Friday, August 28, 2015

Cruise 101 : 10 General Tips

I am so glad that today is finally here! That means that we are officially into the main part of the countdown for our next cruise! Today I am sharing just some general tips about cruising with you to get you in the mood for a cruise!

1. Participate in formal night. I know some people don't like the idea of getting dressed up, and it really is personal preference, but it is so much fun! I have always loved getting a little extra fancy because it happens so rarely in real life. It makes your vacation a little extra memorable too because for most people getting all dolled up is out of the ordinary. Participate at least once! 7 day cruises usually have 2 formal nights, and cruises longer than that have even more. 

2. Have realistic expectations. You are on a cruise ship. This ship houses several hundreds if not thousands of other vacationers and crew members. You aren't staying at a dumpy motel, but you aren't staying at a 5 star hotel either. The food probably won't be 5 star, and the service might be a little less than perfect at times, but remember that there are lots of other people on board and the chefs, room stewards, guest service members, etc are doing everything in their power to make your vacation great! Understand there may be lines at the buffet, or a place to sit may be hard to find at prime hours, the pool may be a little crowded, but if you know this going in and aren't expecting the presidential treatment, you will have a great cruise.

3. Have a small gift for your room steward. Giving a gift at the beginning of the cruise helps to ensure that your room steward remembers you, and sometimes will make sure to take extra care of you. I'm not talking about a lavish gift, but maybe a post card from your city, and a cash tip. Several people like to tip at the end, but we like to tip at the beginning to let our room steward know we appreciate them before they have even done anything.

4. Pre-make tip envelopes. When you arrive at port, there are porters who will help you unload your car. It is customary to tip these guys. If you have some pre-made tip envelopes handy, it makes this smooth. Just had them an envelope with a couple of dollars in it and be on your way. No need to fumble trying to find some small bills to tip the guy. This is also works great from room service. 

5. Make sure you have small bills. Like I said above, tipping the porters, room service, and room stewards happens a lot. If you don't pre-make tip envelopes, you can find yourself searching for small bills, or needing to make change often. You can even choose to tip bartenders with cash if you want. We just put everything on our on board account, but it is personal preference. This is also helpful when you are shopping in port because if you are flashing $100 bills everywhere, you can draw some unwanted attention to yourself. 

6. Consider getting your items pressed on board. The cost may be a little more than at home, but the stress that comes with trying to keep clothes nice and pressed through travel can be horrible. We personally have never used this feature, but plan on it this cruise, though we have know several people who have used the laundry service and love it. 

7. Wear your bulkiest shoes on board. I'm referring to tennis shoes mainly. They take up a lot of space in your luggage and that is prime space when you are going on a cruise. We always wear our tennis shoes on board or at least carry them in our carry in our backpack (what we use for our carry on).

8. Budget for the casino. If you are like us and plan to visit the casino at some point, budget for that. We have a set amount we will spend in the casino. In the past we set an amount for each night so that we don't go crazy. Plus if we budget for the casino every night and we only go 3 nights on a 7 night cruise, then we come home with that extra money!

9. Pack half as many clothes and you think you will need. Yes, yes, yes! I can't tell you how bad I have over packed because I thought I needed so many clothes!!! You will see my packing list and my husband's packing list later in the series, so you will see a little more of what I am talking about. We re-wear some clothes that don't get dirty, like jeans in the evening. I wear a pair of jeans to get on the ship, and I have a spare pair. I usually only am wearing them for a few hours at night, 3 maybe 4 hours, and they don't get dirty. So there is no need to take 7 pair to wear in the evening when the air is cooler.

10. Find a bartender and stick with them. Last year, we found our favorite bartender half way through our cruise and we wish we would have found him sooner. For us, it just makes the cruise that much more enjoyable. When you find one you like, and stick with them. they learn about you. They remember your face and name, and usually your preferred drink order. Several times we would walk into the bar where our favorite bartender was, he would see us, and immediately start making me a virgin strawberry daiquiri, and he would get C a Blue Moon ready. Be sure to tip this person well if you notice that they are taking the time to get to know you and your preferred drinks. 

*BONUS* Relax and have fun! This is the most important one! You are on vacation. Don't get stressed! Take part in several activities that are offered on board. There is plenty to do. Kick back, order a fruity drink, and enjoy your self!

Cruise 101 will be a series based on mine and C's knowledge of cruising with Royal Caribbean to Caribbean ports. We have been to Nassau, Bahamas, Coco Cay, Bahamas (RC's private island), Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas and Phillipsburg, St Maarten. While the information I share is based off cruises with Royal Caribbean, and to these specific ports, most of the information is transferable to different itineraries and cruise lines. Be sure to do check with the cruise line you choose to see how it matches up with the information I am providing. All information given is based on my own experience, and is my own opinion. To See other posts in this series, click here. 

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