Let’s face it, the days leading up to a cruise can be very exciting as you’re packing, looking over the ship deck plans, excursions, specialty dining venues, ports and crossing the days until you escape reality. Sometimes with all the excitement we tend to lose sight of common sense. I came up with this checklist (for me) but thought I would share.
Here’s my departure checklist:
1. Bag Tags. If you’re flying or if you’re not, make sure you have some type of luggage ID on your bag. Bags sometimes tend to make their way to DFW instead of EWR, or to cabin 6091 instead of 9091. Also putting an identifying mark or ribbon on your bag will help you spot it from a mile away. It sounds cliché but many bags do look alike.
2. Research ports. You’re not going to be able to get off the ship and think “what am I going to today”? By the time you get off the ship and into town, half your day is blown. There are plenty of good resources out there to help you figure out what’s best for your family. Excellent resources are Cruise Critic, Family Travel Network, and Viator’s shore-excursion section of their website.
3. Make reservations. With all the mega-entertainment from Blue Man Group to Broadway shows at sea, reservations are not only suggested but required on most ships. The comedy shows on Allure of the Seas this past fall were booked before the ship even left the dock. Consider reservations for dining venues, too. On a recent sailing on Carnival Breeze, their specialty steakhouse, Fahrenheit 555 was booked up on more than one night, see what your family likes and make your reservation early.
4. Learn your ship. I’m sure you’ve heard “I’m just learning my way around and it’s time to get off.” Don’t be one of those people; learn the ship before-hand. A great resource to find out all about the ship and deck plans is the cruise line website but you can also get unbiased professional reviews and fellow passenger reviews from sites like Cruise Critic, Cruise Mates and Cruise Addicts.
5. Print your documents. There is nothing worse than getting to the cruise terminal and realizing you’ve forgotten your cruise documents. You can still board the ship if you forget them but security has to manually clear you through the manifest, then you have to go through all the hoopla of manually filling out your passport info, personal info and credit card info. It adds a good ten minutes onto your embarkation process and holds up the line.
6. Pack your passport or birth certificate. This should be #1 because if you don’t have your passport, you aren’t getting on the ship. Keep your passport on you and not in your checked bags. If bags go another direction and you get separated, your bags can always meet you at the next port, if your passport is in your bag, you’re going to get a great picture of the ship sailing away.
7. Check your cell phone plan. This one is for the folks who can’t stay disconnected. Most cell carriers have international plans that you can turn on and off, those work in the ports. Personally, I go with the 300 international texts for $30. Remember that you pay around $2.39 per minute and .50-cent each text when on the ships “Cellular at Sea” network. It’s clearly stated.
8. Pack meds. Even if you’re not sick, you could be. At the very least carry pain reliever for headaches and Vitamin C packets with you like Airborne, especially if you’re going to be flying. Airplanes are a big petrie dish.
9. Know how you’re getting to the ship. Sounds logical but so many people arrive at their destination and wind up getting stuck with a $30 taxi fare to the cruise port because they don’t do their research. Look into public transportation, cruise line transfers, or airport shuttles to get to the cruise port. If driving to your port consider carpooling to defray port parking costs. The standard parking rate is around $20 per day for parking at the cruise ports. Offsite lots usually are usually around 50 percent cheaper and provide shuttle service to and from the port.
10. Repeat 1-9. Seriously.
There you have it. Now get out there and cruise!
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