Cruising - Ten Tips to Make Your Next Cruise a Great One
A Vacation at Sea
A Cruise Ship is a Destination in Itself
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Cunard, Carnival - you have your pick of great cruise lines. A vacation at sea continues to be one of the most popular vacation choices. Despite the difficult economic times of the past few years, demand for cruise ship rooms continues to outpace supply. According to an industry study, a record 15 million people took a cruise vacation in 2010, including 11.1 million North Americans.
The cruise industry added 14 new feature laden ships in 2011. There is literally something for everyone. New features include planetariums, surf pools, on-deck movie screens, demonstration kitchens, golf simulation machines, water parks, self-leveling billiard tables, rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, bungee-trampolines and you name it. There are even multi-room villas with private pools and in-suite Jacuzzis on some ships.
Tips for a Memorable Cruise
Having taken over twenty cruises in my life, not counting my stint on an aircraft carrier in the Navy, I have developed some useful tips for you to make your next vacation at sea one that you will not forget. Before you book your next (or first) cruise, please read the following:
1. Book early. We are all constantly mailed or emailed some great last minute deals. Deals are fine, but if you plan ahead early you will have options that you would miss by a last minute booking. Many long range bookings contain a guarantee that you can participate in a price reduction in the future, so you really can't go wrong. Booking early gives you the opportunity to pick your ideal stateroom, as well as the possibility of an upgrade. The right stateroom is a critical but often overlooked item on a cruiser's agenda, and is covered in the next paragraph.
2. Choose the right stateroom. For people susceptible to seasickness, the old conventional wisdom was to find a room as close as possible to the center of the ship. If the ship takes a roll, you will feel it less in the center of the vessel rather than on one of the higher decks. But seasickness is hardly an issue any more. High tech stabilizers have taken a lot of the rock and roll out of cruising. When the ship starts to roll, the computer takes over and adjusts the stabilizers to compensate. On a recent trip to the Caribbean out of Bayonne, New Jersey We hit very rough water for the first day of the cruise. My wife is very susceptible to motion sickness. It was not a problem, even when we were in one of the upper deck lounges. A couple of ginger pills coupled with the amazing stabilizers and my wife had no queasiness at all. So your choice of stateroom no longer has to be based on the ship's motion, but on convenience. Choose a room that is within a couple of decks from places you will frequent, such as bars, restaurants or shopping promenades. This will enable you to avoid the elevators. A ship's elevators are in constant use, largely owing to the many elderly people who book cruises. If the location of your stateroom requires you to take the elevator to get anywhere, you will waste a lot of valuable cruise time twiddling your thumbs while waiting for the next elevator. If you want a balcony, as many experienced cruisers do, booking early will enable you to have a choice.
Something for Everyone
3. Don't feel pressured to do it all. Cruise line managers, bless them, constantly dream up with new ways to entertain us. At any given time of day you can attend a lecture, get a pedicure, take a yoga class, watch a movie, play bingo or enroll in a trivia contest. It's dizzying the amount of planned activities that are offered on a cruise ship, and most of the activities are offered at no additional cost. Do you feel guilty if you're not partaking in the planned activities? Don't. This is your cruise and you should do what you want to do, even if it simply means catching up on some great novels you have been planning to read. By all means partake if you feel inclined, but don't think that you should.
You Won't Go Hungry on a Cruise
4. Food. There is no getting away from food on a cruise ship, not that you want to. You can sit down and be served in one of the main dining rooms or you can graze at the good old buffet. There is something for every taste. Many people report gaining a few pounds on a cruise, and it's easy to do. Here is a suggestion. Before you partake in a meal, have a piece of fruit or a cracker to temper your appetite. This is a good idea for any event that you attend, but is especially important when you're on a dining extravaganza like a cruise. The food will still be there but you won't feel compelled to eat it all. Don't forget to take the ubiquitous hand sanitizers seriously. Cruise ships are well known incubators of bacteria. Nothing can ruin a vacation more than coming down with a food born illness.
5. Flexible dining. There was a time not too long ago when you had a choice of two sittings for either lunch or dinner, if you opted not to go to the buffet line. The ship would assign you to a table and you would eat with the same dining companions for the entire cruise. We were once assigned to a table with four other people, none of whom spoke a word of English. We may as well have dined alone. In the past few years the cruise industry has gotten the message, loud and clear. You can now choose flexible dining and simply make your reservation at one of the ship's restaurants whenever you so desire. On some ships there are gourmet restaurants available at an additional cost. Flexible dining is one of the best innovations to hit the cruise industry in recent memory (besides stabilizers).
Work Out those Calories
6. Get exercise. This may sound like a cover headline in a supermarket check-out magazine, but it's a recommendation you should take. On a cruise ship, food is all around and usually quite delicious. It's likely that your calorie consumption will be much higher on a cruise than in your normal life. One simple way to counter this is to get a proper amount of exercise and to do it constantly throughout the day. You don't have to hit the exercise room or gym, although they usually contain state of the art equipment. Simply walk around. On a modern cruise ship you have a wide choice of great places to take a vigorous stroll. If it's hot and humid on deck, just walk around the air conditioned spaces. If you have a sudden urge for a dose of second hand cigarette smoke, stroll through the casino. The biggest benefit to working exercise into your day is that you will just plain feel better.
7. Plan your day, especially at sea. Okay, okay, this is probably the most controversial recommendation in this article. I'm not suggesting that you pack a to-to list with constant activity, but consider that a wide open day with nothing planned can lead to boredom. For a harried American the idea of a wide open expanse of time with no demands sounds enticing. It can also be stressful. Think of it as a relaxation plan. Your day may look like: 9 to 11, read novel; 11 to 12, attend lecture; 12 to 1:30 lunch; 1:30 to 2, take a walk; 2 to 3, write in diary; 3 to 4, read novel; 4 to 5, sit and do nothing. You get the idea. The concept isn't to plan toward a goal as in business, but to plan your relaxation.
8. Take required drills seriously. Experienced cruisers often look at the life station drill before sailing as a bother. But consider, first it's mandatory; secondly, it can save your life. Any passenger on the ill fated Costa Concordia, if they ever cruise again, will take safety drills seriously. Use it as an opportunity to chat with some fellow passengers who will be sharing the cruise with you.
9. Pack light. Most cruises include one or two formal nights where the women wear gowns and the men tuxedos. Why anyone would want to pack items that they will wear only a couple of times escapes me, especially if you take a plane to the ship. On formal nights my wife and I partake of the buffet, where the dress code is always relaxed. All ships have a laundry service. Although not cheap, the convenience of getting your clothes washed, dried and folded is worth the price. Some people scrub out their underwear in the shower to lighten the packing load.
Bayonne, NJ. A Popular Cruise Terminal
10. Disembarking. The way modern cruise lines handle the disembarkation of thousands of people openly to take on new passengers a few hours later is remarkable. They have efficiency down to a science, and help make the somewhat sad end of a vacation hassle free. Here is a simple recommendation: listen to the instructions and follow them exactly. Have your cruise ID card and passport, if necessary, close by and ready to show. Even if your cruise does not require a passport, you must have a photo ID such as a driver's license. Following the well oiled procedures the cruise line folks have laid out will make the end of your cruise, if not pleasant, at least not upsetting.
A vacation at sea can be fun, exciting and relaxing. Use the tips in this article and you will have a time to remember.
Copyright ©2012 by Russell F. Moran