Showing posts with label First Time Cruiser Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First Time Cruiser Tips. Show all posts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tips on Thursday - First Time Cruiser Tips


First Time Cruiser Tips

More often than not, first time cruisers question whether they will actually enjoy cruising or not, and so those guests tend to want to “sample the waters” as inexpensively as possible and do everything they can to “trim the fat” so to speak.  The temptation to try and do everything as cheaply as possible often leads to headaches or system shocks that can be avoided with a little extra planning and preparation.  Your travel consultant can certainly help with that part of your vacation.

If you aren’t sure you’ll enjoy a cruise and don’t want to break the bank on your accommodations, you can always book a lower category stateroom, such as an inside cabin (no windows or verandah). Depending on the itinerary, these staterooms usually sell for as little as $45/day per person and include food, entertainment and stops in the various ports of call. If you don't like the cruise you haven't lost much; if you do like it, then next time you might upgrade to a more expensive balcony stateroom.

You’ve arranged for the cruise, now you have to figure out how you’re going to get to the port.  If you don’t live within reasonable driving distance, chances are you’re going to be flying to the port city.  Be very careful about flight times.  Do not book a flight that has you arriving in Miami at 3:00 pm the day the ship sails.  Passengers must be onboard ship at least an hour before sailing time, and you have to account for everything in your timing calculations – luggage retrieval, walking between sections of the airport, transfers from the airport to the port terminal, check-in at the port, etc, etc.  Everything adds up, and you cannot control how quickly something that is outside of your control moves, such as baggage handlers, lines, traffic between airport and port terminal and so on.   If you miss the ship it's your fault, even if the airline had a delay, and even if you purchased travel insurance, you will not get your money back simply for missing the ship’s departure due to poor planning.   Many people who live on the West Coast fly into Miami a day early and stay at a hotel - remember that the East Coast is three hours later than the West Coast - so if you have a five hour flight leaving California at 7:00 a.m. you still won't hit Miami until 3:00 p.m.  Consider a "redeye" flight departing California at midnight instead.  Even if the flight has a two-hour layover somewhere in the middle, that flight will put you in to Miami at just about the right time to go to the port and board the ship.  The main difference between getting to an airport really early and getting to a cruise ship really early is that you’re just going to sit around and wait to board your plane typically 20-30 minutes prior to departure;  with a cruise, you can start boarding 3, sometimes 4 hours prior to departure and start enjoying the fun!  Throw on your swimsuit and enjoy the pool or other amenities onboard.   Remember this adage when it comes to planning for your cruise – if you’re on time you’re late, if you’re late you’re out of luck, get there early! 

Ports of Call and the shore excursions into those parts are all part of the cruise experience.  No one has to disembark the ship while in port, and many first time cruisers don’t because shore excursions cost extra.  Not everyone utilizes actual excursions offered by the ship or other excursion providers opting instead to “do it themselves.”  But if you do, consider the options carefully and pay attention to the details – most especially the time!  Whatever the stated return time to the ship is, again, make sure you are back early, with time to spare.  Naturally, it makes sense that if you paid to cruise in Europe you should see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You paid to get to Italy, after all. But if you have to walk to a train that makes local stops it could take all day.  Instead, you can get a tour from the ship that visits Pisa and Florence with a tour guide.  Make the most of your limited time in port by planning your time carefully and keeping value and margins of error in mind.  You don’t want to get left behind in that beautiful port only to have to figure out how you’ll catch up to the ship at the next port so you can ultimately find your way home again.

Another quick tip regarding shore excursions, especially when you are paying for tours and the like – if you imbibe, don’t drink too much.  Yes, it might be fun and enjoyable dancing the night away, but you don't want to miss the next port of call due to a wicked hangover.  Of course how much you drink is up to you, but keep in mind that on most ships alcohol is an added cost, and it can really add to your cruise costs.  If you plan to drink a lot you can do that at home.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tips on Thursday - Gratuities


Gratuities

The subject of gratuities can and often does provide much angst among travelers.  How much should I give?  To whom should I give to?  Do I give to one and not the other?  How should tips be given?  Many cruise lines provide travelers with the option of pre-paying their gratuities when booking, some do not.  If you feel this amount needs to be adjusted, whether increased or decreased, arrangements can be made onboard the ship, generally at the end of your cruise. Tipping guidelines vary slightly between the individual cruise lines, and are usually detailed fairly well once onboard.  

On most ships, plan on tipping your room steward about $3.50 - $4.00 per person per day, and an equal amount for your dining room waiter, with half of that amount for the busboy; tip the maitre d' or dining room captain only if you ask for special favors or table-side service - $5 to $10 is normal;  tip bartenders and wine stewards approximately 10 to 15% of your bill, however many cruise lines will automatically add the amount directly to your bar or beverage bill.  Be sure to check your bill to see how it is handled.  

Tips for special services such as salon & spa treatments and room service are left to the discretion of the guest, depending on services rendered.

