Cruising can be one of the best ways to vacation. What other type of vacation brings the destinations to your room? With every cruise you learn a little more and lessons you remember for next time. Well, here are my top tips for making your cruise vacation the best it can be.
Before you cruise
Budgeting – Planning ahead for your expenses will allow you to have a much more enjoyable vacation. Prevent heart failure when that bill arrives in your cabin at the end of your cruise.
Most of the food is included in your cruise price but there are times where you will need to get out that sail and sign card. Most ships now have alternative dining like steakhouses where there is a nominal fee for dinner. In addition, specialty coffee shops, soda and of course liquor and beer do have a fee. Most cruise lines offer beverage programs like Carnivals Cheers program where you can purchase a certain number of drinks ahead of time. These programs are usually available on board.
Shore Excursions – Some people will say shore excursions can be cheaper if you book through an outside source rather than the cruise line. Yes, it can be. But if you book direct with the cruise line, you are guaranteed safety, quality and timing. When I say timing, if the excursion is running late to return to the ship, the ship will wait if it’s a cruise line shore excursions. If not, you might end up taking pictures of the ship as it sails away.
Travel Insurance – Let’s face it, you are planning your vacation far in advance and there is no way to plan for every contingency except protecting your money. There are a variety of travel insurance policies out there and your travel agent can certainly provide you with the best options.
Packing – You will not want to carry all of your luggage on board with you so pack smart. Pack at carry on back with a travel documents including your ID, Passport or Birth Certificate. Starting your vacation chasing your luggage as a porter hauls to the ship will not be fun. Your luggage will not arrive at your cabin for a couple of hours so pack what you need for the short time. I always have my swimsuit and sunscreen. This way there is no delay in hitting the pool.
Getting to the port – If you have the time, arrive a day prior to the cruise departure. This allows for flight delays and cancellations, traffic, car trouble or just running late. Each cruise line has its own requirements for arrival especially if you are taking a transfer from the airport so plan ahead.
On the cruise
Boarding- Be sure to keep your passport or Id and birth certificate out and ready for viewing until you are on board. You will be asked for this several times throughout the process.
After you get on board, make sure you tour the ship at some point on your first day. Most cruise ships are like small cities now so learning the ship early will make your trip much more enjoyable. Plus, you find that secret quiet spot to relax and read a book or simply take a nap.
Depending on what time you board, your cabin may not be ready yet. Usually most cabins are ready for the guest by 1:00 PM but check with the cruise line for specifics.
Luggage- When you arrive at the port whether you are driving or riding in on a shuttle, porters will be available to take your luggage on board or you. Remember to have your travel documents and other essentials out of this luggage because you may not see it for a few hours. Tip the porters $1.00 to $2.00 per bag. Remember, they do no work for the cruise line.
Onboard Purchases – The ship is a cashless environment so you will be provided a sail and sign card used for purchases at the bars and shops. It will also serve as your room key and will be swiped each time you leave and board the ship. You can either have a credit card on account for them to charge or make a cash deposit. But remember, with a credit card, they do take an authorization in most cases each day so that will reduce your available funds.
Activities- When you arrive at your cabin, you will have a guide to the day and nights activities. Read through it and familiarize yourself with what’s going on and start planning your first day of vacation. Each evening, a guide for the next day will be placed in your cabin.
Gratuities – Don’t forget about all of those wonderful crew members that made your cruise vacation memorable especially your wait staff and cabin steward. Most cruise lines will automatically add the gratuities o your shipboard account. But don’t panic, you can adjust the amounts simply by visiting the guest service desk usually located in the lobby. Gratuities typically run around $10-$12 per day per passenger.
For bar staff, usually a 15% gratuity is added to each purchase so no need to worry about them But even if you don’t eat in the main dining room, the gratuity for the wait staff also covers those in the buffet and other alternative dining venues.
Your Next Cruise- Be sure to check out any offers on board for booking your next cruise. Most cruise lines will have a representative on board offering specials if you deposit on your next cruise while sailing. Your travel agent will get confirmation and take care of the rest.
Loyalty Programs- Make sure you have joined the cruise lines loyalty program. The more cruises you take with the specific cruise line, the more benefits you receive. This can include welcome parries, upgrades and shipboard credits.
Most importantly use a travel agent to plan your vacation. As a travel agent we can provide you will all the information you need to make your vacation memorable. Click Contact to send me an email for more information.
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