If you know what you’re doing, cruising can be an exciting form of travel. But plenty of people swear off the big ships because of some terrible experience that ruined their first time or hearsay. To prevent yourself from becoming yet another cruise causality, take note of these rookie mistakes—and don’t make them.
You Book a Same-Day Flight
Please don’t leave your flight to the last minute.
We know, you’re trying to minimize time away from work by booking a flight the same day your cruise pushes off or returns. Even if you’re dealing with a brow-beating, boss who micro-manages your every minute, don’t do it. There’s a decent chance you’ll lose your whole vacation if your flight is delayed or your checked luggage doesn’t make it to your arrival airport at the same time you do.
I always encourage my clients to arrive a day before your cruise is scheduled to depart. Book a hotel near your embarkation point, spend that time sightseeing, and give yourself time to get to the pier. I have a previous blog: Hotels for Every Major Port in America to help you.
Once your itinerary’s under way, don’t lollygag on shore, either. It’s easy to get carried away in a new place but get back to the ship on time or you’ll be stuck. The ship will sail if you’re on board or not! On small islands with few roads, rush-hour traffic can delay you unexpectedly. I’ve seen many people miss their cruise because of it.
You Overpack—Or Underpack
Don’t bring too much.
If you decide to stuff your suitcase to the point of barely being able to zip it, you’ll regret each time you must reach in there—and forget about bringing home souvenirs.
Still, you’ll want to bring everything you need. If you decide to leave the following things at home, your trip could be worse for it:
- a passport, in case you must fly home from a different country;
- prescription medicine;
- a valid, government issued picture ID;
- any visas for countries you are visiting.
And pack a carry-on, since your checked luggage might not find you until hours after the bon voyage horn blows.
You Don’t Pre-Book Shore Excursions
If you know you really want to do a specific shore excursion offered by your cruise line, don’t take the risk of waiting to book it. Sign up before you disembark.
You can also plan your own shore excursions. But don’t blindly buy shore excursions from the ship. They can be overcrowded, overpriced, and blah! Instead, do some research and find private guides so that you can do exactly what you want to do. Jump on message boards to find people who’ll be on your cruise if you want to lower costs by creating a small group to do your tour.
Other cruise activities worth booking before you board include spa treatments—popular ones book up—and reservations for the ship’s specialty restaurants.
You Choose the Wrong Type of Cruise
Think of the experience you’re looking to create or else you’ll be cheating yourself of the best kind of cruise vacation.
If you haven’t thought through the type of cruise experience you want, you’re not ready to book. Are you looking to relax? Party? A cultural experience? Family time? Your answer should inform which company you go with, what boat you should be on, and when you should go.
It starts with the ship. If you want culture and history, don’t book the party line. If you don’t like to dress up, don’t pick the ship that has black-tie nights. Know yourself and pick your cruise line according to your personality.
The worst mistake a vacationer can make is focusing only on itinerary when booking a cruise. Itinerary matters, but don’t assume all ships are the same. Sure, you love kids, but do you want to be on a ship that caters to families if you’re traveling with adults? Are the room layouts, dining options, and amenities appealing to you? Did an entertainment experience entice you to a certain cruise line? Make sure it’s offered on your specific ship.
Consider timing too. If you’d rather not be surrounded by kids, avoid summer and holiday cruises, when a third of passengers can be children. Three and four-night cruises to warm-weather destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean tend to attract a younger twenty-somethings crowd ready to party, but shorter cruises in Europe and Asia won’t have the same wild vibe.
You Opt for Price Over Weather
Rates will be cheapest during hurricane season. Hint: you may not want to cruise during hurricane season.
It’s tempting to cruise the Caribbean between September and early December since the prices are so low. They’re that way for a reason—it’s hurricane season. Fares to Europe are similarly enticing during winter months, but you’ll have to endure cold weather and rough seas.
As for cruising through Alaska, if you book for two alluringly affordable months—May and September—come prepared for snow and mud and be willing to do your excursions in heavy rain. I’m telling you this now … Be ready so you don’t have to Get ready!
You Dine Recklessly
Dine cautiously, especially when it comes time to hit the buffet.
Cruises are notorious for offering food that sickens travelers. In fact, a common first question doctors have for gastroenteritis patients is, “Did you eat from the buffet?” That’s because if you consume food that’s been left out too long, or lingered over by too many people, you could be in a date with the norovirus.
Since there are few sensations worse than being ill or uncomfortable at sea, take precautions: If any food item looks or tastes funny, ditch it! Don’t approach all-you-can-eat buffets as a challenge or make too many friends at the bar. Drink enough water to stay hydrated. Get out on deck enough to breathe the salty air. And apply sunscreen. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
You Don’t Budget for Added Expenses
If you’ve decided that your budget is what you’ve paid to get onboard, you’ve set yourself up for trouble. For those on a strict vacation budget, it’s easy to get lured by what seems to be an impossibly low price. Once you’re onboard, that’s where they get you.
Unless you’re on a fancier cruise line—in which case you wouldn’t have paid a basement rate anyway—plan to shell out for all your alcohol, anything you drink in your cabin (Bottled water? Four bucks, please.), shore excursions, fitness classes, spa treatments, including internet access, which can cost hundreds and not even work very well. Plan to budget for off-the-boat expenses like food, souvenirs, and services when you’re in port as well.
You Don’t Consider Travel Insurance
You won’t need it, until you do.
I am a firm believer that buying travel insurance is a wise decision. People who deal with chronic illness, or whose health is otherwise sensitive, would do well to think this one through.
Finding yourself in a foreign land with an unfamiliar medical system is very inconvenient and can be dangerous. A good medical travel insurance policy can help you find a doctor or decide which hospital to go to based upon your symptoms, and cover emergency medical care and evacuation.
You can also buy insurance to protect you in case of any other type of catastrophe, including cancellation, a missed connection, lost or delayed baggage, or a dental or legal problem. The COVID-19 Pandemic wreaked havoc on travelers worldwide.
Don’t feel confined to buying the insurance your cruise is selling, either. Most travelers don’t know that they have a choice, and therefore buy the insurance plan relegated to a small checkbox during the booking process.
Travelers who’ve done that assume they’ll be covered for anything—after all, they just paid for insurance. However, when it comes time to file a claim, people who bought directly from the cruise line may be disappointed.
Trip-cancellation coverage benefits may not be paid out as a monetary value, and medical coverage may be lacking. Coverage may also be limited to the cruise itself—what about airfare or hotel stays? These are expenses that should be covered by a good travel insurance policy.
You Bring Work Onboard
Leave the work on shore.
Vacations are for vacationing. Deciding to bring work along immediately reduces the value of your cruise trip—for you and your travel companions, who are likely to roll their eyes as your crack open the laptop. Decide that you’re going to relax your brain, unplug from work, and save that chunk of money that you’d have spent on Wi-Fi that barely works in the middle of the ocean.
One thing I tell my clients, is that it’s best not to over plan. Enjoy some unscheduled time in port. Leave time for wandering about the ship. Take in the sunset, breath in the salty ocean air and RELAX while you read my new e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Cruising 2020 filled with over 100 other insider tips and tricks to cruising.
Hit us up because we’re going to have plenty of guests on our next episode of: BrieskiTRAVEL The Podcast. We are booking in advance so if you’d love to be on with us, we want to hear from you!
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