You’ve booked your cruise and you're starting to get really, really excited. Maybe you’re going to Cancun, or Cozumel or Miami’s neighbors in the Bahamas or Key West. No matter where you’re sailing to, there are some cruising tips and tricks you’ll need to know.
Before The Trip: How To Plan and What To Pack
The best way to enjoy a cruise is to be prepared, and most of that can and should be taken care of before the trip.
As soon as you book your international cruise, check that your passport is up to date. You’ll need it if you’re leaving the country, so for any cruise that takes you outside the United States or Puerto Rico, you will need to have a valid passport.
Most cruise lines now require that you pre-register online. The pre-registration process is easy, and you can do it right from your computer. You’ll need your reservations number, noted in your invoice, sailing dates, and personal information including contact information. You’ll find the link to pre-register on the cruise line’s website.
While you’re on the site, you might want to take some time to surf through the day excursions, tours and spa treatments offered by your cruise ship. It helps to have an idea of what you want to book as soon as you’re on board. Keep in mind that the most popular spa treatments and cruise excursions tend to fill up fast. Book ahead if possible, or sign up as soon as you get onboard.
The date of the trip is closely approaching and you’re starting to sweat what to pack. Be sure to include pool to cabin cover-ups, walking or exercise shoes for day trips or the gym onboard, and you might want to pack clothes with elastic waistbands- so you can really make the most of those endless buffets and nightly themed dinners.
When planning your itinerary, it’s helpful to have some time between your scheduled arrival time in Miami and boarding time on the ship. If a flight runs late or a tire pops, that extra night in the city saves you from a major headache -- and if all goes according to plan, you have a night in Miami and you won’t be rushed. It’s a win-win scenario to plan extra time in your departure city, if possible.
The Big Day: Checking-In and Boarding
The day of the cruise has arrived and you might find yourself a bit flustered about the check-in process. Don’t worry; follow whatever instructions the cruise line provided you with. Arrive at the ship early, but not too early. It’s nice to take advantage of the quiet ship and get some early sun or take time to relax before the ship fills up and you set sail. You can also get oriented with the ship’s layout so you can find the dining rooms or children’s play area easily.
Store your valuables in the safe provided in your room. Don’t keep more cash on hand than necessary and only remove your passport when you need it. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Most cruise lines give you a plastic ID card at check-in. You will need to carry this card each time you leave the ship for security purposes. The ship’s security personnel will scan the card and hand it back to you as you leave the ship to visit the various ports of call.
Soon after you set sail, there will be a fire drill. Know where your life vest is stored in your cabin, put it on, and join at your appropriate muster station. This can sometimes feel a bit unnecessary or like a downer early on in your vacation, but it’s mandatory and you should participate. Be patient and realize the importance of safety at sea for yourself, your family and your fellow passengers.
As mentioned previously, you will usually be issued a cruise charge card that serves as your ID and your credit card on the ship. Don’t forget that this is still real money! If you want to check in on how much you’ve spent thus far, you can ask for your balance at an information desk. At the end of the cruise, you’ll receive an itemized statement. Another cost that can quickly add up is the use of the cruise telephones; your cell phone may have service, but it may also be roaming which gets expensive. Your best bet is waiting to make calls from land and finding a pay phone.
Other Important Tips To Know
A few more quick tips about cruising: bring cash to tip cruise staff. The port side of the ship is on the left and the starboard side is the right. The front of the ship is the bow and the back, the aft. Find an itinerary of activities for days at sea and night time entertainment and carry it with you; there’s gambling, comedy, live music, food, drinking, and shows at almost any time of the day and night. Shops on board are usually duty-free, so there won’t be taxes; it’s a good place to buy that designer perfume you’ve been wishing for. Oh, and wear sunscreen and have fun!
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