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All (at last count) 64 of these tips will go a long way in ensuring that you have a delightful, stress-free cruise experience. To be fore warned is to be fore armed. So get out on the 7 seas and enjoy yourself.

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Table of Contents

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BOOKING A CRUISE

1. Planning on being busy during your cruise? You might want to consider booking an
inside cabin. These are often half the price of ‘ocean view’ or ‘balcony’ cabins and well
worth the savings if you plan to use your cabin only to sleep, shower and change clothes.


2. Before booking a cabin, review its location. You might want to be near certain places
(i.e. restaurants, pools, dining rooms, etc.) but away from areas that might present noise
issues (i.e. nightclub, under the kitchen, near the anchor) or other problems (in rough
weather, forward cabins are most affected). The best way to review a location is to check
the online deck plans before confirming your booking.


3. The best deals on cruise fares can be found three ways. Booking as early as possible,
searching for last minute deals or traveling either just before or immediately after the high
seasons. The rates will be lower during these times and just might include a whole list of
extra bonuses (i.e. complimentary upgrades, on board credit, free transfers to/from the ship)
aimed at sweetening the deal.

4. Ask for a discount! Cruise lines offer a variety of discounts that are not often advertised,
including those for military personnel, government workers, group leaders & shareholders.


5. Purchase your own airfare. Avoid buying airfare through the cruise lines as their fares
tend to be much higher than what you can easily find on the internet or through a reliable
travel agent. Along the same line, take a taxi to/from the ship whether you are coming from
an airport or a city center. The cruise ship-arranged transportation is more expensive,
involves more travel time due to the use of large motor coaches and requires you to spend
time waiting for other passengers.

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PREPARATIONS

6. If you do not travel often, call your credit card company before leaving home. You don’t
want them to become suspicious and put a protective hold on your card while you are trying
to purchase souvenirs & gifts in foreign lands. Tell them where you will be and when so they
know it is you doing the spending.


7. Make plenty of copies. Photocopy your IDs, passport & credit cards. Keep one set in
your cabin safe and email scanned copies to yourself so that you can access at any time.


8. Call your medical insurance company before departing and find out exactly what is
covered while you are away. More importantly, ask what documentation you would need to
provide (from both the ship & port) for any reimbursements. Keep detailed notes for future
reference if needed.


9. Don’t take an entire Caribbean guide book on a 7-day voyage. Photocopy only the pages
that are relevant and then leave the bulk of the weight at home. Remember, most airlines
are charging new fees for luggage, so reducing luggage weight is more important than ever.


10. Regardless of the class of cabin you book, it is always a possibility that there will be noise
that might keep you awake at night. After all, you will be sleeping on board a massive,
metal, floating mega-resort. You might hear wind, vibrations & rattling, loud neighbors,
banging doors and possibly music from the disco. Ear plugs are a very useful item.


11. You’ll certainly need some money for this trip, so be sure to get organized before you leave
home and take as much money with you as you think you will spend. US Dollars are
widely accepted almost everywhere in the Caribbean and Central America but beware of
those hefty ATM fees both on board the ship and in foreign ports.

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PACKING

12. If it’s all in one place you don’t have to worry. Take a clear, #10 envelope-sized document
holder and fill it with all of your important documents - cruise paperwork, passport,
travel insurance information, copy of excursion reservations, list of credit card numbers, list
of telephone numbers for banks, credit card companies, friends & family as well as business
cards to give to new friends.


13. Too many pieces of luggage look the same these days. Make your luggage stand out (tie
a colored ribbon around the handles perhaps) so that it will be easier to locate at the airport
and in the baggage hall on the final day.


14. Bring a waterproof pouch to hold your money & credit cards, passport, camera, etc. when
going ashore, especially if you plan to visit beaches or take any tours that involve water
activities or transportation by boat.


15. The first photographs you should take on your vacation are of your luggage. Take photos
of each piece of your luggage at the airport before checking in. In the event of loss or
damage, this will act as perfect proof of your belongings or what the airline should be
looking for.


