Preparing for Your Cruise – Part One
We want to make sure your cruise is a vacation to remember — but in a GREAT way, not a nightmare! So, we’ve put together a few tips we’ve learned along the way to help you be prepared to enjoy your vacation. See you onboard!
Check-in Online: Do this within the last 30 days prior to your departure – to be safe, I recommend having it completed at least two weeks before you leave! Please be sure to go to the cruise line website (for example: www.carnival.com; www.royalcaribbean.com, etc.) to create an account (if you don’t already have one from a previous cruise). You will need to have an account so you can check in on-line, print your boarding pass and luggage tags, book excursions, and make any other purchases. (You can book excursions online prior to sailing, or at the Excursions Desk onboard during the cruise. You can also purchase excursions from ShoreTrips.com using the email sent to you. If you have any questions, just let me know!).
Once you have created your account, just follow the instructions for checking in, assigning a credit card for your onboard purchases (you can’t use cash on the ship), entering your travel document information and printing a boarding pass and luggage tags.
Some cruise lines let you pick the time you want to arrive for check-in. Please keep in mind that there is an ABSOLUTE DEADLINE for you to be on the ship! They WILL sail without you if you don’t make ship departure!
Print your Boarding Pass – you must have this when you arrive at the pier/terminal so DO NOT PACK IN YOUR LUGGAGE! Keep it with your Travel Documents!
Print the General Information – please read this as it will guide you on things you can and can’t bring onboard!
Print your luggage tags. I will be mailing out plastic luggage tags to everyone as a gift – just insert your printed tags instead of stapling them to your luggage.
BE SURE YOU DO NOT PACK YOUR PASSPORT OR DRIVER’S LICENSE/BIRTH CERTIFICATE. You will need these items to board the ship!!
Required Travel Documents: Please be sure to check out our Oct. 16th Blog: “Oh, come on! Do I REALLY need a passport?” https://www.tdtravelpartners.com/blog. Lots of great information on what you will need, depending on where you’re going!
As Dan and I’ve grown older, and our kids have started families of their own, we’ve come to realize that traditional holiday celebrations have – out of necessity – had to change. When the kids were little and living at home, Easter Sunday meant going to Church, followed by an Easter Egg Hunt in the yard and a family dinner. Thanksgiving meant a traditional turkey dinner and watching football in the afternoon. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner was Potato Latkes with Sour Cream and Applesauce; then we’d head off to Midnight Mass. Christmas morning we’d open gifts … then everyone would just enjoy their goodies and one another until our dinner of Prime Rib and the trimmings.
But, as I said, things change once the kids start their own families. They hold on to some of the traditions they had as children, combining them with those of their spouse’s family – and they create new ones for themselves. For example, our youngest daughter and her husband’s Christmas dinner is pizza (with beer for mom and dad).
Last year, Dan and I decided to start some new traditions and, since cruising is our favorite pastime, we booked a Thanksgiving Cruise to the Caribbean. Our son, who hasn’t started a family yet, joined us. It really was a great experience! We had lots of time and adventures at each of the ports during our 7-day cruise, fun together on sea days and, of course, a traditional turkey dinner (one of many options available that evening!).
For several years, Dan and I have celebrated our birthdays at sea as often as possible. It’s been a tradition of ours to visit Key West, as a port-of-call, to have a birthday beer at Sloppy Joes. Since my birthday is in February and Dan’s is in October, it’s kind of nice to break up the year a bit with our celebrations.
This year, we’re trying a different holiday cruise: Halloween. I LOVE dressing up in costumes – but, as we’ve gotten older, there aren’t as many opportunities available for us. I’ve wanted to do a Halloween cruise for years and we’re finally doing one! We’ve got our costumes ready for the Halloween Deck Party and, as it turns out, they also have an 80’s Rock Party onboard so I dusted off my Cyndi Lauper garb! Stay tuned for photos!
I’m not sure Dan and I are quite ready to forego Easter or Christmas with our kids (or, more accurately, navigating around their schedules), especially when we have grandchildren with whom we want to celebrate! But it’s nice to have options. And, one of these days (God willing), we’ll be able to take the entire family on a holiday cruise.
Perhaps, that will help them start a new family tradition.
So … question for you: have you ever sailed on a holiday? If not, would you and which holiday? We’d love to hear from you!
Preparing for a vacation is always a little stressful: so much to consider, so much to plan for! And without a doubt, one of (if not THE) most common questions we are asked is “Do I REALLY need a passport to travel?”
So, let’s break down who needs a passport – and when – and then talk about the process of obtaining one.
DO YOU NEED A PASSPORT?
Well, that all depends on WHERE and HOW you are traveling!
TRAVELING BY AIR?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) REAL ID Act of 2018, made changes as to what type of ID you need when traveling by air (both within and outside the United States). One thing you can expect is that residents of some states will need a passport when flying within the United States.
It’s always a good idea to bring your passport to every foreign country you visit, including Canada, Mexico and U. S. Territories (even though they are not foreign countries). You wouldn’t always need to have your passport to enter Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, or the North Mariana Islands. But these news regulations mean that, depending on which state issued your driver’s license or state ID, you may be required to show a passport to fly domestically. This is because the REAL ID Act instituted requirements for what information must be displayed on ID’s used for air travel. If your state ID doesn’t comply with the required information, you’ll have to present a U.S. Passport at airport security. Before booking air travel, then, you will want to check whether your state ID is complying.
“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace
One of the blessings of traveling to other countries is the realization of how lucky we are living in the United States. Things we take for granted are luxuries in many countries and yet, the people are happy and feel fortunate for what they have. We truly do occupy a tiny place in the world.
During our last cruise, Dan and I visited La Romana, DR. We’d been to the Dominican Republic before, but to a different part of the country (Amber Cove) and, to be honest, we didn’t venture far from the port. But during this visit, we took two excursions: one was a trolley ride around the city, where we saw life as it is today, followed by a bus tour through Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village located just minutes from the city.
It was a stark contrast!
The Dominican Republic is the 2nd largest Caribbean country. It’s just two hours south of Miami and features an intriguing history and a rich culture. In both Amber Cove and La Romana, we found the people to be very warm and friendly. They really take pride in sharing their country.
The city of La Romana is a hub for a growing tourist industry with several nearby local resort spots, such as the beachfront Bayahibe, Dominicus, Casa de Campo, and the growing number of golf resorts that surround the area. There were several things that stood out during our trolley ride through “downtown.” One is how rich their history is (confirmed when we took the bus tour through Altos de Chavón). Our guide pointed out historic building after building, as he shared how the buildings have now all been repurposed for today’s needs.
It always amazes me when I hear people complain about being surrounded by so many people during their cruise. They’re unhappy waiting in lines onboard, they’re upset at having to share the ship pool and/or hot tubs, and they demand a private table when eating in the Main Dining Room.
Did they expect a private yacht? Sorry – that’s not what you booked. You CAN control how many people you’ll be rubbing elbows with by sailing on a smaller cruise ship – or consider a River Cruise where there are generally no more than 125 people onboard. But short of that, you’re going to have the opportunity to meet lots of new friends on that cruise ship!
And it IS an opportunity! Standing in line for Guest Services, the Excursion Desk, or waiting to be seated in the Main Dining Room, even eating at the buffet – these are all great opportunities to meet new people! Relaxing in the hot tub or cooling off in the pool is also a golden opportunity to chat with others. And Dan and I have met so many wonderful new friends in the Main Dining Room simply by asking for a “share” table. We get seated at a different table every day for breakfast and lunch – which increases the number of new friends we make – and are assigned a table throughout the cruise for dinner – which lets us really get to know our new friends.