Sunday, January 7 was the day our 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruise ended. When I woke up just after 6am, it was still dark and I noticed that we’d beat Caribbean Princess to port. It departed Antigua about 15 minutes before we did and I saw that we were following it the last two days (sea days). I also confirmed it on a cruise tracker.

A few minutes later, another ship following our path, Celebrity Ascent, pulled in. I was happy I’d scheduled a rideshare in advance using Lyft because I knew there were at least three cruise ships arriving to Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) at the same time. Turns out there were a total of five, including a Disney and Royal Caribbean ship.

I think all cruise lines are the same, where everyone disembarking needs to be out of their cabin by 8am and off the ship by 9am so they can get ready for the next passengers. It’s truly remarkable how efficient the crew are to get the cabins turned around so fast. I wish hotels could do the same.

The same efficiency takes place with getting everyone off the ship in a timely manner. I hadn’t disembarked a cruise ship in the U.S. since the pandemic and I can’t even remember what it was like. All I know is that we had an 11:38am flight out of Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and needed to be at the airport at least 80 minutes prior since we were checking bags.

Speaking of bags… We had three large checked bags. One was winter clothes from our Christmas week in Toronto, the other had Christmas presents and other miscellaneous items my mother-in-law had given us and the last was our cruise clothes.

The way disembarkation works is that those checking bags are given a designated time and color-coded baggage tags. Bags need to be left outside cabins before going to dinner and then you retrieve them once off the ship but before going through U.S. Customs.

We decided not to leave our bags since it’s safer and we didn’t know what it would be like trying to retrieve them. Turns out that was a mistake because the baggage is all very organized and easy to retrieve.

Also, there are long waits for the elevators and large bags make going down the stairs a challenge. After 10 minutes of full elevators, we decided to get in an elevator going up. We were on deck 15 so it was only one extra level. But it worked.

We took the elevator to deck seven, which was our designated spot for disembarkation but it turns out it was just the meeting point. To get off the ship, we needed to use deck 6. So I ended up having to carry the bags down a flight of stairs with the help of my brother-in-law. It wasn’t a big deal.

Also, having large bags automatically puts you in the line with elevators instead of the escalators once you’re off the ship. Surprisingly, it takes just an extra five minutes. I was truly shocked how fast we, and everyone else, got off the ship.

The same can be said about going through U.S. Customs. I asked if there was a Global Entry line but a friendly cruise agent guiding everyone said we don’t need one. Nor do they have one. They were right. The machines use facial recognition technology so you don’t even need to take your passport out. Just walk up, stand still for a second and that’s it. We went from ship to curb in 17 minutes and it could have been even quicker if it weren’t for some rookie mistakes.

One of those rookie mistakes was pre-ordering a Lyft. We ended up having to wait around until the time I’d set because I didn’t think we could get off the ship that fast. It didn’t really matter because we were waiting somewhere, either at the port or the airport.

Because we waited at the port, we got to say goodbye to my in-laws again, who were traveling with us, and more importantly, see first-hand that they got a rideshare (they used Uber) quicker and cheaper than we did because they hadn’t pre-scheduled. So lesson learned: Don’t schedule a rideshare but leave plenty of time because it took our driver 15 minutes just to get into the pick-up area. 

FYI: The cruise lines tell passengers not to book any flights out of FLL before noon. It’s only a six mile, 10-minute drive. When we arrived to the airport, there was no line at American Airlines first class (I have elite status so I can use that line).

There was also no line at TSA PreCheck but there was one for CLEAR so we didn’t use it again. Not that this has anything to do with our cruise but it’s worth noting that the AA agent checking us in was the most unfriendly agent I’ve ever encountered and that’s saying something. Fortunately, our flight to Dallas and LAX were on time and we made it home safely with our bags before I got really sick for a week. It hit me the next day.

1 Comment On "What It's Like Disembarking a Princess Cruise at Port Everglades and Going to FLL"
  1. Dayna|

    I love cruising but get super sick after every one! I am so careful and wash my hands but it’s just something about those ships! Thanks for these tips, very helpful! I padded our Virgin Voyager cruise last summer with way too much time after debarking, lessons learned!

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