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Tips To Make Sure You Have A Happy Cruise Cruise To Your Best Vacation Ever
Posted 25 September 2010 - 06:31 AM
Cruising has emerged in recent years as among the most popular vacation choices for couples, singles, and families. And with good reason: There is truly a cruise to suit everyone.
When I was searching for my first cruise experience, I wanted a short journey and wanted to go during the week, while my children were at school. Turns out, I had plenty of options, and narrowing my options for the next cruise won’t be so easy. Cruise lines are pulling out all the stops to provide passengers with their every desire, from fantasy excursions to top-of-the-line bed linens. Your job, as a cruise passenger, is simply to make the best of your cruise vacation by being prepared. Here are 10 tips to help you achieve that:
1. Do Research
Give yourself as much time as possible to plan ahead. Choosing a cruise line is as important as choosing a destination location. Most people begin their research on the Internet, but it’s important not to discount the benefits of seeking help from a travel agent. They can sometimes get better deals than are offered on the Internet, particularly if you are new to the world of travel deals and want to make sure you’ve looked into all possible avenues. Members of travel clubs, such as AAA, can sometimes snag great discounts. Pay special attention to cruise reviews written by passengers. Although you’ll undoubtedly discover conflicting opinions and many experiences, you are likely to glean at least a few valuable tips about ports or cruise lines that might not suit you.
2. Match Your Cruise Date With Your Vision
Prices and availability will be largely determined by the time of year in which you choose to take your cruise. Consider, for example, that the western Bahamas’ tropical breezes may be a bit cool in January. If you’re looking for warmth, be sure the area you’d like to visit is going to provide that during your travel period. Likewise, cruising to a destination in the middle of its hot season – or hurricane season – may save some money on a ticket, but is a risky move that could put a crimp in the quality of your vacation.
3. Feel Free To Pack Lightly
Most cruisers admit to needing far less than they’ve packed. Once you’re on the ship, you can make yourself at home and don’t have to worry about lugging lots of stuff around, since it stays in your cabin. Make a list before you begin packing (most cruise lines offer comprehensive lists on their web sites). Be sure your suitcases are labeled with your name and address, and tag them with a special-colored ribbon for easy identification when disembarking.
4. But Don’t Forget Varied Clothing Choices
While you don’t need to pack too heavily, you will, however, want to cover the variety of activities and events on a cruise ship. Most cruise lines have at least one formal evening, where cocktail dresses and suit jackets are required.
Also pack workout clothing (and workout footwear) if you plan to use the gym on board, and a minimum of three bathing suits if you enjoy using a pool and spa.
Aside from the usual clothing items, be sure to pack pants and a sweater or sweatshirt, even if you’re traveling in the summer. In tropical climes, ocean breezes can be chilly, especially at night, and especially aboard a moving ship. You won’t want to miss an unforgettable nighttime stroll on deck because you didn’t bring a sweater.
Pack plenty of footwear: for walking, strolling on the deck, for your formal dinner attire and for the beach excursions if there are some. If your cruise destination is a colder climate, prepare to dress in layers, and pack accordingly. Mix-and-match clothing items serve cruisers well.
5. Absolutely Bring A Carry-On
Perhaps nothing in your cruise preparations is as important as your carry-on bag. There is a Golden Rule among those who cruise often: Pack all essentials for a day’s life aboard a cruise ship in a carry-on bag. The reason is this: Sometimes it can take up to several hours for your luggage to reach your stateroom once you’ve boarded. You won’t want to waste a minute of your vacation time, so make sure you have everything you need with you for those first critical hours. This includes basic toiletries, hand sanitizer, snacks, sunscreen, a bathing suit and change of underwear – thankfully, none of which takes up a lot of space. Keep the clothing inside a gallon-size Ziploc bag to assure it stays clean, and carry a couple of empty Ziploc bags for wet swimsuits.
As a side note, many airlines have recently begun allowing passengers to carry on one bag, but charge as much as $25 per extra bag. Therefore, if you’re flying to your cruise-ship port, call your airline ahead of time to make sure you understand any restrictions.
6. Book Excursions Ahead of Time
Booking any shore excursions ahead of time will save you precious time trying to decide, as well as trying to fit into events that are often booked solid by the time the ship sets sail for a certain port of call. For the truly adventurous, book directly with the tour company; this could save you some cash. If you’re unsure about whether you want to spend your money on an excursion, you can always explore a port on your own. While most cruise lines will advise against traveling on your own (they have strong partnerships with tour companies that put on the excursions), with some careful planning and research, taking your own path can be rewarding, stress-free and economical.
7. Practice Safety
First things first: Although the lifeboat safety drills might be the last place you want to hang out when you finally board your cruise ship, put your best foot forward and pay attention. The drills are well-organized, don’t take long and could save your life. This is especially important if you are traveling with children. If you have cruised before, think of the drills as an important refresher course. Be familiar with the emergency exits nearest your cabin, and always use the locks on your cabin door (never prop it open).
Try to familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout; this will help avoid confusion in the event of an emergency as well as save time as you make your way to the different areas on the ship.
Utilize the safe in your room for jewelry, money and other valuables. Read through any safety information provided by the ship as you enter ports. Some areas of the world are more susceptible to crime than others; it pays to be aware.
8. Have Health Information and Various Forms of Money
Remember your insurance card, any medications and any other necessary documentation you’d need in an emergency. With regard to money, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket: Bring an ATM card, cash, a credit card and some currency in travelers checks. Carry copies of your medical information, passport and all other documents with you. Make another copy to keep in your (locked) suitcase. If one or the other is separated from you, this could save time and hassle in the event of an emergency.
9. Know Your Communication Limitations
Save yourself the frustration of not being able to reach out and touch those back home by being familiar with the communication policies and restrictions you may encounter during your cruise travel. Check with your cell-phone carrier ahead of time to see when and if your coverage will be interrupted (a phone card may work better). If you haven’t brought along your laptop, expect to pay some hefty fees to hook up to the World Wide Web at the ship’s Internet café.
While some ports will offer these services in restaurants and coffee shops (again, worth some investigating prior to the trip), service may be unreliable. Remember to pack your cell-phone charger and any laptop accessories you’ll need.
10. Call Ahead About Big Items
Call your cruise ship ahead of time if you’re bringing bulky items, such as golf clubs, bicycles or strollers. They’ll help you formulate a plan both for getting the items safely on board and storing them once you’ve embarked.
Cruising is a fun, economically smart way to have a vacation, whether you're traveling single, as a couple or as a family. Develop your own organizational strategy to maximize your fun potential and soon you'll find yourself planning your next seafaring journey.
Posted 14 June 2011 - 08:30 AM
This list is suitable for teens and adults for a warm weather cruise, and was compiled from many web sites offering packing suggestions, Fodor's How to Pack by Laurel Cardone, and personal experience. It serves as a guide, and you may wish to add or delete items, as everyone has their own favorite items that they bring along on a vacation. I hope that this will help both first time cruisers and seasoned cruisers with their cruise packing. Happy Cruising!
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