This morning, Matt, our Cruise Director, began making announcements for disembarkation deck-by-deck. Carnival now offers guests the option of carrying their own luggage off the ship, or, they can use the traditional method of placing luggage outside the stateroom the night before (by 11pm) and retrieving the luggage in the terminal. Since all of our pieces of luggage have wheels, we decided to try the "carry off" method. A debarkation information form was placed in our room on our last night aboard showing the approximate times for each deck to disembark. All guests are required to vacate their staterooms by 9am, and the last disembarkation takes place at 10am.
At almost exactly 9am, the announcement for our deck to disembark was made. With luggage in tow, we surprisingly were able to get an elevator to Deck 3 fairly quickly. However, when we got to Deck 3, we realized that, because we were using the aft elevators, we had to go back up to Deck 4 to get all the way forward to the lobby. We lucked out and caught another elevator back to Deck 4, then walked all the way forward to the main lobby area. Once we arrived there, the elevators were slammed, so there was no way we were going to catch one going down to Deck 3. That meant Plan B. Nobody likes Plan B. We have to carry our heavy duffle bags, and our roll aboards, down the stairs to Deck 3. Once we get them down to Deck 3, a huge crowd of disembarking guests has formed, many with luggage, trying to make their way to the exit. It was a bit chaotic. Of course, this can be common on a ship with 3,900+ guests! It seemed as if there was no exit plan in place as people were coming into the area from all directions.
In spite of the chaos, we were still able to exit the vessel, get through the terminal and past US Customs in about 40 minutes from the time we left our stateroom. Because we carried our own luggage off the ship, we breezed past hundreds of guests trying to locate their luggage at the carousels in the terminal. If you have reasonably small pieces of luggage that roll, carrying your own luggage off the ship is the way to go. Here's a tip, however: make your way to the forward elevators before you go down to Deck 3. If we had done that, it would have made the process MUCH easier.