Best Cruise Tips and Tricks (2020)
From Embarkation to Debarkation!
You’ve finally booked your dream cruise vacation. What happens next? A cruise is a little (okay, a lot) different than any other type of trip! If you want to have a smooth-sailing cruise, you’ve got to plan ahead of time. Here are the best tips and tricks on how you can plan for your perfect high seas vacation and truly enjoy it. Ready? Let’s get sailing…or planning!
Our Best Tips for Going on a Cruise
Congrats, you booked your cruise! What’s next? Here’s some tips on what you need to do after booking that cruise ticket...from the planning, preparation, and embarkation.
COVID-19 Update: The CDC announced a No Sail Order for cruise ships through September 30, 2020. This order continues to suspend passenger operations on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
1. Check for fare drops on cruise line sites - It might be tedious but it’s worth it! If you’ve booked early, keep checking the cruise website for price drops on your fare. It’s also ideal if you initially just pay for a deposit fee (so you won’t be charged hefty cancellation fees). But if you have already made the final payment, don’t fret! Most cruise lines are willing to accommodate these credit changes if you ask nicely. Booked through a travel agent? Communicate with him/her as they’re the only ones who can change your booking for the cruise line.
► Booking early
✓ Advantages: You can choose your preferred cabin or itinerary. Good rates for early bookers on popular cruise lines. Can include perks like complimentary upgrade or onboard credit.
✗ Disadvantages: You might miss out on last-minute savings. Some airlines charge penalties for changes to booking. Worse, some travel agents don’t provide help for customers who want to change their booking at the last minute.
► Booking late
✓ Advantages: Find last-minute bargains for unsold cabins (usually 60 to 90 days before sailing date). Ideal for those who live close to the port or within driving distance.
✗ Disadvantages: You can’t choose the “good cabins.” You must be flexible when it comes to vacation dates. If you live further from the port, booking a last-minute flight is expensive!
2. Make sure all travel documents are ready - Passports should be valid for at least 6 months after the last day of your cruise. Driver’s license or other forms of identification shouldn’t be expired. Apply for the necessary visas for your port destinations too. Do this at least 2 to 3 months after you’ve booked your cruise ticket. You wouldn’t want to waste your dream cruise vacay just because your travel documents aren’t up to date!
► Is a passport necessary? A passport isn’t required for US citizens going on Closed Loop Sailings - those that embark and disembark in the same US port (for Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda only). However, it’s still recommended that you bring your passport just in case. You never know when a medical emergency or accident occurs (and you’ll need to fly back home).
3. Reserve the “ideal” cabin for your family - For this part you need to consider two things:
► The deck location: This matters more if you or any of your family members are prone to motion sickness. If this is a concern, you’ll want to book a cabin closer to the central part of the ship and on the lower decks. If motion sickness isn’t an issue, the upper decks are good for those who want to be close to where the action is (buffet, sports and adventure activities).
► The cabin type: There are four types of cabins on cruises. If price is a concern, the inside cabin is suitable for you. Beware though that it doesn’t have any windows (not for claustrophobics). Then you have the outside cabin (with an ocean view window) and the balcony cabin (with your own mini deck). The most luxurious is the suite which is definitely larger and more expensive. Our favorite is the balcony cabin, it’s mid-range but gives parents that alone time without actually leaving the room!
4. Get comprehensive travel insurance - You might be thinking, “Oh, it’s just a short trip… What could happen?” A lot could happen and it’s best to be prepared (especially when you’re traveling with kids). A basic travel health insurance is okay. But if you want that extra assurance, go for a comprehensive travel insurance. It covers medical, evacuation and even trip cancellation emergencies!
5. Register your preferences online - Dreading long lines on your cruise trip? Here’s one tip to avoid them: Register some of your activities or preferences online! For example, on the Royal Caribbean homepage, click on the Already Booked tab and select Cruise Planner. You can then book your preferred shore excursions, dining (or beverages) package and reserve certain onboard activities! You’ll save time and effort on sailing day.
► Note on pre-registering for youth programs: Not all cruise lines allow online pre-registration for their youth programs. Carnival is one of the few cruise lines with such a feature. On some cruise lines, you can sign the waiver for youth programs and still have to register onboard. So check with your booked cruise line to know for sure! Pro Tip: If registering your kid online isn’t possible, do so as early as you can during embarkation day to avoid queueing.
