I wish I knew this before I went on a cruise
So you've booked your cruise. You're all excited and you can't wait to leave on that long awaited vacation. You know it will be great one since you've done your research and you know that the ship has most or all of the things that you need. But how are you supposed to get ready for it?
Pack all your essentials
Yes, the not so fun part for most of us is the packing. You have to bring the right stuff with you. If you're going down to somewhere hot, then bring your summer clothes, bathing suits (I emphasize on the plural), sunscreen, hat, sunglasses...
If you're going to somewhere cold like Alaska or somewhere that rains a lot, then bring some thicker layers. You should also bring waterproof or at least water repellant shoes or boots. Bring a scarf, some gloves, a wind breaker. I think you know what I mean by now.
Also, don't forget that dress or suit for formal nights. Most cruise ships have these events and some won't let you in the main dining room if you're not properly dressed. Although some ships now do not have formal nights anymore. Some ships are also more lenient on the dress code. So make sure you do your research on the dress code before you pack.
Book a hotel
I STRONGLY suggest that you book a hotel the night before you leave on your cruise. Somewhere not too far from your embarkation port. It will take away so much stress on embarkation day. You won't have to worry about your flight being late or getting lost and risk the ship leaving without you. Then you will have to find a way to get to the next destination and get on the ship. That means extra costs, extra stress and a bad experience. You're supposed to be enjoying your long awaited vacation. So plan a bit more money on the side to rent a hotel room and plus you'll get to enjoy the city a bit more. It will be part of the vacation.
Download the app of the ship
Most cruise lines have an app these days that will help you with your check-in, planning your daily activities, tracking your spending and even communicating with your friends and family. For example, the Norwegian app allows you to chat or call within their app when you're on their ship. You will also have the daily activities listed every day, with the different port of calls and the excursions offered for each of them.
Book your activities in advance
Planning ahead is usually the good way to go. Book your specialty dining ahead of time. I suggest doing so on embarkation day. As you will have more chances of booking the restaurant that you like on the day and time that you want. Some restaurants or more popular than others and are harder to book. The same could be said for shows. A lot of them have limited space and could be hard to book at popular times. You could be stuck watching a show that ends at 11pm and then needing to leave for an excursion the next day at 7am. So that brings me to booking your excursions ahead as well so you can plan a more pleasant vacation. So do your research on the restaurants, shows and excursions that interest you most, so that you can book them as soon as they are made available.
If you're not into planning too much, well you can also wing it for everything if you don't mind risking not being able to do some of the things you had set out to do. There are many activities and restaurants on the ship. So you can always find something to do and somewhere to eat. As for the excursions, there are always people selling tours and excursions right when you get off the ship at every port of call. However, the risk of going with them is that if you are late getting back to the ship, it will sail without you. If you booked an excursion with the ship, they will always for you if the excursion is late coming back. There also the risk that the quality of the excursions are not as good as the ones offered on the cruise. Some are really good. Do you research! ;)
Give yourself enough time to get to airport
The day you get off the ship can be another stressful day. You must have all of your stuff packed and ready to go. You can go grab a quick breakfast and wait for your turn to get off the ship. So if you didn't plan enough time to get off the ship and enough time to get to the airport and go through security and all that jazz, then you might risk missing your flight. That is more stress that you do not want to have. Give yourself ample time for those things.
I'm the type that likes to be surprised when I'm travelling. If I do too much planning, then I would have had the equivalent of a spoiler of a movie. So I rather have someone else do the planning for me, especially if I don't have all the time required for researching. Get in touch with a travel consultant. They are there to help you plan and get you ready for a wonderful experience.
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Have fun! Live a happy life! Book yourself a cruise!