By KATHLEEN EDWARDS
Travel Smart Cruise Panel
Things you need to know about cruising.
1. Even though you look at the price of the cruise and kind of flinch a bit, dollar for dollar it is probably a better value than you think. First, you drive to one spot and park the car for a week. Ok, so the parking garage charges about $15 per day. Better yet, get someone to drop you off at the pier. If you fly to a hotel the day before most hotels will take you to the pier in their shuttle for free. Getting to the airport after the cruise is your problem. But the price of the cruise tickets includes your accommodations, your food (unless you partake in the specialty restaurants), and your entertainment (except for shore excursions). Of course, drinks and other purchases on board you pay for but for the most part, that is it.
2. Your cruise starts the minute you get on board, so get on board early. You can enjoy the ship and the fun even if the ship has not sailed yet. Just walking around and getting a feel for your new “home away from home” is fun. Most all the public areas are open for your inspection embarkation day. I always board around noon so my cruise starts then. There is always a welcome aboard lunch. Cabins are not usually ready until 1:00 which may mean dragging your carryon luggage with you or sitting in the Lido until 1:00.
3. Once your bags arrive (sometimes this takes a while) and you unpack then you don’t have to think about that again for a week. With a drive around the country vacation you have to look for a new hotel every night and dig through a suitcase. Plus then you have to look for a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the cruise it is already right there and any time you want to eat you can find something.
4. I always explain to people you can actually get into an almost vegetated state on a cruise. You go on an excursion and they put a little sticker on you and line you up and tell you what bus to board and off you go. There is not much thinking on a cruise ship except be on time for meals and which deck is my cabin on again?
5. You can eat your way through a week no problem. You have early bird continental breakfast, Lido Breakfast, if you are still hungry go to the Main Dining room and eat again, then lunch at the Lido, or out by the pool hotdogs and hamburgers, oh and there is always the main dining room, afternoon pizza, or room service or ice cream someplace on the ship, then dinner in either the main dining room or the specialty restaurants and the Lido deck, Oh and more pizza, then some cruise lines have little tidbits to munch on after dinner in case you are still not full and of course, room service again.
6. If you eat too much there is the “State of the art” exercise area or walking around the deck or climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevators, or the pool, or basketball. Of course the bigger news ships have the rock climbing wall and “surf” waves all designed to work off those big meals.
7. You get so pampered you don’t want to go home. If you do want to go home you want to take your waiter and your room steward with you. Those are the two people you will miss most when you leave.
8. If you really don’t like the entree, then you can order another one and there is no charge. I do see this changing however, they have to cut back and I think this may be one area they will change. But for now, go ahead and order another lobster tail. Or if your neighbors food looks better than what you ordered, ask the waiter for that one instead of what you ordered. While you are at it if you can’t decide on which dessert order all of them and sample each one.
9. Most cabins now have a safe. I usually put my wallet, credit cards and jewelry in there. I see so many times on cruises women walking around with their purse all the time. If there is no safe I have one piece of luggage that has a lock and I put my valuables in there. I have never had anything taken from my cabin on any ship.
10. Get the most out of the cruise. Don’t feel silly doing things that look like fun. You will probably never see any of these people again except if you are cruising with friends or family. They might tell everyone what you did.
11. See at least one sun rise and one sun set. Out on the ocean it just looks so much better.
12. I bought a lanyard and have the front office punch a hole in my sign and sail card. That way I can tie it to a belt loop and put it in my pocket or put it around my neck and I don’t worry about losing it. I had a friend that dropped his on the beach on a shore excursion. It was a pain to get back on the ship. Thankfully they now also take a picture of you so they have something to compare.
14. The Maitre D is available when you get on board. Go see where your table is if you have assigned seating and if you don’t like it see if you can get something better. You can leave your name and your preference and most of the time they will figure something out.