Things to Know Before Cruising by Bill Cook
Here are some things to remember about cruising:
Bring tip money with you – $1s, $5s & 10’s. You’ll need tip cash to pay your driver to and from the boat, cab drivers, on-shore restaurants, etc. One time we went ashore with $100 bills – not a good idea because most places have a tough time making change. Keep your tip money separate from your spending money.
The night before the cruise, stay at a local hotel that’s close to the port, offers shuttle service to and from the dock. It’s called something like a stay, park and cruise package. This way, you get in the day before the cruise.
o The morning of the cruise: do a workout, have breakfast, get ready, then have the hotel van take you to the ship and drop you off in front of bag drop. Your car remains parked at the hotel.
o At the end of the cruise when you arrive back in port, as you’re going through customs to re-enter the United States, call the hotel for a pick up. Then either stay overnight at the hotel where you parked your car and drive back the next day, or start your drive home immediately.
Get to the cruise ship about two hours before boarding time. Often, they let you on the boat early – sometimes your stateroom is available early.
o If you don’t check your bags, you just carry them to your room, unpack and get on with your day.
o If you check your bags, it will be awhile before the bags are delivered to your room. This is why it’s best to also have a backpack with your important things inside – shave kit, swimsuit, suntan lotion, change of clothes, iPad, etc. Once on the ship, you can have lunch, sit by the pool, explore the ship, etc.
Have a backpack – easier to carry than a shoulder bag. Inside, have toiletries, a change of clothes, important docs, valuables, cameras, computers, bathing suit, etc. This allows you to sit by the pool after lunch while everyone else is waiting on their luggage – which sometimes takes 3 or 4 hours to get into your stateroom.
Types of luggage: Small ‘carry-on’ luggage on rolling wheels is the easiest. Pack light. Trust me, you never wear all the clothes you take.
Most suitcases can be stored under the bed or in the closet.
To board, you will need a passport, the boarding pass you got from the cruise line, a current driver’s license, and a current credit card. We got to the boat early. Not much of a line. Went right through. We did go through a metal detector – so leave your pocketknife in you luggage, don’t have it in your carry-on bag.
On board, all you need is your Cruise Card. Everything else stays in the safe. Pretty much everything you buy on the ship is with a your Cruise Card – cash isn’t accepted. It’s when you arrive at a port and get off the ship that you need cash.
We’ve stayed in three types of rooms: 1) Interior cabin (no windows). 2) Seaside cabin with a porthole. 3) Cabin with a balcony. Of the three, Kim and I really love the balcony cabins for these reasons: a) When we sleep, we open up the balcony door and listen to the ocean. b) In the mornings and evenings, Kim and I will often sit on the balcony and talk about life. c) You can drape your wet clothes over the deck chairs – the breeze will dry them. d) The view – breathtaking. e) It makes the room feel bigger.
When you go ashore, take your Cruise Card, driver’s license, one credit card, spending cash, and tip money. Wrap them together with a rubber band (carry a ziplock bag just in case you go swimming or get wet.) Carry this in your pants or bathing suit – make sure your pants AND swimsuit have sealable pockets. You don’t want these things left lying around.
NOTE: Leave your passport in the room safe – don’t take it ashore.
I put my cell phone in waterproof bag as well. In 2014, I forgot to do this, got to the beach and went for a swim – with my iPhone in my swimsuit pocket. So much for that phone…and all the pictures and video I’d taken up to that point.
When you go ashore, wear cargo pants (zipper legs) with sealable pockets. You want to bring a backpack to carry your beach stuff or extra shoes or sunglasses or hats, etc. Wear shorts or a swimsuit that has sealable pockets!
When you get on the ship, your first day is spent exploring the ship. Also, you make your appointments for spa treatments – often they offer deals for those booking the first day.
VERY IMPORTANT: Kim, who gets violently seasick with the least bit of motion, uses “The Patch.” With it, she’s never experienced any seasickness. We’ve had a few rocky days at sea and she’s never had a problem with seasickness. NOTE: If you’re prone to motion sickness, leave the patch on for a couple of days AFTER getting off the ship until you get your land legs back. The first time Kim used The Patch, she took it off as soon as she got off the ship the final time. For the next two days –WHILE ON DRY LAND – she was miserably seasick. It took her inner ear a couple of days to stabilize.
