Short cruises are great for vacationers with tight time or budget constraints. Because of the compressed time frame, though, they can require a bit more planning. If you’re planning to sail away on a quick cruise getaway, here are a few tips to ensure you’ll be enchanted with your cruise experience:
1. Pick the right itinerary. Short cruise itineraries include a varying number of in-port and sea days, so choose the option that best fits your preferences. Some people find “at sea” days boring, while others relish the chance to relax and unwind aboard their floating resort. If you’ve cruised often, you may wish to choose an itinerary that includes a favorite private island or one of the cruise line’s more exciting destinations.
2. Choose flights wisely. Flight cancellations and delays have become quite common these days. With a short cruise, you have little time to spare if you miss the ship. To leave plenty of cushion room, avoid tight flight connections, plan to arrive at your departure port early in the day, head out by car a bit early to avoid possible traffic delays, or arrive a day in advance and spend the night. If you purchase an air-sea package through the cruise line, it’s possible that the ship might be held in the event of flight delays. In any case, purchasing travel insurance is strongly suggested.
3. Make your shore excursion reservations in advance. Get everyone together in advance of your cruise and decide what you want to do at each port. This will save time while onboard the ship and help avoid disappointment when shore excursions sell out. Shore excursions can be purchased months before departure, so visit the cruise line’s website to see if advance reservations can be made. Weigh the options offered by the ship along with independent shore excursion opportunities. Message boards on sites like Cruise Critic can offer good insights and suggestions on independent tour operators.
4. Get onboard early and unpack. Time is at a premium on short cruises. The last thing you want to be doing as the ship sails away is unpacking your clothes. Bring only carry-on luggage if possible and plan to come aboard in time for lunch. Once rooms are available, head straight to your cabin, unpack, and get ready to go.
5. Check the daily schedule. A copy of the ship’s daily schedule should be waiting for you in your cabin. Look it over to find out about the timing of the safety drill, as well as details on dining and entertainment. The program will also provide information on spa and fitness center tours, port and shopping talks, sail away festivities, and other events. You might even want to bring a copy along with you as you make your way around the ship.
6. Work out your dining arrangements. Check out the available restaurant options. If you didn’t get the dining time, table size, or seating location of your choice, visit the dining room as soon as you arrive onboard and find out if changes can be made. In addition, if you’d like to try out the alternative restaurants, make those reservations in advance or as soon as you arrive onboard the ship.
7. Sign up for youth programs as soon as possible. If your kids are planning to participate in the ship’s kids and teens programs, it’s important to get them comfortable and involved as soon as possible. Make sure to visit the appropriate age group areas, sign them up for the program, have a look around, and strongly encourage them to participate in the first scheduled event. Friendships are often forged in the first evening and timely participation can make all the difference – especially on a short cruise. In addition, if your cruise line offers in-room babysitting and you’d like to take advantage of this option, book your dates and times as soon as you get onboard.
Now relax, kick back, and get ready to sail. Ease into the experience and get into the short cruise frame of mind. As the ship leaves the pier, join the gang at the sail away party and leave all your worries behind. When it comes to fun, wallet-pleasing short cruises are definitely in the money.
Nancy Schretter is Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network.
Photo Credits: Nancy Schretter
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