You did it! You booked your first cruise! Whether your cruise is in a week or a year, let the excitement and anticipation begin. If you have never cruised before, it is a little different than other vacations (in a good way!). I prepared a few blog posts to help you out as a First Time Cruiser!
-Check with the cruise line to find out how many formal nights are planned for your itinerary.
-Research dress code and pack accordingly.
-Laundry services are available on some ships
-Irons are not typically available onboard.
-Suitcases will fit under the bed on most ships.
-Other items you might want to pack because they’re not provided or super-expensive to buy onboard include: over-the-counter meds, batteries, camera memory cards, sunscreen, ear plugs, plastic bags for transporting liquids or wet things (or keeping water out of your gear on water-based tours) and power strips to charge all your electronics.
Cell Phone & Device Tips
Check with your carrier for latest international rate if you anticipate the need for service while abroad. It is advisable to place your devices in Airplane mode once the ship starts to sale to avoid any costly roaming fees. Most ships offer wifi packages that can be purchased before your cruise or once onboard. Review the offerings and discuss with your family the package that will serve you the best. We have always treated cruises as “disconnected time”, however, that is not always feasible for all travelers, monitor your usage closely so that there are not any surprises from the ship or your cell phone carrier.
Arriving at the Cruise Port
When booking flights give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the port before the ship departing. When you complete your online check-in, most lines will give you a check-in timeslot, make sure to arrive at or before that time.
Often time we prefer to fly into the port the day prior and stay at a hotel in the port city. The nominal added expense makes for a stress-free start to your cruise vacation. Remember, the ship will NOT wait for you if your flight is delayed or canceled (unless you have booked air through the cruise line).
When you arrive, you will be dropped off at the port and let me tell you; it will be a mess! Thousands of people are getting off of your ship while the same number are being dropped off to get onboard. The first step is to ditch your checked luggage with a porter; they will be stationed all throughout the drop-off area with large carts or dollies. They will not be dressed in the cruise line uniforms as they are port employees. Don’t be alarmed; it is safe to give them your luggage and tips are customary.
Keep in mind; you will not see your luggage until later in the afternoon, sometimes into the evening. Make sure that you grab the following:
Anything else that you might need before you get your suitcases
After dropping off your luggage, you will head inside to check-in. Cruise Staff will help guide you through security then to check-in counters. Have all of your documents ready including your passports. At check-in, you will have your photograph taken, and your sea-pass cards will be issued.
You sea-pass card will function as your room key and onboard credit card. You will also need this to get on and off the ship at all ports.
Once you are checked-in, you will walk to the boarding/waiting area. At this point, you will wait for your boarding group to be called. Now is the time to get ready for your vacation to start! Your wait shouldn’t be long, and you will be boarding the ship in no time at all, one caveat, however, is that US Customs determines when the ship is cleared to accept passengers. We have always tried to bring a few snacks from the hotel breakfast bar to hold over the boys if there are any embarkation delays.
In the next post…You are finally on vacation!