How long does it take to get off a cruise ship in port?

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West Jordan, Utah
12 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
I started this question at TripAdvisor, and a replier suggested that since it involved cruising, I might have better luck asking it here. Make sense, so here's my question:

Talking to Norwegian Cruise Line, which I'm aware also is trying to sell excursions, told me if I hadn't purchased an NCL excursion, it might take me and my family from one to two hours to get off the ship after arrival at any port. Specifically, I'm considering taking the train from Civitavecchia to Rome and back, hopefully giving us a little more time to do things on our own. Never been on a cruise before, so can anybody tell me if that's accurate, about not being able to get off a ship in port for one to two hours? Obviously, if it's true, the time factor might prohibit consideration of the train.
Greenville, SC, USA
52,226 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
In general, when you arrive at a port the ship must be cleared by local authorities before any passengers can get off. In round numbers, this usually takes 30 minutes. Once cleared, it takes 10 or 15 minutes for the initial rush to get off the ship.

Tender ports are different and may take longer.
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In the Valley, CA
23,004 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
As Paul says, it depends on how soon the ship is cleared by the local authorities. Plus, it's not always guaranteed that your ship will make it in on time (that hasn't been a problem with any of my cruises, but you just never know).

Once the ship is cleared, passengers are allowed to disembark, but in order of when they lined up at the gangway.

For tender ports, passengers who were booked on excursions through the cruiseline (and depending on the cruiseline, those in certain category cabins like suites, and those at certain levels of loyalty programs) will be allowed on the tender ports first. I know that on Princess, if you have an early excursion, you are given a meeting place at which a crew member will escort you to the front of the tender line.

If you are planning to pre-book an independent excursion, it's a good idea to let the company know which ship you'll be on (and hopefully they'll be keeping on top of ship arrivals for that day). Also find out their cancellation policy. You won't want to be charged if your ship doesn't make it into port (or is very late).
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107,621 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
WElcome to Cruise Critic.

Once the ship has been cleared -- and there will be announcement -- you can get off the ship right away as long it is docked.

If you are anchored -- tendering is involved. Then you will be required to get a tender ticket -- place will be listed in your daily program. The ship will take care of those passengers who have booked the cruise line's tours first.

Never have we had to wait 1 to 2 hours before we could get off the ship anywhere.
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Fredericksburg, va. USA
83,830 Posts
Joined May 2001
It will NOT take "HOURS" to get off the ship.....unless you don't want to leave! Many folks don't feel the need to be 1st off....

At docks, walk off when you're ready.
Lafayette, IN
10,319 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
You should not have to wait hours, but then again, you should not also plan on being able to be off the ship exactly when the docking time lists ... adding an hour to that time "just in case" is a safe bet. Also, when coming back, you are generally expected to be onboard at least 30 minutes before the time the ship is scheduled to depart.
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Rockaway, NJ
2,353 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Welcome to cruise critics. You can find a lot of answers here.

The difference in the 1-2 hours can be the difference between a tender port where you need to wait your turn for a small boat to get to land and a port where you dock.

You dock in Civitecchia. For more information about the European ports I suggest going to the Port of Calls Boards where you can find answers and ask questions about the individual ports. We took the train to Rome but it is still time consuming. Off the ship first thing, shuttle bus to port entrance, walk 10 minutes to train station, buy ticket, wait for train and train ride, walk to site. Leave enough time to do this in reverse. This gave us enough time in Rome to do a few major sites. The trip back and forth is not much longer by train but a lot less expensive and you have to build in extra time to get back to the ship early when you go on your own. There will also probably be an excursion in Rome and Florence where they take you into the city and drive you back. You are on your own in the city. Another excursion where they drive you with a short walking tour and then time on your own.

Cruise critics has roll calls where you can meet other people on your cruise and get together for an independent tour. Here is the link to the NCL roll calls

You can find recommended tour guides on the port of calls boards.

It can take months to plan a European cruise. Lots of fun and spreads out the anticipation and enjoyment of the trip.

You will love this cruise. We did a few independent tours with people from our roll call, a few excursions and a few ports on our own. Not an inexpensive cruise if you want to see the cities. Okay, more than your asked. Hope it helps.
West Jordan, Utah
12 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Thanks for your replies. Wasn't sure what a "tender port" was at first, but Krazy Kruisers explained it well - kind of a water taxi when the ship has to anchor and can't berth at a dock. I don't know for sure yet, but I did see a photo of the Civitavecchia harbor on a guy's post about taking the train into Rome, and it appeared the ships sidle up to docks. Will check EGG's site on ports of call, though. The independent tour route sounds interesting, and I'll also investigate that. I did contact a company called Dark Tours, however, and they told me they were setting up a special tour for the Norwegian Epic into Rome, but it was more than E$1,000, about the same as Norwegian's similar excursion. EGG's right about it maybe taking months to plan a cruise like this. I have until early June. My family and I are looking forward to it, obviously, but this is a lot more involved than planning a beach vacation in Cancun, for example. Thanks, again, for having this site. You've got nice and knowledgeable users, so willing to help rookies like me. Mark M.
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West Jordan, Utah
The Big Tomato; i.e. Sacramento CA
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Originally posted by marcusmembrane
Thanks for your replies. Wasn't sure what a "tender port" was at first, but Krazy Kruisers explained it well - kind of a water taxi when the ship has to anchor and can't berth at a dock.

A water taxi is a good way to think of the tenders.
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Royal Wootton Bassett, UK
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Joined Sep 2007
It is easy to dock at 7:00, be off the ship, walk to the station and take the train to Rome. We were outside St. Pauls (very small lines) at just after 9:00am.

Leave in good time for the return journey and you will have a great day in Rome.
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