So you’ve booked your cruise and you need some cruise preparation advice. I recently wrote, A Guide to Cruising, and now I wanted to bring some advice for people who have not boarded the ship but have booked their cruise. Some questions I’m going to answer today include. What should you bring and when should you leave for your cruise? Is it always a good idea to get an excursion? And what is their exactly to do on a cruise? I have great preparation advice so you don’t board your cruise asking too many questions.
When should I fly into the starting city?
This is important! I think many cruise goers like to push their luck and fly in the day that the cruise starts. Most of the time this works out fine but there are days when flights are cancelled and or delayed. What do these people do then? They miss the first part of their cruise and if they want to catch try to catch up, they must fly to the next port of call. Not good.
I recommend to fly or drive to the starting city at least a day earlier. It might cost more (extra night at a hotel and food), but the benefit is that you have enough time to make your cruise and you get to see a little of the starting port.
What should I bring with me?
This depends, somewhat, on where you are traveling to. Obviously if you’re heading to somewhere cold, like Alaska, bringing some warm clothing is essential. For places like the Caribbean, it’s okay to get away with beachwear (note: cruises can be cold, so it’s always ok to bring a jacket no matter what cruise you are on).
Here is the essential list I usually bring with me.
- I always bring a bathing suit no matter which cruise I take (both indoor and outdoor swimming pools)
- Dressy outfit for formal night dinners (these are optional)
- Cards or Dominos (it’s always fun to relax and play some games)
- No over-sized bag (frankly most of the rooms are too tiny for over-sized luggage)
- Music to enjoy (I try to limit this)
- A slow down mentality
What excursions to take while on your cruise?
Excursions are a necessary, expensive evil while taking a cruise. Most cruise lines offer great excursions but they can drain your wallet.
When it comes to excursions, I would research what to do at all of your port cities. After you review some of the excursions ask yourself if you could do this cheaper once you dock? Could the cruise line do it faster or better? Could the cruise line keep you safe? These are the essential questions I ask when purchasing excursions. Sometimes there aren’t any other options beside taking an excursion with your cruise line or sometimes it’s easier to get off the ship and then book your excursion.
For people who need a peace of mind and know, that when they get off the ship they will be guaranteed to get back to the ship on time, take one of the cruise line excursions. Cruise lines will guarantee that you get back to the ship if you book an excursion through them. If you’re going using another company at your port city they can’t always guarantee you the safety of getting back on time (although I’ve never had a problem with getting back to the ship). If you decide to go with another company at your port city make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get back (think about traffic, etc…)
When picking excursions pick something that is the most bang for your buck. What is it that you really want to experience at this port? This might be your only time in your life you’ll see this port so make the most of it.
Should I change my dinner reservation?
Most cruise lines offer dinner at a certain hour. You usually have early seating and late seating (one of the exceptions would be on Norwegian cruises, which offer no traditional dinner hence you get no reserved hour for dinner). I’ve always preferred an early dinner when dining a traditional cruise ship dinner.
Reasons are: You are the first person to get dinner so all food options that night will be available. The show that is after the dinner will be at a perfect time. And finally you get to eat at a normal hour (some of the late dinners don’t start until like 7:30 or 8).
If you would like to change you dinner time you can call up your cruise lines hotline number and ask to change or go online. When you call or change online you might not be able to get the time you want. In that case you can be wait-listed and hope you get the desired time you would like.
Buy anything on board?
Usually I stay away from buying anything on board. There are exceptions however:
- Formal pictures taken at dinner
- Buying spa treatments (if this is your thing and you have the money)
These above are usually the only things I will buy. Everything else is probably overpriced; finding them much cheaper on land. I would refrain from buying alcohol on the cruise ship. Cruise ships offer great prices to get on the ship. And once you’re on the cruise they up sale through their cruise ship stores and on alcohol. It’s how they make majority of their money. Be aware of how much you’re spending on your cruise. You don’t want to be shocked at the end of your cruise when your bill comes along.
(note: on cruises you use your card to buy alcohol, etc… so you must keep track of how much you spent through the concierge desk or on some cruises, through the TV in your room).
Must dos while on your cruise?
- Go to the late night shows (comedy ones are pretty funny)
- Play bingo
- Play ping-pong
- Lay out by the pool
- Play some trivia games
- Relax in the sauna
- Order room service
- Use the fitness center
- Watch movies
While in your starting city, make sure to bring snacks or wine that you won’t be able to get on the ship. Pick up any last minute medications as well, since the cruise might not offer what you need. Make sure you have your passport ready and some other identification, just in case.
Most items on the ship are taken care of by a your card you receive at the start of your cruise of in some instances, credit card. But I would also suggest to bring some cash. Be careful with how much money you are bringing on board and don’t flash your money around.
Relax and enjoy your cruise! Cruising, for the most part, is simple and straightforward. First time cruisers should have no problem after the first day. Make sure you join in the activities and take in the beautiful ports of call. If you have any questions about cruising you can contact me directly! I’ve been on over 10 now.
images by: shawnvoyage, james