16. Bring a travel-size alarm clock as most cabins do not have them. Wake up calls can be
organized through your cabin phone system of course but having an alarm clock next to
your bed is much more convenient than having to go across the room to pick up and hang
up the phone. Especially if you want to keep pressing snooze!


17. A small first aid kit containing bandages, cold medicine & headache tablets will save you
from paying high rates at the medical center in the case of a minor cut or illness.


18. Make a packing list of items that you need to bring on your cruise. Unlike a land-based
vacation, once the ship leaves port it might be quite difficult or expensive to find any
important items that you may have left behind.


19. Bring a package of Post-It Notes so that you can easily jot down any requests or notes for
your cabin steward/ess. This establishes a simple system that ensures there won't be any
mis-communication.


20. Take one large insulated mug per person with you on your cruise. Fill them up with coffee
in the mornings (they will be much bigger and more secure than the cups on board) and
then use them to carry around water from the water fountains (this water is cleaner than
most bottled waters!)


21. Pack a can of air freshener, especially if traveling on an older ship. Odors resulting from
such issues as plumbing system backups can be most unpleasant, as can other odors
resulting from recent painting work, poor ventilation systems, left over smoke smell, etc.


22. It might seem obvious, but do not bring any weapons, illegal drugs, tools, very
expensive watches, large gems or any other items that might rouse suspicion, either with
on board security or during a customs inspection upon your return to the USA. Contact your
cruise line directly for specific information about what is not allowed.


23. If you need to bring all of your toys (i.e. camera, laptop, cell phone) with you on vacation,
consider bringing a power strip so that you can recharge them all when needed. Cabins
usually have limited plug outlets and often not in very convenient locations.


24. For those of you planning to take a lot of jewelry, you should carry it all in a portable
jewelry case. Keep this case locked in your cabin safe and instantly reduce the risk of
losing anything. You can also check each night that everything is secure & safely in place.


25. A small reading light will allow you to read without affecting anyone else in your cabin.
Again, any effort to avoid disturbing your traveling companion(s) will undoubtedly be much
appreciated, especially given the small size of most cabins. Similarly, a sleep mask might
also be a good idea.


26. Write a little each day. Take a small notebook with you and record where you were & what
you did each day. This helps identify photographs upon your return home and keeps those
fond memories better preserved.


27. Bring plenty of reading material as you might end up relaxing even more than you
thought – whether on the open decks, at the beach or in your cabin. If you are stricken with
a stomach bug while on board, ship rules often dictate that you be quarantined in your cabin
for up to 3 full days. You do not want to be stuck without any reading material if this should
occur.

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EMBARKATION DAY

28. If you drink soda (or even water) it is best to purchase some 2-liter bottles of your
favorite soft drink before you embark the ship. Prices for these items on board can
range from slightly expensive to exorbitant.


29. Be the first to board. Arrive at the ship approximately thirty minutes prior to the time
boarding is scheduled to begin. This allows you to avoid long lines and it enables you to
check your cabin & dining room arrangements before everyone else. Plus, enjoy a relaxed
lunch on board without any crowds.


30. Inspect your cabin thoroughly upon arrival and make sure you receive what you paid for.
If something is not right, immediately contact your cabin steward/ess for any small problems
or the Reception Desk for larger issues. Ships do keep spare cabins in case of major
problems, but you would need to make the ship aware of your issue as early as possible.


31. Visit the main dining room shortly after boarding and check your seating arrangement
with the maitre’d. This is the best time to make any changes (i.e. dining times, table size,
table location) as the longer you wait, the less of a chance you will have to be
accommodated.


32. Safety first! Despite being an unexciting event, be sure to attend the passenger life boat
drill on the first day. Although the chance of an emergency is more than remote, in the
event of such a situation, its best that you know exactly where you should go & what you
should do.


33. If you are entitled to on board credits, check with the Reception Desk on the first day in
order to make sure the proper amount of credits has been applied to your account.
Bring any paperwork that details the amount of credit you should have. If you do have on
board credits, use them. Many times the credit is forfeited if left unused.