6. Book shore excursions ahead of time - The good packages can get fully booked so fast! Shore excursions are part of a fun and epic cruise trip. For instance, you can’t miss whale watching and glacier hiking in Alaska. If it’s a Caribbean trip, it’s almost a sin not to snorkel or explore the emerald waters. You don’t need to do excursions at every port but pick your faves and be adventurous for a few!
► Booking via cruise line
✓ Advantages: The biggest benefit of booking an excursion from your cruise line is that you are their responsibility. The ship would most probably wait for your return (even if you’re 30 minutes late already). If the ship can’t wait for you, the cruise line would cover expenses to transport you to the next port.
✗ Disadvantages: It’s more expensive! And there isn’t as many options compared to independent tours.
► Booking via independent agency
✓ Advantages: Cheaper! You can scout for the more affordable tours available. Plus, you have lots of options to choose from. You’re not limited to the excursions provided by one agency.
✗ Disadvantages: You’re on your own! The ship won’t wait for you if ever your excursion extends beyond the time limit. Although some tour operators guarantee that they’ll bring you back in time (or worst case scenario, transport you to the next port).
7. Pack for what activities you signed up for - The next tip is in relation to the previous one. There’s no sense in packing things that you’re not planning on using. Leave the gear at home if you didn’t book for snorkeling or scuba diving. If you know you won’t have time to hit the gym, leave the workout clothes behind. This is why it’s also important to register or book for excursions ahead of time!
8. Know what’s included and what costs extra - It’s just one way of avoiding a heart attack at the end of your trip! In most cruise lines, food is unlimited on the buffet area and main dining room. You have to pay for food in specialty restaurants (worth the splurge if you’re celebrating an event). Also on most ships, room service is free during the day (with some fees during night time). Beverages like regular tea, coffee and juice are also included. But soda and alcohol have to be paid for! Most activities are included except casino, spa treatments and specialty classes. Again, checking the website of your cruise line is highly recommended!
9. Think before availing beverage packages - These packages can be expensive! Most cruise lines don’t allow sharing so each person in the cabin has to purchase the same beverage package (even if they don’t want to). Prices are also on a per day basis. So if you didn’t drink any of the paid beverages for that day, it would still add up to your bill. These packages are only worth it if you’re a heavy drinker (whether that’s soda, specialty coffee or alcohol). If not, stick to just ordering on a per needs basis!
10. Find out ship restrictions on drinks - If you would rather bring your own beverages, check your cruise line’s restriction policies! Alcohol is prohibited but most cruises allow adults to bring a bottle of unopened champagne or wine. You can also bring non-alcoholic beverages (like milk, soda, energy drinks and sparkling water) sealed in either cans or cartons. There’s limits though, only 12 cans / cartons per person!
11. Know which items aren’t allowed onboard - There are also restricted items onboard similar to a flight. The list varies a bit though (it’s best to check with your cruise line’s website for a more comprehensive guide):
► Items not allowed on cruise ships:
✗ Sharp objects including knives and scissors
✗ Items that generate heat or flame (Except curling irons, straighteners, normal lighter and matches)
✗ Extension cord with surge protector
✗ Homemade foods (Packed foods are okay)
✗ Firearms (Including replicas)
✗ Self-defense / martial arts gears
✗ Skateboards / surfboards
✗ Remote-controlled devices (Including drones)
12. Put all your travel documents in an organizer - Got all your documents ready? Place them inside Extra Small Packing Cube for easy access. Passports, visas, IDs, itineraries, etc. can all go inside this size cube. With its see-through design, you can find what you need within seconds. It also has an easy-grip handle so you can grab it when you need it or use it as a tote bag during inspection.
Pro Tip: Pack this organizer in your carry-on bag. If you’re driving to the port, keep it close to you (and not in your car’s trunk) because you might be asked to present it before entering. Don’t forget to scan your travel documents and send the images to your email (very handy in case you lose them while cruising).
13. Get familiar with your ship’s layout - When you know how to navigate your way into the ship, you can make the most out of your trip! A few weeks before your cruise, familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout. There’s a couple of ways of doing this:
► Check Cruise Critic: This is most cruisers go-to website for all-things cruise related! Plus, they have an extensive collection of various cruise ships’ layouts. Just select the cruise ship you’re traveling with and scroll to the Deck Plans section.
