5 Tips For Your First Cruise

Laura Foster PhotographyIf you’re going on your first cruise, here are some helpful tips to make your vacation smooth sailing.

1) Do your research.

With the idea of what type of vacation experience you want in mind, look on different cruise line websites to find the cruise line that’s right for you. Look at the different services each particular cruise ship offers to get a better of idea of what will be available to you while you’re at sea.

Knowing whether or not your cruise ship has a self-serve Laundromat, for example, will help you begin to plan for your vacation properly. Youtube is also another helpful resource if you want to get a better idea of what a particular cruise ship looks like.

Don’t forget to look up the customs of each country your cruise will visit. In some cases you may have to get your passport stamped in order to enter certain countries once your ship arrives. For other countries where this is not necessary, be sure to take a photocopy of your passport as ID, leaving your original passport in your stateroom safe.

2) Plan ahead.

Most cruise lines offer passengers the ability to book spa appointments and shore excursions in advance (often up to 120 days prior to the vacation sail date). By booking in advance, you have a better chance at getting the shore excursions you want (swimming with the dolphins often sells out fast!), plus you make it easier for you to get an idea of what to pack (if you need particular clothing items in order to participate in a shore excursion).

Some passengers are unaware that when booking a cruise you can request a reserved dinner table, rather than being placed at a table with strangers. This can also be booked ahead of time, and it will give you a better chance of getting a reserved dinner table to yourself.

3) Pack light.

Cruises are great in the fact that you get to travel to different islands and countries while still having the same room, and thus you don’t have to live out of a suit case. However, staterooms are smaller than most hotel rooms, and therefore have less storage space. Packing clothes that you mix and match throughout your trip will help cut down on the amount of clothes you have to store in your room.

The rule of thumb for the amount of formal nights on a cruise often depends on the number of nights at sea (minus the last night before disembarkment). Make sure to check with your travel agent or the cruise line to verify how many nights there are on your vacation, and what the dress code is like.

Also, if you’re flying to the port of embarkment, your best bet is to leave toiletries at home. While cruise ships have these essentials for sale in their shops, they are often slightly more expensive. If you can purchase them on shore before boarding the ship, try to get travel-size versions.

4) Avoid Seasickness.

While today’s ships are more stabilized than they were a few decades ago, it is still important to keep in mind that you are walking on water. The best way to keep from falling over when the ship is moving is to tread the ship like a giant surf board.

When moving around the ship, keep your feet a foot or two away from each other, and bend with your knees. And if you feel the need to use the handrails provided throughout the ship, do so!

Since there is constant motion while you’re at sea, some passengers tend to be prone to sea sickness more than others. Before you leave on vacation, stop by your local drug store to grab a pair of seasick bracelets. They have tiny plastic balls that put slight pressure on the inside of your wrist.

Also, keep apples on hand in your stateroom. Pectin in apples is known to help aid stomach upsets. Make sure to get fresh air (if you have a balcony, keep it slightly ajar), and if your seasickness gets worse, ask your stateroom attendant for seasick pills. The ones the cruise lines carry are often stronger than the drug store versions you can buy at home (even the crew get seasick from time to time).

5) Plan a budget.

Your bill can add up quickly. To avoid a surprise at the end of your vacation (and to avoid the long lineups at the front desk on your last day) make sure to check your bill a couple of days prior to your last night on the ship incase there are any discrepancies.

Set aside enough cash for spending on shore excursions, at the ship’s stores, and at the casino. Don’t forget to leave enough money for gratuities. The cruise line you go with may add gratuities to your bill per day for your stateroom attendant and the servers at the main dining room, so be sure to check if this has been done so you don’t end up with less than what you originally planned to spend by tipping twice.

There are several travel agencies on the Danforth, and by speaking to a travel agent you will get information directly from an expert that can give you advice on planning the perfect vacation. Happy sailing!

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