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7 Things To Do FIRST When You Get On A Cruise Ship

I am a veteran cruiser of over 70 Cruises since 2000.  I have traveled on almost all the major Cruise Lines and many smaller lines you may not have heard of.  One of the questions I am often asked is “what are some tips that will make my Cruise experience better?”

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These 7 universal tips will make your cruise experience a lot smoother. Check them out below:

  1.    Get to the ship early.

Most ships you may begin boarding as early as 11:30 AM.  My goal is always to be on the ship no later than 12:30 PM.  Lunch usually starts around 11:30 AM, and is available to eat when you board the ship.  They will tell you that the cabins will not be ready until 2:00 PM, however most of the time the rooms are ready and available.  If not then get a spot on the deck and go eat lunch and keep physically going to the cabin.  Usually no one will stop you and the Cabin Steward will be glad to see you.

  1. Make Spa and Dinner Reservations.

Make your reservations as soon as you get on the ship.  Use the phone in your cabin.  If you cannot get to your cabin then use a house phone.  Spaces fill up quickly and if you want to get the time and day of your choice then you want to make the reservation as soon as possible.  Please also make sure you know what the cancellation policies are.  You will get charged if you do not adhere to the cancellation policies.  Know what spa treatments you are interested in, and what days and times you want to do them.  Understand that the “Days at Sea” is the most popular time and most people want them.  Same is true if you want a beauty treatment the day of Elegant/Formal Night. This is also a good time to buy your “excursion tickets”.  Popular excursions book up fast, so if you want to get your first choice be organized and book first.  Reservations are first come, first served!

  1.    Put your valuables and money in the safe.

Now that you are on the ship you no longer need your passport your wallet or cash.  You only need your Ship Card.  The Ship Card is your room key and your ship charge card.  That Ship Card is what you need to buy drinks and shop in the Gift Shop!  Everything else that is valuable should be left in your in room safe.  I leave my travel documents including passport or birth certificate valuables like jewelry, wallet and IDs along with electronic items I am not using such as  iPad, iPod, headsets. If you have a valuable item that will not fit you should take it to the Purser’s Desk and ask if they can place it in the Ship’s Safe.

  1.    Get a spot on the Deck or the Adult Only area.

Find a spot that suits you on the deck or the “Adults Only” area based on your needs.  Ex: I like to be in the shade, so I find areas that will be covered from direct sunlight.  There are not that many places that have shade so I make sure I claim my spot soon after getting on the ship.  If you are traveling with children then you may want to get a spot close to the pool or area where the kids will play.  You will want to get all the loungers you need so that you are all together.  Place your towels, bags, and other items in the chairs/loungers you want to mark as yours.

Most of the major Cruise lines have an “Adults Only” area.  It is called different things; however it is the area without children.  These areas require you to be over the age of 18 and often have their own swimming pool and/or hot tub.  They generally have their own bars and many even have themes.  They usually have more comfortable seating and lounging and are often quiet zones!

  1.    Tour/Explore the Ship.

Take the time to really get to know the ship.  I recommend you take 60 minutes and go over the ship top to bottom so that you know where everything is and discover what you like.  Whether it is a short or long cruise, the worst thing in the world is finding out they have something you did not know about your last day on the ship.  Then you realize you could have been enjoying that area or item the whole trip.  Ships are becoming total entertainment centers.  Many of the ships have “Sushi Bars” that are free of charge.  Others have unique activities such as bowling or even an Ice Bar!  Make sure you find the Adult’s Only retreats especially for when you want some peace and quiet.

  1.    Take your pictures for you and for Social Media.

If you want to get your pictures posted to Social Media it is important and cheaper to do it before you leave.  While you are still in port your phone’s cellular service and 4G or 4G-LTE will allow you to access the internet without incurring an additional charge.  Once the ship gets out of range usually 3-5 miles out of port charges may occur.  Even if you are not posting you want to get the best pictures with as few people in the background, therefore taking them when you first get on the ship and while you are touring/exploring the ship is a terrific opportunity.

  1.    Make your final calls and texts.

Make your final goodbye calls and texts before you leave.  Most phone service will cut off around 3-5 miles outside the port.  It is important to note that just because your phone is working or shows service it does not mean you are still operating under your current plan or service agreement.  You can get hit with charges that range from roaming, international roaming, Foreign Service charges, out of network charges and many more depending on your carrier.  I recommend that you either put your phone away in your safe after you have finished taking pictures.  If you keep it with you I recommend turning on “airplane mode”.  This will prevent you from using data and potentially running up usage charges from roaming, international data charges and other foreign use charges.  Many people forget that apps on your phone run in the background and are constantly using the internet and/or cellular services to update, check-in and operate.  To avoid getting charged either turn your phone off, place it in “airplane mode” or contact your service provider and get an International Plan.

Here are 2 additional “must do” things that will definitely make your cruise experience much better.  Take some additional cleaning Supplies for your cabin.  People do not always clean to your standards.  I always bring 2 things: my own disinfectant and I bring the air fresheners that I like.

My other “must do” tip is to wear your swimsuit under your clothes and bring a carry-on bag that has everything you need for the first day.  Usually you get your luggage on the first day but you never know when.  Therefore I carry everything I need for the first day on to the ship in a carry-on bag.  Things like toiletries, dinner clothes, and underclothes.  Again, I recommend wearing your swimsuit underneath whatever you wear on to the ship and bring your own beach towel.

As a veteran cruiser I am often asked what are some tips that will make my cruise experience better.  If you follow the seven tips above you will find that you are well ahead of your fellow shipmates and are traveling in the fast lane with the Cruise Pros!

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Bill Collins

Bill Collins is a former Army Officer turned veteran traveler. I have traveled to 28 different Countries mainly concentrated in the Central & Latin America and have spent the last 16 years exploring the Caribbean Islands.

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