34. Make sure you attend the “Spa Tour” on the first day as the spa staff usually choose
random passengers in order to demonstrate their treatments and massages for free!

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CABINS

35. Be careful who you call from your cabin. Ship to shore phone calls can cost anywhere
from $4 - $15 per minute. It is best to use your cell phone or a phone card when in port to
make your phone calls home. However, if you can find a crew member willing to get you a
crew phone or internet card, you will save up to 75% on what the ship charges passengers
for these services.


36. Drink from the tap in your cabin – the crew do! With the modern purification technology in
place on all modern fleets, you have nothing to worry about. You can imagine the liability
issues cruise lines would face if the water was undrinkable. The price of the unopened
bottle of water on the table should scare you more than the water from the tap.

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DINING

37. Unless you don’t want to meet other guests, avoid requesting a table for 2 in the dining
room. These tables are often located in the back of the dining room or stuck into corners
and other undesirable locations. Besides, larger tables provide the perfect opportunity to
mingle with and meet other guests.


38. 'Formal’, ‘Informal’, ‘Elegant Casual’, ‘Casual’, ‘Resort Casual’ – what does it all mean?
Read the cruise literature carefully in regards to dress code. Many ships refuse entry
into the dining rooms if guests are not dressed appropriately. (Note: NCL now offer "free style" cruising which means casual in all dining rooms)

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SHIP ACTIVITIES

39. Visit the pools or spa when the ship is in port and you will often have them all to
yourself. While everyone else is off the ship, you get your own private resort for a few hours.
40. Bring out the highlighter! Review the daily newsletter you receive each evening and mark
the activities/classes/events that you want to attend the next day. Always carry the
newsletter around with you as everything you need to know is right there in its pages.


41. If you are traveling with children, check with the children’s program coordinator on the
first day. Each ship has their own scheduled times for watching children and rules about
how long they will watch them for. The hours may not always coincide with the times that
you wish to go ashore.


42. Even though you might not be interested in taking one of the computer-related classes that
the ship offers, you could always sign up for a computer class and then just surf the
internet and send emails instead of following along. This is one way to avoid paying the
expensive internet fees on board!

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GENERAL ADVICE

43. For those of you that suffer from seasickness (or if you think you might), bring your own
seasickness pills/patches with you. The Reception Desk usually has seasickness
remedies, as does the medical center on board, but they will be sure to charge you for them.


44. What is not included in your cruise fare? With the exception of a few ships, soft drinks,
alcoholic beverages, meals at the alternate dining restaurants, photographs taken by ship
photographers, internet access & shore excursions are not included. In addition, although
good deals & good entertainment definitely can be had, beware of the aggressive selling
tactics on board and try to avoid parting with more money than you can afford.


45. If you do pre-book any of the ship’s shore excursions, it is important that you visit the on
board Tour Office on the first day and confirm that your bookings have been made
correctly. Bring any paperwork that you may have as well as any booking numbers that
show exactly what you had booked ahead of time.


46. Sanitize and sanitize often. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer as frequently as
possible, especially before & after eating, using the restroom or touching anything that has
been touched by many other passengers. Germs can spread quickly in such an enclosed
environment and the best method of protection is to make sure your hands are always
clean. Pack sufficient hand sanitizer and be sure to have both a large bottle to use in your
cabin and smaller bottles that you can carry around with you on board and ashore.


47. A cruise ship is an excellent place to network and you should try to meet as many new
people as possible. Not only do friendships and even relationships form on board ships,
but worthwhile business connections and contacts can be found as well. You never know
who you might be talking to.


48. No trip will be perfect. However, your outlook can greatly affect the enjoyment of your
cruise. Patience, tolerance and the understanding that your ship is trying to cater to every
single passenger, all of whom have different needs, will undoubtedly reduce any frustration
that may arise from minor disappointments or situations. A positive attitude, sense of humor
and desire to relax will help ensure a rewarding vacation.


