There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.¨
How to Get the Most Out of Your Cruise
What I Like About Cruises
- Enjoy the variety of entertainment onboard.
- Love relaxing with a book while gazing at the ocean.
- Relish trying the variety of food and dining options aboard.
I like cruise ships because I:
- Have met some fascinating people by choosing to dine at different tables throughout the cruise. (Most cruises now offer ¨free time¨ dining which allows you to change tables every night).
Cruises are the best way to get an overview tour of destinations that are hard to reach by other means of transport. For example, it costs as much money to travel between ports featured on Patagonian cruises by plane as the cost of the entire cruise.
Besides, you can get a good feel for these regions by visiting many ports (especially if these ports are on small islands) for a day each. (I do not get a good feel for a big city, country, or region on a cruise).
However, I would not say I like traveling to many large cities on a cruise ship. Spending one day in Rome, for example, is frustrating. There is so much to do and so many people, and I feel like a kid in a candy store who cannot go inside. However, cruises can be an excellent way to get a feel for small islands and rural areas.
Holland America is the best cruise ship for discovering a bit about your destination. The ships are small (1000-2000 people), and Holland America also usually has a well-educated (though older) clientele. And they integrate their destination into their voyages through academic lectures, local entertainment, and offering local specialties on their menus.
What I Don’t Like About Cruises
Cruises do, however, sometimes overwhelm some sights with visitors. When I visited Saint Mark’s Plaza in Venice on the same day as four large cruise ships in 2016, I was a bit scared to be crushed by the crowds of tourists. That said, there are several straightforward ways to avoid this situation on these cruises, including:
- Scheduling tours to places outside of the port city. My favorite trips are either day-long visits that explore a particular island or region (my best day tour was around the island of Corsica) or a theme. (I have had particularly good luck with food-related tours).
- Avoiding visiting places that are incredibly well-known, like Saint Mark’s Square in Venice or the Vatican.
- Considering avoiding Mediterranean cruises unless you are willing to go to little-known places. The main sights will be overwhelmed by visitors when cruise ships are in port. (Remember most of the ports were built centuries ago and are not well suited to a large group). Fortunately, however, all ports are close to some fascinating lesser-known places. (For example, one of my favorite cruise tours was to Hadrian palace and Tivoli gardens outside of Rome).
Mention norovirus-handwashing-be careful if you have a cold can be contagious fast (SAS story).
Talk about sea sickness- I am lucky only once in Galapagos. Bracelet-Dramamine-avoid dehydration. Ginger- common in places with rough seas- Cape of Good Hope, Cape of Good Horn, and Atlantic crossings (northern-but not bad for me)- talk about your story. Be careful to put electronics and glassware in drawers/closets-they can fly…
Be careful with doors- some significant steps to enter parts of the ship, wind.
Talk about key card-need it to enter/reenter ship, buy things, open cabin door, turn on the electricity, etc.
Do not book to go to a specific port (i.e., north Atlantic cruisers were disappointed at not visiting Shetland island and wanted to buy lamb yarn for knitting). Maybe mention the inability to see northern lights in Iceland.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Cruise
, Choosing a cabin,
Meals (can eat multiple servings, small servings in the dining room/multiple courses/European style). Assigned dining time/table. Possible table for couples. Buffet-good for families/mention Claudette. I like when alone to eat in my free time dining and sit with different people (though I find that I will sit with some of the same people if I do not vary the time I eat much).
Good to board the ship a bit early and eat at a buffet or restaurant… talk about eating at the buffet for breakfast on port days and last days… issues on departure/arrival day. Use the first day to get to know the ship…last day chaos—
Importance of having baggage tag—story for Alaska. Also, let people know that baggage is not available until later in the embarkation day and that they need to be prepared not to have access to their luggage on the morning of arrival day.
Muster drills common objections and reality,
Cruise packing 101
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who did not feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a clever idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets and bureaus. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: thou shalt put into one’s suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because cruising has become a much more casual vacation — even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it is only plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you are going to wear on a cruise so you do not pack your entire closet. If you are wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you will need to pack.
Onboard Cruise Costs
- this is where they make money and where you need to be most thoughtful. Spa services very expensive. But hairdressers good and at least for men not terribly expensive..I find it a good place to buy clothes for large men and watches. May also be good for jewelry. – Tips included on all services, including spas, drinks, etc… high cost of alcohol on some ships… buying a bottle of wine for use in dining room… speciality dining- exclusive dining experience on royal caribbean… realize that nothing is free, unless you are told it is so in advance. On a recent cruise, I took their welcome aboard cocktail because I thought it was free. It turned out that I ended up paying for it, though I would not have taken it if I had known I would have to pay for it. I do not like buffets- too many people, hard to find utensils, sometimes hard to find a place to sit particularly for one person or a couple, etc. Also, when you are alone, they often take your food away if you walk away for a minute to get coffee. Sometimes for breakfast or lunch I eat in the cafes on-board. They have tasty sandwiches and sweets for free. Also sometimes eat pizzas and hamburgers poolside. Remember you can take food with you to the cabin. I often do this for claudette
- Value of loyalty programs. Can get free speciality dining, laundry, internet, etc. If you use the same line several times. I usually do not get that much because I like to switch different lines to see how they alike/different. That said, I choose a trip for its itinerary rather than the line.
- Internet and phone services (quite expensive. Some cruise companies offer you unlimited internet access that costs between $10-$25 a day. Telephone calls are often $6 a minute. I usually wait until I am port to make calls or check the internet. I also often check the internet every other day on long cross ocean passages. Note: the internet service on-board is usually not as good as on-land). Cruises also add a daily gratuity for housekeeping, etc. (Usually between $12-$15 a day) plus a 15-20% gratuity for bar and spa services. (You can request that the cruise line eliminate this charge, however, please keep in mind that you are depriving the often overworked and underpaid staff of income if you elect to do so).
Shore excursion/private tours,
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