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Whether it’s a cruise or your more traditional land-based getaway, we book holidays to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Everything you’re used to: the routine, the early mornings and – perhaps most importantly – the queues are all put on the backburner.
For anyone who’s been on a cruise holiday before however, the reality is that queuing will be a part of your time on the waters. And you didn’t pay all that money to stand around waiting to get to the front of the queue.
Luckily, there’s a fine art to avoiding queues on cruise holidays. We’ve collected some expert advice so you can spend less time in single file and more time relaxing, exploring and having the time of your life.
Show your loyalty
Sticking with the same cruise line means you’ll accrue points as part of their loyalty scheme, which in time will afford you some superb little perks, including priority embarkation and debarkation. It might take a few years but if you’re a dedicated cruiser, you’ll rack up enough points to bypass the queues in no time at all. It’s not the quickest of ways to eschew the queues but think of all those extra rewards you’ll be getting too.
With online check-in, you’re given the option to do it before you board or doing it the traditional way: queuing up with everyone else. We know which way we’d prefer to do it. Checking in online before you’ve even got to the port saves you plenty of time; turn up, show the correct documentation and you’ll be on board in double-quick time.
If checking in online isn’t your thing, then there are peak tendering times, so avoid these if you want to waltz straight onto the ship minus the queues.
Time your meals tactically
There’s a certain amount of sneakiness that comes with taking advantage of dining times on cruise ships. We’re not saying you need to cut in line to get the last veal cutlet, but being judicious with your dining pays off handsomely. Flexible dining is essential here, you can eat when you want between set hours, so go for off-peak times when there’s likely to be fewer people.
Lines are at their longest between 7-8 pm, while others say never visit on the hour or half hours as a rule of thumb, so avoid these times. Plus, when everyone else is dining at these peak times, the rest of the ship is yours to explore with minimal crowds.
Rise and shine
Getting up early is something we know you’d prefer to get away from, but starting your day promptly has all kinds of advantages: you’ll have pre-empted the breakfast buffet line, claimed a sun lounger, and had a chance to explore what’s ahead for the day’s activities, all while everyone else is still rubbing the sleep from their eyes.
This is especially handy for disembarkation too, when queues can force your wait to alight upwards of 90 minutes.
Book a suite
If you choose to book a suite, then expect to be flush with rewards. Not only do you get a lavish, extravagant room furnished with amenities, it’s often the case that you’ll also have access to the ship’s spa and a butler service among others. All undoubted boons to make your cruise that little bit sweeter, but opting for a suite also offers up suite passenger-only restaurants and lounges that instantly bypass the queues
Also, if you book a suite in advance, then they often give you access to quicker check-in, boarding and disembarkation. If you’ve got the cash, this is well worth doing.
“Faster to the Fun”
Exclusive to Carnival Cruises, they offer a “Faster to the Fun” programme which allows priority embarkation and disembarkation, and a number of other advantages for an extra fee. It instantly beats crowds and lines but there’s a limited number of spaces and they often fill up in no time at all, so you’ll have to be quick.
Stay on board
Nothing causes a bottleneck on a cruise ship quite like the lines of people waiting to get off for their shore excursions. Exits often get clogged up, making disembarkation a slow process. If there’s ever been a better time to take advantage of the whole ship, it’s now! Since shore excursions, like everything else on your cruise, are optional, sit them out and go explore the pool, spa, buffet and pretty much everything else your ship has to offer while all the other passengers are venturing on-land.