Cruise Tips Before Your Cruise


  1. Flying To The Port – If you plan to fly to your port of embarkation, you should always fly in a day early and stay at a local hotel. Staying at a hotel on the night before your cruise is like extending your vacation and another opportunity for making more great memories. There are so many things that can delay a flight! You sure don’t want problems even before you get on the ship!
  2. Taking A Bus To The Port – One of the reasons for taking a cruise is to avoid the hassles of driving. If you live within five or six hundred miles from the port, there may be Shuttle Services that provide a bus. If not, check with your Travel Agent and there may be a travel group in your area that has chartered a bus. If so, it’s very possible they are looking for new members. If you take a bus to the port it can be a lot of fun and when the cruise is over you’ll be glad you don’t have to drive home! It will cost less than $100 each and you won’t have to pay the fifteen to twenty bucks a day for storage of your car or the fifty bucks for gas. Also, if you smoke, it’s important to remember that there is no smoking on the bus. If you decide to take a shuttle or charter bus, don’t forget to hand the driver at least a dollar each for a gratuity please.
  3. Driving To The Port – If you must drive, you can avoid storage fees by arriving a day early and staying at a hotel that allows you to park free for the week. Also, rather than parking at the official parking lot at the pier, there are private lots near the port where you can pay a little less.
  4. Taking A Train To The Port – If you have Amtrak passenger train service where you live, a train is a fun and inexpensive way to travel! There’s the dining car for food, restrooms, comfortable seats where you can stretch out and if you get a little tired, just get up and walk around! You can’t do that with a flight, a bus or even a car without stopping! Something very important is Amtrak is very strict when it comes to the size and weight of your luggage. If your piece of luggage is as much as one ounce over 50 pounds, you’ll actually have to empty some of your items out of your luggage until the weight is 50 pounds!
  5. Your Luggage – When you get off the bus or out of your taxi or shuttle, gather your luggage into one place and a porter will take it to the ship. Don’t leave your luggage until you’re sure a porter has it under his care. About $1.00 per suitcase is a customary tip for them. BE SURE to count how many suitcases you’re bringing so you can keep track. If you have some way to do it, mark your luggage so you can identify it quickly. Remember a lot of suitcases look alike, choose a way to mark your luggage so it “sticks out like a sore thumb” while it rides around and around on the conveyor belt or is stacked in the far corner of a large baggage claim area. If your bag were to burst open, you can patch it up real easily and quickly if you have a roll of wide duct tape in your carry-on. When the cruise is over and you gather up your luggage at the dock – be sure to stay with it. Don’t lose sight of it until you see your luggage loaded.
  6. Locking Your Luggage – To lock or not to lock it when you check it in at the pier for a cruise has been under discussion for some time now. If you’re flying in to your embarkation port, it is recommended to lock your luggage with a TA approved lock. If you purchase that kind of lock, the airport security employees have a universal key they can use if they need to get inside. If you decide to use this kind of lock, try to find one that uses a combination so you don’t have to carry the key. With all of that said, the question here is whether to lock your luggage at the pier or not: The short answer is no. Some people say if you place a lock on your luggage, a thief will think you’ve packed something valuable. If your luggage uses a zipper, a lock is not a deterrent anyway. The best advice I’ve read is to use plastic zip ties and cut them with nail clippers when they arrive in your stateroom. If you purchase bright colored zip ties it will help you find your luggage. If the security personnel need to open your luggage for some reason, they’ll just clip the zip tie rather than calling you there to unlock your lock. Also, if you notice one of your bright colored zip ties missing, you’ll know the workers have opened it.
  7. Don’t pack too much – Remember you’re not moving out; it’s just a cruise! I know one lady (Hi Norma!) that packed seventeen pair of shoes for a seven day cruise. I call that overkill! If you use large gallon size plastic bags that can be sealed for your shoes as well as everything else, you can better organize your suitcase and prevent damage if a liquid were to get broken. Use good luggage because your suitcase could end up on the bottom of a big stack of heavy luggage. While loading or unloading the ship, time is of the essence. I remember seeing the workers throwing the luggage and stacking an elevator from floor to ceiling! Do you remember the television advertisement from years ago showing an elephant standing on luggage? That advertisement was not too far fetched! Also pack an extra fold up suitcase or at least a good cloth laundry bag for your dirty laundry that you can tie up and tag for the trip back. You’re going to need extra room in your good luggage for all those souvenirs. If you don’t want to be stuffing a laundry bag all week, you could pack a collapsible laundry hamper for the convenience of it.
  8. Another Tip About Luggage – You’re sometimes limited to just two items of luggage especially if you’re flying to the port. Be sure to use large suitcases if you have them. This may seem like a simple decision but if your luggage is more than twelve inches thick when empty, it won’t fit under your bed. If you choose luggage that’s too small, everything simply will not fit. To make matters worse, if your luggage is too large you’ll probably load it until it’s so heavy you’ll just be a pulled muscle waiting to happen! If taking a bus to the port, the rule about two items is only enforced when the bus luggage area gets full. Also be sure to have permanent luggage tags with your home address attached to your luggage just in case it gets lost. For security reasons, turn the address card over or cover the luggage tag so anyone standing nearby can’t read it.
  9. If ¬†Driving To The Port – There will, in most cases, be no limit on your luggage that you load on the ship but a few cruise lines are beginning to enforce limits of two or three large pieces of luggage. If you need extra luggage tags you can get them from a porter after you arrive at the port. If you know in advance that you’re going to need more luggage tags, simply print out more from your Electronic Documents. After you print them, just cut them out and cover them with wide clear plastic tape. Most cruise tickets (also known as your cruise documents) are sent as electronic tickets. Electronic tickets simply mean you’ll receive them in your email as PDF (portable document format) files. You only need your Boarding Pass in paper form but your electronic documents are mostly just for your information and if you want them in paper form you’ll have to print them out from your computer. Your luggage tags are usually the last page of your PDF file. After printing, just have them laminated or cover them with strong clear plastic tape and you’ll be “good to go”! You’ll be surprised at how much tension can be prevented by not having to run around in circles and scribble on paper tags at the port.
