Setting off into the open seas is an adventure unlike any other. While long ago it was the only way to travel, and it was quite dangerous, now it’s a lesser used mode of transportation, and actually, it’s pretty fancy! You’ve priced it all out, though, gotten a sweet deal, and a fun journey selected from one of the many cruise outfitters. Great, but there are a few things to know before you get to port, and ship out. Read the below to be prepared for your cruise vacation.
Deal with the Elements
Mother Nature isn’t very concerned about your trip, unfortunately, and the ocean is the ocean, which means it’s in constant motion. And so, then, is the boat. You might be worried about getting seasick. While certainly possible and it does happen, cruise ships are massive vessels and remain fairly even keel. So, there’s not many passengers get sick. That said, get a Seaband to wear around your wrist, which many people swear by, and also pop a Dramamine right before you board. You can continue taking them, too.
Clothes, What to Wear and How Much to Bring
Attire is a big deal on a cruise ship. Dinner is not usually a jeans and flip flops affair – in fact, most cruise lines don’t allow that level of casual in the dining room. Don’t panic! Business casual is the norm, so trousers and a dress shirt for men and a basic dress for women are common. Some cruise lines have formal nights, in which you must wear basically what you’d wear to a nice wedding – some people even do black tie and that’s actually okay, too. The biggest thing is check with the outfit and ask about dining attire requirements.
As for how much to bring, travelers should typically pack a week’s worth of clothing. Most ships provide laundry service, from drop off dry cleaning, to self service launderettes. As with home, with dry cleaning, the fancier the material, the more expensive the cost per item.
Paperwork You Need
The most important document you should bring with you is your passport. There are exceptions to the rule, like if you’re on a closed-loop cruise, which is when you begin and end at the same U.S. port, which requires a driver’s license and a second government issued ID, such as a birth certificate. It’s highly recommended you bring a passport even in this situation. Every country you visit requires one, and though you may not go to a foreign territory, if you find yourself in an emergency, the ship docks at a port of call, but you can’t disembark without a passport. So, bring it!
When you board the ship for the first time, you need your passport as well as print outs of the paperwork sent to you prior to the trip, so bring that, certainly. Also, you may need to fill out and turn in a credit card authorization form so you can enjoy your cruise cash-free.
Visas, Everywhere you Want to be
No one at customs wants your credit card, the visa they want is a obtained at an embassy before you travel. Check your route and do some research into the countries you’re visiting. The cruise carrier knows what visas you need, too. Often, the cruise is issued a blanket visa for the whole ship, this is the case in countries like Turkey and Egypt, but not always, so check with your cruise, and also all the embassies.
Get Your Shots Early
There aren’t a lot of countries that require proof of vaccination, but you should still get shots if the country advises it, or if the U.S. advises. Many doctors specialize in immunizations. This is a quick visit, if painful (yes, it is), but worth it. This needs to be done early! Many immunizations don’t take effect for a month or longer, so you have to go way before you’re scheduled to enter a country that requires typhoid, or yellow fever shots, for example.
This is a sticky one, for sure. Since cruises often have passengers from a mix of countries on board, the tipping rules get a little dicey. Most countries around the world don’t have our tipping custom, and so they aren’t exactly excited to tip for service, as it isn’t done where they live. That doesn’t mean tipping isn’t something you need to do – you do have to tip the crew. Usually. Well, it depends.
Some lines are starting to implement an auto–tip, in which passengers are charged a tip fee each day they’re on board. Others do the old-fashioned method and distribute envelops inscribed with crew names at the conclusion of the cruise. Still, some cruise outfits have done away with tipping all together. The thing to do is ask before you go. You don’t want to do the wrong thing, and you also don’t want a massive surprise charge at the end of your trip.
Book Excursions Early
You may be tempted to fly by the seat of your pants while on your trip, but if you do that, you may not get to go on some of the really cool excursions available at ports of call. At an additional fee, you can take a tour in a country, and it may include an adventure, a walking history tour, a cooking class, who knows. You can choose if you’d like to do any of these fun options, or not. But do it before you board. Excursions are massively popular so if you wait until the last minute, more than likely you don’t get to go, and that’s a bummer.
Most ships have WiFi, as you probably expect. But, that WiFi isn’t free, like it is in many hotels. Bandwidth is not always speedy, so don’t try to rely on downloading anything too complex. You can often buy certain packages, so if you just need to email and look up information, that’s a lower tier package, but if you want to stream movies, that’s a high tier. Remember, many streaming services don’t work outside the U.S. and the ocean is international territory!
Your phone should work, but again, you need to get an international phone plan to use it first (or pay dearly). You need a plan to cover each port of call, which means you may require coverage in several countries. This isn’t usually a big deal, unless, of course, you don’t get the right coverage.
But really, do you want to be online, or do you want to enjoy your cruise? Put the tech away and have an amazing adventure!
What’s your favorite cruise you’ve taken? What were your favorite excursions?