5 Steps to Faster Disembarkation from a Holland America Cruise Ship

by Janis on January 6, 2016

Holland America's Zuiderdam cruise shipWe disembarked Holland America’s Zuiderdam cruise ship yesterday morning in Ft. Lauderdale around 7:30 am. Carrying our bags, we zipped through Customs and Immigration, got a taxi, and dropped Mr. Jones at his Ft. Lauderdale hotel. The same taxi then took me to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport, where I checked my bag, went through security, and was at my departure gate by 7:57 am.

How did we accomplish this feat? A few actions on our part and a lot of luck. (It was a Monday, but there were eight cruise ships in port.)

Here are our 5 tips to getting off a Holland America Cruise Ship Faster

1. Consider if you really need to get off fast. Unless you have an early flight (mine was at 11:05 am, or an important conference call at 9:30 am like Mr. Jones did, there is no reason to rush off the ship. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Take your time. Skip the crowds and stress.

Yet, there is always a long line of folks who can’t wait to get off a cruise ship for whatever reason, which tends to be highly stressful. If that is you consider implementing tips #2 through #5 below.

Holland America's Expedited Disembarkation2. Sign up for Expedited Boarding. On Holland America cruises you receive a disembarkation form in your stateroom to fill out and return to the front desk. Choose “Expedited Boarding.” NOTE: You can only do this is you can carry off your own bags. Please don’t try this if you have more than one suitcase per person. If you have multiple suitcases, do yourself a huge favor and use the Luggage Direct program to get your bags from your stateroom door to the baggage claim at your home airport. Luggage Direct is an amazing program, if you are on a flight at 11:30 am or later. (You are still off the ship in the first group; you just don’t have any bags to schlep.

If you aren’t flying or don’t qualify for Luggage Direct, have your bags offloaded through the normal process.

3. Get Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. We signed up for Global Entry when it was first offered in 2012, and still cannot believe how terrific it is for U.S. Travelers returning to the U.S. from international flights. You buzz through Immigration and Customs. Plus, you also get TSA Pre-Check when you qualify for Global Entry. The application is extensive and costs $100, but it is good for 5 years, and is guaranteed to make your travel through both domestic and international re-entry airports smoother and speedier.

The only negative with Global Entry is that has not been available for cruise guests returning into the United States via a cruise port. This is now changing at Port Everglades.

While we had to ask four different people working the port yesterday (only two of the employees we asked knew about Global Entry), once we got in the right spot at the Port Everglades Immigration with both our passports and our Global Entry cards in hand, we were directed first in linr to the Immigration Officers. (Hence we were out of the port fast!)

Then, with TSA PreCheck at the airport, security lines are fast. You don’t have to take off your shoes or belt. You don’t have to take out your computer or your quart-size baggie of liquids. Best of all, you don’t have to go through the “hold your hands over your head” machine. You lay your bags on the normal screening belt, and walk through the regular x-ray machine.

4. Take a Taxi Rather than Waiting Around for a Shuttle or Bus Transfer. Even with two stops yesterday, our taxi from the port to the hotel, and then to the airport, the taxi ride cost $16 and took about 12 minutes. Taking a shared shuttle or a transfer at Ft. Lauderdale is more expensive than a taxi. NOTE: there is a limited supply of taxis; if there aren’t enough available you may want to get out your smartphone and order up a Uber car, which are now allowed to pick up riders in the Port Everglades cruise port.

5. Be Loyal to Your Airline for Fast Check-In. In travel, loyalty to a particular brand pays huge dividends. Mr. Jones is a 1K level flyer on United Airlines. He gets to check-in via the Priority Line. I’m A-List on Southwest Airlines, which gives me access to the fast line. Loyalty to a given airline, hotel brand, rental car company and/or a cruise line means perks, usually which include the short line rather than the long one.

Yesterday’s fast-track from our cruise ship stateroom was unusually speedy. But if you take these steps you will have a faster disembarkation from your next Holland America cruise.

Are you a part of Global Entry? If so, have you seen its use in any other cruise port besides Ft. Lauderdale? If so, we want to know the details. Please share in comments below. Thanks!

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