I apologize this post is so late. The last week I have been a little under the weather, and to be honest, I haven’t even unpacked my suit case yet. Today is the first day in five days I’ve been able to muster up the energy to write anything. I’ll start off by saying that I absolutely loved the cruise! I went for a friends bachelorette party, a quick 3 night sail to the Bahamas. This was my first experience, so I may be a little biased, but I wanted to share my honest opinions of the cruise life, the do’s and don’ts, and what you expect when planning your trip. Lets start with what to expect when planning.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN PLANNING A CRUISE
- Right fit: Before you even consider booking a ticket, you should ask yourself if cruising is right for you. If you like to do a ton of excursions, be on land or travel by yourself, a cruise may not be the best option for you. I would recommend a cruise stay to anyone looking to travel in groups, is celebrating an event, or would like a quick getaway with an all inclusive package
- Costs: Cruise prices range from extremely cheap sale fares to super-pricey rates for fancy suites on luxury lines. Remember that cruise fare includes your accommodations, meals in main dining venues, activities (including children’s programs) and nighttime entertainment — not to mention transportation from port to port. When you factor in all of the costs you’d incur on a land vacation, you may find that you can have some serious savings by booking a cruise. Keep in mind, while cruise rates can be cheap, they are not all inclusive- and adding on a drink package, extra excursions, tips, and gratuity can add up quickly.
- Safety: Ships must follow an extraordinary number of rules and regulations that protect passengers’ safety while onboard. You can expect a 15-20 minute mandatory safety routine check on the first day. Other than that I felt completely safe the entire time on board. Ships are like mini-citites: be sure to take the same precautions as you would on any land travels. Keep any valuables in your cabin’s safe, parents should keep a close eye on their children, especially around water, and be sure to bring your ID with you wherever you go.
- Planning: My key tips here are to make sure everyone in your room or your group is on the same page. If you want to have dinner at the same table with another room of your group- make sure to call the cruise and request an “open inquiry” that way you can sit together at the selected time of choice. Also, make sure to book any excursions ahead of time to avoid any troubles or blocked out times later. CHECK IN EARLY – make sure you check in early online and have all of your passes printed for quick access to board the ship. It took us only 20 minutes to get through security and on to the ship!
- Parking: Instead of paying expensive Port Parking Fees, research your options ahead of time and check for parking areas that offer shuttle service to and from the port. We found a parking deck that charged us $10 less per day with free shuttles, and was less than 10 min from the port.
DO’s & DONT’S
- DON’T neglect passport and visa requirements. You don’t want to be denied boarding or not be allowed off the ship at a port of call!
- DON’T forget sunscreen. It’s expensive to purchase on the ship.
- DO be aware that gratuities are either paid before cruising or charged to your onboard account. This is an additional expense and not part of the cruise purchase. (We did not pay before and we had about $50 extra in charges – each!)
- DO arrive on time for the mandatory safety drill. This is required by all pasengers and will happen about an hour before you set sail.
- DO be prepared to have your photo taken. You WILL get asked constantly for your photo to be taken, a tactic to make you buy prints later. If you want to opt-out, just kindly smile say “no thank you” and move along. They will push you, just keep moving.
- DO make sure to tell your server about any food allergies you may have. On my last night the bride and I both left dinner from having allergic reactions. Even though we warned them. DO be sure to have the appropriate medicine with you in case of an emergency.
- DO be prepared for motion sickness. Although I never truly felt sick, I took dramamine anyway, and I think it helped.
- DO make sure to leave the ship and explore, especially if you are on a short cruise. I was with a group of 9 and two of us got off the ship on the first day to go explore. The second day on land was cancelled because of rough seas. Even though getting your worth of the drink package is inticing, make sure you have time to experience it ALL!
- DON’T pack too much. You will most likely be in your bathing suit the whole time. DO pack one or two nice evening outfits if you are dining in the main room.
- DO purchase lanyards for sea cards. This is great idea. The maid of honor brought lanyards for us so that we could all keep track of our cards, right around our neck. When you receive your cards at check in, simply ask them to punch them for you.
Last but not least you get to hear a little about my experience as a first-time cruiser. I was a bit nervous; fear of ships kept me from ever booking my own trip. A bachelorette party was the key to break me out of my shell. I found through this experience that I am more of a land person. Not that the cruise wasn’t great, Royal Caribbean did a fantastic job and I will use their ships the next time I return, but the cruise ship is basically like sitting at an all inclusive resort. It’s a great choice, especially cost wise, to have everything right at your fingertips.
Personally, I like to travel by land. Cruises are very quick and you only get a certain amount of hours off board each day. If you book a longer cruise I would expect to pay a lot more money, because you’ll want to book activities to change up your day. While the inclusive package was a nice deal, I’m an adventurer. I enjoy the process of getting to the destination, and then having multiple days to explore it. You don’t quite get that on a 3 night cruise to the Bahamas.
My honest rating? 8/10! The second day at Coco Cay being cancelled was a real bummer, and it seemed to be understaffed and extremely hard to get drinks all day. Besides some minor issues we had a great time during our stay. The staff was so hospitable, the rooms were clean, and the food was great. I’m very satisfied with my vacation and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon!
What are your thoughts about cruising? Do you like travel by sea, or are you like me and prefer to travel by land? Any do’s and don’ts I missed? Leave me a comment about your experiences!