► Download ShipMate: Another good option is to download the app ShipMate (available on both IOS and Android). You can find information on your cruise ship, reviews, photos and many more. The app also has information about the deck plans of popular ships (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess).
► Watch ship tours on YouTube: The easiest way of getting familiar with your ship! We recommend the channels of CruiseTipsTV, EECC Travels (perfect for families) and Popular Cruising. Also, you can just search for your cruise ship on YouTube and find the most popular ship tours for it.
14. Check the cruise line’s website - Got questions about your upcoming cruise trip? Chances are, the answers are already in their website! Check their FAQs section before contacting customer support for your queries. This is also the best time to read the fine print or contract. Login to your account and read the details so you won’t be shocked with extra charges or cruise regulations. Here’s a complete list of different cruise lines and their official websites.
15. Sign up for message boards / forums / groups - Among veteran (and even newbie) cruisers, a fave is the Cruise Critic boards. The good thing about this forum is there’s a section for newbies, location-specific cruises and line-specific cruises. There popular roll calls are also available here! You can meet people who will be on the same cruise as you are. Or plan tours together (saving money)! You can also join a Facebook group to meet fellow cruisers.
16. Learn the cruise lingo - Do you know which side of the ship is the starboard? What’s a berth? If you don’t have any idea what these words mean, it’s time to brush up on your cruise lingo! Check out this guide to learn the meaning of these terms.
17. Search for samples of daily newsletters - This is a great way of learning about what activities await you in your cruise trip. Cruise Critic is a great resource for this! Simply search the forums for dailies or daily newsletters for your cruise line. You can also use any search engine to find older newsletters. The activities won’t be exactly the same but will give you some idea of what to expect.
18. Time your flight accordingly - So you’re flying to your embarkation port? Book a flight at least 1 to 2 days in advance of your embarkation day. Remember that flight delays happen and your ship won’t wait for you! If you arrive too early, you can stay overnight in a hotel (keeps you relaxed and ready to sail too). Same goes if you’re flying home, book a flight the next day to avoid rushing.
19. Reserve for offsite parking early - This is an important tip especially if you don’t want to waste time searching for parking during embarkation day. Yes, you can find parking spaces at the port but charges are usually higher. There are many offsite parking areas. Just search online for the safest and most reliable ones. They usually offer free shuttle services into the port as well. Hint: Cruise forums are your best friend for this.
20. Inform bank / postpaid plan / mail - A few weeks or days before your cruise, inform your bank about the trip. Let them know which destinations you’re visiting and how long you’ll be gone. You can use your credit card in peace knowing that transactions won’t be blocked! Same goes for your phone’s postpaid plan provider, it’s also a good time to inquire about international charges. If you have mail, newspaper or other daily/weekly subscriptions, hold them off until you get back from your cruise.
21. Prepare your smartphone - Speaking of your phone, try to get it cruise ready before your trip. How to do that? It’s very easy, just follow the steps below:
► Inquire about international charges: Again, try to have a friendly chat with your postpaid plan provider. Ask what are the charges for using your phone’s data overseas. Inquire what’s the best way of turning roaming off from your phone. While on the high seas, it’s ideal to just turn on Airplane Mode in your phone to avoid hidden charges.
► Save your ship and cabin information: In most Android devices, you can edit your phone’s lock screen message to include your ship and cabin details. For Apple devices, there’s no such feature but you can just use Notes to save this information. You’d be surprised just how helpful this little tip is (it’s easy to forget your cabin number)!
► Backup your phone’s data: If you’re going to be using your smartphone as your main camera, might as well backup your data before cruising. You can either opt for Cloud storage or just save your files on a hard drive. Then you can go and delete them from your phone. Voila, more storage equals more photos!
► Download app of cruise line: Cruise lines are on in the evolving world of technology too! Most cruise lines have their own apps you can download on your smartphone (or other gadgets). It’s a nifty tool for getting to know your cruise line, finding ideal shore excursions and more.
