15 of the most important things you should know before going on a cruise.
Going on a cruise is a very popular way to take a vacation and see a number of different places. The entire time on the boat can be a party, and as you sleep the ship is driving you to the next port that you’ll be visiting when you wake up. There is a lot of things that people don’t know about taking a cruise and we hope to dispel some myths and help inform would-be cruise goers.
The first thing you should know is that it pays to shop around. The cruise lines and all the travel agents will offer you any number of different incentives or upgrades or free things to get you to book through them. It pays to shop around, and to even let the people you work with know what is most important to you of any available freebies. Different things that are given out (but not all) are tip free cruise (your tip is taken care of), free soft drinks, upgraded room, chocolate covered strawberries in your cabin when you arrive or cruise cash (money to be spend on board the ship). You’ll find that most places will charge you about the same amount of the same cabin, its the bonuses that you’re shopping around for.
Soft Drinks Are NOT Free!
With most tickets you’ll find that soft drinks are not included in the price of your ticket. Normally most other non alcohol liquids are included, milk, juice & water, but with soft drinks they’ll charge you with every refill. Most cruises now know that people will want to drink soft drinks and will not want to pay for it every time they order a glass so its common to find an upgrade offered giving you unlimited soft drinks for a set price. If you normally drink a few soft drinks a day and would like to continue on the cruise then this option will likely save you a good amount while also avoiding the hassle of needing to pay every time you want a drink.
That Liquor You Bought In Port Must Be Checked
As a general rule any liquor you try to bring on the ship must be checked and you will receive it the last night of your cruise. The same applies to any full bottles of liquor that you buy on board the ship. Most cruise lines also prohibit you from bringing liquor aboard when the cruise starts too. You’ll want to read the full set of paperwork that they give you as you may be able to bring in a bottle of wine or champagne. This brings us to our next pointer…
Anything You Bring On Board Will Be Put Through An X-ray!
When you first board the ship they will get you checked in and put your luggage off to the side so that it can be put through an x-ray. This is done for the safety of everyone on board the ship, and to make sure that prohibited items are not snuck on board. All bags that you bring on board the ship at any point in the future are also subject to being inspected. Depending on what you attempt to sneak on board the crew may confiscate the items to removing you from the ship and notifying local authorities.
Bring A Carry On Bag
In the last section we covered how your bags will be inspected prior to being accepted onto the ship. All of that takes time, and its not uncommon for it to take a few hours to have your luggage brought to your room. For this reason its encouraged to bring a carry on bag containing some items that you’ll want before your bags are brought to your room. We suggest a change of clothes (swim suit), some sun screen, medication and maybe a good book.
All The Staff Are Working Insanely Hard To Give You A Great Experience
One thing you will likely notice early on is how many people are there just to give you the best experience. On their name tags you’ll almost always find a flag of their home country. These people often work long hours for weeks or even months without a day off and for very little money. Because the ship is flying under a flag of a country that does not require a high minimum wage they are able to pay all the staff very little money. Because of this the staff of the ship really relies on tips from the passengers. If you have gotten fantastic service from someone make sure you tip them!
Tipping May Not Be Required (But It Kind Of Is)
One thing that you’ll find in the paperwork they give you for the cruise is that a per day gratuity per person will be included in your final bill. Make sure that you plan ahead for this as it is an additional tip above and beyond anything that you’ve paid for while on the ship. In some cases you may be able to have this gratuity removed, but the cruise will likely make it difficult to do so. As mentioned in our last point the staff work really hard for you and rely upon these tips to make up for the low wages they are paid.
If You Are Caught Breaking The Rules You Can Be Removed
I’ve spoken at length with a security officer who worked for years on a cruise ship and he listed many things that could happen for rule breaking. Depending on the severity of what happens the passenger may be confined to quarters for the day, or even the duration of the cruise. In some cases they can be removed from the ship at the next port, where they will have to get home at their own expense. In the most extreme cases the Coast Guard would be called and the guest would be turned over to them. If someone is ever removed from the ship they can also expect to be banned for life from the cruise line.
Bring Your Own Drinks
I know you read the heading for this listing and are likely wondering what we mean when you know you can’t bring alcohol on board. Well, while ships have policies on drinks with alcohol, most don’t have any against bringing non alcohol drinks on. Some smart passengers will pack along a 12 pack of their favorite soft drink in their bags. If you don’t think you’ll need the unlimited soft drink upgrade this can be a way to save quite a bit of money by just bringing your own drink.
Some Rooms Don’t Have Windows
I know this may come as a surprise for some, but the least expensive rooms will often not have a window of any kind. The cruise lines have to do something with all that space in the middle of the ships, so to fill those rooms the price is often lowered. The first cruise I was on we had a “window”, where if you looked through a port hole in the side of the room you could see light entering but not actually make out anything. Make sure you know what type of room you book before you actually book your trip.
Beware The Dress Code!
One thing that some people are not aware of until they arrive is that some activities or restaurants on board the ship will require a certain level of dress code. You should find out what dress code if any will be on your ship so that you are able to pack appropriate clothing. Some ships even fancy it up and require men to be in a suit or tux in the evenings.
Book Your Excursions Early!
At each port there is only so much room for each activity and the best ones will sell out days in advance. When you are given the list of activities for each port you should decide what you want to do and sign up for it as soon as you can to avoid going with plan B. It also helps to do some research ahead of time so that you can avoid disappointment even if you get your first choice. I was excited to go shark diving on my last cruise but was only informed of it being mating season and we would at best see 1-2 sharks when I arrived at the excursion. As I was about to ascend due to low air we finally spotted the only shark we saw, 60 seconds before I had to go.
Don’t Miss The Ship!
When doing excursions, sometimes due to events beyond anyone’s control you will not be back in time before the ship pulls out of port. The good news is that if you are on a ship provided excursion there will be a boat to take you to the ship when you do make it back to port, at no charge. The bad news is that if you are not on a ship provided excursion there is a boat which will take you to the ship for a hefty fee. The thing to remember is that if you are not there at the time the ship leaves you will need to either catch up to it or find your own way home. So don’t miss the ship!
Internet Costs A Fortune!
In the day and age we live in we expect free WIFI when we travel. And just about anywhere but a cruise ship has you covered. On a cruise that has WIFI you can expect to pay around $30 a day for unlimited data ($30 x 7 days = OMG) or in some cases a per megabyte option which will feel equally expensive. The internet cafe may offer a slightly lower price, but likely not much if any. So unless your Instagram fans can’t wait it might be a good idea to detox your body from the internet for a week. Oh before you think about just using your phone to access the internet you should know that roaming at sea will likely cost you far more than roaming anywhere else. There have been instances where people who turned off their data before the ship pulled out of its home port were still hit with insane roaming fees. Best idea it to just turn the data off on the phone and find a hot spot while in a port (yes this is a thing).
International Medical Coverage
Possibly the most important thing we saved for last. What are the odds that you will find in-network coverage of your health care plan in a foreign country? Odds are pretty slim. The good news is that there is a doctor on board the ship that can help with minor issues, cuts or sea sickness. They’re not going to cover much else though. Before you worry about how much this will cost you should be aware that most travel medical insurance plans start at about $1 a day. Depending on what type of coverage you are interested in the price will likely be more, but its going to be far better than paying out of pocket if you should have something happen while on your vacation.