I’ve been on multiple cruises and worked as a travel agent for five years. I, personally, love cruising because it’s such an all-inclusive way to vacation and travel to exotic destinations without spending a fortune. Let me share some ‘must knows’ with you to make your experience amazing and relaxing.
Money: Your cruise price includes many things, lodging, food, some beverages and entertainment on the ship, but you will need money for alcoholic beverages, excursions, any shopping, spa treatments, and gratuities.
Excursions: Most excursions are around $100 dollars per person. Some are more discounted, such as “A Day at the Beach,” type excursions but these generally do not include snorkeling, kayaking, or lunch. Also, there are many excursions that cost closer to $300 dollars per person. If you want to visit Atlantis in the Bahamas or swim with dolphins, plan on over $250 dollars per person.
Gratuity: You will absolutely have gratuity added to your onboard bill. This is money given to the staff who supply room service, cleaning, and all of those little extras. You can visit Guest Services and have it removed if you feel like you received bad service, but I feel like you should pay it if at all possible. A short cruise generally costs about $100 dollars per person in gratuity.
Seasickness Adults: Unless you’re a sailor by trade, you are probably going to suffer from seasickness unless you plan in advance. Adults should visit their doctor and get a little patch that goes behind the ear. It’s called a Scopolamine patch and your doctor can prescribe it. Never wear more than one and children should not wear them. They are one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent seasickness before it happens.
Seasickness in Children: Children cannot use Scopolamine patches. Some children do not suffer from seasickness because their equilibrium isn’t affected as an adults is. Children generally have something to focus their eyes on because they are so short, where an adult is looking over the railing into the vast emptiness of the sea. For my own children, when they were young, I gave them Dramamine whether they were seasick or not. It’s best to prevent it. If your child becomes seasick it will most likely last for 24-48 hours and it’s pretty miserable for them and you.
Expect to Get Mobbed: You really should expect to get mobbed at any tourist destination when you get off of the ship. You’ll have the same person ask to braid your hair ten times, try to sell you a necklace over and over, and offer to show you around multiple times. Don’t get mad and don’t be rude! This is how these people feed their family and honestly, that kind of tenacity in a salesperson in America is applauded. You can say no without being rude.
Haggle: Is it okay to haggle for a different price? Absolutely! Usually if you say no a few times, the person selling an item will come back with a lower price anyway. Should you rip a desperate person off? Please don’t. Many Americans assume that things are cheaper in other countries, when in fact, basics are often more expensive for these people. In the Bahamas, a gallon of milk is over $8 dollars.
Childcare Onboard: Every cruise company offers childcare. It does cost extra but it’s very inexpensive. Normally, you will recieve a pager and that way your child can contact you if you are needed. Also, most of those who take care of your little ones were teachers or worked with children in their own country, and have had a background check. Although, as a parent, I recommend making sure of this before you leave your children with anyone.
Passports: As of now (2014), you do not need a passport if you embark and return to the same port for many cruises. However, things happen when you visit a foreign country and I recommend that anyone leaving the U.S. have a passport. You should keep it with you at all times in a waterproof bag, where it cannot be pickpocketed.
Food: Is it safe to eat the food in a foreign country and drink the water? We always take bottled water with us from the ship. Locals may try to sell bottled water to you, but often it is water they have collected and not safe to drink. The local food is really up to you. Use your head and consider where you are. Often, vegetables are watered with unclean water or pesticides are used. If you order a soda, ask for a can or sealed bottle. I normally dine in most places that I visit. I just watch were the locals go, ask for advice from the concierge onboard, or sometimes the cruise will offer a free lunch with the excursion.
Boarding Pass: Many people will ask for your boarding pass if you try to rent a car etc.. I do not recommend giving it up for any reason. Most of the time it works out okay, but what if they lose it? You will not be able to get back on the ship no matter how much you cry or beg. We had an experience in Mexico that taught us to just pay with cash or go through the cruise company for an excursion.
Packing: Everyone over does it for their first cruise. You’ll need a nice gown or suit/slacks for the formal dining, a couple of swimsuits and some beach shoes, a cover up or two, sundresses or shorts for the day, and your personal items. I promise you will have plenty of shopping opportunities in the places you visit, so leave some extra room in your suitcase.
Enjoy your cruise! Most people love it who try it. It really is like any other experience in life, it’s what you make of it.
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