► Download offline version of map of all ports: Did you know that Google Maps gives you the option of using maps offline? Here’s a simple guide on how you can do that. We recommend downloading maps of all your port of calls. So during excursions, you can spend more time exploring and not getting lost!
► Download apps / games / series before you board: You can pay for WiFi onboard but it’s not guaranteed to work all throughout your cruise. It’s also painfully slow at times! Better download your go-to apps or games before your trip. Or if you plan on catching up on series, download them as well before embarkation day.
► Download the American Red Cross First Aid app: When it comes to health and safety, it pays to be extra prepared! You can download a first aid app (we recommend the American Red Cross one) so you’d know what to do in case of emergencies. Pro Tip: Find an app that doesn’t need WiFi to work.
► Purchase a waterproof phone pouch: This one’s compatible with a number of different smartphone models! Must have when going on Caribbean or tropical cruise trips.
22. Set an appointment with your doctor - This is a necessity when you’re cruising with kids! Ask about possible immunizations needed. You can also ask how you can prevent contracting the much-feared norovirus on the cruise. If any member of the family has prescription medications, it’s also a good time to stock up on them or ask for prescription letters.
23. Allot a budget for the entire trip - It’s easy to go overboard with spending on cruise trips. A little splurge here and there can add up in the end! Here’s one tip you can use: Allot one credit card to use for the trip. Inform your bank about the spending limits you want for the credit card before your trip. When you know how much you have, controlling purchases is easier.
24. Pack your suitcase weeks before your trip - You know what comes with last-minute packing? Stress and lots of it! You’re better off packing your suitcase a few weeks before your trip. It just makes for a relaxing and happy embarkation day. Don’t know where to start? Download our FREE Cruise Packing List (at the end of this post). Reminder: Don’t overpack! Bring the essentials and leave behind the unnecessary items. This leads us to our next tip…
25. Use packing cubes - This extra step gives you that edge when it comes to organization! Say you’re flying to reach your port, how can you breeze through airport security? If you’ve got packing cubes in your luggage, TSA inspections are as easy as 1, 2 and 3! Toiletries can be packed in our TSA compliant bag. No worries about underwear suddenly popping out of the suitcase. Once you reach your cabin, use the cubes as drawers, there’s no need to unpack! Here’s our different sizes cubes for different purposes:
► Extra Small Cube - This works best as clear toiletry bag or first aid kit bag! It can hold up to 15 bottles (3 oz). The clam-shell opening means that you can set it on the bathroom counter as a caddy bag.
► Small Cube - No more lone socks with the help of our small cube. You can fit a week’s worth of underwear in this cube size. You can also use it as a larger toiletry bag.
► Medium Cube - Pack all your casual cruising clothes here including shirts, dresses and lightweight bottoms. It can fit up to 15 tops (for those with small to medium body frames).
► Large Cube - Store your formal clothes (suit or dress) in this size cube. You can also use it as beach or pool tote bag. Large enough for storing extra clothes, swimwear, towel and sunscreen!
26. Pack all essentials / valuables in your carry on - We mention this all the time in our cruise packing lists… Pack all items you can’t afford to lose in your carry on. Plus a set of change of clothes (including underwear). So your travel documents, medications, gadgets, jewelries, etc… All of these have to go in your hand carry. You won’t see your checked bag until later in the day during embarkation. If you’re not sure what to pack in your carry on bag, check this post.
27. Opt for colored clothes - If you’re planning on doing laundry onboard, avoid bringing white clothing items (including your underwear). It’s just one less hassle cause you won’t need to separate your laundry into whites and colored ones. Also pack a few detergent pods cause they can be expensive to buy on the ship.
28. Prepare a stack of $1 bills for tipping - Except for the casinos, you don’t need to spend cash on board. Everything’s billed to your credit card! But you’d want to prepare a stack of dollar bills for tipping. It’s not required but it shows your appreciation for the hardworking cruise staff!
► Note on gratuities: Yes, gratuities are extra charges added in your bill. These are fees for the services you get on board. Both front and back staff share the amount at the end of the trip. You can opt to pay gratuities either before or after your trip. We recommend paying it upfront before you embark, it’s just one less thing to worry about!
29. Check-in online few weeks before embarkation - Unlike airlines, you can check in with your cruise line a few weeks before embarkation. It’s a good idea to do so as early as you can. You’d be able to get better boarding times! However, we recommend printing your boarding passes and luggage tags just a week before your embarkation (cause they are still subject to changes).
