6.1 The Process
The daily program of the ship will list the arrival time at the next port of call and instructions on how you will get off the ship. The ship will either be docked and you will walk down a ramp, or the ship will anchor off shore and you will be loaded into small boats to be taken ashore… a process called tendering. The time you can leave the ship will also be in the day’s program, and will be announced over the public address system. If you have a shore excursion through the cruise line, the times when you should “meet up” will be on your tickets. Normally, ship excursion passengers meet up in a public space (theater, or lounge, or bottom of the boarding ramp) and that information will also be on your shore excursion ticket. After the meet up, an escort (could be me) walks you to your tender, or bus.
The little card that use have been using to open your stateroom door, buy drinks, and charge anything your heart desires, that card is your key to getting off and on the ship. That card has all the information the ship’s staff needs to assist you on-board and to keep track of you leaving and returning to the ship. Some ships still use two cards… room key card and purchase item card. In any case, bring your card(s) to with you to the disembarkation point.
Leaving the ship you will present your ship issued little card, look at the ID device (without hat and sunglasses on), and you will be taken off the “on board manifest”… you are official ashore, or at least until you go through local customs. Local customs usually involves someone in uniform seeing your ID card and waiving you on… sometimes just waiving at you.
6.2 Ship Shore Excursions
If you signed up for your shore excursion through the cruise line, prepare to be pampered, enjoy your day, and don’t worry about getting back to the ship or any problems in route. Tour companies hired by the cruise lines will be in communications with the ship if there are any delays, and they know when to have you back at the dock. There is nothing wrong with arranging your own tours, or just “hanging out” at the dock facilities. That actually works in Cabo San Lucas and some ports that are close to nice shops and attractions. In Cabo you can get off the tender and walk to a nice market and even to some very upscale shopping.
I might even suggest a ride out to the Arches in a ponga for a small fee. And if the ponga is not too crowded, ask the captain to drop you off on the beach and you can walk back to the ship (the south beach, not on the beaches at the Arches). Or you can hire a water taxi to take you to one of many beaches… but that is Cabo. Many docking facilities at ports of call are in commercial areas and not suitable for tourists taking a stroll… not safe, don’t do it, danger danger. You get the picture. Better to stay on the ship than risk walking around in questionable areas. So even if it is a short distance to tourist attractions, when in doubt, take a cab or hire a tour guide from within the port area. Taxis and tour guides within the secure port area are a safer bet than finding a “deal” on the street.
6.3 And Not Going Ashore
And not going ashore is always an option. You can have a spa day and many of the pay facilities on the ship are discounted on shore days. You can just lie around the pool and do nothing, and between doing nothing, you can hit the buffet, or maybe have an ice cream sundae.