First time Cruisers
So you have taken a leap of faith and booked your first cruise-way to go! Here are some things to know as you prepare to ensure and optimal cruise experience. Don’t skip on the cabin upgrades. Many experiences can be enhanced by upgrading from an inside stateroom to a balcony. Depending on the cruise line and current specials this may run you an additional $30-60 per person but it’s well worth it. Also opt to board the ship first to prevent waiting in long lines. This is ideal for families especially those with small children. You can do this by being a priority customer (meaning this is not your first rodeo) but you’re not so ask your travel professional how you can take advantage of priority boarding to ensure you are faster to the fun. This goes for disembarking on your return as well.
Don’t skip on the drink package! If you enjoy spirits then you definitely want to take advantage of the drink package on board. Cocktails can run you anywhere from $8-$10 each while on board(not including gratuities), so a drink package that includes spirits, water, and soda can lessen the financial burden when it’s paid up front. It also allows you to enjoy your cruise and not have to budget your fun on board.
Make time to book excursions for each port of call and explore the region you are sailing to. You can book excursions directly through the cruise line or your travel professional. Your travel professional can customize your excursions as well as set up private transportation to and from each port of call. They will assist you to arrange your travel documents and you can contact your travel professional if you should run into any trouble. Many excursions offered by the cruise line are not customizable and are offered to all cruise line customers. If you are looking for more customization and private guided excursions, I recommend speaking with a travel professional.
Now what to pack??? It depends on what cruise line you’re booking . I myself prefer Carnival as it provides for a more casual fun atmosphere. Ladies I suggest sun dresses, sandals, shorts and tanks. Don’t forget sunglasses and a hat. Take a swimsuit or two and pack light there are laundry services on board. Guys try to stay away from jeans. Cotton shorts, polo’s, t-shirts, sneakers, boats, or sandals. Don’t forget your swim trunks and sunscreen. Depending on how long you are sailing there will be what’s considered an “ Elegant Night” where slacks and a little black dress may be required. Check with your cruise line or travel professional for details.
Now you are going on a cruise so prepare for a bit of safety training while on board. Don’t be alarmed when the captain instructs everyone to immediately transition to their “ Muster Stations”. Yeah you heard me correctly….Muster stations. In case of emergency evacuation of the ship, you will be directed to your muster station to board life boats. This drill happens before you embark on your cruise so prepare for it. It is usually hot and loud so parents with small children please prepare for the worst 20 minutes of your LIVES! Just kidding; however it’s a good idea to ensure the kiddos have made their rounds to the restroom before the drill begins. You can find your muster station on your key cards or crew will direct you to your station designated according to your cabin level.
You will gain at least 1-4lbs a day while cruising so prepare for it. Miss the crowds by dining during non-traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner hours. Miss this crowds during breakfast by dining at 10a.m., Miss lunch crowds by dining at 2p.m., and miss the crowds as dinner by dining at 8p.m. Most cruise ships have 24 hour dining. I suggest you check the ship’s daily itinerary to determine what restaurants are serving each day either early or late.
Also consider meal times during port of calls when everyone may be exiting the ship. Keep in mind the ship’s departure time from ports as this is the time when dining begins to get congested as well because cruise goers returning from excursions generally go immediately to the dining area when returning.
We know your phone is your life but if you would like to skip the $1000 cell phone bill you definitely want to purchase a Wi-Fi/internet package that fits your needs. Some cruise lines have packages that include simple social media access to more robust plans that give you access to emails. It also may be a good idea to speak with your cell phone provider about the addition of an international phone plan even if it’s only temporary. It’s good to speak with a travel professional regarding this as well as they can direct you down the right path. I have heard horror stories of people returning from cruises only to find astronomical cell phone bills because they were not informed regarding internet/data rates. Remember posting that selfie may cost you.
These are just a few tidbits of information to help you get started planning your first cruise. I will blog later about purchasing goods aboard, what duty free really means, and making your way through customs once you return to your original port of call.