Get to the cruise terminal early and relax – If your cruise documents tell you boarding begins at noon, do your best to be at the cruise terminal on or before this time. This will ensure you don’t miss your ship by getting caught in traffic or any number of problems with your flight. I also suggest you fly-in or drive a day before your cruise and stay at a hotel the night before. If you’re driving, some hotels allow you to park your car for free in a special lot for the duration of your cruise. So for the price of parking at the port (normally $10 a day) you can book a night at the hotel and relax. The hotel normally drives you to and from the cruise terminal for free before and after your cruise.
Use a Porter/Bellman when available – Your on vacation, so be sure to use the resources the hotel offers. The hotel will be able to transport your bags to and from the lobby. Once at the cruise terminal a porter will offer to take your bags from your car (hotel shuttle or taxi cab) to the ship. The suggested tip is $1 per bag, this is well worth it and you will save time, energy and maybe even some future back pain. The next time you will see your bags is in your cabin.
Pick the right Cruise Line and Ship for you – Be sure to learn about the cruise vacation product your buying. This is a major purchase so do your homework with your travel agent and also via brochures, cruise line websites and read ship reviews. Your choice will greatly affect things such as the ships decor & ambiance, the level of service from crew, the quality of food in the restaurants and more.
Choose the Correct Cabin – Many modern cruise ships hold 3000+ passengers. Unlike a hotel you can actually choose your exact cabin. Will your cabin be the cheapest cabin available, so you can get onboard at the lowest price or will it be something more luxurious? What are your expectations? Is it price or comfort? If you want the best experience aboard your cruise I suggest a balcony cabin. It will cost you on average $30 more per-person, per-day but, it’s worth it. It used to be said that passengers don’t spend much time in their cabin aboard a cruise. This is now a myth; passengers are now spending an ever more increasing amount of time in their cabins. Why is this you ask? It’s because the modern ships have much larger cabin and some upwards of 80% outside cabins with balconies. A balcony cabin rewards you with allowing you to step outside 24/7 and watch the ship sail through the seas, into ports and hear the sounds of the waves. You can also look at the wildlife, sunsets, and more, anytime; even in your pajamas if desired. You can even enjoy the free room service by having breakfast or any other meal on your balcony. These are things you just can’t fully do by booking a standard inside cabin or ocean view (window only) cabin.
Participate and Attend – Your cruise vacation is going to offer you many ports of call. You will have both excursions on land and also many shows and events onboard you’re floating resort. The best way to fully experience this is by booking exciting shore excursions and attending the shows, events and classes you’re interested in. Be sure to book excursions either before you sail or the day you get onboard as some of the best shore excursions sell out fast. Then relax and have an experience of a lifetime.
Try the Specialty Restaurants onboard – Many new ships now offer reservation only specialty restaurants onboard. These normally come with a per-person charge but, they are definitely worth it. Prices can range from $15 or more per person. The level of service and food are normally incredible, so please consider one of these options for one night onboard your cruise. Each cruise line varies offerings so check with your travel agent and your cruise line brochure. Some examples are Royal Caribbean’s (Portofino’s and Chops Grill), Carnival Cruise Lines (Supper Club, Nick & Nora’s, etc), Princess Cruise Lines’ (Sabatini’s), Holland America Line’s (Pinnacle Grill), Celebrity Cruise Lines (Varies Per ship), Norwegian Cruise Line (Numerous Offerings), etc. Be sure to make a reservation shortly after boarding as these specialty restaurants are indeed special and reservations fill up fast by those in the know. Some guests even eat at these restaurants several times during a normal cruise, because it’s just that good.
Read your ships Newsletter/Daily planner – To get the most of your vacation read your ships daily activity sheet when you get it (normally placed in your cabin the night before). It’s a good idea to find events that you are interested in doing and schedule them within your day. Be sure to also know what all your dining options are onboard (Where and when are they?). Your cruise will normally be seven nights long, so the more you know about the services onboard your floating resort (AKA Cruise Ship) the better your time onboard will be. This may seem obvious but, some cruisers miss out on things because they didn’t read the daily planner and know it was available and/or scheduled.
Kiss the Ship Good Morning & Good Night – Kissing the ship good morning and good night is advice I was given from a veteran cruiser when I first began cruising. What’s this mean? You basically need to get out of your cabin and walk the outer decks before the rest of the ship wakes up. This time can be as the sunrises and good night when the sunsets. This simply allows you to fully enjoy being at sea. It further lets you enjoy the ship as she sails into a port during these early morning hours. You’ll most likely find that only you and a handful of other passengers are up for this wonderful show. You’re welcome to go back to bed for a nap but, this morning kiss allows you to experience things most passengers miss by sleeping in. Don’t get too busy that you miss the real show given by Mother Nature and experience some of the simple pleasures of life at sea.