First Time Cruiser
The thought of your first cruise can cause both excited and anxious feelings, not knowing what to expect. How do you get on board? What happens once on the ship? If you're considering a cruise but nervous about committing, here is some insight into what to expect.
Typically, you'll either fly or drive to the port city to get on your ship. It's always suggested to give yourself a buffer for embarkation in case of unexpected delays due to weather or traffic. Many people coming from a distance opt to stay at a nearby hotel the night before their cruise. If you choose to do this, you can have a leisurely day of embarkation, rather than starting your vacation feeling hurried and stressed.
Once at the port, you'll usually be greeted by porters at the entrance of the terminal. They will assist in getting any checked luggage onto the ship. They will take your bags to another location where it will be loaded on your ship, while you head into the terminal to check in. Keep in mind that it may be several hours before your checked bags reunite with you in your stateroom. This is why it's generally a good idea to keep anything you may need (medications, change of clothes to hit the pool, sunscreen, etc), anything of value (camera, computer, etc.), and your travel documents (including Passport) with you in a carry-on piece.
Inside the terminal, you and your shipmates will be guided through a series of queues to check in for your sailing. You will most likely be asked some health related questions, have your Passport checked, and given your cruise card or device. The purpose of the card or device is to identify you as a passenger when getting on and off the ship at your various ports, works as a door key to get you in your stateroom, and allows you to make purchases toward your shipboard account (more on THIS later.) Once you're checked in, they will direct you to the gangplank, where you'll board your ship!
Your home, sweet home for the length of your sailing. Your stateroom steward will work to make sure you're as comfortable as possible. Be sure to introduce yourself to them, when you can. They will help you with bedding or mini bar requests, extra towels that may be needed, or getting maintenance in for any needed repairs.
There are generally limited electrical outlets in staterooms, so if you have multiple items that will need outlets, bring a power strip. Also, check for restricted items (candles, clothes iron, heating pads, etc) that may be flammable, to avoid having to dispose of items.
At night, your stateroom will become very dark, especially if you're in an interior stateroom. Packing a small nightlight or flashlight will help you get around your stateroom in the middle of the night, to help you find the light switch.
As stated earlier, your cruise card or device will serve many purposes, including use for any purchases while on board the ship. The cruise ships are basically cashless operations, minus the casino, and anything you apply to the account will be settled at the end of the cruise, using the payment method you choose upon check in. If needed, you can usually get an updated balance from a kiosk or by going to the Guest Services desk.
It is important to keep your cruise card or device with you at all times. First, it will help keep you from being locked out of your stateroom. You may be asked for it when purchasing things like beverages at dinner, making a purchase in one of the shops on board, or buying photos from the photo studio.
Once you're on board, the fun begins! While it may be a few hours before your luggage gets to your stateroom, you are able to take this time to explore the ship. You can check out your stateroom and drop off your carry-on bag. (If you plan to visit your cabin to get a quick peek and drop off items, please be courteous and try to avoid blocking the hallways. This will allow the stewards to work quicker at getting the luggage dispersed.) You may find an itinerary of activities for the day, so be sure to ready through it. Go explore!
Embarkation day is very exciting, as everyone is anxious to get started on the journey. People will be splashing around in the pools, getting a bite to eat at some of the food venues, hitting the bars for a frosty beverage, or just walking around to orient themselves with the ship.
At some point, you'll be performing a muster drill. It is VERY important that you follow instructions for this drill. You will go to designated meeting place and get safety information about your ship and things you may see or hear. Once the drill is complete, you can return to your fun and relaxation.
The last thing you want to deal with during any vacation is an illness. Cruise lines take great care in trying to keep everyone as healthy as possible during your stay with them. Use the hand-wash stations and provided disinfectant gels liberally.
If you should become ill on the cruise, the shops may have some over-the-counter remedies to help you feel better. If that doesn't work, there is a medical center on the ship but it's services will be charged to your ship board account. Your regular health insurance may not cover you. If you have travel insurance you can make a claim to be reimbursed for your expenses you may have incurred.
This is one reason I highly recommend travel insurance for your trip. It's also smart to pack some medications with you, for things such as upset stomach, motion sickness, pain relievers, or to aid with congestion. If you are plagued with motion sickness, prepare by talking to your medical provider about options to help you. Often times, over-the-counter medications such as Dramamine or Bonine will do the trick. Your medical provider may suggest prescription medication or patches for those with a history of extreme motion sickness. Some prefer to use more holistic approaches, such a ginger (ginger ale or capsules), green apples, or acupressure wristbands.
Most lines will include a daily gratuity fee for the length of your shipboard account and an automatic gratuity on your bar bill. This amount covers the services provided by your complete cruise ship staff during your cruise. If you encounter a crew member who exceeds your expectations of service, and you are so inclined, you can provide them with a tip directly in cash. Also, you can ask the Guest Service desk how you can give feedback on crew member you deserves extra recognition!
If there is an unfortunate emergency at home, there is still a way for family and friends to contact you. The phone in your cabin is capable of making and receiving calls from shore lines, but at a cost. It’s also possible for you to use your cell phone to call or text while you’re away. However, be sure to check with your cell carrier about any roaming charges you may incur. They may have a temporary plan you can use during the extent of your traveling.
Most ships are equipped with Internet Café’s or offer Wifi, but you may incur charges for their use. When you receive your travel documents, we will include emergency contact information that you can leave with friends and/or family at home.