Cruise ships offer a unique experience for a great value, allowing us to explore several exotic destinations within a weeks’ time. However, what could be considered one of your most treasured memories can quickly head south if not properly planned out. As an experienced cruiser, below are a few key travel tips before you pack your bags to ensure its smooth sailing for you and your travel partners.
Almost a daily occurrence in any port are people stranded on the dock as the ship sets sail because they forgot their passport. Even if your travel agent claims you don’t need one, bring it.
Don’t just book the world’s largest cruise ship or the cheapest cruise you can find, look over what ports of call you will be visiting. If you scuba dive, rock climb, ride horses, snorkel, jet ski, or fish- all of these awesome activities and more can be discovered in different ports. Some islands are better destinations than others. Also, if you are in a same-sex marriage, choose your ports of call wisely as some islands are not LGBTQ friendly.
Remember the massage on day 2, the watches you bought on day 3, the 10-12 cocktails you drank every day, all the beautiful photos they took (and you bought), the 5 shore excursions, etc.? Cruise ships make purchasing items so easy and convenient; You don’t need your credit card or cash, just your room key. At the end of the week, you are hit with a huge bill, and in most cases your bill will be 2x – 3x what you actually paid for the cruise itself. Before you go on your cruise, plan a budget of what you can afford to spend for the extras. Your TV in your cabin will show you what your charges were for that day. If there is a billing error, it is much easier to fix up front prior to the end of the cruise.
Be sure to keep track of the time to get back onboard. Every port may have a different time to get back. If you are on shore excursion booked by the ship, no worries, they will get you back in plenty of time and if for some reason that excursion is late, the ship will wait. However, if you book your own excursion and get caught up in heavy traffic and you are late, you will be waving goodbye to the ship as it departs.
If you are stranded in a port watching your ship sail into the horizon, the pain and suffering is just beginning. First, you will only have the clothes on your back to wear for the next several days. Most likely your passport and valuables are also still on the ship. Hopefully you have a credit card with a very large available credit balance as flights to the next island where the ship will be sailing is extremely expensive and in many cases, you may have to fly back to original port and wait till the ship returns to get your belongings returned. Bottom line - it’s really just easier not to miss the boat.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMIm0Do7ivY
Although marijuana is legal in many US States, it’s not legal to have on a cruise ship. Worst case scenario is, security finds you have drugs on board and you’re taken to a jail in the next port of call (have you seen the inside of a Jamaican Prison?- no fun!). If you’re caught buying/using drugs in an exotic Caribbean Country, your legal bills will be astronomical while you are stuck in a 3rd world prison.
Generally, the fare you pay covers the cabin you sleep in and the majority of the food on the ship. When you hear “Free” on a ship, that’s just a lure to get you to come and the hard sell will begin after the “Free offer” is discussed. The free seminars on the ship are to get you enticed to by some product or service. They are more like informationals you see on TV, then they hit you with “But Wait… There’s More!” So many free opportunities: lose weight, get fit, loose your wrinkles, stop feet aches, etc. By far the worst one is the Free Charm in every port offer. You sit through an hour “shopping talk” which claim that you can buy jewelry for 50-70% off in ports (which is false information) and receive a free charm from a very high-pressure jewelry salesperson in the diamond stores on the various islands.
There are two ways to do it, the safe way: book via the cruise line (before you set sail to be assured to get a spot). However, you will end up being grouped with other passengers, so your excursion will be a group event. If you are a little more adventurous, you can book with vendors online directly to save some money (cruise line takes charge the island vendors 50% for booking the trip) but it does come with some risk. Is the vendor honest and will he/she provide what you thought you paid for? Refer back to #4; booking with the cruise line gives you peace of mind you won’t miss the boat. If you don’t mind taking a risk, self-booking excursions can be less expensive and a more intimate experience.
Hopefully TSA would catch it, but if not, usually the ship will catch it vi x-ray technology. However, if your weapon gets through and a gun is found in a foreign port, you will be arrested and the legal fees will mount quickly turning a simple mistake into a complete nightmare.
This is one sure way to ruin your dream vacation. Buy elastic arm bands or get your doctor to prescribe a patch that goes behind the ear. If you don’t have any of these and you are feeling ill, go to the infirmary on the ship and they will issue you free pills. Don’t wait for the feeling to subside, it won’t. Cruise ships also spread gastrointestinal viruses very quickly, so be sure to pack something like Imodium just for insurance. Another tip, eat a green apple every day to help keep the nausea away.
Any medical expenses on a ship or on an island usually must be in cash or with a credit card. Check to see if your insurance will re-reimburse you. Another way is to buy an inexpensive traveler medical policy for your trip.
You will be exposed to strong sun all day long. A horrible sunburn will kill any romance you were hoping to experience.
Slip him/her $50-$100 and the amenities and attention will be strong all week long. Typically, Most tip between $12-15 per person per day (7 day cruise for two = $170-$200) so tipping a little up front is well worth it. Also, if you need something, write a note and leave it on your pillow. Write legibly as most don’t read/write English well. They come to your cabin 2x daily, so be sure to ask for extra towels, shampoo or pillows if desired. Another way is to leave a thank you note every day on your pillow with $10-$20, this is also an effective tool to get more personalized service. Lastly, if you leave cash, be sure you are not billed for tipping automatically by the ship on your final bill.
Most of the locals are extremely friendly and glad you are visiting, but just as in any location, there is a dark side of humanity. They watch to see what you are wearing, and you become a target – BIG TIME. Okay, shameless plug here for 4ever2 Jewestone Bands, we have bands that start at $89 and $99 ( https://4ever2.com/traveltipblog-cruiseships ). These are great to travel with; they won’t draw the attention like a large diamond ring would. Keep aware of your surroundings. If you find yourself wondering in an area and don’t see any other cruise passengers, get out of there. Stay in areas with lots of fellow passengers and it will be safer.
If you can’t turn your phone, at least put in airplane mode. Ships today also offer internet packages which can be pricey, but valuable if you have to stay in touch. The better option is keep the phone off until you are off the ship and in port. It’s also good idea to call your cell carrier and get a travel package for the countries you are visiting. A small charge of under $50 could save you hundreds on your next cell bill.
Cruise ships are very social; you will meet people all day long on the deck and at dinner. If you get invited to a party (1st timers or any ship sponsored party), go and meet some new friends. The ship usually offers free cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at these parties as well. If the party scene isn’t your scene, there are other social gatherings for AA, NA and the LGBTQ community on almost every ship to meet and greet and offer each other support.
A cruise ship offers all kinds of entertainment and events along with tons of activities to do onshore. Relax, chill, and enjoy. Take in the sights and sounds and cherish these memories together. You’re on the trip of a lifetime. And remember- if you miss anything, you will have an excuse to book another cruise!
This post written by Patrick Coughlin, creator of www.4ever2.com. He has sailed on over 100 cruises in the last nine years. Feel free to contact him directly with any questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
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