30. Start motion sickness meds a day before embarking - First time cruising? To avoid motion sickness, you can start your motion sickness meds a day before embarking on the ship. Over-the-counter options are dramamine (can cause drowsiness) and bonine (no drowsiness).
1. Sign your cruise documents before reaching the port - The cruise line will usually mail or email you forms like an online check-in document or health questionnaire. Complete and sign them before you reach the port (during the flight or on your hotel). It’s just one less hassle to deal with during security and check in! On the same note, keep all your travel documents (passport, boarding pass, etc.) easy to access. We know we’ve mentioned this before but you’ll never guess how common it is for guests to misplace these important items!
2. Attach luggage tags - Remember those luggage tags? Time to attach them to your suitcases! We recommend using a waterproof tag holder (just in case it rains). Or you can also print extra copies of the tags and place them inside the suitcase.
3. Arrive at your allotted boarding time - Cruise lines now implement a staggered boarding process. So you’re allotted a specific time slot to board. Arrive within this time frame if you don’t want to wait a long time to board. Keep in mind that 12:00 to 1:30 is usually the busiest time for boarding!
4. Prepare for queues - Preparation is the key! There will be long lines especially during security and check in. But here’s the good news: With packing cubes, you can pass through queues quicker. Place all your travel documents in an Extra Small Cube. Keep your bag organized with a variety of clear packing cubes. Whenever you need something, just grab the cube with the items without messing up the entire bag.
5. Plan for security - Yes, there will be metal detectors (just like in an airport). So remove all metals and place them in your carry on. This will make the security process smoother for you and the guests behind you.
6. Bring snacks - And pack them in your carry on! Not all cruise terminals have food stands. Long lines + hangry kids = a bad combo.
7. Get the kids involved! - Electronics, toys...these are good ways to keep your kid entertained. Or you can also give them “tasks” to keep them involved during embarkation day. Let them push the suitcase if they want to, give them a copy of the deck plan! Getting them involved would make embarkation day less stressful for everyone in the family.
8. Know your cabin number - Save it on your phone, set it as your screensaver...just make sure that you have some way of remembering your cabin number!
9. Avoid the buffet area! - On embarkation day, guests make a spree for the buffet area. It’s a wild, wild scene! If you don’t want to be part of that chaos, opt for the other dining areas. The main dining room is usually open or you can ask a crew which dining areas are open during that time. You can also go for the specialty dining areas (they usually have discounts during embarkation day).
10. Book packages right away - After a good meal, go ahead and book for packages (if you haven’t pre-booked them yet). Same goes for shows that you’d like to watch! You can avoid long queues this way.
11. If you have kids, enjoy the pool - Before you reach the port, let them wear their swimwear under their clothes! They can enjoy the pool since most guests are still struggling to eat in the chaotic buffet area. Don’t forget to pack a change of clothes in a Small Cube and some toiletries in an Extra Small Cube.
12. Or explore the ship - Before your trip, you should be a bit familiar with your ship’s layout. You can also print out your ship’s deck plan beforehand and hand out copies to your family members. Explore the ship, check out areas that you’re most interested in and have fun!
13. Sign up for kid’s club - If you haven’t registered online, you can also sign up for the kid’s club during embarkation day. If your kid isn’t keen on joining, show him or her the place. Your kid might make a friend or two and change his or her mind!
14. Use the stairs - Elevators are usually packed during embarkation day! If you’ve packed a light carry on bag, opt for the stairs instead. Also a good way of burning the extra calories, don’t you think? If you must take the elevator, avoid the ones in the middle. Go for those at the sides of the ship which are less crowded.
15. Enjoy your cabin - By around 1:30, your checked luggage would have arrived in your cabin. Take a quick photo of your cabin, explore around, etc. You can also put your valuables in the safe and set a password. If you have any special requests, mention them to your cabin steward right away.
16. Attend the muster drill - So you’ll know what to do in case an emergency happens! Don’t miss it because safety always comes first. Locate your life jacket (usually stowed away in the cabin’s closet) and go to your designated deck!