49. Do you want to keep the price a secret? If you want to buy a gift on board for your
significant other but do not want them to know how much you spent, contact the Reception
Desk as soon as you make the purchase. They can usually ‘hide’ the charges from the
printed statement you will receive at the end of the voyage.


50. Keep track of the other members of your party with a set of simple, cheap walkie-talkies.
These little devices will make it easy to communicate from every area of the ship and given
the fact that ships are getting bigger and bigger in size, this can be a huge time and
frustration saver.


51. Be careful when sending your photographs to be developed or printed! Whatever is on
your film/memory card will be seen by the crew members working in the photography
department (and potentially other crew members as well). If you don’t want them to see
something, don’t send it off to be processed.


52. Never turn on your cell phone without asking your cell phone company about their
roaming charges. While some companies/plans include phone calls and text messages
to/from regions in the Caribbean, it pays to always check as roaming charges are often
exorbitant.


53. On many ships you can use the Spa's steam rooms, saunas and showers without
having to pay for a treatment.

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ON BOARD ISSUES

54. A polite, calm manner is the best approach when making any complaints on board. The
crew deal with hundreds of guests every day and a smiling face, even when relating a
complaint, is much more welcome and sure to receive assistance. Give the ship a
reasonable amount of time to fix your issue and if it remains unresolved, ask to speak to
someone in a senior position. As frustrating as the situation may become, the crew will be
infinitely more responsive to a polite complainer.


55. In the event that your issue is not resolved while on board the ship, ask for a Guest
Relations card before you leave. Send a letter/email upon your return home and if you
had a genuinely bad experience, the cruise line will want to try and rectify the situation. They
may offer a credit on a future voyage or even a partial refund of what you paid for your
recent cruise.

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GOING ASHORE

56. When going ashore, take a small bag that contains such items as a small first aid kit, bug
repellent, sunscreen, small umbrella, travel roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer & extra supply
of medication.


57. Always take the daily newsletter with you when going ashore. This will have the details
for the ship’s local port agent who is in constant contact with the ship throughout the day. In
the event of a medical emergency, vehicle accident or unexpected delay that might cause
you to arrive late to the ship, you should contact the port agent immediately. They will relay
all of the information directly to the ship.


58. Avoid the pier. If you need to grab a bite to eat or even send a few emails from an Internet
Cafe, you'll typically find that the cafes and shops 2 or 3 blocks away from the pier will cost
50% less than that shops right next to the ship.

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FINANCES

59. A couple of days before the end of the cruise ask the Reception Desk to provide you with a printed copy of your on board account statement. Review it carefully. If you want to
dispute or question a charge, you will need to visit the Reception Desk and if you want to avoid those long lines, it is advisable not to wait until the final morning to sort out any issues.


60. It is best to register a credit card as your method of payment and not an ATM/debit card. As the cruise line will place a hold on your card, it is better to have that hold on your credit and not your actual bank account. Once the cruise ship receives authorization from your credit card company (this usually occurs relatively quickly after presenting the card to the check-in staff), you will be free to spend away.


61. If the ship informs you that there is a problem with your credit card that you need to resolve directly with your credit card company or bank, visit the Reception Desk before making
any phone calls. They may give you the option of calling the number on the back of your credit card directly from their desk and therefore save you from having to use the expensive
satellite connection from your cabin.


62. By signing the pre-authorization slip at the beginning of the cruise (usually when you check in), you won't need to sign anything at the end. If you agree with the charges on the final invoice that you receive on the last night, the total amount will be automatically charged to your credit card.

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DISEMBARKATION

63. Don’t walk off the ship in your underwear! If you plan on collecting your luggage outside the
ship or having it sent directly to the airport, be sure that you have all your important
items (passport, credit cards, extra clothes, etc.) before being separated from your luggage
on the last night.


64. Express disembarkation is the easiest way to leave the ship on the final day. This does
require you to carry your entire luggage off of the ship yourself on the final morning. But it
also allows you to leave at whatever time you want and to avoid searching for your luggage
among the thousands of others in the baggage hall outside.

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