Excursions: Have a main excursion. Then have two backups in case one cancels….also, have one that is a land excursion – if seas are rough, water stuff is cancelled.
o Also, if you get an excursion sponsored by the cruise line, the cruise ship will wait on you if your excursion gets back late. If you go off on your own and for whatever reason you miss the boat, too bad! And if you know the excursion you want to go on, reserve it when you make your cruise reservations. You may also want to wait to book until after you get on board and get a chance to talk to other cruisers who’ve been to the port-of-call you’re heading to. We’ve been pointed at some really neat things to do this way.
Bring two swimsuits with you – one to wear and one that’s hanging up drying.
Hot tubs are always empty early in the morning. It’s a great way to loosen up after a morning workout.
There’s always a 24-hour coffee/tea place on the ship. Bring a travel mug from home. Much easier to walk around the ship with a covered mug than it is with a little Styrofoam cup.
When you return, there’s two ways to get off the ship (NOTE: Getting off the ship can be frustrating and it’s time consuming. You can’t just walk off the ship, pick up your bags at a bag carrousel and get in your car and leave like you do after an airline flight.)
o The first way: You can self-carry. This means you walk off the ship with all of your bags. It allows you to be the first off the ship and you don’t have to go through the luggage pickup area – which is chaos. This is – by far – the fastest way off the boat.
o If you don’t/can’t self-carry, then the night before you will put new tags (given to you while aboard the ship) on your bags, and then put your bags outside your room door. The porter will pick up your luggage and take it below. (NOTE: It’s critical that you have a small travel bag with your next-day’s clothes in it, along with your shave kit.) The next day, according to the number on your new bag tag, you will be told when you can disembark from the ship. Once you’re off the boat (you will need your Sea Pass to get off the boat), go to the baggage claim area (there’s no carrousel), and get your bags.
(NOTE: It’s usually much faster to hire a porter to carry your bags through customs. They often have their own special customs line, which makes getting through customs much faster.) At customs and/or emigration, you present your filled-out customs card, Pass Port and answer any questions you’re asked
(NOTE: This ISN’T the time to be funny. Ask me how I know! Just answer the nice man’s questions and avoid the possibility of a full body cavity search!) Once you’re through customs, you’re free to leave.
About every ship has a casino. They allow smoking – which means it’s unpleasant to breath in the casino, and when you walk out you stink like a cigarette.
Each cruise line has it’s own frequent traveler program. Royal Caribbean’s is Crown and Anchor. I recommend you join if you plan on doing regular cruises.
Clothes: What to bring
Men usually wear a coat, tie, nice slacks, dress shirt (with t-shirt under dress shirt), and dress shoes. Women usually wear a nice dress and get a little dolled up. This is a great night to take pictures!
The rest of the time for dinner, most folks dress nice – usually nice shirt, slacks, dress shoes. Women wear something pretty and comfortable.
o Workout clothes: Bring two workout shorts, two workout shirts (you have one to wear while the other is drying after washing it.)
o One swimsuit works, but you may want to bring two.
o When going ashore:
Cargo shorts (If the weather is bad, you may want to bring a pair of cargo pants with legs that zipper off)
Swimsuit if you will be doing any type of water sport
Swim goggles – if you’ll be swimming
o During the day on the ship:
Swimsuit or shorts & t-shirt and comfortable shoes
o Bring a sweatshirt or windbreaker in case it gets cold and/or windy – which it does most nights. REMEMBER: It’s common to get 30 to 50 mph winds because the ship speeds up at night – this can cool things off in a big way.
o Shoes: Sandals or Crocs – tennis shoes for the gym, dress shoes for formal night and dancing shoes (slick bottoms).
• Bring a lanyard. This goes around your neck and your Sea Pass goes in it. This allows you to do things on the ship even if you don’t have pockets – which often happens when you’re in a swimsuit.
• If you’re a scuba diver, consider bringing your gear – tanks are supplied at the dive sites. Doing this allows you to know the type of gear you’re using and cuts the cost of renting diving equipment.
• Bring ziplock bags to keep your important papers and phone in.
• Bring gum and mints.
• Bring big water bottle – can use on ship or on excursion.
If you’re a scuba diver, consider bringing your gear – tanks are supplied at the dive sites. Doing this allows you to know the type of gear you’re using and cuts the cost of renting diving equipment.
Bring ziplock bags. Often I keep my iPhone (I use my iPhone to take pics and video) in a ziplock bag because I’m in a water environment. I also keep my important papers in ziplock bags.
Bring gum and mints.
Bring big water bottle – can use on ship or on excursion.
