So you just booked an amazing cruise that was so cheap you couldn’t say no to a long weekend away (aren’t cheap cruises the best?!). Now that you’re all booked, passport is in hand and you’re ready to go, you just need something fruity to drink with a little umbrella and you’re all set. Of course, that’s all you really need when you take a cruise. Well, unless you want to travel well and you want to travel safely. Then you might want to take a few minutes to put down your imaginary Bahama Mama and take a few notes. This information could make or break the experience you have on your first cruse – which will form your opinion of cruising for the rest of your life.
This information is from cruise industry experts, past cruisers and people who just know what they’re talking about (law enforcement, for example). Additionally, as a Floridian, cruises are our weekend getaway throughout the year, so I also have some of my own personal experience to throw into the ring. Together, these tidbits will make it possible for you to enjoy your first cruise, book one that’s cheap, stay safe while traveling and just have a good old time.
Check Report Cards
You won’t let your kids play sports without checking their report cards first, right? So why book a cruise, even if it is so cheap it’s practically free, if you don’t check the report card of the ship you’re booking? Ships are an amazing way to see the world (one place to stay, no rental car necessary, food for every meal and entertainment all included!) but they’re also a great place to share things you just don’t want to share. It’s a giant sitting duck when it comes to cleanliness and sanitation – and if one person on that ship gets sick, the rest of you might get whatever they have. So, you want to check out the ship’s report card with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Each cruise ship is rated based on sanitation, cleanliness and everything in between so you know whether or not you’re getting on a ship that manages to get everyone sick on every sailing.
Leave the Jewelry Behind
You don’t like taking off your wedding ring, but that doesn’t mean you like being mugged either, does it? It’s not overly likely to happen, but you should be very careful when traveling on excursions in other countries while you’re in port. For example, a friend was just mugged on a bus in the Dominican Republic while she was on a sight-seeing tour after someone jumped on the back of the bus and ripped her necklace right off her neck. The paperwork on any excursion you book says to wear “minimal” jewelry, but it’s far safer to wear none at all when you’re not on the boat. And when you’re not wearing it, lock it up.
Keep an Eye on the Crew
We’re not saying that they’re not trustworthy, but there’s always that one person, isn’t there? Most cruise ship crew members are among the poorest people in the world. They hail from countries where the quality of life is so poor they have to take a job on cruise ships to make very little money spending a lot of time away from home to support their families. Never accept invitations from crew members to do things in their section of the ship because it might mean they’re just looking for a time frame in which they can be certain that your stateroom is unoccupied. Additionally, while it’s not true of all people who work aboard cruise ships, they consider you wealthy, even if you’re just an average Joe. Just keep your stuff in the safe and not in plain sight. Trust no one – it’s sad, but it’s going to protect you.
On that note, do be nice to the people working on the ship. Their job is to make you happy, and your job is to appreciate their hard work. Remember, you can have a great time by smiling and saying good morning, or you can have a miserable time because the crew you’re so rude to is making sure of it. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Sure, you want to pack everything you love, but don’t bother. You’re going to wear your swimsuit and cover-up all day long and you’re going to change into something more formal at night. Check the dinner dress code on the ship prior to packing, and then pack things that go with all your accessories. For example, if you have two formal nights and three more casual nights, pack outfits that all go with the same pair of dress shoes and clutch and jewelry so that you’re not taking up luggage space with items you’ll only wear once.
Pack a sweater, but leave the jeans behind. Pack swimsuits, cover-ups, day dresses, polos, khakis and your evening wear and then call it a day. You don’t need anything else, certainly not a handbag to go with every single outfit, or a hat to go with every single outfit. Pack light and pack smart – you’ll be glad you did.
Don’t Overdo It
The most important piece of advice for all first time cruisers – or expert cruisers for that matter – is not to overdo it on your first day. You might be happy to throw back the cocktails on board because you’re celebrating the fact that you booked this cruise for such a cheap price, but remember that you want to actually enjoy the cruise for the duration. If you overdo it on the first day and night, the rest of your trip might not be so wonderful – or even memorable. Go ahead and have fun, but do it while still being responsible and intelligent. There’s no reason you can’t have a mimosa with breakfast or spend 8 hours by the pool – but don’t overdo the drinks (would it help to be reminded that they’re not free?), wear sunscreen, take care of yourself and don’t forget that you have several days ahead of you.
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