Carnival Rolling Out A New Digital Debarkation Procedure

The worst part of any cruise is the day you have to leave or debarkation day. Your relaxing and enjoyable vacation is brought to a screeching halt by getting up early to go to a crowded buffet, hearing endless announcements on the loudspeakers, and waiting in massive lines. Carnival is trying to improve the debarkation experience with a new digital debarkation process, which is currently being piloted aboard the Carnival Spirit, Conquest, Dream, and Elation

The traditional debarkation process with Carnival

Traditionally, guests have two options when leaving a Carnival ship: self-assist and luggage delivery. 

With self-assist, you carry all your luggage off when the ship clears customs and is released for debarkation. This group is one of the first off the ship. It’s a favorite of those who like to get early flights home, but it can be a hassle for those with lots of luggage. The elevators on debarkation day are usually jam-packed, and carrying a 40-pound suitcase up and down stairs is no one’s idea of fun. 

The second option is luggage delivery. You pack your large suitcases up the night before and put them outside your room between 8 PM and 10 PM. The staff then takes your luggage off the ship, and you pick it up in the cruise terminal, saving you from lugging it around. 

luggage tags for Carnival
Traditionally, you would select a luggage tag on a kiosk on the last day of the cruise. It would assign you a group you would leave the ship with.

To use this method, Carnival used to put a luggage tag kiosk in the guest services area, and you select a luggage group. There’s no time indicated on these tags. On debarkation morning, once all the self-assist passengers were cleared, they start calling luggage groups to leave the ship. 

carnival luggage pickup terminal fY
With luggage delivery, your luggage is waiting for you in the cruise terminal once you leave the ship.

The new digital debarkation process

The new process is pretty similar to the old one but streamlined with the use of technology. It’s all done through the Carnival HUB app. 

On the last day of the cruise, guests can go to the “My Planner” section of the HUB app and “Schedule Debarkation.” They’ll have two choices: the “Express” option (or self-assist as it used to be called) or the “Checked Luggage” option. Guests can choose their debarkation time, and the correct luggage tags will be delivered to them. On debarkation day, the HUB app will notify the guest when it’s their time to leave. 

carnival digital debarkation letter
A letter from the pilot test about the new Digital Debarkation procedure.

No change for Diamond and Platinum VIFP or Faster to the Fun guests

According to Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald, guests who already receive priority debarkation, that’s Diamond and Platinum VIFP members and those with Faster to the Fun, will have no change. They’ll still receive their assigned luggage tags and instructions to their cabin as usual. 

Our take: It’s nice to see Carnival trying to improve this process

Carnival’s debarkation process has improved a lot over the years. Their “Smile and Go” facial recognition technology has all but eliminated the long customs lines for passport holders, and communication has dramatically improved. While Carnival doesn’t have control over all aspects of debarkation, such as weather problems or being cleared by US customs, this is one aspect they have control over, and we’re glad to see them working to improve it. Royal Caribbean has been using a similar process for years, and in my experience, it provides a much smoother experience than Carnival’s current process. 

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Randy Young

Randy Young is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cruise Spotlight. He has been in marketing for 20 years and has been cruising for just as long. Over the years, he's worked with products like TVs, copiers, light bulbs, and EV chargers, but cruising has always been his passion. There's nothing Randy likes more than the first couple of hours on a ship, exploring every nook and cranny and seeing how it's different from everything else out there. He's known for providing detailed and analytical coverage of cruising to help cruisers get a comprehensive picture of a ship's offerings.