Cruise Tips - What to Pack on a Cruise and More
Every day, more and more people are discovering the all-inclusive pleasures of a cruise vacation. More singles, families, couples, honeymooners, second honeymooners and groups of friends are sailing away on the vacation of their lives. Last year alone approximately seven million people enjoyed a cruise vacation. To ensure you have a smooth trip, consider these cruise tips, including what to pack on a cruise, what to bring on a cruise and more. And as always, remember to consult with a travel agent for your next cruise to ensure you have the best experience possible.
Notify the cruise ship of any special dietary restrictions or requests at least 60 days prior to departure. Leave copies of your passport, airline tickets, travelers cheques and credit cards with a family member or a friend. Discuss your travel plans with a doctor. Some countries may require certain immunizations. Bring any immunization records with you. If you tend to get motion sickness, see your doctor prior to departure for recommendations. Dramamine and patches often work to curb seasickness. It may be easier to email friends and family members back home if you have established a Web-based email account, such as Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL, beforehand. Check and confirm your airline reservation 24 hours prior to departure. If you have an ongoing medical condition, ask your family doctor to write up your brief medical history, which you can take with you and provide in the event of a problem. Check your cruise ticket and verify its information. Check your airline ticket and verify its information. If you book cruise only, you are responsible for getting to the ship from the airport. If you plan to bring a hair dryer or an electric razor, check the cabin voltage. You may need an adaptor. Give relatives and friends the ship's telephone number, in case of an emergency. If you booked an air/sea package through a cruise line and you missed the ship because of late/cancelled flight, most cruise lines will get you to the next port. Arrive at the embarkation area at least two hours prior to sailing. Complete the immigration/embarkation and the onboard credit card application forms before you register at the check-in desk Don't purchase duty-free alcohol to take onboard. It is confiscated until the last day of the cruise. Purchase some guidebooks so you can read about the ports of call you will be visiting. If you plan on scuba diving, consider becoming certified before you embark on the cruise. You'll save time and money.
- Check what sort of identification you need when traveling to your destinations.
If you plan on working out, don't forget some gym clothes.
- Pack different clothes for the different climates you foresee experiencing.
Life aboard a cruise ship is laid-back and casual. Dress for comfort. Bring two or three swimsuits. Footwear should include walking/running shoes and sandals. When cruising outside warm weather destinations, never underestimate the importance of a sweater/sweatshirt, a raincoat, a hat and gloves. During "casual" dining, t-shirts, jeans and shorts are not allowed in the dining rooms. During "informal" dining, women typically wear dresses or pantsuits, while men usually wear lightweight jackets. During "formal" dining, women should be prepared to wear cocktail dresses or gowns, while men should consider wearing business suits or tuxedos (though not required). Some cruise lines let you preorder formalwear, thus eliminating the need to pack it. If you're traveling to warm weather destinations, do not forget sunscreen and sunglasses. Consider bringing a small amount of detergent for washing clothes within your own cabin. Almost all ships
have laundry-facilities, but they can be costly - especially dry cleaning. Most ships have powerful air conditioning. A sweater/sweatshirt may come in handy. Bring a camera. Cruise photographers charge high prices to take your picture. Pack enough prescription medication for the entire voyage (keep drugs in prescription bottles). Ships only stock general medications and ports may not have them available. Do not pack your passport, visas, driver's license, medications, cruise documents or airline tickets in luggage. Keep them in a purse, jacket or backpack. Pack a written list of your medications, including the name of the drug, dosage and times taken, in case they are lost. These items should be packed in your carry-on: perishables, liquor, cash, credit/debit cards, jewelry, business documents, travel and health insurance information, laptops, computer disks, cell phones, cameras, binoculars,videotapes, CD's and cassette tapes. Bring credit cards and travelers cheques instead of large amounts of cash. Pack a water bottle so you can bring water from the ship onshore. Or just purchase bottled water at the ports of call. Use hard-sided luggage. Do not use garment bags with hanger hooks protruding from the top. Put a card with your name and address inside your luggage, as well as on the outside.
One way to reduce the expenses of a longer cruise is to choose a repositioning voyage, which is when a cruise line moves a ship from one region to another between seasons. You can also save money through early-bird discounts, which are discounts given for advanced booking. Heavily discounted rates are often available during a destination's off-season. Determine when that off-season is and look for cruises during those months. If you are crunched for time, book a 3- or 4-day cruise. You'll save some money and still enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Compare different cruise lines that operate similar itineraries in the geographical region you'd like to cruise. Compare ship sizes and facilities. If you are worried about getting seasick, book a cabin in the middle portion of the ship, both vertically and horizontally.
- If you're cruising alone, consider participating in a cruise line's "guaranteed share rate," which is a program that finds you a roommate of the same sex. This will help you avoid paying the "single's supplement."
