That's a different proposition altogether. Crew members have to get rid of all of us--PLUS our collective luggage--in order to clean and restock that floating paradise for all those other passengers arriving. That same ship will pull out of port to do it all over again just a few short hours after we leave, a new group of over 3000 just starting their bit of heaven for a week or so.  How do they pull that off?

At the end of my first cruise, I felt highly inconvenienced the last night at sea when I got a message from my cabin steward--the one who waits on me hand and foot, remember?--directing me to pack up my luggage that night and have it out in the passageway by midnight. What?? What was I supposed to do without all my stuff from then until I got off this floating city? I learned that I could keep a small bag with me (whew!), but everything else needed to be collected by the crew the night before we even sailed into port.

When you stop and think about it, how else would they get it all gathered up and off the ship without starting early? Imagine how much luggage 3000 people can accumulate. I had two large suitcases myself for a 7 day cruise. (I know, I know, but there were TWO formal nights and that's two complete dressy outfits with different shoes and accessories, PLUS all those cute sundresses I got for the trip. Yes, they all had to come along, because you never know what shows you're going to want to see, and.....never mind. Every woman reading this understands what I mean.)

So, at midnight the night before you arrive back in port, the passageways are lined with every kind of suitcase you can imagine, waiting to be picked up. You sleep in undies (or nothing at all, because after all, you're still on vacation, and what happens on a cruise ship, stays on the ship, but we won't go there....) a small bag with toiletries, and the next morning it's time to rejoin reality as the ship majestically slides into port before dawn.

And then all those thousands of people have to get off with some planned exit strategy, another amazing feat of logistics. Each traveler is given a window of time and a location of the ship at which you gather with other bleary-eyed cruisers who don't want to go home yet, either, and you wait until your group is called. This has always gone well before--but not on this cruise, I must say. If you recall, the government's furloughs had begun and there was one--count him, the poor guy, ONE--customs agent waiting to chat amiably with all 3000 of us.

It took a while.

And remember all that luggage? All 6000+ pieces were waiting in one room to be claimed.

Welcome home!

Seven days worth....

Floating paradise!

In line for customs at the end of the cruise.....

One small area of luggage....good luck!


  1. WOW, Deb! I got the picture!! Great account for those of us who will probably never embark on a journey at sea! Thanks

  2. Thanks, Caryn! You never know.....