17. Don’t miss sailaway! - You can party with other guests on the deck and watch as your cruise vacation officially begins! If you’re not into the crowds, that’s okay too. You can enjoy sailaway from your room’s balcony.
18. Put your smartphone in Airplane Mode - Do this as early as embarkation day to avoid racking up on international roaming fees!
DURING THE CRUISE:
1. Unpack as soon as possible - So once you get through embarkation day, it’s time to face your worst enemy: Unpacking! Just having a place for everything helps keep your cabin more organized and less of a jungle. The unpacking process is easier with clear packing cubes. Open your suitcase, take the cubes out and place them inside the closet or drawer (or even any flat surface). Done!
Pro Tip: Stow away empty suitcases under the bed in your cabin. It usually has enough space for up to 2 large suitcases. If you’re bringing smaller bags, place them inside the empty suitcases to save space.
2. Sanitize your cabin - It's a must to prioritize hygiene and cleanliness (especially with the pandemic). Use a disinfectant spray to wipe down surfaces (especially that remote control) and freshen the surrounding air.
3. Decorate your cabin door - Get the whole family involved! Make sure you use magnetic decors to avoid damaging the cabin door. If you’re on a Disney cruise, hang your Fish Extender bag outside your cabin door as well!
4. Know your cabin steward + special requests - Be nice to your cabin steward, get to know him or her a bit during your first day. It’s also a good time to let your cabin steward know about any special requests you might have. Don’t worry, they’re usually very accommodating and easy to talk to!
5. Set your watch to Ship Time - Have all your family member’s watches set to Ship Time instead of the local time. Follow the time set on your ship’s clock. If ever there are any changes, it will usually be announced or mentioned in your daily newsletter. If you have a shore excursion planned, follow Ship Time and not local time so you won’t be left behind.
6. Read your daily newsletter - It will be delivered in your cabin each night. This newsletter includes the next day activities. If you have a highlighter pen, mark those activities that you’re interested in doing. If you downloaded the cruise app, it’s easier because it alerts you when the activities you’ve marked are on!
Pro Tip: You don’t need to do all the activities listed in the newsletter. Pick the ones you like, don’t rush through everything and allot some time for rest. Remember, it’s your vacation and not some marathon you need to finish.;p
7. Monitor your expenses - An easy way of keeping track of your expenses is through your cabin’s television. If you’ve downloaded the cruise line’s app, you can also monitor how much you’ve already spent during your trip there.
8. Wash your hands often - It’s the best way of preventing germs and virus from spreading! Also there’s FREE hand sanitizers at various locations. Use them or bring your own to keep bacteria at bay.
9. Can’t decide? Order ALL of them - If you want to try 2 meals during dinner, like that lobster tail and steak, go ahead! Want to sample different desserts? Go for it! Calories don’t count on vacation, right?
10. Ways to avoid crowds - Want some time away from the crowds? Check out our recommendations below:
► Go to the hot tubs at night: You can enjoy a nice swim under the stars without the crowd. On some ships, they also provide on-screen entertainment!
► Opt for the lesser known shows: The main theater is usually crowded because it’s the most popular place for shows. If you want to just relax while enjoying a chill performance, go to the smaller bars or lounges. Maybe watch a comedy show, magic show or listen to a classical pianist. These are more laid back and less crowded.
► Check out the library: Aside from books, you can find crossword puzzles and board games here. A great way to pass time by without getting into the crowds!
► Stunning views on secret decks: Most cruise ships have a “secret deck” you can access either at the very front or very back of the ship. There are no signs leading to it so you have to explore a bit. Great area for some alone time or stunning photos.
11. Do the “Behind the Scenes” tour - It’s a bit pricey but so worth it! You’ll get to see the galley, the crew areas, the bridge and the engine control room. Plus, you can meet the people working behind the scenes and even meet the captain. Slots for this tour fill out fast so you need to reserve yours early at the Passenger Services Desk.
12. Be prepared for your shore excursions - Get enough sleep the night before and make sure you have everything you need ready. For example:
► Charge your electronics during the night
► Dry your swimwear (or other wet clothes) in the balcony secured with a clothespin
► Pack your day bag (Don’t forget sunscreen, water, a change of clothes, money, some snacks and electronics)
► Order room service (it’s free) for breakfast (instead of going to the buffet)
13. Be back an hour early after an excursion - Again, the ship won’t wait for you and you don’t want to be like this woman.
