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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!
What to Wear: Day wear onboard is always casual: shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, etc. If you’re wearing your bathing suit onboard, they do ask that you wear a cover-up when going into the buffet. When eating breakfast or lunch in the Main Dining Room, it is preferred that you dress a little less casual than you would when at the pool deck Buffet.
While it’s understandable that you may want to just kick back in your shorts or swimwear while on vacation, cruises are known for specific dress codes for the evening. Dinner in the Main Dining Room calls for smart casual: slacks, jackets, dresses, and pantsuits; khakis for men, no jacket or tie, and nice pants and relaxed shirts. Depending on how long your cruise is, you will have at least one “Elegant” night; some people ignore the suggested formal dress code for Elegant Night, but it’s really kind of fun to dress up one evening. Formal usually means a dark suit, tuxedo, cocktail dress, or evening gown.
Unlike a hotel where people check in on different days and at varying times, folks check into a cruise ship en masse. As such, a ship receives thousands of pieces of luggage in a matter of a few hours, which means your bags might not arrive in your stateroom until a few hours after you've boarded. Carry-ons are key. Pack everything needed to get you and your family through dinner time -- ID and documentation, wallets, bathing suits, cameras, medications, sandals, sunscreen, a change of clothes and toiletries, and if you're traveling with small children, enough diapers, wipes and diversions to get you through a day. This packing strategy will save you should the airline or cruise line lose your bag, as you'll have many necessities on hand.
Be sure to pack a light-weight jacket, shawl or pashmina scarf as the evenings can turn cool and some of the evening venues are cooler.
You do NOT need to bring a hair dryer — one is provided in your room. You may bring a curling iron, but no other heat-generating electrical items (clothes iron, etc.)
If you have a pair of cheap flip-flops that you like wearing around the pool, then it’s time to upgrade. Those sandals usually have slick bottoms that get worn down easy. When you hit a puddle, it’s easy to lose your grip and slip. On a ship, there are way too many places where you can slip and fall — especially around the pool. Upgrade to a pair that have a nice rubberized sole with plenty of tread. Also make sure to pack a pair of comfy walking shoes if your excursion ashore requires walking.
While every cabin has air conditioning, they don’t have fans of any kind. That’s not an issue if you have a balcony and open your door, but any interior room might get a little stuffy — especially if you’re the sort of person that’s used to airflow. Luckily, you can bring aboard a portable fan if you’d like. As a bonus, a fan makes a great white-noise machine to help drown out any sounds from neighboring cabins.
From portable fans to laptop and tablet chargers to nightlights to curling irons, the need for outlets in a cruise cabin is always increasing. That’s why we suggest bringing aboard an outlet adapter to plug in and give you more free plugs. One thing to know — adapters with surge protectors are forbidden. A simple multi-plug adapter is all you really need and it’s worth its weight in gold.
One final packing suggestion: bring a good Beach Dry-Bag (waterproof tote) for shore excursions. You’ll want to be able to stow your towels, Identification Documents, phone, wallet, etc.
Be Prepared for Sea Sickness: Taking over-the-counter motion sickness medications, such as Bonine® and Dramamine® is a big help. ... Begin taking the medication at 1-2 days prior to sailing so the medicine is in your system before you step foot on the ship. You can also purchase “Sea Sickness” bracelets in the Fun Shop — we’ve heard rave reviews on these!
You get Sun-burned much more quickly in the tropics: Everyone tells you to be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen on your cruise, but they don’t tell you why. At lower latitudes the sun’s rays are more direct on the ground. The result is that you can get burned being exposed to the sun for as little as 10 minutes if you aren’t used to it. So yes, wear the sunscreen, as well as a broad-brimmed hat to keep the UV rays off you as much as possible. The last thing you want is to look like a lobster on day 3 of a week-long cruise.
Use your Stateroom Safe: Anytime you leave your cabin, be sure to put any valuables in the cabin safe. No, it’s not perfect and if someone really wanted to break in and steal something from the safe, they could. But it acts as a good deterrent from crimes of convenience and provides you with a little piece of mind. The safes aren’t that big, but will hold cash, jewelry, phones and passports with plenty of room to spare.
Your Onboard Account Card: When you go through check-in, you’ll receive the key to your room. This “key” is like a credit card that you’ll slide into your cabin door to unlock it. But it does a lot more. It’s linked to your shipboard account, and you’ll use your room key just like a credit card to charge items to your account. This is so much more convenient than having to carry around cash. Just be sure to keep a close hold on your card! Cash (except for tips— see below) is generally not accepted onboard except in the Casino.
Budget for Gratuities: Tipping is a fact of life on a cruise. There’s no escaping it. From room service to porters that carry your bags, having a bank of $5 and $1 bills to say thanks with is much appreciated and can lead to better service. If you did not elect to pre-pay your gratuities, your Onboard Account Card will automatically be charged a set rate, based on the length of your cruise. This pays all the crew that you interact with during your cruise. It’s their paycheck!
NOTE: When you grab a drink from the bar, your bill will typically include a 15% gratuity automatically. Keep this in mind and double-check the itemized receipt before you sign as there is often another line for write-in tips. Giving a second tip is totally up to you based on the service received.
NEXT WEEK: We’ll continue with more great cruising tips next week … including Cruise Line Alcohol policies, meal options, and more!
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Terie & Dan
From the desk of your dedicated Vacation Designers!
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