First timers can easily become overwhelmed by cruise options. The cruise line website and printed materials showcase an abundance of information. Where does a first time cruiser start? My advice is to follow embarkation tips.
Wait until embarkation. Don’t feel pressured to pay for any extras before the sailing. Most decisions can wait until you are on the ship. Pre-cruise specials may or may not be any better than what is available on the ship. It is best to look at all of the possibilities before committing to anything.
Pinpoint Interests. Look over the list of extras and decide which fits your budget and appeals to you. Take sufficient time to add everything up. The total may be more than you want to spend. Included items will vary from cruise line to cruise line.
Excursion Options. Oftentimes it is less expensive to arrange for your own excursions instead of booking through the cruise line. Going off on your own can become an expensive adventure if you do not return before the ship sails. However, privately arranged excursions will be less crowded and more flexible. If the itinerary changes at the last minute, you may lose your deposit. In some ports, it is possible to simply walk to local attractions.
Internet Access. Decide whether your vacation will temporarily eliminate the Internet from your life. Make appropriate arrangements if you want to be unavailable for the duration of the cruise. Internet service aboard the ship will be slow and expensive. Another option is to visit Internet cafes at port or explore the different portable Internet services available to travelers.
Arrival time. If you are flying to the embarkation city, see if you can arrive a day in advance. Unexpected delays may cause you to miss the sailing. Travel insurance will provide protection in the event of a major delay. Wait times to board the ship will vary from sailing to sailing. There is no ideal time to arrive at the dock.
Packing. A carry-on bag should include whatever is needed until you have access to your room and your luggage is delivered. If you’re interested in swimming, include a suit. A change of clothing may be useful if your luggage is delayed. Keep in mind that it will be necessary to carry the bag until you reach your room. A carry-on bag will also be used to disembark. Regular luggage is usually taken from the staterooms the night before. Don’t forget to pack all medications and valuables in your carry-on luggage.
Patience. A first time cruiser will need to be tolerant of waiting in line and adhering to the cruise ship’s protocol. Larger cruise ships have thousands of passengers to process.
Upselling. Passengers will be bombarded by multiple offers. Researching in advance will lessen the likelihood of impulse buying. Alcoholic beverages and specialty coffees and teas aboard many cruise lines are considered an extra charge. Don’t be afraid to ask whether the drink is complimentary or a purchased item.
Familiarize. Take time to get your bearings. If you are athletic start from the bottom and work your way to the top. Less energetic passengers can begin their self-guided tour at the top and then walk down. Elevators will probably be crowded.
Eating. Locate all of the cafes and restaurants. Relax and enjoy your first tastes of cruise dining.Eat in moderation. See 6 Tips to Promote a Healthy Cruise Experience
Excursions. If your plans include the cruise line excursions, try to book as soon as possible. Popular trips will sometimes have limited capacity or optimal timings.
Reservations. If your ship provides a specialty dining experience, consider making a reservation. Coordinate these dining experiences with your excursion plans. Take time to double check to see if everything is included. For more information regarding specialty dining see Specialty Dining Aboard Celebrity Cruises. Spa reservations can also be made. Embarkation and port day specials may be cost effective.
Beverage Packages. Some cruise incentives include these packages. Usually these packages are an extra cost. Examine your drinking preferences and decide whether this is a good fit.
Internet. If your research has determined that purchasing Internet minutes is your best option, take time to visit the Internet office. Make sure you understand the log-off procedures so that you are not overcharged. Be prepared for a very slow speed connection.
Muster Drill. Before the ship sets sail, everyone will be asked to take part in an emergency drill. Plan your schedule accordingly.
Setting Sail. Leaving port is an exciting moment. Cabin verandas provide a quiet location whereas upper decks can be crowded. The front and the back of the ship offer panoramic views. Another option is to seek out the live music. Dancing can be a wonderful start to your cruise adventure.
Enjoy. Cruising is an amazing way to see the world. Leave your worries and stress levels behind and become engaged in the cruise experience.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.