14. You don’t have to visit all ports - In fact, port day is a great day for doing onboard activities like massage (they offer discounts). Or your kids can have a blast in the pool which isn’t usually crowded during port day. So if a particular port doesn’t interest you, that’s okay!
15. Safety during excursions - Be street smart, stay alert and be cautious during your shore excursions. Here’s a few ways on how:
► Leave your valuables like jewelry and cards on the ship (safest place is on the safety vault)
► Just bring enough cash (avoid using credit card on shore)
► Use a crossbody bag (instead of a backpack)
► Stay in pairs or with a group
LAST NIGHT / DEBARKATION:
1. Last minute shopping - If you have any last minute items you need, buy them a day before debarkation. Shops will be closed during debarkation day itself. You can also find good deals in the Gift Shop during this time. Also check out the Photo Gallery if you plan on purchasing your photos for souvenir.
2. Settle your account / bills - Have any questions about your billing account? Settle them a day or two before debarkation. There’s usually a long line in Guest Services on the day itself.
3. Attend Debarkation Talk - It’s held at the main theater and headed by the cruise director. Loads of info about the debarkation process which is good for first time cruisers. Sometimes, this briefing is also shown on your cabin’s television. But attending the talk personally is ideal because you can ask questions. Read your last daily newsletter too because it will also include this information.
4. Pack your stuff during the night - Boo hoo, this marks the official culmination of your cruise adventure. But trust us, it’s one thing you just can’t risk postponing. Aside from placing those clear packing cubes back in the luggage, don’t forget the following:
► Check the safety deposit for valuables (jewelry, electronics, etc.)
► Check the minibar for snacks / medications you brought
► Check under the bed for misplaced items (like toys)
► Make sure all cords, chargers and gadgets are accounted for
► Remove all clothes from balcony
► All dirty clothes are inside a travel laundry bag
► Toiletries can be packed during debarkation day
5. Express or slow debarkation? - Cruise lines offer 2 main types of debarkation:
► Express (Self-Assisted) Debarkation - For guests who have early flights and can carry their own luggage, express debarkation is the way to go. You’ll be the first to leave the ship (around 7 am to 8 am) though it’s not always a quick process. With self-assisted debarkation, you still have to pack your bags the night before. But you don’t need to put them outside your stateroom nor attach luggage tags to them.
► Checked Luggage Debarkation - The cruise line will assign you new tags for your luggage. Attach them and leave your luggages outside your stateroom (around 10 pm to 11 pm). However, keep a change of clothes, toiletries, valuables, documents and other important items in your carry on. You’ll be allotted a zone or time as to when you can claim your luggages the next day. Last guests from slow debarkation leave the ship by 9:30 am to 10:00 am.
6. Tip crews - It’s also a good idea to tip outstanding crews on your last night on the ship. They will be busy during debarkation day, cleaning out rooms and other areas. So find your cabin steward or your favorite waiter and give them those well deserved tips!
7. Eat early breakfast - The buffet area is open for breakfast during debarkation day. Check your daily newsletter for info on which other dining areas are open or ask the crews around. Enjoy that last full meal on board and leave the ship satisfied!
8. Only wait on allowed areas - By 8 am, all guests should be out of their cabins. If you chose slow debarkation, don’t worry. Cruise ships allot some public areas where guests can stay like lounges, promenades and decks. Just don’t stay around the debarkation area to avoid congesting it!
9. Have all travel documents ready - Your passport, ID, you know the drill! If you’ve purchased alcohol, you might be required to declared such goods during customs inspection. So make sure you keep all receipts easy to access as well.
10. Don’t toss that ship card just yet - You need it one last time for boarding off the ship. Keep it along with your other valuables in an Extra Small Cube.
11. Get the help of a porter - If you have many luggages, get the help of a porter! They’re usually in the baggage claim area. Plus, they can find the quickest line for customs and get you to your car without any hassles.
Whew! We know that’s a whole lot to take in especially for first-time cruisers. But we tried to make this guide as complete as possible to for you. Without proper planning or preparation, your cruise vacation can go from fab to drab. Hope this guide helped you! Got any more tips when going on a cruise? Share them below!