Just a forewarning, the last day of the cruise can be a little hectic. And I don’t mean because you’re dreading going back to work the next day. Whether your last day is stopping in a port of call or a sea day spent on the ship, there will be a lot of things you will need to get done before disembarking. Because you're not the only one who needs to do these things, there can be lines or delays. The more aware you are of these issues, the more you can do things in advance and as a result the more likely it will be that you can enjoy your last evening on the ship. You don't want to be missing your last dinner, show, or fun with family and friends because you're in line at the customer service desk!
What do you need to do before you leave the ship?
Photos. The strolling photographers take many photos of you on the ship. If you want to take those photos home, you need to purchase them before the shop closes your last night. The store will NOT be open in port. The photo shop also typically closes earlier than the rest of the ship, so be careful! This area will be VERY crowded your last night. Purchase your photos before then if you can.
Souvenirs. Been putting off getting that souvenir you really wanted? Make sure you purchase it before the shops close your last night. These stores will NOT be open when you arrive in your home port.
Tips. All of the key people who have been taking care of you this cruise, your room steward, dining room host, dining room server and assistant server should all receive gratuities. All cruise lines do this part differently. On most Disney cruises, they calculate a per person gratuity of $84 (for a 7 day cruise) and add it to your stateroom bill. This breaks down to $28 each for your dining room server and stateroom attendant, $21 for the assistant server, and $7 for the head server (or host). They give you advance notice of what theses charges will be and you can increase or decrease the amount by visiting the customer service desk. By the last night of the cruise, they will deliver little envelopes with slips of paper indicating the amount of the gratuity. It is customary for you to then deliver these little envelopes to the designated people and say thank you. Of course, if you are adding to the basic tip you can just put additional cash into the envelope -- no need to visit customer service for that. The total of these tips can be significant, so be forewarned. In fact, now you can pre-pay gratuities on Disney cruises and roll them into your cruise fare, so that you can pay the tips before you board.
Settle Your Account. By the last day of the cruise, you will receive a print-out of all your on-board charges. Aye caramba, we spent that much! If you already have a credit card on your account, it will be charged to that card. If not, you will need to visit customer service to settle your account. Of course, you will also want to double check the accuracy of the charges, make sure any on-board credits have been applied, as well as your Disney VISA points (see blog discussion on Disney VISA).
Bags in Hall & Tags. One decision you will need to make is whether you want to carry all your luggage by yourself off of the ship, or whether you want Disney to get your large items off, and into the cruise terminal where you will pick them up. Obviously this decision depends on your personal preference and your flight schedule. Disney knows, from the information you provided, how you are leaving the home port and when. They will assign you to a disembarking group based on that information. By the last day of the cruise, luggage tags with a Disney character on it will be delivered to your stateroom. These Disney characters signify the group with which you will be disembarking. If you have an early flight, you will be disembarking earlier and vice versa. You also have the opportunity to eat breakfast before you leave the ship, either with the same group you've been dining with each night, or a la carte in the buffet. If you want Disney to remove your bags from the ship for you, they must be packed and in the hallway by a certain time your last night of the cruise, with the tags on them. (see below) You may also take off smaller bags with you, on your own the morning you depart. Typically, we do leave our large bags in the hall for Disney to transport off the ship. If you choose to remove all your luggage on your own, you can pretty much leave the ship whenever you want (as soon as it is cleared by customs). If you are on a tight schedule, this may be the best way to proceed.
Pack. And of course, you have to pack! The decision you made about how your luggage will get off the ship will dictate a lot of the packing and when it needs to occur. If Disney is taking your luggage off the ship for you, you will need to pack before dinner your last night and leave the suitcases that Disney is taking, out in the hallway. (You can also carry-off additional pieces on your own the next morning.) So, the tough part is figuring out what you need for your last night, what you can put into the luggage into the hall, and what clothing, toiletries etc. need to remain in the room with you. Make sure you keep your passports and important personal items with you. Typically, we pack up our large suitcases before dinner and put them into the hallway. We pack our roller board carry-ons with the rest of our items and roll them off the ship ourselves the next morning. What makes all of this even trickier, is if you are flying home -- you need to be careful about not having liquids or large sized toiletries, or other prohibited items in your carry-ons. And of course by the last night on the ship, you and your family will have acquired a lot of "stuff" hidden in various crevices in your room, and now need to find them and decide what to do with them. Personally, I try to do all of the packing and cleaning up the afternoon of the last day, while my husband and kids are running about the ship. It just makes it easier for me!
Future Booking. If you've been thinking about booking a future cruise while on-board, do it as soon as possible. The future cruises desk gets VERY busy by the last night of the cruise and you don't want to be sitting there for long. The agent will also be so busy that he/she may not have time to respond to your information requests quickly.
Forms and disembarking. Customs forms will be delivered to your stateroom along with the luggage tags, disembarkation information, and other items. Be sure to read them and fill them out.
Return kids' club bracelet. Make sure to return your kids' bracelets when they exit the Club or Lab (tearfully) for the last time. If you do not, the fine will be substantial! There will be special areas designated for this drop-off.
Whew! Yes, it is a lot. And if you're a first-time cruiser all of this can catch you unawares and make your last day seem more like work than fun. But with some planning and pre-work, you will get it all done and be able to enjoy your last night.