Posted November 15th, 2010, 03:21 PM
OP is sailing the Carnival Splendor in February.
OP, unfortunately, many things can, and do, happen to make disembarkation delayed. But generally speaking, if a ship arrives at 7, and if everything goes smoothly with no delays, you can probably begin leaving the ship at 7:45. Now remember, these are general times only because sometimes they will only allow you to start leaving once all luggage is off loaded and in the terminal.
Here's what usually happens. Your baggage tag color/number is called and you leave the gathering room you've been waiting in. You will proceed to the deck where the gangway is, and you will wait in a long line because everyone has to scan their room cards to prove you've left the ship. You then head towards another long line for US Immigration. Depending on the terminal, there may be separate lines for non-US Citizens so you will have to stand in that line, with your passport for the agent to inspect. Once that's done you hunt down your luggage and then stand in another long line for US Customs. That might go quickly or it might not if you're chosen for a more extensive inspection. Once through there, you find your transportation to the airport and off you go. If all goes well, it should take 30 to 45 minutes to get through all that.
I'm taking a chance and thinking you're flying out of LAX. Going through check in and security can take a very long time at LAX depending on what airline you're on. LAX is a very crowded airport and the lines there are crazy. If your question is so you can determine a good flight time home, I would say no earlier than noon. Traffic from the port to the airport can be really bad, with lots of traffic jams. You have to add in generous transportation time. If you're looking at an earlier flight, I would strongly suggest not to try it. There are a lot of people on here who ask if they can make those really early flights, because they're so cheap. Well, the reason those flights are cheap is because airlines know that ship passengers cannot make it.
Good Luck with your cruise.