Cruising Tips and Hints

  • Posted on: 5 March 2016
  • By: Gina

         Taking a cruise?  First time?  Tenth time?  Here’s a few ideas to help you be prepared.

  • What room is the best room to book.

    • Balcony rooms are more expensive than ocean view rooms.If you’re not really going to utilize that balcony, to sit in the morning for coffee, have room service bring you lunch, spend the afternoon there reading a good book, open a bottle of wine and watch the sunset, then don’t bother getting a balcony room.

    • Ocean View rooms,.are they spacious windows?Or portholes?Ocean view rooms are fine Be sure the view is “unobstructed” nothing like having a great window with the view blocked by a staircase.If you do decide you want to sit and read over coffee, the decks are lined with lounge chairs.Grab one and relax.

    • Porthole Rooms may be cheaper, but they are usually located on the lower floors of the ship, which means any view is limited, and if you happen to hit rough water….that’s what you’ll see out there….water.You’ll feel the turmoil of the storm more than those travelers on the higher up decks. If you don’t mind that, book on.

    • Interior Rooms - Least expensive.  If you're not claustrophobic, they will save  you money.  But make sure you understand, your bed,night stand, and tv, bathroom and four walls.  No windows or portholes.

  • Excursions or on your own?  If you want to go on one of the ship offered excursions, sign up when you book your cruise, or shortly thereafter.  Do not wait until you are on the ship.  Many times the most desirable excursions are sold out by the time the cruise starts. Prefer to save money and wander the ports on your own?  Make certain it’s a safe thing to do.  Many foreign ports are not safe to be on your own.  If you’re not sure even after you have done some research, ask a ships customer service representative.
  • Always, always buy travelers insurance.  You may be as healthy as a horse, but anything can happen to cause you to have to cancel the trip.  This is one item I think everyone should do for the peace of mind it will give you.
  • Know where your cabin is so you can avoid those unwelcome noises; such as elevators, ice machines, busy stairways, maintenance rooms, laundry rooms.
  • Buy the drink package.  It will save you money in the long run. But make sure it covers what you prefer to drink.
  • If you’re traveling on a cruise line that has scheduled seating in their main dining room (early seating and late seating), book it at the time you sign up for the cruise.
  • Make sure you have printed out everything required from the cruise company.  Your itinerary, all of your luggage tags, all of their rules and procedures.  Take them all with you in your overnight bag.  Not in your checked bag.
  • Call your telephone carrier and arrange for a out of state/country package to avoid hefty roaming charges when you call, text or email home or someone from home tries to contact you.
  • Take your iPad and load it up with movies, music, books, whatever, before you go.  Even if you don’t sign up for wi-fi; television and movie service on a cruise ship is minimal at best.  After a busy day on an excursion, or wandering on your own, you may not feel like dancing the night away after dinner.  Having a few movies downloaded onto your iPad which you can watch while lying in bed in your cabin is a nice relaxing way to end a busy day.
  • Pack an extension cord.  Plug ins are also minimal in your cabin, and when you want to plug in your cell phones, tablets or laptops all at the same time, it can be a challenge if you don’t have an extension cord with multiple outlets. 
  • Check the dress codes.  You don’t want to show up on “Formal Night” for dinner in your jeans and tennies only to be turned away at the door and end up having dinner in the buffet when you had counted on that special menu the dining room was offering.
  • Know ahead of time which nights are “Formal Nights” and how many "Formal Nights" are on your cruise so that you can pack appropriately.
  • Check out the specialty restaurants.  Some cruises offer them as free alternatives to the dining room or buffet, others charge.  Make sure you know their menu and costs before making a reservation with them.  If you do want to eat at a specialty restaurant, make your reservations as soon as possible.  They fill up fast.
  • Check out the transportation in ports if you want to be on your own and then check with the cruise ship concierge to make sure you’re choosing a reputable transportation service.
  • Always take a coat and a pair of hiking shoes/boots.  You never know when you’ll need them.  Going to where its hot?  Great, but those nights at sea can get cold.  Not into hiking.  Great, but you might end up wanting to walk on that glacier, and that will ruin a regular pair of shoes.  (I know, I ruined my best pair of loafers on a glacier in Alaska.)
  • Most cruise ship cabins have safes.  Use it.  Don’t carry your valuables with you everywhere.
  • Cruise ships usually offer classes on different subjects.  Take a couple, they’re fun and free.  Don’t know how to waltz?  See if there’s a class.  Poker?  Mahjongg?  Dominoes?  Texas two step?  Check out the classes.
  • Make your way around the ship and have your picture taken by the ships photographers as many times as you can.  Then you  have a good amount of photos to select from when it comes time to purchase one or two for your photo album.
  • Traveling with friends or relatives?  Make sure you have all agreed beforehand on what each of you want to do and not do.  You don’t always all have to stay together and do the same things.  Agree that it’s okay if you go on one excursion while they go on another.  Or you dine early and they dine late.
  • Now….hopefully these tips have helped.  So, HAVE A GRRRRRRRRREAT TRIP.

A few notes on the cruises I have personally taken:

  • Cunard cruise ships; the Queens; Mary, Elizabeth and Victoria. If you’re looking for an elegant cruise, with few children aboard and mostly those over 40 in age, these ships are absolutely the way to go. Very elegant formal nights, women dressed in long gowns, men in tuxedoes.A wide array of music in various lounges, everything from rock to disco, classical to country, salsa to big band to jazz. Elegant, first class everything, terrific bon voyage parties, wonderful food, (waiter in the dining room is your personal waiter for the entire cruise and remembers what you, coffee, tea,etc.)  fun nightclubs, terrific hospitality-customer service, absolutely fabulous plays, great music, enjoyable classes, really top choice excursions.

  • Princess. Very nice.  More diversified passenger ages, though still not that many small children.  Fun specialty restaurants, good excursions, interesting ports, fun plays, informing classes, enjoyable spas, nice shops.  Very good buffet, and who doesn't like good food.  Alaska cruise ports have a ton of jewelry stores, if that's your thing.  Panama Canal cruise - most ports you're better off taking a ships excursion than trying it on your own, especially in Nicaraugra and Cartagena.  Very interesting places, but I felt more comfortable being with my fellow passengers and ship representatives.

  • Norwegian. This is more casual cruising. Formal nights are basically non-existent.  It's dress up if you want and most people don't.  Very good buffet.  The Europe cruise was slow paced. No pre-seating times in the dining room, it is dine when you want, except if you pick 5 o’clock, you may be waiting in line, this is when everyone else wants to dine.  Interesting excursions.  Loved the one to St. Petersburg.  The Carribbean cruise was nice...except there are a lot of children...small to teens.  If you don't want to wait to dine, make reservations ahead of time. Main dining room nice, Aqua dining room was extremely noisey.  The pool was jammed packed with everyone and loud.  If you like sun and rock music blaring to the heavens, its the place to be. Excursions to the Mayan ruins were very interesting, the beaches beautiful.  The shows onboard were fine, not top notch. BEWAREof the "Free" promo packages.  The drink package we chose was not 'free' as described, there is a 'tax' included that you may or maynot be advised of when choosing this freebie. It cost us an extra $160 for a seven day cruise.

  • I’m not slighting any other cruise lines here, we just haven’t been on them, but plan to travel more, so when we do, I'll get back to you with more info.



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