One of the most fun and unique ways to experience new destinations is on a cruise ship, which will take you from port to port over the course of several days on a vessel that is more like a luxury hotel than boat. If you’re planning to take a cruise, there’s a lot that you should know before you set sail. Here are seven tips that ever first-time cruiser should know:
Most cruise ships offer a number of unique and helpful extras that aren’t openly advertised. If you’re concerned about the comfortability of your bed, for example, many lines will offer additional padding and blankets upon request. Or if you’re prone to seasickness, you can often find several remedies on board free of charge, such as like green apples (the go-to solution for many cruise veterans!) and plain crackers through room service, or seasickness medication for free at the purser’s desk.
If you’re hoping to enjoy a spa experience on board, but don’t want to incur extra fees, there are often additional luxury showers, saunas, and steam rooms outside of the fancy spa options that are free of charge. Do some research to find out what your ship has to offer before you book your trip.
For many, the cruise itself is the second part of your travel experience, with the first being your flight from home to the city where your boarding port is located. While we hope that your travels go as smoothly as possible, it’s always best to prepare for any bumps in the road – especially when you’re embarking on a cruise that will take you away from shopping opportunities.
One of the most important things you can do is be thoughtful when you pack your carry-on bag for the trip to your boarding port. As we know, luggage can get lost in air transit, and if you’re going directly from the airport to your port, you might not be able to get your bag until later in your trip, when it can be shipped to a later port of call. Be sure to pack a spare change of clothes, your essential toiletries and medications, and anything else you might need in case your bag doesn’t arrive with you.
If your cruise ship departs from a location in the United States, you may not know which travel documents will be necessary for your trip. If your cruise ship is traveling internationally, you’ll need your passport and any other documents required by the countries that you’ll be visiting. Make sure you know which documents will be necessary on your trip as far in advance as possible – they can take some time to procure if you don’t already have them.
Then, once you have your documents, keep them on your person as often as possible. They’ll often be necessary for re-boarding the ship after an excursion, as well as for entry back into the United States.
While most cruise lines have decent policies around reimbursement for mechanical problems and other issues that occur on their end, there are a number of other circumstances that could arise that aren’t covered. For example, personal illness or the illness of a family member, airline delays, and lost baggage could interfere with your plans, and the cruise ship would not be responsible for your losses as a result.
Because of the limited insurance offered by cruise lines, you’ll likely want to get your own coverage in advance of your trip. In fact, you should look into travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, to ensure that any unexpected cancellations are covered. You can learn more about cruise-specific travel insurance and find your best options here.
These days, most cruise lines offer Internet on board, but often, it’s at a steep cost. Charges vary from line to line, so be sure to do your research in advance if you’d like to stay connected while on board. One great tip in this area is that if you do want to purchase an Internet package, do it on the first day – many cruise lines will offer a discount if you take care of it right away. One important note is that some cruise lines do offer branded apps that allow passengers to communicate with each other while on board, so you may not have to opt for an expensive package if that’s your objective.
Many find that cruise ship charging stations are insufficient, with only a few outlets in each room. If you plan to bring a lot of electronics with you, consider bringing your own charging station or power strip, if they’re allowed on your cruise. If not, be sure to ask your cabin attendant if they have options available on board.
Most cruise ships offer a wide variety of free experiences to cruisers. One is onboard entertainment, which often includes musical performances, theater, magic shows and more. While these shows sometimes sell out in advance, you can often get tickets at the door if those who signed up in advance don’t show up. Your cruise ship might offer additional entertainment free of charge as well, such as karaoke and dance parties.
In addition, many of the onboard dining experiences available to you are part of your cruise ticket. Free options often include the main dining room, the buffet, and one formal dining experience. Be sure to look into which dining experiences are included and what your ticket includes in terms of courses, so you can make sure you take full advantage.
If you’re interested in receiving a spa treatment while on board your cruise, be sure to schedule in advance whenever possible – they often book up quickly. Though they can be pricey, spa treatments are sometimes more affordable on port days, when many passengers are away from the boat on excursions. On some cruise ships, you can rent sun deck spaces and cabanas on board as well, so you can have some privacy while lounging outside on the boat.
If you’re planning on participating in shore tours and excursions when you’re at port, be sure to plan those in advance as well. They aren’t required, but some of them are a lot of fun. Finally, most cruise ships often specialty dining experiences and restaurants in addition to the included options mentioned above. You’ll want to do some research on what the free options are, as well as what extras you want to try while on board. On some cruise lines, you can book restaurant packages that will save you money if you’d like to try a few specialty options. If you just want to try one or two, look for specials on those restaurants – some offer decreased cover charges for particular days or times.