photo credit: Daquella manera
At the home port, you will go through several security steps before you can board the ship. You and your carry-on luggage will first go through security screening. You usually need to have your boarding documents and passports ready in order to enter the security lines. The security screening is typically like that of airport screening (without the body scanners!), where you will put your coats and carry-on luggage onto a belt and it will be x-rayed. You will also have to walk through a metal detector.
Knowing this, it is good to be prepared so as to not hold up the line or get embarrassed by “beeping”. Avoid metal belt buckles and hair clips. Remove all change from your pockets and any jewelry that could set off the machines.
If you bring a stroller it will need to be folded and x-rayed. Consider bringing something smaller than a typical double stroller. It will probably not even fit through the x-ray machines nor will it fit well in the narrow hallways of the ship.
Liquids such as water bottles or cups for kids are not really an issue, but alcohol will be. Each cruise line has a policy on how they handle alcohol being brought onto the ship. Many will simply hold it until the end of the cruise and never let you have it while on the ship. Others will charge a corking fee. If you want to try to carry on alcohol or even put it in your “checked” luggage, make sure you know the cruise line’s policy before doing so.
After security you will usually get in another line to check-in and get your room keys which also act as your ID. Your picture will be taken and linked to your room key for security purposes when leaving and re-boarding the ship in port. Your passports will also be scanned, and you will need to set up your account to pay for tips, excursions, alcoholic beverages and other purchases made while on board.
Once you have all of your room cards and are cleared to board, you will then get your family picture taken for the first time of many by the ship’s photographers. There is no obligation to get your picture taken, but it might be hard to avoid. The photo will be put up in the photo gallery on board, where you can decide if you would like to purchase it or not.
After the photos you will be ready to board the ship. Depending on the cruise line there might be crew members ready to take you to your room or you might be on your own to find it yourself. If you arrive before the rooms are ready, you will be asked to go to a public area. Head to the buffet for lunch or to the open dining room. Explore the main public areas of the ship and learn your way around. If you do arrive fairly early, try to bring as little carry-on luggage as possible or it will be a hassle lugging it around the ship.