So, you’re going on a cruise and need some basic advice. Hopefully this blog will give you some direction as you prepare for a fun trip away.
First mention – they make and design cruise ships for all types of vacationers. You are welcome to have an opinion about if you prefer it or not – but they design the ship for many different styles of vacationers.
Cruising is not the cheapest way to vacation, but if you consider all that is included (which most don’t), then it is comparable to other vacations. All you can eat, included room service, live show’s and many activities all a part of the trip – all you have to do is show up.
Here are some tips I’ve learned from my trips on board a cruise ship:
Tip #1: A balcony room has a benefit if you like to retreat to your room. It doesn’t mean it’ll be quiet (because you are also surrounded by other balcony rooms) but it your own personal spot when it’s time to send off or while docking/departing at your ports of call. If you plan to only sleep in your room – interior or oceanview rooms are cheaper.
Tip #2: Cruise ships make over half a million dollars every week-long trip they take on booze. I have a friend who, instead of buying wine on board, he takes a bag of boxed wine in his suitcase (vacuum sealed twice, of course) and drinks it onboard instead. He saves a fortune. He just asks for a glass at the bar and takes it back to his room. Now, if you really want to save some cash – limit or eliminate drinking on board. Instead – if you need something, spend the calories on soda. Most ships, before departure from their boarding port, offer “soda” cards/stickers for a lower price (overall). Each glass of soda can run up to 3$, but the soda card might be around $35-40 total (so 12-15 drinks). You can sign up for this benefit, have it billed to your ship card and enjoy endless soda the entire trip from any bar or dining room. An old lady told me that if you are travelling with a friend or spouse, you can get one sticker, go to the bar, get a soda, walk about 5 minutes, give it to your cruising partner, go to the next bar and get another. Money saved.
Tip #3: Keep a small notebook (moleskin). Not only is it a great place to write down things that happen, it also gives you a place to write down any purchases you make. Cruise ships LOVE to charge it to your room, swipe your card and slip the bill under your door on the last day. It can be shocking to find out how quick it adds up. Be careful and keep a running tab in your notebook so that you are aware of how much is being charged.
Tip #4: Casinos on board are for fun – not to get rich. The house ALWAYS wins. These ships are registered in Bermuda – not Las Vegas – or even the USA. The odds are not in your favour -> ever. They are built for one purpose – to make money.
Tip #5: Tipping. When I went on my first cruise with my new bride (honeymoon) – we had no idea what or how to tip. Thankfully, there is no reason to take fist-full of $1’s to cover all your services. Cruise ships know that people are clueless when it comes to tipping and now automatically apply a daily fee to your room per passenger ($11 per day per passenger). It might seem crazy – but the people on the ships are aces when it comes to service and there are about a dozen taking care of you each day. It’s money well spent. At the end of the week, you can tip someone who has helped you tremendously if you choose, but it’s not required. You can also go to customer services and increase your tip per day — if you’d like.
Tip #6: Your Bags. When you get out of the taxi or off the bus at the departure port, there will be people handling bags and putting them into cargo crates. This service is NOT from your cruise line. They work for a contracted company and work solely for tips to expedite your bags onto the ship – straight in front of your room. Be sure that they are doing this for all passengers. If you are unsure about this – you may take your bags on board by yourself. If you choose to use this service; I have heard all sorts of amounts about how much someone should tip – per passenger, per bag, etc. Cruise critic and I agree, $1-2 per bag is customary and acceptable. Don’t let guilt tell you differently.
Tip #7: Your Bags, part 2. If you choose to use the shore to ship baggage service – take a carry-on bag with your essentials in it – especially Medication (even Tylenol and Dramamine for motion sickness), identification, money, credit cards and all paperwork. Consider also taking a bathing suit. The rest of your gear will arrive – sometime during the evening. Visit your room every hour or so to see if it shows up. On our first cruise, we pulled out of port and I got worried – but it arrived after dinner – safe and sound. On our next cruise, we packed a carry-on and I didn’t worry at all.
