Tips for new cruisers

Before You Leave – Most cruise lines you will need to register on-line, to check-in, print documents and make your plans. Look very closely at all of our documents, check that all names are spelled correctly, stateroom is correct, and all amenities are listed on your documents.

Once registered you can make plans, book dinners, purchase shore excursions, and add entertainment reservations.

Before you leave, make copies of your passports and leave with someone who can be reached in the event the passport is lost or misplaced and you need a copy faxed to you (if you have sent them to me you may contact me to have them sent).

Print up all of your boarding documents (unless I have printed them for you) and ensure you have the correct identification. Passports are the best, and for some countries must be good for 6 months after travel. Some destinations require a visa, so do your research and make sure you have everything you need. It’s always good to have a folder with all of your travel documents and identification, pens for filling out forms, and blank paper in case you need to write down instructions. (I send all of this to you)

I also suggest making a little emergency bag to keep in your carry on. It is always good to have supplies like aspirin, Band-Aids, eye drops, saline, moisturized wipes, antacid, Bonnine, and anything else you can think of – I call it my “just in case bag”. These items tend to be very expensive when purchased on the ship.

Some packing tips and tricks – before you go make “port packets” with maps, shore excursion tickets, names/addresses of the places you want to visit so as you arrive at each port you have all your information handy. (If you pre-booked any of this with me it will be included in your packet.)

Don’t forget a highlighter, each evening you will receive the next day’s schedule in your stateroom, take some time to go over all of the events and activities and highlight your “can’t miss” items for the next day and night. Bring some singles for tipping bartenders or anyone who gives you above and beyond service (this is not a requirement but it is nice to do and more times than not you will get extra attention).

There are usually only one or two outlets in the room so a power strip (non surge protected) comes in handy for charging phones/cameras.

Bonine/motion sickness pills are a great medicine for sea-sickness because it does not make you tired like Dramamine. You can also purchase “sea bands” which work by accu-pressure and green apples are also helpful when you are feeling queasy.

You may want to bring insulated mugs to fill with warm coffee or hot chocolate, especially for sea-days when you are out on deck or your balcony watching the amazing scenery.

Last of all, pack your patience. Sometimes there will be lines in debarking/embarking, going to shows or buffets, don’t let it get to you. Relax, enjoy and remember you are on vacation; you can always people watch as you wait.

Embarkation – the day of embarkation you should arrive at the pier for 12:00pm boarding, or at your scheduled time if your line has scheduled times.

You will check your bags prior to boarding the ship and your suitcases will be delivered to your stateroom. Use the tags I have supplied. If you need more you can get them from the porter on embarkation day at the port. Make sure you keep important items with you in your carry on as well as a change of clothes just in case it takes a while for your suitcases to be delivered to your stateroom. That being said, most likely your room will not be ready when you board, so you don’t want too heavy of a carry on. Never ever pack medicine, electronics or money in your checked bag as sometimes they will go through your bag if they see something on the x-ray and things can go missing.

When you check in you will provide your identification and you will be required to give a credit card for your on-board expenses (if you did not already do this online).  You will be given a “cruise card” which is your room key and also how you pay for everything on the ship from shops to bars to the spa, the cruise is cash-free except for the Casino. As you are walking on the ship there will be a photographer to take a family photo, think of it as your “before” picture, before you fell in love with cruising! ☺

Once you are on board you can go for lunch and take some time to tour the ship, take pictures,  and start enjoying your vacation!

Before you sail there is a mandatory life-boat drill. Every passenger must attend (most ships are now doing this through the app on your phone or you watch a video on the tv and once you have completed this you will need to go check in at your designated muster station. If you do not complete this prior to sailing they will call your name over the loudspeaker). Once the drill is complete find a nice place on deck for your sail-away.

You should also make reservations for dinner if you have a large party (unless we scheduled it during booking). On that note you should make your specialty dining reservations ahead of time and check each morning that your reservation time is confirmed to save you waiting for a table each night and you will ensure you are dining at your desired time every evening.

You will probably meet your room steward very shortly after boarding. They are usually wonderful and will get you anything you need. They usually work in pairs and provide cleaning as well as turn down service. Let them know if you want ice each evening, extra pillows, etc.

You can pre-purchase soda and/or coffee cards or beverage packages which, if you will be drinking a lot (7 or more a day) of either, works out cheaper than paying individually. The average mixed drink is between 8 and 10 dollars. Regular coffee is free, but they have specialty coffee, like Starbucks type and there is a charge for those.

Sea Days – This is your time to do as little or as much as you like. There is plenty to do on the ship, and there will be talks about the upcoming ports of call. This is where your daily schedule comes in handy, you should have it with you, and you won’t miss a thing. Or, you can just relax, if you want to be in the thick of the fun, get a seat by the pool, (in hot climates), and if you are more into a quiet day with a book, you will want to find a nice spot on an upper deck away from the pool, or and adult only area.

Port Days – When you arrive in port your ship will clear customs, and there will be a general announcement advising when the ship is ready for visitors to leave the ship. If you are docked at a pier, you will be able to walk right off of the ship and start touring. ALWAYS make sure you have your cruise card, and a picture ID with you, you cannot leave the ship without both.

If you are not docked at a pier, you will have to tender, which is a smaller boat from the ship, and this takes a little longer to get everyone off. Usually they will give out numbers so if you want to get off early, be ready to run and get your number as soon as they start handing them out.

If you are on a ship’s excursion, you usually get priority tender tickets.

Most important, be aware of the time you need to be back on the ship, it WILL NOT WAIT if you are late, unless you are on a ship’s excursion.

Also make sure you are aware of local times, sometimes there are time changes, and you don’t want to miss the boat because you were in the wrong time zone. If you are at all unsure, just ask as you are getting off.

Disembarkation – when your amazing cruise vacation is nearing the end, you will receive information in regard to disembarkation.

When you arrive back at your home port, the ship will start letting passengers off as soon as they clear customs.

The first people off will be “walk-offs” which simply means anyone who can walk off with all of their luggage.  If that is your choice, you will NOT put your luggage out the night before, but keep it in your stateroom, and when the ship clears, you just walk right off and go to customs.

If you do not want to bother with that, the last night of your cruise you will receive colored tags for your luggage. Put the tag on your luggage and leave your luggage outside your door by midnight (varies by cruise line). Please if you are flying home from a cruise, do not book your flight to depart before noon. This will save you in case of issues (traffic, disembarkation delay, transportation line if not pre-booked and so on). The next morning you can relax, have breakfast until they tell you it is time to disembark.

Once you disembark the ship, pick-up your luggage and go to customs (if required). (I suggest getting a porter, for a $5 tip, you will not have to wait in a long customs line.) Make sure you have your identification and customs form filled out (if necessary), and getting through will be a breeze.

Ready to plan your next cruise? Call 540-759-3590 and let Perfect Getaways LLC help you today.

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