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I’m fortunate to have gone on dozens of cruises all over the world. I even got to sail once with the original cast of The Love Boat — they were The Regal Princess’ Godmothers (you can see all of my celebrity pictures here).
I took my dad as my guest and I kept giving him tips for being on a cruise ship and then it dawned on me that I should create a story with my top 10 cruise tips so I could share them with Johnny Jet readers, too. So here they are … and if you have anything to add, please post a comment below – we may use it in one of our Daily Travel Tips newsletters (BTW: You can sign up for that newsletter for free by clicking this link, inputting your email address and checking the Daily Tips box).
1. Turn your phone to airplane mode while cruising
As soon as the ship sets sail, turn your phone to airplane mode or if you aren’t going to use it, then turn it off completely. That way, when you arrive home, you won’t have a bill with crazy high roaming charges. I learned that on a Windstar cruise from Barcelona to Rome when I woke up one morning to text messages reading, “Welcome to Iceland” then “Welcome to France” (which is where we were). When I returned home, I had accrued over $380 in roaming fees without even using my phone. And I have T-Mobile, which offers free (basic) data in 120+ countries. Luckily, I called T-Mobile and they credited my account but it could have been just some good luck that I had an awesome agent on the line. Instead of taking any chances, turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode as soon as you leave port to prevent this from happening to you.
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2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator
We all know that cruises are filled with endless amounts of food and it’s really difficult (at least for me) to say no to all the good eats. I usually end up having two to three desserts a day! To combat all of those extra calories, I almost always take the stairs instead of the elevator while onboard a ship – even if it means going up 10 flights. The only time I make an exception is when I arrive and depart with my heavy bags.
3. Sign up for tours ASAP
Most cruises offer some really incredible excursions. So you don’t miss out (the good excursions sell out fast!), sign up for tours way in advance even if you aren’t 100% sure you are going to take it. You can usually cancel later without a penalty. Just make sure to ask what the cancellation policy is first.
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4. Keep valuables on you
I almost always pack light when I travel by taking carry-on luggage only. This allows me to show up to the airport later, jump on an earlier flight, not have to wait around baggage claim and take public transportation. It also allows me to get off the cruise when I want instead of waiting for the time assigned to me. And I also don’t have to leave my bags unattended in the ship’s hallway during the disembarkation process. But even if I do take an oversized bag, I always keep my carry-on luggage with me and so should you. Always keep in your possession important and expensive items like cameras, laptops, passport, money and medicine.
5. Bring an adaptor + power strip
I’ve talked about the value of bringing a power strip before, but here’s another benefit: Instead of buying multiple individual plug adaptors, with a power strip, you can just buy one (or if you travel a lot, then buy one multi-country adaptor like this one). That way, you can plug multiple cords in and just use one outlet. And that’s key, since a lot of ship cabins only have one or two outlets.
6. Don’t slam the cabin door
You should always be aware of your neighbors in a hotel but even more so on a cruise ship since the cabins are usually much closer together and doors tend to be heavier and slam really hard. That’s why I always make sure not to slam my room or balcony door. Instead, I close it gently which takes a little effort but goes a long way towards being a considerate traveler.
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7. Photograph your prescriptions
Once, I brought my dad on Windstar Star Pride’s inaugural cruise from Barcelona to Rome. When I met him at the hotel, he told me that he had foolishly forgotten to pack his medications. But because we had photographs of his prescription labels, things worked out fine. Our first port was Sete, France, a sleepy little French seaside port known as Cette until 1928. The highlight for me, besides getting one of the best ham and cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had, was finding a pharmacist who not only spoke English but also filled my dad’s prescriptions with enough medication to last him the trip! The lesson: Photograph your prescription labels and keep them on your phone when you travel, because in Sete, that’s all the pharmacist needed to fill my dad’s order. And guess what? It cost less there than it did in the U.S.
8. Pack for the weather
There’s an old saying in in Europe: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” It’s true and you would think this is common sense but you’d be amazed how many people I meet who don’t do a little research. Before I travel, I always check the 10-day weather forecast so I can pack accordingly. You should do the same so you won’t be surprised, sorry and too hot or cold to fully enjoy the trip. TIP: Always pack a compact travel umbrella – you just never know when you’ll need it and you’ll be so glad you packed it.
9. Pre-cruise dinner parties
On one of my cruises, I met a woman named Janet from Mississauga, Canada who told me about a great tradition that she and her friends started when they began traveling on cruises together: Before a cruise, they have two dinners. The first one is to assign a different destination or destinations to a person or couple to research, depending on how many people are going and the number of ports visited. The second dinner, which takes place just before the cruise, is to go over the game plan and all the research everyone’s brought back to the table. I heard Janet’s group talking on the tender ride into Portofino and I was envious of how much information they had. I think it’s a brilliant way to prepare for a trip and build excitement, don’t you?!
10. Use a travel agent
I’ve made my living on the internet but even I know that unless you are an experienced cruiser, you should have a travel agent (especially someone who specializes in cruises) book your cruise, especially since they can often give you firsthand advice, discounted rates, onboard credits and a possible upgrade. If you don’t have one, I’ve partnered with Cruise Planners, which is a top-rated travel agency to help plan your perfect trip. Contact Mike Gelman (1-800-724-5868) and tell him Johnny Jet sent you.
On most ships there is an outside deck where you can casual walk or power walk with full view of the ocean. Stairs can be hard on the knees where walking allows you to stop and take it all in. You need to do your homework on offship excursions. Plus remember you can book private excursions to your needs. Just make sure they know when the ship leaves port. If you like group challenges form one for those challenging triva contests. You may find your area of expertise. As soon as you go on board check out the deals at the gift shop clearence and make your reservations at those restaurants for special occasions or holidays. Try to go to those travel lectures as they can make your excursion more interesting. But don’t believe those special ship discounts at stores off the ship. Do your best to negotiate instead. I’ve been on ships where the exchange machine have run out of the next port’s currency. On Disney cruises the inside cabins are desireable for the character visits on screen. Talk to family / friends who have been on that cruise line for inside tips. Finally, you have already paid for all of the standards you are about to experience, so enjoy them.