First Timer Cruising Tips
This is a list together several years ago by a Crown and Anchor member and may be useful for first time cruisers. It may also have a few tips for experienced cruisers.
- Make sure that you have completed the required cruise pre-registration information so that you are not delayed when you get to the port. Plan to get to the port a minimum of 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time; that's pretty much a requirement so that the ship can send a complete passenger manifest to Homeland Security 60 minutes before departure. Regardless of what your travel documents from the cruise line say, boarding generally starts between 11:00 AM and noon.
- Make sure that you have a passport, OR the documents required to cruise including your original or certified copy of your birth certificates with a raised seal and a photo ID.
- Make sure that you have all of the cash you want to take. You will not need any local currency in Mexico.
- Make sure that you have planned carefully your arrival day and time at the cruise departure port; i.e., plan to travel there a day early, especially in winter months, and /or if you will be required to make flight connections. You don't want to miss your cruise due to a flight delay.
- Pack for the various activities of the cruise including exercise wear, swim wear, formal wear, casual clothes for the daytime and sports/resort casual clothes for after 6:00 PM. After you pack look at what you have and try to eliminate as much as you can; think mix and match tops and bottoms and plan to wear each piece twice; or do laundry on ship (or use the laundry service); Royal Caribbean brand ships do NOT have self service laundry but they will all do it for a fee. Here's the price schedule: http://media.royalcaribbean.com/content/en_US/pdf/LaundryPriceList.pdf
- Pack shoes for the various activities like beach shoes, sandals and/or flip flops, sneakers and good walking shoes, and shoes to wear sports casual and formal.
- Make sure that you have any prescription medicines for the entire trip plus a week. Your cabin will have towels and soap provided, including pool and beach towels, and a hair dryer. It will also have a generic hair shampoo so you do not need to bring that unless you like a specific brand. Don't bring an iron or steamer. Those are prohibited items and it will be confiscated until after the cruise. You can bring a flat iron for your hair.
- Pack clothes using plastic from the cleaners and place between clothes or buy travel size of "wrinkle release."
- Include in your carry-on bag: music player and its charger and headphones, camera and its charger or extra batteries, a couple books to read (or a Kindle or Nook); a large insulated cup with a seal-able lid. Always pack your medications in your carry on bag. ALWAYS pack your jewelry, camera, phone, IPad, money and other valuables in your carry-on bag.
- Plan carefully what you want to wear when you board the ship because the ship's photographer will take a boarding photo which you may want to purchase and you may be in those clothes all day and evening. Your luggage may not get to your cabin until about 5-6:00 PM
- Take a small carry-on bag for the last night of the cruise. On the last evening you will be required to put your luggage outside your cabin by about midnight so that they can start taking it down to the lower deck for offloading the next morning. So you will need a small bag for your toiletries and your clothes that you sleep in. Best thing to do is to pack everything, then put on the clothes that you will wear off the ship the next morning and then put your luggage out. Then undress and hang up what you will wear the next morning.
- If you are taking your cell phone, PC, music player or other item that needs to be plugged in take an extension cord or power strip, as the plugs in the cabin are generally not in the best places and there are usually only one. You'll need to put these away when not in use so the cabin steward does not confiscate them.
- If you plan to get into the pools or hot tub as soon as you get on ship (they will be open), bring those clothes in your carry on bag; you other luggage may not get to your cabin until much later in the afternoon.
- The cruise line will offer a lot of interesting tours but they will be expensive. You DO NOT have to buy tours to get off the ship in port stops. You can go off on your own and many times in Caribbean and Bahamas ports you can find cheaper tours on the pier. The cardinal rule of going on your own is DO NOT be late getting back to the ship; it will not wait for you if you are late getting back.
- Cruise line will take lots of photos of you boarding the ship, getting off in ports, at dinner, on formal nights, around the ship and these are expensive. So take your camera with you all the time and ask others to take photos of you.
- Your gratuities were prepaid and part of your stateroom fee. The gratuities cover your cabin steward (who will clean your cabin twice a day every day), your waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter. You don't have to plan to tip anyone else; but each drink order will have a gratuity added to the check. Remember the service workers on ships get the vast majority of their income from tips, so please don't try to short them, unless the service is really bad.
- Don't leave home without your Passport and Travel Insurance. It is wise to check with your cell phone provider before you sail if you have a smart phone. A surprise phone bill could put a damper on your conference.
- Sign activity waivers online before the cruise, so when you get on you don't have to waste any time. Be aware there are height and weight restrictions on some activities.