Tips for the First Time Cruiser
Every passenger embarks on a first cruise at least once. For smooth sailing, these tips can help make your initial embarkation and first evening on board just a little more comfortable.
1. Bring along some single dollar bills for the luggage handlers at the pier. (if you’re planning to see the luggage again) They are not cruise line employees but members of the stevedores union.
2. After receiving your confirmation number, fill out passenger information forms on the cruise line website and additional forms sent by the cruise line (if any). These forms are required by the government customs office must be filled out on line prior to boarding the ship.
3. If you are flying to the port city early for a pre-cruise hotel stay, be sure to read your documents for luggage instructions. Do not attach cruise line luggage tags until the day you are ready to board the ship. Make sure your name and cabin number are clearly printed on the tags. Be sure to keep a carry on bag containing your necessities, medications, travel documents, jewelry and such. Some cruise lines allow you to carry on all of your luggage if you feel you can handle it yourself. Otherwise, you leave your luggage with the handler at the pier and your luggage will be waiting in your room prior to sailing time.
4. Your dining room seating assignment will be listed on the cruise card that you are given upon embarkation. If there is an error, proceed to the Maître’d immediately. Trust me, there will already be a line! Most ships have dining room personnel stationed in a specified lounge to assist with problems and special requests.
5. Make the very next stop the spa/salon area if you really have your heart set on a particular service. Make scheduling hair appointments one of your first priorities. Even at the quite high prices on board ship they sell out quickly as everyone wants the services on days at sea and of course right before formal nights.
6. On seven night sailings there are usually two formal nights. Usually it is the second night of the sailing and the second to the last night of sailing. These are the nights when people like to dress up, men wear suits, jackets with ties, or tuxs and women wear cocktail dresses, and on some sailing gowns.
7. The ships photographers capture your cruising memories. The photographer set up backdrops around the ship nightly. Most people like to take formal night photo’s. On that night the lines can be long but I’ve found that if you go exactly at dinner time, you won’t have to wait as most guests are heading toward the dining room. There is no charge for the photo’s unless you decide to purchase.
1. Don’t get upset when you see the long lines for the welcome lunch buffet on the first day of sailing. They won’t be like that on other days. For future reference, never rush to get to buffets at the moment they begin serving. Trust me, there is enough food and no reason to rush and wait in line. Let the onslaught pass you by.
2. Don’t rush to wait for the dining room to open. If your dinner seating is at 8:30, arrive at 8:32. Those who are there at 8:15 will spend the next twenty minutes huddled in a huge crowd waiting for the door to open. Your table is assigned and you will be just as “on time” walking in at end of the crush.
3. Don’t think those lovely bon voyage drinks in souvenir glasses that are repeatedly offered to you are complimentary. They aren’t! Drinks are served on board in regular glasses and souvenir glasses. The ones in souvenir glasses are more expensive and you can buy souvenir glasses later in the shop. Many people don’t even realize they paid for the glass and walk away, leaving it on the table when they are finished. Buy a regular drink in a lounge or ask the bar server to bring you a drink without the souvenir glass—unless you really want it.
4. Don’t go nuts waiting for your luggage. Luggage usually arrives in your room before sailing. If it doesn’t call the front desk. The evening dress code is casual the first night on board and no one really feels like dressing up after a travel day.
5. Don’t get crazy, you’re on vacation! You’ll figure everything out quickly enough.
Remember—on your next cruise, you’ll become a veteran Cruise Event client and as most people do, you’ll reserve your next cruise as soon as you return from your first one.
You’ve made it to the ship, through the check in process, and are on board. It’s somewhat like a hotel, but it moves. What can you expect in this new, yet vaguely familiar, environment? What’s expected of you?
1. Lifeboat Drill (or muster) is a mandatory participation event. On occasion I’ve seen nice couples looking over the rail at those of us dutifully wrapped in our orange jackets. Chuckling to themselves, they’re oblivious to the fact that they are breaking the strict policy of proper adherence to the Mandatory Coast Guard Lifeboat Drill. Many lines actually check cabins and most even check off names and cabin numbers at muster stations during the drill. Absentees are eventually scooped up by crewmembers who are roaming the ship in search of drill skippers. In the meantime, everyone else stands patiently, waiting in discomfort for the stragglers!
2. Tablemates can make or break a cruise for you. I happen to like meeting new people and have been very fortunate to have some wonderful tablemates through the years. But the worst can happen and you could be paired up with some folks that just aren’t going to make it for you. In such a case there is salvation. If it’s really necessary, see the Maître’d and quietly request a different table assignment.
3. In many ways, a cruise ship operates like a hotel and, therefore, has a very distinct pecking order. Bars have a Bar Manager. Cabin services answer to a Head Steward. Dining rooms have a headwaiter and Maître’d. Find these people to correct a problem if you encounter one in their respective domains. When all else fails, there is one officer who bears ultimate responsibility and has the authority to insure passenger comfort and happiness. Every ship has a Hotel Manager. His or her authority is almost comparable to the Captain’s. When all else fails, seek the Hotel Manager for satisfaction.
4. Like me, many people suffer seasickness easily if they don’t take precautions. My personal remedy of preference is Bonine, an over the counter Dramamine type drug. The point that I can’t stress strongly enough is that it’s not what you use to counteract seasickness, but that it must be used before you encounter symptoms. Bonine or an equivalent is also usually available free of charge at the Pursers Desk or the ship’s Medical Center. Ask your doctor prior to taking any medications.
5. Most ships add gratuity to your shipboard account on a daily basis. While on board you can add on delete to this number as you wish. You can get a daily accounting of what is on your shipboard account from the pursers office or some ships list your account directly on your in room TV.