Tip #8: Valuables stay in your on board safe in your room. They don’t leave until you want them and they go right back when you’re done. There are people coming and going from your room all the time (servicemen). Be safe, be smart.
Tip #9: Camera. The nicer camera you can get your hands on, the better. It’s SO important to take quality gear with you on this trip – because you might not get to go back for a LONG time. Having nice pictures will ease the pain – for a while.
Tip #10: Turn off. This goes for devices but also for your work-brain. It can be SO hard to power down phones and let go, but it can and should be done. You’ll enjoy yourself much more if you allow yourself to let it go for the trip. Plus, I always found that reconnecting with Social Media after a trip can be refreshing. You’ll have stories to tell.
Tip #11: Make your excursion reservations before you board the ship. The earlier, the better. This will guarantee your reservation and get you on your desired time. These fill-up quickly but are worth it. Another note about excursions: although they cost more, they are booked by the cruise line AND if you should be running late, the ship will not leave without you. I’ve actually experienced this. We were out touring Grand Turk and came back 5 minutes after departure time. We were greeted by the staff, I walked up to our room and walked out onto our balcony to see the ship pushing off from the dock. If we went “exploring” on our own and were 5 minutes late – we would have been looking at the ship pulling away without us. You can either rejoin the cruise at your own expense at the next port – or head home. All for a few bucks saved — I don’t think it’s worth it.
Tip #12: Reserved space on the beach. The first cruise we went on, we ate Breakfast and left the ship around 9:00 am for the beach. When we arrived – it was packed…. all day. Nowhere to sit, no shade (and I’m Canadian, so 90 degrees in the sun — na-uh). On our next cruise, we added an excursion for our beach day – a clamshell. It’s a reserved place on the beach. You present the ticket on the beach they set you up. Then you have a space to rest, two loungers and some shade. Ours cost $35 total for the whole day. Totally worth it.
Tip #13: Rain. If you’re headed for a tropical location – it might rain. It does that A LOT. Don’t go hoping for perfect weather the whole trip – but plan to make the most of it while you are there. Make it a part of the adventure and you’ll have stories to tell when you get home. Running in the rain with my wife on St. Thomas is one of my favourite memories. Also note, a dry bag is a God-send. It can really help – especially if you take that expensive camera with you. Sealine makes great bags – check them out on Amazon. If it starts to rain and your in the water, all your gear is safe and dry – and the beach in the rain can be fun.
Tip #14: Dressing up. Every cruise line will ask you to dress up at least once – likely twice. Just plan on it. They typically want men to dress in coats and pants and women in dresses. Packing for such an occasion might be tricky – especially since you’re not allowed to iron your clothes on board. The solution: take some wrinkle-releaser with you. Available in travel size and on Amazon – it’s a great life saver. If you choose not to use this – get your dress clothes out as soon as they arrive and hang them up near the steamy shower. Remember to pack dress shoes (yep, I forgot those on our honeymoon – I walked around like a dork in black sandals – but I was travelling with the prettiest girl I knew – and she didn’t care).
Tip #15: Bring a power strip. There is probably going to be 2 outlets in the cabin – so if you need to charge camera batteries, devices and whatever else you bring, you’re going to want to have a power strip. Also bring extra SD cards in case one fills up or gets damaged – you’re not totally up a creek.
Tip #16: Bring your adventurous attitude. There are usually 3100+ people on board modern ships – but they do their best to spread you all out. It’s an adventure – go and explore. Don’t let others screw with your journey. The trip is what you make of it. I love the thought of holding my wife’s hand and stepping into parts of the world we’ve never experienced before.
I could go on and on. I might update this post when I think of other items – so bookmark this on Pinterest and come back before you leave. Otherwise, have a fantastic trip. I’m Cruising-Obsessed.