One cruise line is taking a chapter from the airline industry and offering passengers --willing to pay extra -- the chance to board their ship early.
Carnival Cruise Lines announced it will begin testing a new program where all the occupants of a given stateroom can board the cruise ship as soon as it is cleared for new arrivals. The program, called “Faster to the Fun,” also will allow passengers instant access to their staterooms upon boarding and will even have their hand-delivered luggage waiting for them in the stateroom upon arrival.
The program will be available on two Carnival ships: the Carnival Imagination (starting Aug. 20) and Carnival Liberty (Aug. 25) and is limited to a relatively small number of people. It costs $49.95, but only one occupant of the stateroom needs to book it to give the same benefit to everyone staying in the room.
Typically, the first people to arrive aboard a cruise ship find the stateroom corridors locked until all of the staterooms have been “turned around.” Most early arrivals typically tour the open areas of the ship before heading to the buffet for a long lunch. On most cruises the earliest that all staterooms are made available is 1:00 p.m. Sometimes it is as late as 3:00.
Additionally, most guests hand their larger pieces of luggage over to stevedores on the pier for later hand-delivery to their staterooms by the crew much later in the day, often as late as 5:00 p.m. or even after the ship has set sail.
With this program the luggage is already placed in the stateroom before the priority guests arrive. This will be a very handy option for some people, such as those who took the red-eye flight to reach the ship, for example.
The “Faster to the Fun” program is sold through the Carnival “shore tours” division and should be booked pre-cruise either online or though the travel agent handling the cruise. It mainly involves the boarding process, but in addition the users also get priority lines to leave and return to the ship in ports of call and priority tender tickets for ports where the ship must ferry passengers to shore.
Although it is test program, there's the potential for it expand fleet-wide, since it means guests can change clothes immediately and even settle in for a nap right away if they need the rest.
Go to the Carnival web site for more information.
Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.