Cruise Vacation Travel Tips

by Jessica

August 19th, 2010

There’s a first time for everything, as the saying goes, and that’s true of traveling on a cruise ship as well. Even the most experience cruise-taker you meet was once a novice, making their share of mistakes – and there are plenty of travel pros who still forget the basics now and then.

It used to be you could ask around and see which of your friends had been on a cruise vacation before to find out what their best cruise travel tips might be, or rely on the expertise of a cruise travel agent to find out everything you’d need to know. These days you don’t have to limit your search for knowledge to just the people you know, or employ a travel agent if you’d prefer to book your own trip. Nowadays there are all kinds of resources out there to make learning from others’ mistakes easy.

There are all kinds of cruise vacation travel tips from cruise travel experts, and they fall into a few main categories.

>> Shop for cruise deals

How to Choose the Right Cruise

While many cruise lines have similar routes, learning a little bit about your different options for a cruise will help make sure that you have a good time. Some cruise lines offer more family-oriented trips, while others are more geared toward romantic vacations. Some cruise lines are known for their array of on-board activities, while others offer a more intimate and low-key experience. Knowing in advance what you’re looking for in a cruise vacation will help you eliminate the cruise lines that don’t suit your needs right from the start.

Here are some categories of cruises, as well as cruise lines that are good choices for each:

  • Best Romantic Cruise Lines – Princess Cruises are great for romantic trips, whether it’s a honeymoon or not, but for that extra something special the Paul Gauguin cruise in the South Pacific is hard to beat.
  • Best Family Cruise Lines – Disney Cruises, of course! They’re all about entertainment for all ages, including daycare options so parents can enjoy some alone-time, too.
  • Best Value Cruise Lines – Royal Caribbean Cruises tend to be a good balance of expense for what you get, and for that reason can be a good option for people going on their first cruise.
  • Best Party Cruise Lines – Carnival Cruises have long cultivated the “party ship” reputation, and they’re still good at it. Whether you’re single or in a couple, if you’re young and you want on-board parties, Carnival is a good bet.
  • Best Luxury Cruise Lines – Silversea Cruises are great for cruisers who want less of a party and more of a luxury hotel experience at sea.

>> More information about how to choose the right cruise

How to Pack for a Cruise

Most of the advice for packing for a cruise involves the same kind of tips you’ll see about packing for any trip – but some are particularly important when you’re on a cruise. Yes, you have the benefit of not having to pack-unpack-repack every night since your hotel moves with you, but you will be dealing with limited space in a cruise ship’s cabin – so packing light is essential. You’ll likely be able to buy things on board the ship if you forget certain items, but if you can remember to bring them it will save you hassle and money.

Here are a few things you may not otherwise think to bring on a cruise, but that might be handy to have:

  • Travel coffee mug & water bottle – Refillable containers keep beverages cold/hot as needed, and reduce waste on board
  • Power strip – Cruise ship cabins have limited outlets; having a power strip means all your gadgets can recharge simultaneously
  • Mini flashlight – Get around your cabin in the dark without waking your partner, and handy in case of an emergency
  • Collapsible laundry hamper – Keeps your cabin tidy, and folds flat into your suitcase
  • Collapsible tote bag(s) – Good for carrying items to the pool or beach, and for an additional carry-on (if permitted) on the way home

How to Behave on a Cruise

It’s a unique situation, being on a giant floating city for your vacation, so it’s understandable that not everyone would know how to behave. There are general tips for travel etiquette, many of which apply whether you’re on a cruise or not, but there are also some things that apply more to cruises.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re on a cruise:

  • Be prepared with tip money – Most people who work on cruise ships earn the bulk of their income from tips, so don’t be stingy. Come prepared with small bills.
  • Be respectful of tight quarters – Cruise ships might be huge, but they’re also carrying lots of people. Be mindful of your neighbors by keeping your voice down in the hallway, not slamming doors, etc (especially at night).
  • Be ready to share – As mentioned, you’ll be sharing space with loads of other people on a cruise ship, and that means you’ll need to be good at sharing. Don’t “save” a deck chair unless you’re just going for a quick dip in the pool, for instance.
  • Be realistic with your expectations – Some of the amenities on board cruise ships these days may make you think anything is possible on a cruise, but that’s not the case. Learn what’s available on your ship, adjust expectations accordingly, and be appreciative of the perks you have.
  • Be ready for anything – We never want to think of what “might” happen when we travel, but it’s better to be prepared than to be sorry later. Get travel insurance, pack a first-aid kit, find out where the on-board medical facilities are, etc.

How to Stay Healthy and Safe on a Cruise

One of the best ways to make sure your cruise is without incident – medical or otherwise – is to be prepared for anything. Cruisers are well-advised to get travel insurance before leaving home. Even cheap travel insurance typically offers decent medical coverage, and many policies will also cover non-refundable expenses pre-trip if your cruise is canceled due to weather, or some similar event.

You’ll want to bring along a first-aid kit (even if the ship has a doctor on board, it’s good to have some medical supplies with you – and critical if you take prescriptions), but don’t bring things like valuable jewelry with you. There’s no reason to invite potential theft either on the ship or while you’re exploring a port city, or loss while you’re in transit.

photo by milan.boers

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