There’s a difference between travel and vacation. Taking a cruise definitely falls in the latter category, but despite that it can still be a great way to quickly explore parts of the world at a daily rate that can be more budget friendly than some of the other travel options out there. I never thought I’d enjoy the experience of being confined to a ship for any period of time, but I definitely enjoyed the experience. You can read more about my first cruise experience here. In this article I’ll share a few tips to get the most out of your cruise vacation.
While you can eat as much as you want, drinks other than coffee, tea and water are usually not included. Bringing your own alcohol on board is not permitted. Even if you buy some local tequila in Mexico or rum in Jamaica they’ll take it away once you re-board the ship at the end of the day. Those purchases are returned at the end of the cruise. To my surprise, the same applied to purchases from the on-board liquor store. Since there was no way to beat the liquor restrictions, and I wasn’t going to pay cash for every single drink I signed up for an all-inclusive drink pass at additional cost. If you drink enough, it’s worth the cost. Tip from one of the waitresses: if you travel with someone who drinks less than you do, you usually get away with passing a few drinks along to others in your group. You just can’t order more than one at the same time.
I had an excursion lined up in every port, which was a lot of fun. Swimming with dolphins, snorkelling from a catamaran and private beaches were all part of the fun. Next time I probably wouldn’t book any excursions since most ports offer enough shopping and sightseeing to do within walking distance, as well as taxi’s to take you to a nearby beach. Excursions are fun, but more expensive.
Be prepared to line up a few times during your cruise, especially on boarding and departure days. The immigrations and security formalities are extremely time consuming and a horrible start (and end) of a great vacation experience. Also on board of the ship there’s usually a few line ups for dinner and special events.
Not all ports are big enough to accommodate large cruise ships, in which case you’ll be tendered by small boats that bring you to shore. Booking an excursion on these days is a great way to get off the ship first and avoid some line ups, however the return journey took longer than needed due to the security procedures of re-boarding the ship.
Daily tips which are split amongst the staff are added to your room bill every day, or you can pre-pay the tips prior to departure through your travel agent. My all-inclusive drink pass was not inclusive of a royal 18% gratuity, which is also charged for drinks purchased individually onboard. On top of that waiters present you with a receipt asking for additional tip (yes, on top of the 18%, for “outstanding” service).
are definitely worth the extra money since I’m a sucker for ocean view. However, I got the chance to see an “inside” room as well, which was a lot spacier than imagined so if your strapped for cash it’s definitely an alternative to consider. You’ll probably spend limited time in your room anyway, and there’s many other decks to enjoy the ocean views from.
Booking your cruise
Last but not least, you should never, ever pay rack prices on a cruise. Those prices are only for the uninitiated. Here’s some exclusive deals through CruiseDirect.
Curious about taking a cruise vacation of your own? Start by exploring your options here.