  10. Lost Luggage – As you are well aware, your luggage could get lost. Be sure to purchase Travel Insurance! If your luggage is lost and you have to file a claim, things will go smoother if you make a list of everything you packed and even take a photo of the contents.
  11. If You Don’t Have A Passport Get One! – If it’s impossible to get a passport bring your BIRTH CERTIFICATE and DRIVERS LICENSE or STATE PICTURE ID for boarding the ship. Be sure the copy of your birth certificate is an official copy with a raised seal or watermark. A simple copy from a copy machine is not acceptable. A passport will NOT be necessary for visiting most ports in the Caribbean if you leave from a US port and return from your cruise to the same US port.
  12. You Really Need A Passport – Something you may not have thought of is the fact that when entering the USA by air, a passport is required – no exceptions! Guess what happens if there’s an emergency: you have to return home by air! So at least for that reason, it would be in your best interest to get your passport now. It’s also recommended that you leave a photocopy of your ID and passport with someone at home and an extra copy to keep in your luggage. In fact, go ahead and make photo copies of all of your documents, license, passports and credit cards. Upload all of these copies to a cloud account.
  13. Research Your Port Of Calls – The planning and anticipation of your vacation can enhance the whole vacation experience. One thing you can do is get to know as much as possible about the islands you’ll be visiting. Get to know in advance which landmarks or attractions you don’t want to miss. This will help you decide which excursions you may want to purchase. There are some ports where you can simply walk from the ship and do your own thing – but – there are also some ports where it’s just not safe to walk around. For those ports, it’s imperative to purchase an excursion. Making these decisions and booking your excursions in advance will make things go a lot smoother on the morning you arrive at the island. While everyone else is bickering over what they want to do on the island you’ll be sitting there with a big smile on your face. If you’re planning to do a lot of walking at your ports, make it a part of your research to learn their traffic laws. For safety reasons, don’t put your cash and credit cards in the same pocket. Some people even carry a “dummy wallet” in their normal wallet pocket with only a small amount of cash in it.¬† It’s also a good idea to try and avoid looking like a tourist – instead dress like a local!
  14. Restaurant Reservations – The specialty restaurants sell out very quickly. To insure you get in, make your reservations at least a month before you leave. Find out in advance which nights are having which theme of cuisine and reserve the specialty restaurant for the night of your least liked type of food.
  15. Your Travel Documents – After you make your reservations and receive your Booking Number from your travel agent most cruise lines allow you to submit your required information in advance through their website. Doing this in advance will reduce your check-in time at the port. Most cruise lines have switched to “paperless tickets” which make it even more important to fill out your information online and print out your own boarding pass.
  16. Medical Tip – If it’s necessary for medical reasons to give yourself injections, for example with insulin, be sure to let the accessible department know in advance and notify the guest relations desk as soon as you board so they can give you a safe container to dispose of the used needles.
  17. Less Wrinkles – (Not on your face – on your clothes) If you save the plastic bags that your clothes are returned in from the cleaners and reuse them for all your hang-up outfits in your garment bag it will help to prevent wrinkles caused from packing. Another tip about wrinkles is to bring a spray bottle of Fabric Wrinkle Release.
  18. Immune Booster – A few days before your cruise begins, start taking herbal supplements that strengthen your immune system. It could save your vacation!
  19. Before You Leave – It would be a good idea to visit your doctor for a check up. If you’re just a little sick before you leave you know your luck would be for it to get worse and ruin your vacation.
  20. Choosing Your Room – Try to pick out a room just a few doors from the elevator. If you do, you can not only avoid a long walk after getting off the elevator but being a few doors away from the elevator will avoid the noise. Do You Need An Adjoining Room? – If all of the adjoining rooms are sold out, simply reserve two balcony rooms located next door to each other and have the Guest Relations Desk to open the divider on the balcony between the rooms and wallah!- you instantly have adjoining rooms! The divider between balconies doesn’t open on all ships so check first to see if your ship does.
  21. Your Credit Card and Check Card – Before you leave for your cruise, be sure to contact your financial organization and let them know you’re traveling out of the country. Many banks and credit card companies will not approve purchases out of the country as a security measure – unless of course you notify them in advance. Also, sometimes a credit card will be damaged with use. To be prepared and prevent this from becoming a problem, bring a back up card if you have one. Many families are issued more than one card for the same account. Remember to copy the front and back of your credit card just in case it’s lost or stolen so you’ll have quick access to the customer service information. Find out the conversion rate in the countries you plan to visit. Also, try to avoid converting your money at a “Conversion Center” because their fees are usually higher.
  22. Your Health Care On A Cruise – Before you leave for vacation you should check out the quality of the health care in each of the ports. You can do this by checking the State Department website. Be sure to get Travel Insurance. Two things to check for in the fine print of your insurance is whether or not you can choose your hospital or if they just send you to the closest one. Also, be sure you have coverage for medical evacuation. Before you leave you should also check with your current health insurance provider to see if they will cover you while outside of the country. If they do and you need to contact them, don’t bring their 800 numbers but rather the regular long distance numbers. Their 800 numbers probably will not work outside of the country. If you purchase Travel Insurance from a private company, it’s worth the extra money to buy a policy which is a primary coverage policy.