Cruise Tips for First Time Cruisers, with Video Tour
Looking for a few Cruise Tips? My cruise vacations have carried me and my husband to the Bahamas, and we had a blast. I love cruising! It’s the very best value you can get for your vacation buck. A cruise would be a lot of fun even if the ship stayed in port and never carried you to beautiful, exotic locations. Believe me - there's more to do on a cruise ship than you could ever imagine. Actually, I don't think there's any way a guest could take advantage of every activity offered, even if the cruise lasted for more than a week. Almost everything is included in one reasonable price – notice the emphasis on the word almost. If you’re not careful, extras on a cruise can really add up. Below are some cruise tips to help you save some money on a cruise and to make sure you have a wonderful cruise vacation!
Many cruisers book their trip months in advance. No one has a crystal ball; there’s no telling what might happen between the time you book and the time you actually go. I strongly recommend purchasing trip insurance. This is one of the few extras that are cost efficient.
Bad weather could ruin your cruise holiday. Some areas are more prone to violent weather than others. For example, a Caribbean cruise could easily end up in the middle of a hurricane or tropical storm. Of course, personal emergencies can always pop up, too. You could suffer from an illness or injury, or such occurrences could happen to a family member. And, God forbid, you could experience the death of a loved one.
Some people get seasick on cruises, especially on their first cruise. If you’ve ever been out on a fishing boat and turned green and thought you were going to throw up your toenails, being on a cruise ship is nothing like that. For one thing, modern cruise ships have stabilizers. For another thing, these ships are HUGE. In fact, unless you’re out on deck watching the water, most of the time you’ll probably forget you’re even on a ship. This isn’t to say you can’t get seasick – you can – especially if you hit a patch of rough seas.
To avoid getting seasick, here's a very useful cruise tip: begin taking Bonine or non-drowsy Dramamine a full day before you depart. Take it every four hours, or whatever the package recommends, for the duration of the cruise holiday.
If you’re inside on the ship and begin to feel a little queasy, go out on deck and look at the horizon. Order some cold ginger ale and sip it slowly.
If the above doesn’t work and you get really seasick on the cruise, the ship doctor can give you a shot to stop nausea in its tracks, saving your cruise vacation. Sometimes these shots are expensive, ranging from $100-$200. Bonine and Dramamine are a heck of a lot cheaper, but you have to start taking them early and be consistent - remember, before your cruise holiday.
Pack light! Rooms are small, so you don’t want a lot of luggage taking up room. Don’t worry about packing beach towels. Most ships will allow you to use their towels for any beach excursions.
Pack one dressy outfit for formal dining and for special gatherings on the cruise ship.
Be sure to pack comfy walking shoes. In fact, it’s best to wear your comfortable shoes to board the ship, and pack a pair of dressy shoes.
If you're going somewhere warm and tropical, like on a Caribbean cruise, bring along plenty of short sleeves and sleeveless tops. A Caribbean cruise can get extremely hot and muggy.
Boarding the Ship
Find out the earliest time for checking in and boarding and arrive a little early. When you arrive at the port, your luggage will be taken immediately. You won’t see it again until you’re allowed to go to your room. When you’re allowed to board, it might be several hours until you’re allowed into your room, so use this time to familiarize yourself with the ship. You can also enjoy a meal and a drink while you’re waiting for the cruise to actually begin.
Dining on a Cruise Ship
If you’re planning meals in the formal dining room at night, choose the early seating. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy other shipboard activities. It might also leave you with enough room for the midnight buffet! You can also request to be seated with others you might be traveling with on the cruise.
In most formal dining rooms, you order from a menu. Don’t hesitate to try new dishes. If you don’t like something, you can order something else. Also, if you want a second entrée or dessert because you’re not full, ask for it.
Think about ordering foods that will probably be the freshest. For example, on a Caribbean cruise, order shrimp, conch, or fish that might be local. If you're in Alaska, try the salmon.
I recommend eating breakfast and lunch at one of the buffets on the ship.
Should you get hungry in the middle of the night, most cruise ships have at least one 24-hour eatery – usually a pizzeria.
Many ships now have specialty restaurants that are not covered in your cruise price. These restaurants are nice, but they’re also costly. Know before you go.
On most cruise ships, tea, coffee, and water are free. Everything else costs. Some ships also offer free fruit punch, but others don’t. If you drink a lot of soft drinks, you’ll save money by purchasing a soft drink card that allows you unlimited sodas.
If you’re a beer drinker, it’s almost always cheaper to purchase a bucket of 4-6 beers on ice than it is to buy them individually.
Keep in mind that if you're in the tropics, like on a Caribbean cruise, it's going to be very warm, so you'll be thirsty and will drink a lot.
Tips for Shopping in Port
Most cruise lines have a list of shops in port that they recommend. They have a deal with the shops about returns, prices, and fair dealings. These shops will be listed in some of the literature you get on board. Frequenting these retail stores is the safest way to shop for most items.
When I was on a Caribbean cruise, we compared prices among the shops in town, and the cruise ship-recommended shops had much better prices on just about everything.
When you’re shopping on shore, compare prices before you buy. You might find a tee shirt you like for $25, but the store down the street might have the exact same shirt for $10. Some of the souvenir shops were selling large conch shells for $8-$10 each, but we found a local fisherman at the docks who sold them for $1 each.
Shopping on the Ship
Most cruise ships have a shopping gallery. Look all you want, but wait till close to the last minute to make purchases. When the cruise is almost over, a lot of ships mark down the prices of their retail goods.
Also, don’t think you’re going to save money by buying a bottle of alcohol to drink on ship and save money. It doesn’t work that way. Your purchased liquor will not be given to you until it’s time for you to go home after your cruise holiday is over.
The cruise line will offer you several land excursions to purchase. These might include a trip to a private island or beach, or for a tour of some sort. These excursions are great, but they’re usually pretty expensive. You might be able to arrange an excursion on your own for a fraction of the price. For example, when we went to Nassau for the first time on a Caribbean cruise, the ship offered a trip to the beach at Paradise Island. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to pay the ship’s price. We strolled down to the docks and found a local guy with a party boat who took us to Paradise Island and picked us up for $15. I think the ship charged $75. We saved some bucks and got to rub elbows with some locals.
Keep in mind that if you do purchase a shore excursion in advance, you might not be able to cancel it if you change your mind once you’re on board.
Cruise Tips: The Last Day
On the last day of the cruise, you’ll probably be “run out” of your room early so that it can be readied for the next set of cruisers. You’ll be on board for a few hours before you can depart the ship, and you won’t be able to return to your room. Your luggage will be in some never-never land, so you won’t have access to it, either. You’ll need to keep a small carry-on with you that contains anything you might need, like aspirin, sunscreen, medications, etc. This bag also comes in handy when you first get on the ship and are waiting for your room.
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