Don’t set sail before reading these Cruise Vacation Tips!
Whether you are a first time cruiser or sailed many times before, here is a list of helpful cruise tips and suggestions compiled from my personal experience. Please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions about your upcoming cruise.
- Plan your port visits- have a look at which ports of call your ship will be visiting during your itinerary. You have an option to pre-book tours and shore excursions directly with the cruise ship if you like. Put some thought into what you might like to do. It helps you get excited about your trip and makes it more relaxing when you are on board.
- Pre-Cruise documentation- most cruise lines require you complete a pre-boarding registration online directly with the cruise line for security purposes and to speed up embarkation. Make sure this is completed at least 2 weeks prior to sailing and let me know if you need help with this or have any questions.
- Packing- plan your attire carefully by checking your cruise documents to see how many formal nights you have for dinner and what attire is required.
- Beach towels- leave them at home. The cruise line will provide you with towels to use by the pool and for when you go ashore.
- Luggage Weight- watch how much your luggage weighs and check what your airline permits.
- Loyalty programs- If you are a member of the cruise line’s loyalty program let me know that so I can add your membership number to your reservation. If not, consider registering as frequent cruisers can benefit from some perks offered by the cruise line. Contact me for more information or help if needed.
- Special needs & occasions- if you have any special needs, allergies, medical conditions or you are celebrating a special occasion, please let me know in advance so I can notify the cruise line.
- Tags on your bags- make sure you tag all your bags clearly with both your own luggage tags and the ones the cruise line provides to your luggage will easily make its way to your cabin. You will leave your luggage at the pier when you check in and they deliver it to your stateroom. It is no problem to carry on a bag and or purse when you embark the ship; they will put it through a security scanner similar to the airport. The tags have your room number and where it is located on the ship. There is usually a step to print off paper tags when you check in online. I just tape them on the luggage strap just before I head to the pier.
- Bring a carry on or smaller overnight bag- You can use this your last night on the cruise to keep a few items (including valuables) and a change of clothes for the last morning as the rest of your luggage is put outside your cabin door the night before for transfer to the pier for disembarkation.
- Muster Drill or Life Boat drill- this will take place as soon as everyone is onboard usually before you start to sail. There will be announcements about this and they will tell you where to meet for emergency evacuation instructions. Sometimes they tell you to bring your life jacket from your cabin. This drill is very important and the cruise lines take it seriously; it is mandatory that every guest attend.
- No cash on ship- you will set up an account for all the purchases you do onboard that will be charged to a credit card. You do not carry any cash around on the ship, leave it locked in your room safe. No cash is left for tipping in the dining room or at the bar. You will be given a sea pass which is like a credit card (and when the ship crew swipe your sea pass your picture appears on their computer) that is accepted everywhere on the ship for any purchases, tours booked, spa treatments, duty free purchases etc. You may have already paid for your gratuities for the week up front when you booked your cruise or they will charge you a set gratuity per person at the end of the cruise. This is divided amongst your wait staff, head waiter, stateroom attendant. A tip, usually 18%, is automatically added at the time you purchase any alcoholic beverages, the bartender will give you a receipt that shows what was charged to your room/onboard account.
- Read & carry your daily news flyer- Each evening your stateroom attendant will leave a copy of the ship’s daily news outlining the events and everything you need to know that is going on the next day. It is full of important information about the port you will be arriving in the next morning, shows & entertainment, restaurant and lounge hours, seminars, happy hours etc.
- Ship orientation- if you are new to cruising and not used to the layout of the ship, get yourself a copy of the deck plans (a ship “map”) from the guest services desk to carry with you. Remember on most ships cabins on one side are odd numbered and the opposite side of the ship you will find all the even numbers. There is usually a deck layout of the ship with a “you are here” marked on it near the elevators and stairs. To help familiarize yourself with where you are, note if you are at the front of the ship i.e. forward or the back of the ship, referred to as aft.
- Maitre’de- If you are not happy with the table companions you have for dinner, approach your Maitre’de early on in the cruise and request to be changed to another table. This is only if you have a fixed dining schedule. A lot of cruise lines now offer “flexible anytime dining”. You can also request a table for 2.
- Spa treatments- Most spas on board the cruise ships today are world class and not to be missed. If you are going to book spa treatments, especially for the days at sea book early especially for time slots that are most ideal and convenient. If you want to save some money and you are not interested in going into a particular port of call, wait for a port day spa special which is usually advertised in the daily news.
- Passports- some ships will collect and keep your passports the whole time you are cruising, so don’t be alarmed if they don’t give it back to you at embarkation. Otherwise keep your passport locked in your room safe and take your Driver’s License or other photo ID and your Sea pass ID card with you when you go off the ship. It is a good idea to keep one back up credit card in your room safe in case the credit card you carry with you or use in port is lost or stolen.
- Spending- It is easy to spend a lot of money onboard when you are just charging everything to your shipboard account. You can check your balance during your cruise by asking for a print out of your account from the Guest Services Desk. Most cruise lines have this automated so you can pull up your account on your TV in your stateroom which is handy. Inquire about any discrepancies before the last day when Guest Services is at its busiest and everyone is settling their account and disembarking.
- Tap water- the water on the ship is perfectly safe to drink and brush your teeth. Purchasing bottled water at a cost is only necessary if you prefer the taste. There is a water dispenser in the buffet area complimentary along with tea and coffee.
- Specialty restaurants- Cruise lines are continuing to increase the number of specialty dining options apart from the main dining room and the casual buffet. The specialty dining restaurants are usually excellent, worth the surcharge to have a fine dining, intimate experience. Make reservations on your first day or early in your cruise as they typically book up and sell out for the cruise Cover charges vary expect $30 per person as an average.
- Excursions in Ports of Call- if there is a particular excursion that is a “must do” for you, make sure you book it before you leave to go on your cruise or by the first day you are on board. Some popular excursions have a very limited capacity and book up well in advance. If you choose to go explore on your own or book a tour that is not offered through the cruise ship that is ok. However keep in mind a very important point- if you book an excursion through the cruise line and for some reason the tour is late getting back to the ship (bus has broken down, traffic jam) the ship won’t sail without the passengers. The ship will be aware that there is a tour group delayed. If you are on your own or with a local tour guide not organized through the ship and you are late getting back to the ship it will not wait for you and will set sail without you. I would not want this to happen to anyone. When you are deciding whether to do your own exploring or book a tour with a company you find yourself remember to consider the port of call you are in and your comfort level of venturing around foreign cities and countries. If you are in the Caribbean and just want to go to the beach chances are hopping into a taxi to the beach and back will be easy, convenient and economical to do on you own. However if you are in a European city like Rome or another country where the port is a long distance from the city centre and there can be language and currency issues, you may strongly consider taking an organized tour.
As always, if you are looking for some advice on any of these points or have any questions about your cruise, please do not hesitate to call or email me so I can assist.
Have a wonderful cruise vacation!