About 1 month (and no later than 1 week) before your cruise, you should receive in the mail, and/or downloadable as online files, your cruise documents, including airline tickets (if you purchased them from the cruise line), a boarding document with your cabin and dining choices on it, boarding forms to fill out, luggage tags, and your prearranged bus-transfer vouchers from the airport to the port (if applicable).
Also included will likely be a description of shore excursions available for purchase either on board or, in some cases, in advance, as well as additional materials detailing things you need to know before you sail. Most lines also now allow you to download this information online.
All this information is important. Read it carefully.
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Make sure that your cabin category and dining preference are as you requested, and also check your airline tickets to make sure everything checks out in terms of flights and arrival times. Make sure that there is enough time to arrive at the port no later than 2 hours before departure time, and preferably a lot earlier; many ports now require that all guests be on board the vessel no later than 60 minutes prior to departure.
Be sure to carry these documents in your carry-on rather than in your luggage, since you can't board without them.
A Department of Homeland Security regulation requires cruise ships to deliver a final passenger manifest at least an hour before sailing. Most cruise lines are now requiring passengers to check in at least 11/ 2 hours before sailing and to complete a check-in form online (with your name, address, and passport or other ID information) at least 3 days prior to sailing. If you do not complete the form, you may be required to show up at least 3 hours before your sailing so that the cruise line has time to prepare and transmit your information. If you don't comply, you may be denied boarding (with no refund).