THINGS TO KNOW FROM JANIS BAKER, with GoTravel.com
Pack valuables in your carryon or purse, NOT your checked luggage. This includes your
tickets, cash, credit cards, passports, cameras, jewelry, laptops, E readers etc. Your
checked luggage may not arrive at your cabin until 5-6pm so I recommend you pack
anything you want to use before then (bathing suit, shorts etc) in your carryon bag. We
recommend you pack a change of clothes in your carry on as well. We suggest you
“cross pack” your main luggage. Meaning do not put all of his clothes in one bag and
hers in another. Put some of each person’s clothes in each bag. This way should a bag
be lost you will still have something to wear!
There is Wi-Fi on the ship for a fee. Carnival has different packages that you can purchase
to stay in touch. There is a charge even if you are using your laptop to access the internet.
Usually they have specials if purchased on the first day.
There is cell phone service. The cost while at sea is upward of $5 per minute so be
careful with those minutes! You should contact your cell phone company to set up
international calling if you do not already have it. I recommend calling home while in
port and not the days we are at sea. Texting is also cheaper than talking. Find out from
your carrier how to turn off your data down loading. This maybe your airline mode but I
would check with your carrier if there is a special code. Data downloading can be very
expensive at sea.
We recommend you contact your credit card company to let them know you will be
traveling so that they do not deny any charges thinking it may be fraud. You should
also make a copy of your credit card and passport in case you lose them. It will be
easier to replace or stop the card. Keep the copy in a separate place than where you
keep the originals.
Check in process usually takes about 30 minutes once the ship is cleared. Once onboard
you can go have lunch.
There will be a daily schedule of ships activities every day delivered to your room.
Please read this to make sure you take advantage of all the fun things to do during the
week! This is in addition to the meeting schedule.
You will set up your onboard account with either a credit card or cash. This will be done
at the check in desk in the terminal. You will then use your room card for any
purchases onboard the ship. Your account can be checked from your interactive TV.
Your gratuities are not included in your package. You can arrange to have these added to
your onboard account or you may choose to hand out cash at the end of the cruise.
There is one formal night where a jacket and tie are suggested for the men and a cocktail
dress or nice pants outfit for the ladies. The other nights are casual; just remember no
shorts in the main dining room at night. The air conditioning can be cool especially if you
are sunburned so bring a light sweater or jacket to throw over your shoulders. The
meeting rooms can be chilly. During the day jeans, shorts and t-shirts will be just fine. I
suggest you bring two bathing suits as no one likes to put on a wet one! For the beach
bring flip flops for the hot sand and those rubber water shoes that you can wear into the
water to protect your feet especially if the bottom is rocky. Definitely bring a high SPF
sunscreen, hat and sunglasses even for the kids. You might want to throw in a soothing
lotion for sunburns just in case. Also I recommend bringing lubricating eye drops as the
sun can irritate them. For seasickness I have had great results with a product called
Bonine. This can be found in your drug store. Take it at lunch on the day of sailing.
If you plan on doing a lot of shopping you may want to bring one of those collapsible
bags that you can put in your main suitcase on the way out and use for all the new stuff
for the trip home!
What to Have in Backpack When Getting on Ship
When boarding ship the first time, carry a few essentials in a backpack. You may not get your luggage until after dinner.
Normally, I’m wearing shorts and a nice golf shirt or Hawaiian shirt with Crocs. I have my wallet and cell phone in my pants. Reading glasses.
In my backpack:
Shore leave cash
My shave kit
Basic toiletries for Kim
I also bring my computer bag….unless I’m traveling with just an iPad, then iPad goes in
What to Take on Shore Leave
We’ve put together the following list of what to take ashore when going on an excursion.
(NOTE: Some excursions require closed-toe shoes. If the activity involves water, I’ve found Crocs to be great. Folks also bring water shoes or boat shoes instead.)
Hope this list helps to make your excursion fun!
Smart Phone (to take pictures and video) – in a Ziplock bag for protection
Two water bottles
Cash – 1s, 5s, 10’s, 20’s
Credit card if you will be doing a lot of buying (I usually prefer to use cash)
Might need a photo ID – renting a car or such
Tickets to excursion
Flier with backup excursions listed
Map of town
Swim goggles if swimming or Snorkel gear
Swim suit if you will be swimming
Scuba gear if you will be diving – though all gear is rentable
Crocs – closed toe shoe – if you are doing a water excursion. Otherwise, tennis shoes.
Wear shorts with sealed pockets – two sealed pockets with two regular pockets works best
T-shirt is usually the most comfortable shirt to wear
Rubber band to wrap money, drivers license, credit card together
Lanyard to keep cruise card around your neck.