Tips for Cruisin’

Hey guys! Hope you all had a great weekend..we finally got some much needed rain. I think I heard my flowers give an audible sigh!

I want to wrap up my vacation posts by giving you guys just a few pointers and tips in case any of you are considering going on a cruise in the future.

When I told people we were going on a cruise, most of the reactions were “Ohhhh, wowwww a cruuuiseee.” Meanwhile, I could see in their heads they were thinking, “You must be rich! Cruises are SO expensive!” Contrary to what you might think, cruises can be pretty economical. The fare includes your room, enough food to feed Joey Chestnut, and entertainment including magicians, comedians, acrobats, singers, and dancers. And there a few more ways to save a few buckaroos:

1.) Early bird gets the worm? In this case, true. Sort of. You’re going to get the best deal by either booking far in advance (5-6 months) or wayyy late (1-2 weeks before departure). Cruise lines don’t want to sail their ships with empty rooms, so often times as a departure date gets closer, they will drop the rates significantly. But, of course, not everyone can wait until the last second to plan their vacation. So, my advice is if you know you want to book a cruise, get with a travel agent ASAP and book it. I’ve also heard that some cruise lines have a ‘low price guarantee’..so if the fare drops after you book it, they will guarantee you the lower rate. Check with your travel agent on that.

2.) Forget the ocean view. You’re on a boat. You can go up on the deck and stare at the ocean ’til your hearts content. A balcony/oceanview in your room isn’t necessary. Sure, if you’ve got the extra money to spend, it would be nice to have..but overall, unnecessary. The only time we even spent in our room was when we were sleeping or getting ready. You’ll save hundreds of dollars by opting for an interior room. And, as a general rule, the higher on the boat you go, the more expensive the rooms are. So, if you don’t mind staying on a lower level (still above sea level, though..it’s not like they’re putting you down where Leo DiCaprio had to stay on the Titanic) an in an interior room, you can save a LOT of money.

3.) Beware the room card. On both of the cruise lines we tried, there is a cashless system implemented on board. Before you get on the boat, they will have you put a credit card on file. This credit card will then be tied to your room key. So whenever you want to purchase something throughout the week, they will charge it to your room and you will get the bill at the end of the week. It’s very convenient, but it can be somewhat dangerous. Especially, if you’re drinking or gambling (we do neither, so it wasn’t an issue for us). I recommend trying to keep a running tally somewhere of what you’ve spent so that you’re not shocked when they slip that bill under your door at the end of week!

4.) The excursion debate. Excursions are probably where people spend the most money once on board the ship. First let me say, excursions are totally optional. It’s just a chance to explore your port of call in a tour packaged organized by your cruise line or another third-party company. However, if you want to just get off the boat and explore on your own, that’s always an option. You don’t even have to get off the boat at all. {Sidenote: the spa onboard usually runs specials on days when you’re in port. So if you want to book a spa treatment, do it on those days.} If you decide you want to book an excursion there are two ways to do it. You can book it through your cruise line either prior to the cruise or once you’re on board. Or you can wait until you get to the port and book it through a third-party company. Most cruise lines will discourage this because they can’t vouch for the integrity of those companies. However, you can save up to 50% off the price because those companies are run by locals who are willing to haggle. If you’re going to go that route, I would recommend finding some local security officials (there are usually some at every port) and asking if they can point you in the direction of a reputable company. It’s a more risky way to do things, but it can definitely pay off in the end. For example, we booked an excursion where we swam with dolphins (PURE AMAZINGNESS btw) in Cozumel for about $130. When we got there, we talked with some other people who booked it through some locals and only paid $85. No bueno.

And now for some more general tips:

1.)  Packing the essentials. If you’ve never cruised before, you may be at a loss for what to pack. Here’s my suggestions. Pack one outfit for dinner each night. This can be as dressy or casual as you like, depending on the kind of dining you want to do. Most ships offer a buffet style dining where you can dress however you’d like, or a more formal, sit down style, which is usually slightly more dressy (i.e. no jeans, no shorts, etc). Also, some cruises have one or two ‘formal nights’ where you’re encouraged to get all gussied up so check with your specific cruise line for info on that. I really enjoy the formal nights because they make for great photo opportunities! As far as what to pack for the days, you need to consider what you think you will be doing. For example, if you plan to just lay by the pool/swim, you may not need much past a bathing suit and cover up for the daytime. But if you think you might go for a hike or long walk on one of your excursions, make sure to pack comfortable clothes and tennis shoes. Also, consider any specialty items that might come in handy, like a scuba mask or snorkel. That will save you money on having to rent them for an excursion. And, DON’T FORGET SUNSCREEN. The sun is very intense on a Caribbean cruise, and because there is a breeze coming off the ocean you can completely fry yourself and not even know it. I’d also recommend a good hat that will stay on your head, even with a strong breeze. Trust me, you don’t want to burn your scalp because then it will peel and it’ll look like you have really bad dandruff. Not sexy.

2.) Is it just me or is the room swaying? One thing to consider when thinking about going on a cruise is whether or not you experience motion sickness. The movement is nothing like what you would experience on a regular boat, but you can definitely feel it from time to time. The larger the ship, the less you will feel the movement. My mom gets motion sickness, so she takes Dramamine throughout the duration of the cruise and it works just fine. I also saw several people wearing those little motion sickness patches. If you think it might be an issue, pack it just in case. Nobody wants to be upchucking on their vacay.

3.) Gratuity. Throughout the cruise, there are a number of people who serve you..from your room steward to the wait staff to the bar boy. Most cruise lines will add a charge (on Norwegian it was $12 per person/per day) onto your room bill at the end of the week that covers tips for all these people. So be sure to account for that in your budget.

PHEW. That was a lot of reading..sorry guys. For making it through such a wordy post, I will now reward you with some random pictures from our cruise.

 

Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico

At Dolphinarius in Cozumel, Mexico


Ahh, I’m ready to go back already! Have you guys ever been on a cruise? Thinking about it in the future? Have any more questions? I want to hear all about it!

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July 25, 2011. Tags: , . Travel.

2 Comments

  1. Whitney replied:

    Timothy and I went on one for our honeymoon and LOVED it. I really think it’s one of the best vacation options out there. It’s surprisingly affordable and so much fun! I could go on and on about it. 😀

    Awesome post! You really had some great ideas!

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