Oh yes, I remember the excitement of planning our first cruise. Visions of sun, sand and palm trees. I had to scour the internet looking for tips about booking the cruise, what fun things to
Oh yes, I remember the excitement of planning our first cruise. Visions of sun, sand and palm trees. I had to scour the internet looking for tips about booking the cruise, what fun things to expect while at sea and definitely what choices we would have once ashore at the ports of call. There are a few things that you need to get right to make sure your cruise is enjoyable – both at sea and ashore.
Don’t leave home without it! For citizens of the United States, passports are required for cruising, so plan ahead. If you or a member of your group does not have a current passport, get the process started. Obtaining a US passport can take anywhere for a few weeks to several months depending on how busy the State Department is. In the US, you can apply for a passport at many post offices. The for first time applicants over 16 years old prices range from around $160.00 (includes US Postal Service acceptance fee and State Department application fee).
2. Bring Your Medications
Be sure to pack any medications you need for the duration of your trip. Ships have doctors onboard, but naturally services, especially medications, are more limited than at home.
If you drive to the port, you’ll need a place to park you car. This can add $100 dollars or more to the expense of your trip. Some hotels in the area of the port may offer free parking for their guests, so check out this option. A hotel room for one night may be cheaper than the parking garage at the port.
4. Cruise With People You Really Enjoy.
This is important if you’re cruising with a group. You will be spending a lot of time with them – or trying to avoid them. Cruise ships offer an enormous array of activities that you can enjoy with your friends. Or, you can just relax on the deck, enjoying your favorite drink and solitude.
5. Where to Go?
This will probably be your first consideration after deciding a cruise is your vacation choice. Where you go depends somewhat on where you live. Since many cruise lines offer various ports of debarkation, you should decide where to go at least 6 months ahead. If needed, deals can be found for air transportation and hotels. By the way, cruise ships generally start boarding, at least in the eastern US, around 1:30pm. make sure you allow for sufficient travel time to arrive by the boarding time. The ship will leave on schedule!
6. How long do you want to stay?
Cruises range from 3 or 4 nights to 2 weeks or more. For you fist cruise, I recommend a 7 night cruise. Many who take a shorter cruise just wish they had more time to enjoy another port or another night or two at sea.
7. What activities are available onboard the ship?
Shipboard activities will vary by the cruise line, though there are a few activities common to most. Each evening you will receive an activities brochure for the following day. Look it over and plan out the events you want to attend.
Get there a little early – many events are popular and you’ll get better seating by arriving early.
* Formal or semi-formal dinner – bring semi-formal attire – dinner dress; suit and tie (You can still attend dinner in more casual attire, though)
* Casino – bring a little extra cash
* Evening Shows – ranging from comedy to plays to musicals. You may have a big name entertainer!
* Night Clubs – generally a couple targeted at different age groups * Swimming – in the pools or just relaxing in the hot tubs
* Deck Lounging – grab a chair early; but respect others by leaving the chair empty (no books, towels, etc.) when you’re leaving for an hour or so.
* Rock Climbing – yes rock climbing on a wall on an outside deck
* Surfing – some newer ships have a surfing area which moves water uphill sufficiently to support a surfer (and you thought I meant in the ship’s wake?)
8. Excursions when ashore?
Once you have decide on the where and the ship lines, look at the section they have on their website describing the shore excursions available through the cruise lines booking system. Cruise lines have special arrangements (and communications) with their land base excursion partners.
The excursion companies commit to have passengers back to ship on time and, a BIG AND, ships can be notified if there are any problems that may cause the passengers to be late due to events on the excursion. The ship is supposed to wait, at least for a little while. I’ve known people who were left behind because they made their own excursion arrangements.
9. Budget – Buying, Gambling and Tipping
This is simple, take more money than you plan on spending! You will almost invariably spend more than anticipated.
Tip – tips can be added to your bill, i.e. placed on your credit card. Make sure you know if they are added or now. The crew takes excellent care of the passengers and, in my opinion, deserves a good tip – but not an inadvertent double tip.
10. Relax – Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
This may be the most important tip – RELAX. (Oh no, I didn’t shout that!) relax.
In summary –
* Plan early
* Book early
* Pack medications
* Arrange your shore excursions through the ship
* Be with the people you love
* Relax and Have Fun.
Bonus Tip –
If you have the flexibility, many cruise lines offer great deals within the last two weeks before the cruise date. You can save a bit of money by shopping for bargains.