This new policy comes as a result of a new rule mandated by the US Customs and Border Protection. Beginning February 19, 2008, they are requiring all cruise lines to send an electronic transmission of their passenger and crew manifests no later than 60 minutes prior to departure. NCL is implementing the policy a little early, but all cruise lines will need to comply by February 19...so I wouldn't be surprised if all of the other cruise lines come out with revised policies shortly.
If we are scheduled to sail at 5:00 pm, then all guests who are sailing need to be checked in by 4:00 pm so we can send the manifest. At that point check-in would close. In order for us to get everyone checked in by the 60-minute mark, we are asking guests to arrive two hours before departure so that they have time to deal with luggage, go through security and check-in. It's like the airlines telling you to arrive two hours before a flight so you have enough time to go through the entire process before boarding the plane. If everyone shows up at an hour and 10 minutes before hand, it will be impossible to get everyone processed in 10 minutes and meet the 60-minute deadline.