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Smooth Sailing: Tips from a Seasoned Cruiser

Get ready for your next cruise (or your first!) with tips to help you make the most of your precious time away. From items to pack and must-do things onboard to insider tricks, so you can spend more time in the pool practicing your form for the cannonball tournament and less time waiting in line for a drink.

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My bags are packed, I’m ready to go!

Preparation is the start of a great vacation. To keep costs down, pack travel-sized first aid and necessity items such as band-aids, bug spray/wipes, motion sickness pills/patches (even if you think you won’t be seasick), sun lotion or aloe, and allergy medication. It is also a good idea to pack snacks such as granola bars or pretzels, not only for the plane or road, but also for any shore excursions you have booked. As more cruise lines become electronically savvy, pack battery backups for phones, charging cords for tablets & laptops, and a plug converter if traveling internationally.

Upon arriving at the cruise terminal, the cruise line will have attendants ready to take your checked luggage so it can be delivered to your room. Luggage delivery often occurs later the same day, but if it is a large ship, it may take longer (even the next day!). With this in mind, be sure to pack essentials like sunscreen, toiletries, some clothes (including pajamas), a bathing suit, and any medication you may need for the first day in your carry-on, so you aren’t waiting on those items in your larger luggage. Remember, cruise lines have to collect and distribute thousands of bags, and while they have fairly seamless procedures, it still takes time so plan ahead with a carry-on bag to make sure your trip gets off to a great start.

All Aboard!

Upon arriving onboard the ship, chances are your cabin will not be ready. While you wait, take a stroll around the ship to see all the event spaces, dining venues, and quiet nooks for relaxing during downtime. Start at the top and make your way down each deck so you can get your bearings on what is available to you and how to get to those venues from your cabin. VIP tip: When you find a bar you like on the first night, give the bartender a cash tip…chances are they will remember your generosity and be more likely to serve you quickly when there’s a crowd.

Magnetic Attraction

The walls of your cabin are metal, so magnets can help organize your papers onboard including your daily activity newsletter (if it’s not delivered electronically), shore excursion tickets, and other papers you may have. Bring some with hooks attached to hang clothes, hats, and even your ship pass lanyard. Magnetic hooks are also a great way to let your wet bathing suits dry. Whatever you do, don’t put your wet bathing suits on your balcony to dry…it’s a good way to lose them when the sea wind picks up!

Cash is king…except on a cruise.

Cruise ships operate on a cashless system. Pre-paid gratuities, if not part of your booking perks, will be added to your daily charges as well as anything else you decide to charge to your cabin. Prior to getting onboard, you will need to provide a form of payment to put on file which will be used to pay the balance of that account. That being said, it is recommended to bring cash to tip your cabin steward, for playing in the casino, or for extraordinary services provided, whether it be for service on the ship or in port.

Pro tip: If you received any perks for booking your cruise (pre-paid gratuities, onboard credit, internet package etc.) they may not appear in your onboard account the day you board the ship. If they don’t appear on the first full day of the cruise (generally you can access your onboard account on the TV in your cabin to check), then visit the guest services desk to find out more information. Be sure to check your online charges daily to ensure accuracy so if there is a mistake, it can be resolved onboard because it is harder to try and fix it when you return home.

Going International

International travel is exciting and fun, but there is more preparation to do beforehand. If you are traveling internationally, have some local currency to tip your guides, and in some cases, to use the bathroom facilities. In addition, bring a credit card that has no foreign/international fees when making purchases abroad and don’t forget to contact any bank or credit card companies to let them know when and where you are traveling. It is helpful to mention that you will be cruising and give the name of the cruise line you have booked with. That information helps to clear blocks on any transactions you make during your trip.

Your phone may not work onboard internationally, so make sure you have contacted your wireless carrier to advise them which countries are on your itinerary. There may be an additional fee for international access, plus you will need to purchase an internet package onboard, if not already included with your fare or booking perks, to get internet service while at sea.

From Ship to Shore and Back Again

Booked a shore excursion? Use a backpack or tote bag to carry snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, sunglasses, and spare items of clothing – hat, swimsuit, sweatshirt etc.

If you are out all day in the sun or on a full day shore excursion, then you probably will be tired (and hungry) when you return to the ship so that might not be a day to book a dinner in a specialty restaurant. Instead, dine in the main dining room or have room service delivered to your cabin for a relaxing meal in the comfort of your cabin.

To drink or not to drink…is that even a question?

If you do not already have a beverage package included with your fare, it may be beneficial to purchase one onboard as it not only includes your alcoholic drinks but also many non-alcoholic drinks like water, coffee, juice, soda. However, do the math because the cost of the package will be about 7-10 drinks per day.

Some cruise lines allow you to bring your own drinks onboard with limits such as 2 bottles of wine/champagne per cabin and non-alcoholic drinks as well, so look into it beforehand to save onboard if you don’t have the beverage package included in your fare. If consuming your own wine or champagne in a restaurant or main dining room, there will be a corkage fee. If you choose to drink it in your cabin, don’t forget to bring a tool to open it yourself.

And, last but not least…

Take the time to read the bulletin for the next day’s events to see what activities or events are planned onboard, where to meet for shore excursions, and spa specials. The best part of a cruise is not only being able to travel to different destinations in one vacation all while unpacking once, but also being able to participate as much or as little as you want.

We hope this inspires you to plan your next cruise and if you have another great tip about cruising, please email us at Hearing from you will make our day!

By Staff Contributor


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