On The Cruise: Maximize your stress-reduction and minimize the overall cost.
1. READ YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE each night and be prepared for the next day. I usually take mine to dinner and read it while I am waiting for the show to begin. If dinner runs late, I grab a drink, find a quiet deck chair and have a read. Then I am ready to make my daily donation to the casino.
2. Your shipboard schedule has lots of valuable information including the next day’s drink of the day, discounts at the spa, shopping areas (on and off the ship), specialty restaurants, and salons, its worth reading.
3. Use any past cruiser coupons that you get.
4. Fill your water bottle from the pitcher in your room and take it off the boat with you. You can always purchase bottled water on your way off the ship, but if you are looking to save some money, refill your own bottle.
5. Liquor purchased ashore or on board is kindly stored for you until the end of your cruise. Some ships permit you to purchase one bottle of liquor for consumption in your room. Ask if this option is available. With mini-refrigerators in each cabin, juice is available any time of the day, to mix with the liquor.
6. If your travel agent sent a bottle of wine, don’t take it to the dining room until you check on the ship’s policy regarding corkage fee. You may have to pay a $6-$10 corkage fee plus tip. If this is the case, open it in your room and drink it there, or take it up on deck for a moonlit rendezvous.
7. Buy bottled beer by the bucket–you save money and can keep it cold in your room refrigerator on most ships.
8. Drink the “drink of the day”, but don’t purchase it in a fancy souvenir glass-that costs extra. There is usually also a martini of the day, this might actually be a rob-roy, manhattan, or rusty nail. READ your daily schedule. Find out if the ship has any drink gimmicks. For instance, some have punch-cards that require you to get a drink at each different bar during the week. If you fill your card, you get a free drink in a souvenir glass. So, plan your pre-dinner cocktail in a different bar each night. By the end of the week, you have a free drink and souvenir glass (or two?).
9. PHOTOS: if you are traveling with friends and family, don’t take the same photos, divide and conquer. When you get home, make reprints and swap.
10. DON’T TAKE THE LOGO BEACH TOWEL OUT OF YOUR ROOM-EVER!. In your cabin you will find a plush, logo beach towel for your use during your cruise. If you want to purchase it, do it on the last day. Don’t use it during the week because this is what happens. You go to the beach using your nice fluffy towel. You come back to the ship and jump in the shower. You hang up your towel to dry or worse yet, drop it on the floor with the rest of your dirty towels. Your a-number-one cabin steward picks up/takes off the hook, all the dirty towels and sends them to be laundered. The fluffy, logo towel never returns. You get a $39.00 charge on your account. You spend time at the front desk and then on the phone when you get home, getting your money back, since you don’t have a towel! You can sign beach towels out at the gangway. You get a receipt. When you return them, you get a receipt. This system works, use it.
11. If you are planning to get off the ship that day, take some extra fruit back to your room after breakfast. Take it with you when you get off the ship, unless prohibited by the country you are visiting. Please respect rules against carrying on/off ship fresh fruits and vegetables. Processed foods are fine. I use zip-lock bags for this. I usually peel the oranges and put them in the bag so I don’t have to get all sticky at the beach. I also pack some of the little cereal boxes and some rolls and/or sweet rolls from the breakfast buffet. Taking butter is difficult, but peanut butter or jelly works fine. Of course, I put them in a zip-lock bag. For those less adventurous, you can ask for a box lunch to be delivered to your room in the morning.
12. Bring a clean washrag from home. When going to the beach, wet it, put a little hand-soap on it and put it in a, yes, you guessed it, a zip-lock bag. Its great to have to get the sand off your hands before you snack at the beach. If you take a washrag from the ship, be courteous and return it.
13. Take an extra zip-lock bag to the beach for your shells.
14. Keep one zip-lock bag in your beach bag for trash, leave the beaches clean–this includes your cigarette butts.
15. Travel Smart-don’t take unnecessary items off the boat. Carry money, photo id and ship boarding pass in a waterproof swimming container. Wear it around your neck. When you swim or snorkel, attach it to your bathing suit strap.
16. If traveling from the north to the Caribbean in the winter or early spring, remember that your skin has not been exposed to the sun for a long time. While it may feel wonderful while you are playing in the water, you will not feel great by dinner. Bring different bottles of sunscreen. Use the most potent at the beginning and if you just have to have a tan, bring lower potencies for use after your skin has gotten re-exposed to the sun. A sunburn on the first day can ruin your vacation.
17. KEEP CHILDREN COVERED IN SUNSCREEN AT ALL TIMES. Be sure to buy baby sunscreen for kids so it doesn’t burn if it gets in their eyes. Keep your children hydrated and free from sunburn or you know who is going to suffer.
18. If traveling with children old enough to participate in the cruiseline’s camp program, use it. Sign up for late dinner, but take turns with another adult (your spouse, partner, a traveling friend, your parents) taking the children to the buffet. One parent gets the room to his or herself to leisurely get ready for dinner while the other makes sure the kids are fed and off to night-camp. Alternatively, if you wish to eat in the dining room as a family, have one parent get ready early while the other remains at the pool with the kids. Rinse the kids off at the pool, take them to the room and get them dressed. The ready parent leaves with the kids and lets the other get ready alone. The rooms are small and having time to calmly get ready for dinner will re-charge your batteries. Otherwise, chaos abounds.
19. Sharing cabins with three or four people will save money. However, on boats with designated dining times, getting ready for dinner is tough. You should devise a plan with your roommates on who will get ready early-and leave the cabin on each day of the cruise. I find that waiting your turn at the closest bar works just fine. This avoids aggravation. On many of the newer ships, there are showers (complete with shower gel and shampoo and clean towels) in the spa area. It’s not a bad idea to rotate being the designated upstairs showerer a couple of mornings or nights during the cruise. This eliminates the need for someone to have to cut their day short to get ready for dinner. Bring a clean cover-up to wear to run back to your room after your shower.
20. FOR GROUPS: SET OUT THE GROUND RULES. Coordinate your shore plans for the next day, with friends and family at dinner each night. This avoids the chasing-people-down after dinner problem. Set a time to meet at the gangway. Be sure to let everyone know that the meeting time is set in stone, and fun waits for no man. And if your friends or family are not on time, leave without them. The best way to ruin a good time is to start it by being aggravated. So if they snooze– they lose. I give them a five-minute window. No show-no go. They will catch up with you if it is what they want to do. Cruising with a group is so appealing because everyone can do what they want to do and still have a plenty of opportunities to be with their family and friends.