I've been on a couple cruises and am preparing to go on my third cruise in just a couple weeks. A few days ago, I was watching daytime TV and was really excited to hear that my local talk show was going to have a "cruise expert" on to discuss cruise etiquette, tips, and do's and don'ts.
Let me tell you... What this lady had to say wasn't anything I didn't already know. Anybody with any common sense should know these, even if you haven't cruised before. Here are some of her "cruise how to" tips:
- Don't hide in the shower during the lifeboat drill. (Really?!)
- Don't ask the captain if you can steer the boat. (What?!)
- It's not a boat, it's a ship. And it's a she. (Are the cruise police really going to bust you for that one?)
She also gave etiquette/advice such as:
- No jeans allowed. (Carnival allows jeans in their dining room, except on formal nights. Check your cruise line for details.)
- Just because you can get more than one plate, don't do it. (I'm pretty sure on the cruise, you can eat whatever you want. You're not the only person that's asked for a second helping of lobster, and most of the time, the cruise dining staff is happy to oblige.)
- No skimpy swimwear. (Some cruises have adult-only pools/areas, topless sunbathing decks, etc. Check your cruise line for details.)
So, although I might not be the most experienced cruiser, allow me to share you some of my advice.
Clothes and Packing
What you pack depends on where you're going, how long you're going, and the type of cruise you're going on. Check your cruise website for information on the dress code and formal dining attire, if required. Every cruise is different!
Don't forget to pack:
- Sneakers, water shoes, etc. - Some onshore excursions might require some type of closed-toe shoe. (Or at least a sandal that's got straps around your ankle and won't just slip or fall off.) I went ziplining in Cozumel with a Carnival Cruise, and was told that I had to take closed-toe shoes. Did I have any? No. So I ended up having to buy a pair of (overpriced) watershoes on the ship.
- Flat shoes - Sure, your high heels might look great with that dress, but remember - you're on a ship. There might be movement. Or maybe you've had a couple too many fruity drinks. Or, if you're out on the deck, there could be pool water all over. I'd rather walk on flat feet than take my chances in heels!
- Sunscreen, lip balm, aloe, hat, sunglasses, etc . - I would rather buy this stuff at home and bring it with me than get stuck having to buy it on the ship or in port.
- Sweater/coverup, etc . - Sounds crazy, especially if you're sailing to a tropical location, but if you get chilly in the air conditioning, you might need a sweater when you're in the dining room, casino, or ship lounges.
- Camera, batteries, charger! - Bring lots of batteries, or a battery charger, so that you don't get stuck having to buy extras onboard or in port.
- Hand sanitizer - You've heard of people getting sick on cruise ships. Carnival has hand sanitizer stations all over the ship, but it's good to keep some in your purse or in your room, too. I know someone who took a can of Lysol with them on their cruise! Better to be safe than sorry, I guess!
Most ships have ATMs, but beware of service fees and charges. Set up your onboard expense account before you set sail.
- I've taken rolls of quarters/spare change to use in the casino!
- Notify your credit card companies/banks that you are traveling, so they don't put a hold on your account.
- A lot of ships set up gratuities ahead of time to be charged to your onboard expense account. Check into your ship's guidelines for this to be sure.
- Keep track of your spending onboard - don't overdo it. Make sure you have funds in your account at home to take care of your charges.
Don't bother bringing...
If I were you, I'd save the suitcase space for souvenirs. Don't bother bringing the following:
iPod, laptop, personal DVD player - As much as I LOVE my iPod, there's always music or a band playing on board. Some cruise ships have movie screens and will broadcast the news, trivia, videos, and music.
Beach towels - Most cruise ships provide you with a beach towel for your trip. Don't lose it - you'll get charged big time!
Jewelry - I hate traveling with jewelry because it's hard to keep necklaces from getting tangled, etc. Plus, I just get nervous having it on me or stashing it in the room. I'd rather leave the valuable stuff at home. You can always buy some kind of souvenir in port!
Tips and Tricks
- Pack a carry-on bag of cruise clothes (bathing suit, cover up, flip flops, etc) and pool items so that you can change for the pool and start relaxing before your luggage is even delivered to your cabin!
- Read your cruise newsletter every day. It lets you know the schedule of events, shows, contests, games etc. for the day. It will also give you information on specials in the casino or spa. This is especially handy for days at sea.
- Get up early to snag a seat by the pool. They fill up fast. I know some cruisers who will specifically try to get rooms as close to the pool area as possible so that they can get up and get outside bright and early.
- Although your cruise might not set sail until late afternoon, sometimes you can get on as early as noon! And guess what - then you can start eating!
- Be friendly with the poolside bar staff. Once you make friends and become recognizable to the person who's waiting on you, they'll take good care of you!
- If you have kids, make sure you keep them under control in and around the pool. Those cruise ship pools are not exactly huge and a lot of times, they get pretty crowded. This means the other cruisers will not appreciate your toddler jumping in on top of them or your teenager doing a cannonball in their faces. Same goes for the hot tubs. Does those eight- and nine-year-old kids really need to be taking up the entire hot tub? Unsupervised?
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