Planning to take a cruise? Our Cruise Expert Justina Wilke, shares some helpful tips of things you can do before you leave for your cruise which will save you time and stress to ensure you have a smooth sailing experience.
It’s a cold, windy and rainy Saturday in early December. The harsh winter weather has forced the ferry to Seattle to cancel its’ evening run. Alternative arrangements are offered, but would most certainly cause us to miss our red eye flight to Miami. We promptly booked an afternoon flight to Seattle, which will cost us, but our travel insurance will cover it because of the interruption to our pre-booked travel plans. Rather than getting flustered, or discouraged we put our backup plan into effect.
After a layover is Seattle, followed by a brief connection in Atlanta, we finally arrived into the eagerly anticipated Miami heat and were greeted by the warm, vitamin-rich, Florida sunshine. By the time we reached the Miami Cruise terminal over an hour after our arrival, we were exhausted, hungry and in desperate need of a shower, a glimpse of our ship, the Norwegian Getaway, alongside the other, much smaller and older ships, seemed to make our unpleasant moments of the journey so far, disappear. We were now excited.
Thanks to our pre-planning abilities, check-in and boarding was a breeze. So much can be done in advance now before you even leave on your trip, which not only makes for a faster and much more efficient check-in and boarding experience, but it can make the entire cruise go more smoothly.
Remember that especially with cruising, once you have chosen the cruise line, the ship, the itinerary, the destination, and then booked the cruise, this doesn’t mean your work is done, even if the countdown is now on… This means you can start pre-planning your cruise adventure now. Either with the help of your travel agent, your friends & family or perhaps you find yourself compromising over dining times and/or which Broadway-style show to watch with your significant other, all the pre-planning steps that you can take before you leave on this vacation, can help make the trip itself, much more stress-free once you get on-board.
Once you have applied payment to the cruise, even if it is simply just a deposit, you can create your online cruise personalizer/account. Some cruise lines want you to register with them; others will allow you to access your individual booking & make pre-cruise arrangements without logging in. Once you are into your booking, the things you want to focus on booking are:
- On-board credits
- Beverage packages/cards
- Gifts and amenities
- Shore excursions
- Special requests
- Medical & Dietary
Examples might include purchasing a dining package and pre-booking your included specialty restaurants in order to get the best available dining times, or discovering what entertainment will be playing on-board and making advance bookings for the show(s) that fit in before or after the dining reservations you have just made, or maybe you want to surprise your significant other with some champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, or maybe you are allergic to gluten and wish to notify the cruise line in advance, or perhaps you have diabetes and need to have a sharps container and ensure you have a fridge in your room to store your insulin. Some cruise lines even ask for your pillow preferences, other cruise lines offer romance packages and pillow menus.
These are important to book as much as possible in advance, as sometimes the best options are no longer available once you get on-board, so if there is one that you don’t want to miss, this is what your cruise personalizer account is for.
Rather than heading straight for the buffet, like everyone else flooding on-board this massive beast of a ship, we snuck past all the signs that said “rooms will be ready by 1pm”, found our room number, let ourselves in with our newly acquired room/key card, had a quick look around, tucked our carry-on luggage into the closet and then left to explore the rest of the ship.
Because we had done so much advance planning and research about the ship too, we knew just where we wanted to go eat and what was open at this time of the day too. After eating, we wandered around until we found the guest services area, which included a dining reservations desk, the guest services desk, a shore excursions desk and a future cruise deposit desk. The very first thing we noticed was that the lineup for the dining desk was ridiculously long and clearly posted on a large digital screen behind the desk, showed the different dining times still available to be booked for each of the 19 different dining venues on-board. My husband and I knew that we already had a dinner reservation for that evening. Suddenly it became very obvious to both of us that those late nights staying up over the week before this trip, spent pre-organizing all our dining reservations and most of our on-board entertainment bookings, on-board activities as well as shore excursions, had paid off and paid off well.
With only two minor changes made to this agenda on-board (to include some friends we were travelling with) we had practically pre-organized our entire cruise agenda before even stepping foot on the ship. This ultimately gave us more time to enjoy what this “destination at sea” had to offer and more time to relax and visit with friends, while making new friends. This pre-planning meant we had more time to relax in the hot-tubs, tan on the top deck, shoot down the many water slides, play mini-golf, dance the night away at the nightclub, watch the talk-shows in the atrium, try our hand at the casino tables, put on parkas and check out the ice bar, or simply sit on our balcony and enjoy the Caribbean breeze.
With a little pre-planning, a cruise experience can be much more fun, since you’ll spend less time waiting in lines ups and will never need to worry about the entertainment shows or dinner reservations being filled up or sold out. Enjoy your cruise!