It depends on the port, it depends on the US Customs clearence of the cruise before yours and it depends on when you arrive at the ship.. There is really no guarantee on how to limit your line standing time.
I try to get to the port by 10:45. Out of 4 cruises I have gotten on early 3 times. they will tell you that they do not start boarding until 1PM, but my experience has been they start as soon as the previous cruise is cleared and the ship is ready to board.
Bring sun screen if you are in Miami as their line will quickly become bigger that the building will support and you may end up standing outside. We arrived at noon and stood outside for about an hour before we got inside. But I watched and NEVER saw the line get smaller. You best off getting there early but there are differing opinions here.
It's really not that bad. When disembarking they call your color. This way everyone isn't getting off the ship at the same time. Embarking depends on when you get to the port. We like to be there around noon, but, we have priorty boarding and we are first to board if we are there early enough. It seems boarding is a little faster later in the afternoon.
oops..thanks for covering the disembarking part of the question Sonnyv.. I failed to see that part. Unless you book an early flight, disembarking is not bad at all if you follow the rules. The only lines you will encounter there are if you tyr the "self assist" disembark. If you are carring all your luggage off the ship by yourself, you get off early and then you will find a line. But normally, you just get off when they call you tag color.
After 15 cruises and the 16th is coming up soon, you learn that the annoyances of going on a cruise are far, far less than the overall enjoyment of a cruise. Yes, sometimes you have to wait to embark and disembark, and yes this can be a great waste of time. However, while waiting you can read, converse with other passengers, and take a last look around the ship.
And please remember that above all a cruise is a vacation and an adventure, where patience has great rewards.
You are right, in that there are those who complain about everything and nothing is fast enough, warm enough, cold enough, clean enough and so on.
I hope to go on many more cruises (been on 15 and one coming up in late October, 2006. On several of our cruises i have had to listen to a complainer complain about something to a cruise staff person. And what the staff seems to really appreciate is that after enduring some nonsensical complaint from a passenger, I do my best to make the staff person laugh.
Hope that your next cruise is soon and that you have a wonderful time.