When we left St Maarten we headed back to Ft Lauderdale. Most of the passengers would leave the ship and a whole new set of cruisers would get on. Some of us, however, would stay for another cruise.

We all know cruises are fun, and most of us would give anything to prolong the experience at the end of each voyage we’ve sailed. That’s where back-to-back cruises come in. Passengers who book them can maximize their cruise time while usually only having to go through the embarkation and disembarkation process once. 

Let me explain this in a question/answer format –

What is a back-to-back cruise?

Back-to-back cruises are two or more cruises booked consecutively, normally on the same ship.

Will I be able to stay in the same cabin for both sailings?

It depends on how the sailing is booked. If you choose the same cabin for both sailings, then, yes, you’ll be able to stay. If, however, you decide you’d like to be on one side of the ship for one sailing and on the other side for the second sailing, that’s also possible. I recommend finding a travel agent to help you make the arrangements you prefer. Keep in mind that you’re more likely to be able to book the same cabin for both parts of your trip if you book early.

If you stay in the same stateroom for both legs of your vacation, you will be able to leave your belongings in your cabin during the changeover between sailings. If you’ll be in a different cabin for each cruise, you’ll be required to relocate your luggage. But usually your room steward will arrange that for you.

Can I stay onboard at the end of the first sailing, or do I have to disembark?

This process varies by cruise line and according to the laws that are in place in the port of disembarkation, but generally you’ll need to clear immigration. In my experience, they will have passengers meet and escort them off the ship to clear immigration and escort them immediately back onboard.

Do I have to go through the check-in process all over again at the start of the second sailing?

It’s unlikely you’ll have to go through the whole thing a second time. As mentioned above, clearing immigration is generally quick and painless, and you won’t have to go back to the terminal desks to check in, get your keycard and fill out health forms.

However, since back-to-back sailings are considered two separate cruises — even if you’re sailing on the same ship — you’ll have to settle your onboard account from the first sailing and open a new onboard account for the second. That means you’ll also have to obtain a new keycard; some cruise lines send them to your cabin on the last night of the first sailing, while others will require you to visit the front desk. Often, when you leave the ship for the first time after obtaining your new keycard, you’ll be required to have a new security photo taken at the kiosk near the gangway.

Once I’m cleared, am I allowed to leave the ship and re-board whenever I want?

Yes, but keep in mind that you might need your old keycard when leaving the ship and your new one when you return, so be sure to take both with you. Once your new one is activated, you won’t need to carry your old one anymore.

What should I pack for back-to-back cruises?

Packing for a long cruise can be a challenge. What you should pack depends on two main factors: the itineraries and whether or not you’re willing to do laundry onboard.

If you have questions about back-to-back cruises, leave a note in the comments below.

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