Inside cabins, which do not provide an ocean view, are the least expensive. Outside cabins have a porthole or a window. More lavish outside cabins may have private balconies. If you smoke, consider a balcony stateroom where you can smoke outside. Suites usually provide a separate bedroom, a living area, and a bathroom, and are the most expensive. They
may or may not come with a private balcony. If you're traveling with your partner, make sure that any smaller beds in your cabin can be adjoined. Or request a double bed. If you have a disability, make sure that the ship can accommodate your needs. Because of noise problems, avoid booking a cabin near the ship's laundry, generator, galley or clubs. Many cruise lines describe suites as accommodations that are simply larger cabins with a curtain dividing the sitting and sleeping areas. Before booking a suite, make sure it is what you envision. If you need to stay wired while onboard, find a cruise ship with an Internet caf? or in-cabin data ports. An increasing number of cruises offer accommodations for birthdays, anniversaries, business meetings and other special events. If you have reason to celebrate, find out what packaged amenities are available. Most cruises offer pre- and post-cruise packages that involve accommodations, excursions and transfers. These packages are excellent ways to extend vacations. Check the demographics of ships carefully, especially if you are traveling alone or with children. Many cruise lines offer special children's programs and activities. If you have kids, inquire about children's facilities before booking. If you are a non-smoker and prefer not to be around those who smoke, book a cruise on Carnival's Paradise, the world's first and only completely smoke-free ship. Remember that 3- and 4-day cruises typically attract younger passengers, as do cruises on weekends and school breaks. For a more intimate cruise with personalized service, choose a smaller ship that accommodates roughly 500 passengers. For a good choice of company and more activity, select a medium-size ship with 500-1,000 passengers. In you crave lots of organized entertainment, high-tech facilities and lots of potential friends, choose a large ship with 1,000-3,000 passengers. These ships are destinations in themselves. If you seek relaxation, a "port a day" cruise may become exhausting. Choose an itinerary that balances sea days with port days.
- Remember that shore excursion expenses are typically not included in the cruise fare.
- Expect to pay $20-100+ for shore excursions.
- If you are elderly or have a handicap, you may not be able to go ashore at some ports. Check with the cruise line.
- Check with the cruise director or physician about where to eat onshore. Some food items and beverages, especially water, may be off limits.
- To explore a city more in depth or to see an aspect of it not included in the fare, consider traveling on your own rather than with a tour group.
- Book shore excursions as soon as possible either before you leave or immediately after boarding a ship.
- You aren't likely to be covered under a ship's insurance if you explore on your own. Check the details of your ship's cruise policy beforehand.
- During a shore excursion, always carry identification, the name of your ship and its docked location. Take a photocopy of your passport with you as well.
- If you explore on your own, it up to you to get back to the departure point on time. If you miss a launch, you'll have to meet the ship at the next port - at your expense.
- Leave valuables, excess cash and unneeded credit cards aboard.
- Guides may give you badges to wear for identification, but bear in mind these identifiers only make it easier for shop keepers and thieves to target you.
- Many cruise lines offer in-cabin babysitting. Take advantage of this service.
- Plan to spend about $10-15 a day for tips.
- Tip waiters, headwaiters, shore guides, spa and salon experts, cabin stewards and any other persons who give extra-special service.
- On many cruises, a 15% gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs.
- Do not leave valuables out in the open in your cabin.
- You do not have to soak up all of the sun on the first day.
- Drink in moderation. Most onboard mishaps are alcohol related.
- Don't panic if your luggage isn't in your cabin when you arrive. It may take a few hours for luggage to be distributed.
- Learn the exit route from your cabin to the open decks, in case of emergency.
- Sign up for salon appointments, health spa services, sports and all other activities early.
- If you booked an air/sea package and your luggage does not arrive, the airline is responsible for delivering it to the next port. Give the airline an itinerary and a list of port agents.
- Inspect your cabin and report any complaints immediately.
- Few ships offer tables for two dining. If yours does, ask the maitre d' to provide accommodations for you and your partner.
- Attend the lifeboat drill and pay attention to the information given.
- Note the phone number for the ship's hospital or doctor in case of emergency.
- Grab your deck plan and take a walk to familiarize yourself with the layout of the ship, and learn how to reach your cabin from the main stairways.
- Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks not consumed at dinner, laundry, phone calls, casino gambling and other various activities are not included in the cruise fare.
If your cruise is less than satisfactory, inform the cruise line representative immediately. For valid complaints, cruise lines may offer credit toward a future cruise.
- At the end of the cruise, you will receive a bill for signed items. If extra charges appear, ask to see all the charge slips and get a copy of a modified bill.
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