After weighing the pros and cons, it’s time to start preparing for that cruise vacation. To read the first installment, follow the link at the end.
As soon as you have booked your cruise, get started reading up on your specific ports of call. Check out the information in travel guidebooks, read up on the internet, ask others who have visited those ports. Find
out about the location. Are you going to need a few phrases in a foreign language? What currency will you need? What should you be wary of? What should you see while you are there? You won’t have long in your destination ports, so it pays to be prepared.
Make sure you have read about your cruise before you pack. What events will be held on the ship? What do you need to wear? What can you take, or not take on the boat itself? You will be packing a lot of clothing, for on shore and on board, so make sure your suitcase can handle the task.
What to pack
Other than what you would expect for a vacation, such as your swimwear, sunscreen and a hat, you will need some items that may not be as obvious.
- Lanyard – most cruises run with a card rather than cash. This card is your ticket on and off the boat, as well as how you purchase items on board. Cruise stores will sell lanyards, but at a price. Pick up a lanyard before you go, then you are set when you are given your card.
- Jandals/flip-flops/thongs – Whatever you call them, jandals are a cruise essential. In the heat, feet will swell. Spending the day in jandals will be preferable to shoes when in tropical climates.
- Water bottle and thermal travel mug – water and hot drinks will be freely available on board, however, often not where you want them. Being able to cart your beverages around a busy ship without spilling will be invaluable.
- Two-piece swimwear – Most shore activities involving water will have “rustic” changing facilities. Rather than a one-piece, a two-piece under your clothing will be preferable and far more modest.
- Highlighter – Each day you will receive a ship newsletter outlining important information and activities on board. Using a highlighter you can make sure to outline the things you are keen on doing, so that you don’t miss them.
- Sturdy footwear – Good sturdy shoes that are comfortable will be essential on land. Try to take something that allows you to walk a good distance without getting blisters.
Your cruise card is the key to your cruise
When arriving on board, you will be issued a room key and a cruise card for each passenger. This is your passport, your spending money, and your identity on board. Do be careful with it, and keep it away from other credit cards as the magnetic strip can be erased or damaged. Wearing the card on a lanyard is popular, as this way it is always with you, even when you are without pockets. Do be wary. however, as the card and lanyard will signal you as a cruise tourist. Some retailers will target cruisers or hike their prices up, assuming that cruise travelers are rich.
You will either need to load the card up with a credit card, or pre-pay cash at the purser’s desk. This also counts for children, so it may pay to talk with your kids about what they are spending on board rather than discovering a shock at the end of the cruise. One tip for dealing with teens and their card is to talk about the amount they have, or pre-load on their card, and get them to check the balance with the purser’s desk themselves every few days. Teach them how to manage their money, and to keep track of their spending on board. The whole experience can be a valuable learning tool for children.
Shore tours are activities in port offered by your cruise line. While these are more expensive than finding a tour for yourself, they do have some advantages. Firstly, you are guaranteed to get what you paid for. If the ship changes course or misses a port, you will not be charged, and the changes will be made by the ship. The crew will also get you safely to and from your destination, making sure you do not miss embarkation before moving on. They also have strict regulations around each activity, making sure it reaches high standards of safety, so that you are protected. Most cruise companies will also give a list of requirements for each activity, including things as wheelchair access, or fitness level required to participate. There should be no surprises in taking a shore tour with the cruise line.
Check how your ship will dock for each location. Some ports will allow the ship to moor alongside the wharf, creating a much simpler visiting experience. However, some locations will have to use tender boats to reach the shore. These smaller vessels take time to load and unload, as well as mooring at the wharf. Be patient while waiting for your tender, as this can at times be frustrating. People with booked shore tours usually have tender tickets issued to them, whereas those exploring alone will need to line up and collect a ticket on the morning of the stop over.
By taking part in organized shore tours you will meet like-minded individuals who share similar interests with you. On a ship with hundreds of passengers, this can be a way of making friends that you can continue to travel with.
Making the most of your time on board
To make the most of your time on board your cruise, make sure you read the newsletter. Make time to participate in activities you find interesting. Catch the shows, enter a quiz, join in a sponsored walk around the deck, take a trip to the day spa. Do things you would not normally do in your daily life. There are some amazing people on board, whom you may only get to meet by joining a team with them, or walking with them each morning.
Be relaxed. Cruises are subject to a lot of unpredictability with the weather. Have a book, or a travel game to pass time while waiting for an event to start. Take the opportunity to sit down on the deck chairs and simply take in the ocean views. Relaxation is what cruising is all about, so make sure you find time for a spot of it.
When you first get on board, take time out to explore the ship. Find your way around, and see what is on offer. You may be surprised at the different locations around the ship, or even find a relaxing spot with your name on it.
While on your vacation, remember that cruises are designed for fun. If there is something you want to do, talk to the cruise director’s staff. Often activities can be arranged for groups to meet up, as long as the staff know about your interests. Whether you are wanting to get the most out of your holiday or just to unwind, cruising is a great alternative to traditional travel. Enjoy choosing a cruise to meet your needs, and have a ball on board.