Ocean and River cruising is more popular than ever, and the cruise industry has taken note with new cruise terminals, expanded ports of call, and new ships sailing in 2024. If you’re thinking about taking a cruise for the first time or are a veteran cruiser, refreshing yourself on some tips will help you navigate your next vacation like a pro. Cruise travel is one of our areas of expertise, so if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, an extended family trip or even a solo journey in the New Year, look no further to begin planning. Here are our top to-dos for cruising this year.
Show up early. Take away the worry of missing your ship due to a missed flight connection or other issue beyond your control. We recommend arriving at your embarkation point at least a day or two in advance. That way you’re refreshed and ready to begin your cruise experience without hassle. On boarding day, plan to arrive around 11-11:30am. This will let you explore the ship and check out the lunch buffet ahead of those arriving later.
Familiarize yourself with the ship. Ships come in all sizes from a 100 passenger yacht or river ship to mega ships with lots of bells and whistles. Many cruise lines have virtual tours on YouTube or on their websites so you can familiarize yourself with the layout before you embark. Make sure to maximize your knowledge of what your ship has to offer by picking up a deck plan either in your stateroom or at the customer service desk. Once you’re settled, go on a scouting mission to locate the dining room, pool, spa, and other areas of interest. Also be on the lookout for little quiet nooks where you can get away from time to time.
Have the right documents. Bring a passport booklet with you on your cruise. While passport cards allow access at sea and road ports-of-entry between the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda, there is no downside to an actual passport; you’ll need it to fly home unexpectedly from another country. Also don’t assume that a passport is all you need. Your travel consultant will let you know of any visa requirements for the countries you plan to visit. When you arrive at your stateroom, place photocopies (front and back) of your passport in the cabin’s safe and bring your passport with you during ports of call. The same goes for credit cards and other sensitive documents.
Bring a carry-on. After you check in at the cruise terminal, it may take several hours for your luggage to be delivered to your room. Think about some items that will make you more comfortable as you wait for your belongings such as toiletries, a simple change of clothes, or a swimsuit. As for your main suitcase, don’t over pack! Bring the essentials and don’t’ skimp on sunscreen, but lugging around too much will be a burden. Remember – standard staterooms while well-organized are smaller than traditional hotel rooms.
Explore and book shore excursions in advance. Don’t just walk around a commercial port. You’ll have a much more fulfilling experience when you take advantage of the many excursions offered at each port of call. Top experiences can fill up fast, so utilizing a travel expert will make sure you aren’t left picking up the crumbs.
On-board packages. Higher end cruise lines now have fares that include the coveted Beverage package plus other necessary amenities. We can assist you in deciding what is your best option. Also check the ship’s policy for bringing food/beverages on board such as a nice bottle of wine and snacks. As far as staying connected via Wi-Fi, the technology is improving but don’t rely on high-speed internet. Wi-Fi packages are available but connectivity can be spotty. Also make sure to call your cell carrier in advance to inquire about on-ship roaming charges. Better yet, just disconnect – you’ll appreciate the time away from your devices.
Travel insurance. A cruise is an investment in time and money and should be protected. Travel insurance is a must because it covers unforeseen circumstances such as emergency cancellation/interruption, medical emergencies, travel delays, itinerary changes, and baggage. It’s a small investment for peace-of-mind for any cruise journey.
Make 2024 the year you take a much-needed cruise vacation! Whether you’re a newbie or experienced cruiser, these tips will help make your vacation as stress free as possible. What other cruising tips do you have? Leave us a comment!