If you want to be a little prepared, here are tips for the first time cruiser:
1. Book with a sale. Cruise lines are almost always offering free room upgrades, onboard credit or discounted 3rd and 4th passengers. Wait for a sale and book when it comes.
2. Don’t get hit with hidden fees. Though cruising is a GREAT deal, there are some fees that aren’t very straight forward. If you know about them, they are no longer hidden.
- Gratuities – each person will be charged anywhere from $10-$12 a day in gratuities. These tips will be divided amongst the crew that serve you. You are welcome to lower the amount if you are dissatisfied with your service, though the crew members on every cruise line work really hard to make sure you have a great vacation.
- Drinks – water, juices and coffee are all included but if you want to drink soda or alcohol, get ready to pay steeply for them. Most cruise lines offer a “soda card” that will enable you to get endless drinks. If you are drinking alcohol, watch for drink specials and a save a couple bucks.
- Tipping the porter – if you can’t carry your luggage on to the ship, you will need to drop it off with a porter curbside (make sure it’s locked!). They work for tips.
- Casino – if you like to gamble, most ships have a casino onboard, but watch how much you lose!
- Shore Excursions – there are a lot of fun things to choose, but the cost can add up quickly.
- Shopping – each cruise ship has fun shops aboard to browse. If you want to purchase somethings it goes on your account and will be settled at the end of the cruise. Since you aren’t handing over cash for it, make sure you keep track of your receipts and how much you are spending in the shops.
- Bingo – it’s basically like gambling and isn’t free.
- Specialty Restaurants – most of your food will be included in the price you paid to sail, but if you want to try one of the specialty restaurants get ready to pay for it. These are usually an extra $20+ per person charge.
- Room service – while room service is free, I think that a small tip is customary when the crew member brings your food.
- Spa/Salon – you bet you can get pampered at sea. Book a massage or get your hair done. The spa and salons offer plenty of services but are an extra fee.
- Arcade – you and your kids can have a lot of fun in the ships arcade, but it does cost extra.
3. Mentioned above, but lock your luggage. Since you can’t lock your luggage on your flight, bring little luggage locks with you to use after you get off the plane. If you are letting the porters handle your luggage, lock it for safe keeping.
4. Once you are booked on a sailing, check out the shore excursions the cruise line offers. This will give you an idea of the activities you can do in an area. Though it is always safe to book with the cruise line because your activity is guaranteed and the ship can’t leave without you, it is often cheaper to take the “adventurous” route and plan your own excursion. On several cruises I’ve been on my family has had a plan of where we wanted to go, we decided to find local transportation. Sometimes the local taxi’s can offer you a better excursion than you had planned. Just be aware of your time because going on off your own means the ship WILL leave without you if you are late.
5. Muster drill – want to know what to do in case of an emergency? If you are having some Titanic sinking fears, don’t worry, within the first several hours of being on board you will learn what to do in an emergency. Everyone will proceed to their muster station where you will be taught how to handle yourself in an emergency.
6. Explore your new home – cruise ships are large, some of them are incredibly huge, so explore the ship. While it’s true that ships of the past all followed basically the same design, with the new “mega ships” that are sailing, all that we knew is out the window. Have fun exploring. When you come across the mini golf or rock wall, take advantage and have some fun!
7. Dress for the occasion. If you are heading to warm, tropical climates don’t forget your swimsuit (you don’t want to miss the ship pools either!), cover up, sunscreen, sunglasses and sandals. If you are heading to frigid temps, pack your heavy coat. You may also need an umbrella depending on your location.
Most cruises have at least 1 formal night depending on the length of your cruise so make sure you pack something nice to wear and shoes that match if you are interested in attending formal night. You can also skip it and just eat at the buffet if you prefer.
8. Say goodbye to your kids. Most cruise ship have amazing children’s programs! They will look forward to attending everyday and want to stay for hours on end, so say goodbye to them and go enjoy your day kid free.
9. Try new foods, it’s endless and free. A cruise ship is a wonderful place to experiment with food. If you eat in the main dining rooms or the buffet it is all included. On a cruise is where I have tried duck, escargot, sushi, lobster, caviar and many more things for the first time. Also, if there are 2 or 3 entrees you want to try, order them all. It’s your vacation, enjoy your food!
10. Have a ton of fun with the games on board. There are always trivia games, karaoke, bingo or something fun happening. Check your cruise schedule and get ready for days packed with fun (if you want to be busy with fun). I don’t gamble, but I still enjoy watching people play bingo or some of the games in the casino. Also, the ship’s library usually also carries board games for you to play with other guests, or a deck of cards for solo playing.
11. Sit back, relax and watch the ocean go by. If you love the ocean, then get ready to live a dream while on your cruise. I can’t imagine anything better than just sitting back and watch the ocean go by. There is a lot of seating either outside on a deck to watch the ocean or inside a lounge next to a window. Enjoy the water and rejuvenation. Bring your binoculars if you want to try to spot whales, dolphins, turtles or flying fish. Depending on your location you might be in for a treat with the sea life you can spot.
On March 20th I’m leaving for a 3 night cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Majesty of the Seas (Royal Caribbean). After I get off the ship on March 23 I’ll be crossing another item off my bucket list – a Segway Tour! I’m so excited to be working with Tours4Fun again on this fun promotion! Stay Tuned!