My DH had that look in his eyes this week. Not THAT look, the other one! The one he gets when he's itching to make travel plans. So it really wasn't a big surprise when I came home from lunch today and he told me he'd booked us on a cruise. This will be our twelfth and I'm tickled pink about it!
Cruising really has become my favorite way to travel. Beautiful surroundings, great food and entertainment, people waiting on you hand and foot -- What's NOT to love?!?!
What's that you say? You've never been on a cruise and you don't have a CLUE about it? Never fear, Aunty will share some cruise tips that she gave to her friend Terri S. who recently enjoyed her very first cruise and is already saving up for cruise #2!
Aunty's General Cruising Tips
DO NOT buy bottled water on the ship. It is horribly overpriced! Wait until you get onshore and buy a small bottle of already chilled water at a grocery store or pharmacy. KEEP the empty bottle and refill it on the ship for the next time you go ashore. Either refill it yourself in the buffet, or sometimes the waiters in the dining room will fill it for you if you ask nicely. If you have a fridge in your room, keep it cold in there, but be sure to get a brand of water they do NOT carry on the ship, or they might try to charge you.
You are not allowed to bring liquor onboard. Even if you buy it onboard, they keep it and don’t give it to you until the end of the cruise. However, you can smuggle on a small bottle in your purse if you are discreet. They have NO PROBLEM with you bringing in plastic bottles of water, juice or soda (or even cans). Again, don’t buy the same brands they carry (Coke cans) or they might charge you for them.
I never eat from street vendors, but I have never gotten sick drinking a soda with ice in any of the local bars or restaurants. They all have “purified” water or ice, so no worries! If you do get travelers' revenge, DO NOT go to the ship’s infirmary (unless you've had an accident or are truly ill). They can and do quarantine people to their cabins (esp. since the Nor virus)! Also buy medicine onshore, they have all the same stuff at half the price as onboard.
Speaking of the ship's buffet, don’t eat there unless you have to. ENJOY the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The food in the buffet is never as good and it is always crowded around 8 am and noon (probably at 6 pm too but I NEVER eat dinner there!).
Take advantage of sitting at large tables as an opportunity to meet people. And do not be afraid to ask for something that is not on the menu. I can’t eat melons and most of the fruit at breakfast includes melons, so I always ask the waiter for strawberries or sliced pineapple. Most good waiters will bend over backwards to bring what you want. When they do, I always make a note of their name and mention them in my end-of-cruise survey as giving excellent service. These surveys do carry clout with the home office. Any comments less than stellar and HQ can come down on crew members, or so I’ve repeatedly been told.
It is also fun to ask the waiter or assistant how to say thank-you in their native language. They are usually pleased that you are interested, plus you can impress your friends when you get home by saying thank-you in Polish, Tagalog, or even Farsi! You’ll also notice that a majority of the wait-staff will be from a certain region. Our last Alaska cruise on NCL, the preponderance of wait staff were Filipino, and were wonderfully friendly and all around excellent! Our last cruise (on Royal Caribbean) had mostly Eastern European wait staff. Our waiter was from Bulgaria (but also spoke Polish and was impressed when I thanked him in Polish!) and was truly top-notch! Also, if they aren’t too busy (and sometimes even if they are!) they like it when you ask about their families back home.
The maps they hand out when you get off the ship are pretty worthless. Mainly they just show the stores that give the ship a kick-back. Likewise, those oh-so-important talks that the cruise director or staff give are a waste of time. They are one big info-mercial for the same shops (Diamonds International, etc.) in every port that give kick-backs and jack up their prices accordingly.
Also those “guarantees” they tout on the jewelry purchased onshore are worthless. We’ve been told by more than one frequent cruiser that when they contacted the cruise company about a defective watch or something else they bought with a “guarantee” they were told they had to go back to the shop… RIGHT! You’re gonna go all the way back to Mexico (Alaska, Bahamas) to get them to make good on that guarantee? Save your big purchases for stores back home, and buy something inexpensive from the street vendors. As long as you like it, who cares?
That is truly the bottom line on a cruise -- as long as you have a good time, WHO CARES?!?! And you will have a good time! Aunty guarantees that.
If you have any specific questions about cruises, feel free to email me (via my website) or use the comments. Bon Voyage!