Purchase Travel Insurance – If you haven’t already purchased travel insurance from your travel specialist, it’s not too late. Be sure it covers you on your way to the cruise, during your cruise, and on your way home; so consider using a third party travel insurance company instead of the cruise line so your coverage begins the moment you leave your house such as Travel Guard or Allianz to get the best coverage at a lower price. Plus a travel insurance plan can cover you for things like travel delays due to inclement weather, trip cancellation/interruption and medical expenses so that you may book your vacation with confidence. All plans are not equal so be sure to see what is covered before purchasing a plan. See our blog post Is Travel Insurance Necessary?
Research Ports – Researching the ports that you will be visiting before your cruise can keep you from wasting time while on your cruise trying to choose which excursion to take. While you do not have to know exactly what you will be doing in each port ahead of time, have several options in mind will help you make the most of your limited time in each port.
Consider Booking Shore Excursions in Advance – Many cruise lines allow pre-booking of excursions online. We advise you to research on Trip Advisor or Cruise Critic message boards for possible tours that interest you.
Check-In Online – Checking in online before your cruise and printing off your boarding documents will expedite the process from going from curbside to walking on the ship. The more you do online before your cruise (setting up on board account, printing documents etc.) the quicker your check-in process will be. This not only benefits you, but also those who are in line behind you waiting to board the ship. Most cruise lines will allow you to check-in online after final payment up until 24-72 hours before your cruise.
Also, for some larger ships, you can book entertainment shows including comedy shows, specialty dining, and activities like sky-diving and the North Star on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships.
Notify Credit Card Companies – Let your bank know that not only will you be traveling, but to which countries you will be visiting on your cruise. Your credit card may be rejected (for your protection) when making a purchase out of country if they are not notified. As a security measure, some banks may also lock your account if you access it from a foreign port. Also, it is always best to use a credit card in foreign ports and not a debit card.
When you notify your credit card company about your trip, ask about travel perks that they may offer. Some cards offer no foreign transaction fees, free or discounted medical insurance for your trip (Chase), and other travel perks that could benefit you.
Bag Tags — Flying or not, make sure you have some type of ID on your bag. Bags sometimes tend to make their way to DFW instead of EWR, or to cabin 6091 instead of 9091. Also put an identifying mark or ribbon on your bag. It sounds cliché but many bags do look alike.
Save Small Bills (or get them from the bank) – It is always good to have a decent amount of small bills (especially $1 & $5) for tipping on board as well as off the ship. Room service is not included in your daily gratuities and it is customary to tip $2-5 depending on the size of your order. Also, most cruisers will tip the porters at the port $1-2 per bag and we recommend you tip shore excursion personnel if warranted as well.
Make a Packing Checklist — Not only will having a list help you to remember things, but it will eliminate over packing. Some people find that packing organizers help you save space and organize clothing you would wear together. Make a separate carry-on packing list which should include most of the items above, especially your passport.
Fill Prescriptions – Don’t forget to check your supply of prescription drugs several months prior to sailing so that you have a sufficient supply not only for your trip (always take a few extra days to a weeks worth in case of emergency), but to have a sufficient supply once you arrive home.
Learn The Ship — 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 websites.
Arrange Transportation — Sounds logical, but so many people arrive at their destination and wind up getting stuck with a $30-$60 taxi fare to the cruise port because they don’t do their research. Look into cruise line transfers, public transportation, or SuperShuttle to get to the cruise port. The standard parking rate is around $20 per day for parking at the cruise ports. Offsite lots usually are around 50 percent cheaper and provide shuttle service to and from the port.
Turn Data Roaming Off – You may want to check with your cell-phone provider for options to remain connected while sailing or in ports. You can go with the 300 international texts for $30. Remember that you pay around $2 or more per minute and .50-cent each text when on the ships “Cellular at Sea” network. The moment before you step on board the ship you should make sure that data roaming is turned off on your cell phone. At a cost of $15 per megabyte, the costly charges will add up quickly when connected to the ship’s cell phone towers. Our agency has posted two blog posts that you may find helpful, Cell Phone Use on a Cruise Ship and Cell Phone Tips for International Use.
If you have T-Mobile, you can set your phone to only connect to data when it is free. Log into your account online, go to profile – blocking – and turn on “block charged data roaming”. With this option, you do not have to turn data roaming off on your phone and since T-Mobile offers free data/texting in over 120 countries, you never have to worry about extra data charges.
We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel will assist you in all phases of preparation for your cruise. Please call 724.752.2655 to schedule your personalized Vacation Planning Session. You may also wish to view our blog posts regarding packing, travel insurance, and port information: