The before-you-cruise checklist
So you booked a cruise. Can't wait to go? Great! You're likely have a wonderful time, given the cruise industry's high satisfaction rating among passengers.
But are you really ready? Too often people wait until just before departure to do things that should have been done weeks earlier. Then in the rush to get it all done, they sometimes leave tickets, medicines or other essentials behind.
To be done as Far Out as Possible: If you don't have a passport, if your existing passport expires soon, or if you don't have enough pages left in your passport, you'll need a new one. The good news is that the state department has staffed up so passports are currently being processed and delivered in as little as a week. Don't expect this to last too long, however, as the final deadline gets closer the passport office will get busier. You can pay for expedited service to be sure you get your passport on time. Currently you can get a passport in as little as 24 hours, but in the future even VIP handling may take far longer than usual. Start this process very early on as well.
Excursions at Ports of Call: Call PJ for a list if you want to book in advance. On Ship excursions are more expensive and crowded. Elect for a more private tour or adventure for ourself and friends.
Spa and Salon Appointments: If you have the chance to book these in advance, and know what you want, then pre-reserve. Otherwise, you'll have to run to the ship's spa desk right after you board, and even then you might find yourself in a line. Try to pre-book your spa appointments on sea days, so you have time free in ports of call. Appointment slots fill up quickly. If you wait to book onboard, your only options may be port days or times during the dinner hour.
Airline Tickets: to assure the ticket is correct and you arrive early enough for your cruise and depart after ship arrives, call PJ. If you bought your ticket directly you need to send this to PJ right away with dates so she can verify. Remember we check to make sure your flight schedule correct, your name is correct and the airline will not refuse to board you if the ticket name doesn't match what's on your ID. Are you ticketed to fly on the right dates and at the right times?
Don't take the chance of mistakenly booking your flights on the wrong date or in the evening instead of morning. Ship departures and arrivals do dictate times you need to arrive and depart. Save yourself a charge to correct your ticket. Also, we'll check on seat assignments and if you're traveling with others, we'll make the effort to have you sitting near. Now adays, best priced tickets don't include many rows of seats on planes so you are limited, don't wait too long to get your ticket.
Credit Card Planning:
If you've checked in for all your cruise documents, start evaluating the credit you'll need on your trip. You'll need one credit card with a sufficient credit line, because the cruise line will ask for a credit card upon embarkation to cover the cost of your on-board expenses. At check-in, they'll run off a "credit card authorization" for a certain amount of money. Depending on the line's policy, length of cruise and type of journey (luxury, premium or contemporary), the line might get authorization for $50 to $200 in daily charges.
Why? Sometimes the cost of on-board incidentals might rival the price of the cruise itself. It's possible to run up over a thousand dollars in onboard charges for shore trips, alcoholic beverages, special onboard programs, casino play, spa treatments and onboard shopping.
That doesn't mean you'll be billed on your credit card for more than you actually spend. If you spent only $80 for the week, that's what you'll pay when you get off the ship. But that preliminary credit authorization will apply to your card until it expires. For example, if you have a $2,500 credit card limit, the card already had a $1,500 balance prior to your cruise, and the line runs off $800 in "authorized" charges as a security deposit, you might be left with little usable credit on that card, at least temporarily.
If you rent a car or stay a few days in a hotel pre-cruise, those suppliers might also run off a credit card hold that could extend through the first day of your cruise. Translation? You might not have enough for the incidentals "hold" charge at check-in.
So never go on a cruise with only $100 or $200 credit on a credit card. I've seen people incredulous at the purser's desk when their card is declined, saying, "but it had at least $200 on it." In reality, that isn't enough. Also, the "hold charges" placed on your credit card onboard might interfere with your ability to use that card for purchases ashore.
Savvy cruisers take along two credit cards: one for incidentals onboard, another for purchases ashore.
Two to Four Weeks Out
Pre-Packing: Find a good spot in your home to open up the suitcase(s) you plan to take on the trip. Aim for one medium-size suitcase and one roomy carry-on bag. Travel agents say most cruisers tend to over-pack, and usually regret it later.
Put everything you might possibly want to take along in piles next to the luggage. Over the next few weeks, evaluate what you have and start to take away this or that. Don't procrastinate and pack the night before your cruise, as you'll probably throw everything in "just in case." Remember cruise cabins are usually smaller than most hotel rooms so you really don't need to pack a month's worth of clothes for a one-week vacation! Check out any dress code information and dress up and down to enjoy yourself.
Even on formal nights, some cruisers leave their gowns and tuxedos at home and simply order room service or head for the buffet restaurant. If you like to dress up, by all means take a gown or tuxedo, but you don't need to take two or three different ones, unless you want to!
We recommend to savvy cruisers select five or six interchangeable outfits to wear throughout the week. Aim for two or three color groups and mix-and-match clothing. Black is always a good neutral color to team with other colors. Which jacket might go with two or three different outfits? What top might go with both slacks and a long skirt? Think layers. Something you might wear in the morning could be taken off to create a cocktail look in the evening. The black heels you wear with a formal gown can be worn other nights with less dressy attire. Colored heels will go with more than one dress and another great idea!
There's a theory, if you haven't worn something in years, you likely won't wear it onboard. Try on any clothes you plan to take, as styles, weight and preferences change. Yesterday's treasures may look awful today. Also, have your kids try on their clothes. It's amazing how fast they grow out of clothing. You might also try putting clothes on hangers as they go into the suitcase. It will allow you to take clothes directly from your suitcase and hang them in the closet when your bags first arrive!.
Pack efficiently and improve the quality of your cruise. Remember, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport can easily start your trip off on the wrong foot sorting through your bags. Nothing sucks more than to pack a lot of clothes and never wear them, yet you had to pack, hang, carry or roll, unhang and unpack them. You'll also have room in your suitcase to bring souvenirs home without having to pay fees for excess baggage at the airport. Or, take an empty bag for them! Did you know some cruise lines have fee-based luggage services that pick bags up at your home and the next time you see your luggage, it will be in your cruise cabin.
Medicines and Toiletries: If you are taking prescription medications, don't wait until it's time to depart to discover you need refills. Take care of this at least two weeks out. If you need a new prescription, there's time to handle the situation with your doctor. And take along plenty of medicine. Consider am additional one week's extra supply, just in case there's a flight delay, winter storm or some reason why you can't get home on time. If you get seasick or carsick easily, talk to your physician about remedies such as the patch, sea bands and others found in most drugstores.
Packing toiletries or over-the-counter medications: If you plan to carry on these items, TSA says all liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a single, clear, quart-size, zip-top plastic bag. Gallon-size or not zip-top are not allowed. Only one (1) quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag, and each container must be three point four (3.4) ounces or less. Visit www.tsa.gov for more information. Then put non-essential stuff in checked luggage, using zip bags to avoid any bottle or accidents from happening. Yes, you could just buy toiletries and over-the-counter medicines (like Pepto Bismol or cold medication) on the ship or in ports of call, but prices can be higher. Also, it might not be that convenient to spend vacation time searching for what you need.
Medical Records: If you have significant medical problems, take along a copy of your records and tests. These could be extremely helpful if you need a doctor onboard. Do this at least two weeks prior to cruising, three if you can. It may take a week or so for your doctor or other medical groups to provide this information to you. Also have a copy of your passport tucked away in your bag in case of loss or theft.
Arrange for Airport Transfers: If you wish to arrive early and explore your departure port, we can arrange air and hotel for you road warriors out there! If you're arriving just for the ship sailing and return, we have ship transfers you may want to include.