Gratuities are generally placed in envelopes from your cabin's stationery supply, and passengers on cruises of 10 days or less will tip at the end of the cruise.  On longer voyages, you might find that tipping weekly is the norm.

Please note that most luxury cruise lines discourage tipping, including Azamara, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea, and Swan Hellenic.  Crew members on these lines are paid at a higher rate than other cruise lines, and therefore are not as tip dependent; therefore many will outright refuse the gesture when offered by travelers. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tips on Thursday - Dress Codes by Day and Night


Dress Codes by Day and Night Onboard

Cruising can be a lot of fun, but for many, it can be a bit vexing when the subject of what to pack and wear comes up.  Throughout the daytime hours, shipboard dress is casual.  Even in the dining room, shorts and tasteful T-shirts are acceptable, however, as evening rolls around, and it’s time for dinner, dress codes will vary daily.  Each cruise line is different The most common evening attire includes:

  • ·         Casual: Slacks and sport shirt for men (no jeans); slacks and blouse, sundress or pantsuit for women.
  • ·         Informal: Jacket with or without tie for men; dress or pantsuit for women.
  • ·         Formal: Dark suit or tuxedo for men; evening gown or cocktail dress for women.


Most 3- and 4-night cruises have one formal night; most 7-night cruises have 2 formal nights;  most 10-night cruises have 3 formal nights, etc.  While it’s not a hard fast “rule” per se, in general the longer more expensive cruises (on a daily basis) will be the most formal on formal night, but a dark suit and tie is acceptable attire on even the most exclusive ships.  In other words, there’s truly no need to buy a tuxedo for a single cruise.  However if you truly want to don a tux, go for it if you plan to wear it over and over again – or – if only needing it once, many lines have formal-wear rentals onboard.  Be sure to inquire with your travel consultant about a specific line and itinerary’s evening attire policies. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tips on Thursday - Cruise Packing Tips


Even in the largest villas and suites on a cruise, the closet space may be less than desirable. Maximize the smaller space with these great packing tips for those who have sailed the world. 

Pick the right suitcase
Some cruise lines are designing cabins that allow room underneath beds to accommodate larger bags. It the cabin does not allow this, pack things in a soft-side bag that can be flattened after you unpack.

Pack a Day Bag
These are great for carrying essentials around the ship and on shore excursions. Plus, use this as your carry-on bag since your actual luggage may take a few hours to arrive at your cabin.

Check the Cruise Ship Dress Code
Most cruise lines have detailed dress codes on their website. When in doubt, ask us. Most cruise lines now offer a more simplified dress code although formal nights are still available.

Board the Ship in Resort Casual Wear
Since it may take some time for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom, aim to wear an outfit that may take you from day to nighttime. And pack your day bag with items that you may want to have available on your first day onboard the ship.

Plan your Vacation and Pack accordingly
Are you a lounger or will you be hitting every port ready to walk? Make a list of your activities and pack the additional gear needed so you are not missing out on an opportunity to experience the destination’s culture.

Toiletries
Bathrooms are even smaller. Most cruise lines provide the basic toiletries in travel-size packs such as shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. Make sure you bring travel-size items that will carry you through the entire vacation. Consider a hanging bag that can easily be put behind doors to store your toiletries in.

For more information and to reserve your next vacation, contact me at 317.776.1733 or via my website.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter, like my page on Facebook, and circle me on Google+.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tips on Thursday - It's All About Location

Location, location, location.  It's important in business, real estate and yes, even on cruise ships.  How can you make sure that you pick the best location in your chosen stateroom category?  A good answer for this question is to view the ship’s deck plans in the cruise line brochure or on the web.  While the plans are often not exactly to scale and cabin size is not always in proportion to the drawings there are a few things that are very helpful.  First, locate your cabin on the plan and then look up, down, left, right, and forward of your cabin.  What’s there?   And knowing what to look for can help you avoid a less-than-ideal stateroom.

Ok, so here’s the short list:
  • Look for elevators and staircase exits near your stateroom. (Some people love to be close to everything so this might be a positive feature but with activity comes noise)
  • Look up.  Oops!  A basketball court, jogging track or day pantry might result in the wakeup call you did not ask for.
  • Look Down.  Is the bandstand for one of the show lounges right below your room?  Even with good sound proofing there is a chance for ambient noise.
  • Look across the hall.  Is there a room service pantry shown or other service area.  A potentially busy area to avoid.
  • Look Right and Left.  If you are at the end of a hallway, make sure that the disco or other high energy lounge is not adjacent.  Avoid hallways that lead to these lounges unless you are a night owl.  Late night revelers sometimes carryon with the partying outside your door.

The good news is that modern cruise ships have been designed with passenger comfort in mind and the architects strive to develop a deck plan that confines public rooms and lounges to areas far from the staterooms.  A little advance review of the deck plans and the advice of a good cruise specialist can help deliver an extra measure of peace and quiet in your stateroom.