I’ve been on three cruises the past few years. I was nervous on my first one and feared I’d be claustrophobic and nauseous. That was not the case at all. If anything, I felt tiny on the boat, and I was always ready for the delicious meals! I’d like to share cruise tips and ideas I learned through experience and research.
Time to Shop
Your cruise is your time to shine. Feel free to shop and indulge in special items for yourself and your family. Yes, of course you will be shopping at port stops, but it just makes the upcoming cruise that much more exciting by purchasing a few cute outfits. Colorful beach bags, adventure-ready wilderness gear, sunscreen, and any medical items, are all almost vital to be well prepared. I learned a few of those for myself. On my first Caribbean cruise, I didn’t have an outfit for a beautiful St. Lucia rainforest hike. I had to quickly improvise with over priced gear at shops on the boat. I also, with my fear of seasickness and random injuries, packed plenty of nausea medicine and band-aids. That goes without saying that I was not prepared for a simple headache, likely brought on by overindulgence at the buffet. The only painkiller I could quickly find was aspirin. There you go folks, make a list and have the possibilities covered before stepping on the boat!
Take to the Internet
Looking over cruise forums is eye-opening for the newbie cruiser. There’s some posters on there who have been on more cruises than years I’ve been alive! They have insightful knowledge about the boats and ports of call. At the very minimum, search the forums for any information about the boat you’ll be cruising. You may find boats that are more enjoyable, or you may see that your boat is a good deal for the price you paid. Twice when I was ready to buy cruise tickets, upon researching the boat, I discovered other boats by the same company that typically cost more per cruise, but were more luxurious. I chose the boat recommended by experienced cruisers on the forum each time, and had the time of my life. Posters will also give tips about the ports, quality of rooms, and sanitation methods (seeing as you are on a boat with sometimes hundreds of passengers). It was because of the forums that I learned to always use a napkin to touch buffet utensils.
Going Off the Beaten Path
When you are going over the details of your cruise, you may notice a section detailing excursions. The excursions are activities available to you during port stops. The cruise company will encourage you to sign up for the activities they offer. You can save so much money and go off the beaten path by booking excursions with companies outside of the cruise. I advise you to look at all the options, then book ahead of time before arriving at the destination. In my eyes, the only perk to booking within the cruise is that you are swiftly escorted on and off the boat. There isn’t much planning required. By booking excursions myself, I’ve found all sorts of different activities that were not even offered by the boat. Also, you will likely avoid crowding by booking yourself. I took a food tour at one of my ports of call, and there were only a few others there too. It was much more personal and enjoyable since I typically don’t have a quarter of the boat’s passengers alongside me when I book my own activities.
As far as deal hunting goes, booking on Priceline or Expedia is preferred in order to knock off dollar by dollar. I’ve seen prices about twenty percent higher when booking through the cruise line or certain agents. Being flexible with your dates also helps price wise. Signing up for the Groupon newsletter is a good move also. You’ll be informed of incredible deals; I booked an impromptu Mexico cruise last year because I saw a Groupon deal I simply couldn’t turn down.
So go, my little newbie cruise goslings, go unto the water! Well, onto your deck loungers I should say. A cruise is what you make of it; it can be as adventurous or relaxing as you would like. Or if you are a mix of both like myself, you prefer a vigorous Gros Pitons hike, followed by being a slug the rest of the day. Either way, be informed and go have an amazing vacation!