10 Cruise Planning Tips

In the thick of Cruise Planning? Check out these tips before you set sail!

Number 1 – Get Travel Insurance. 

Cruise planning and travel insurance go hand in hand.  There are many unknowns with travel in general.  Trip insurance covers all those what ifs.  Just because you are on vacation, doesn’t mean life doesn’t still happen.  You can still get sick or hurt

Cruises have the extra risk of the fact that the boat won’t wait for you.  If something happens and you miss boarding, cruise insurance is your best bet.  Either purchase directly from the cruise line when you book, or get insurance from a third party.  Whatever you do – don’t travel without insurance.

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2 – Plan to Arrive a Day Early.

Flights get cancelled, weather happens, you get delayed.  When cruise planning, from the get go plan to arrive the day before your cruise and you will start the trip happy and refreshed. 

We’ve said it before and we will say it again – the ship won’t wait for you.  If you try and arrive and board the same day and something goes wrong, you’re making your own arrangements to the first port to join the boat.

No one wants that stress or expense.  No one wants to file a claim with your insurance.  Just arrive the day before, eat a leisurely breakfast and then go enjoy the best all inclusive trip out there!

3 – Book Your Excursions Before You Board.

You can book or exchange your excursions once you are on the ship – but honestly you will be waiting in a lot of long lines and that is no way to start your vacation!

Also, pricing is usually more competitive and cheaper before you set sail.  You will get the best deal by booking during your cruise planning stage..

Lastly, many excursions and fill up so book early is your best option to get the excursion that you want.  We recommend booking as soon as you know what excursions you want to go on.

You often don’t have to book an excursion through the cruise line!  There are few exceptions depending on the port, but usually once you disembark at the port – you are free to explore the country or area.   

There are great excursions through the cruise line, but if you are interested in something off the beaten path, you can find great options by finding what is available at the particular port and booking directly through the provider.  If you would like help with this, we are happy to assist.

Just make sure that you plan to return from your private excursion at least one to two hours before you need to board the ship.  Just to give yourself plenty of time for an unforeseen delay.  If you miss the boat – you got it!  They won’t wait.  But the reward of discovering something unique and off the beaten path is worth a little extra planning.

Carry the ship’s contact information with you when you’re off the boat and at port.

4 – Consider Skipping the Drink Package

Cruise planning brings lots of questions – what do you want included, what do you not.  This is one to carefully consider.

You can bring your own drinks on board and save the expense of the drink package.  Each cruise line has their own limitations and requirements for what you can bring and how much.  So make sure you know what your particular cruises’ policies are, but you can save a bundle by skipping the drink packages and bringing your drinks with you.

If you are a heavy drinker, or the smoothies and soda make your cruise, you’ll want the drink package.  Often when you book your cruise, you can get it with the wifi or another bundle. 

However, if you don’t need a bundle and only want the drinks, don’t just sign up for it the day you think of it.  Unlike the excursions, they won’t run out and the pricing fluctuates daily.  Think of it as the stock market or airline pricing.  It goes up and down.   

Watch the pricing for a few days, pick the price you like, and then buy when it is a good price.  Then – don’t look anymore!  You can’t do anything about it so just remember, you bought at a price you liked.

5 – Keep an Eye on Your Cruise Pricing.

You’re not done once you book your cruise.  Cruise planning takes you clear up to getting on the boat.  Sign up for the cruise line’s emails or newsletter.  Follow their blog.  Check their website once a week.  If the ship is not full or they are trying to promote their brand, they will have a sale.   This is true especially in the post covid world.

Even though you have booked your cruise, you can call your agent and ask them to see if they can get you the sale pricing.  They often can save you hundreds of dollars.  Even after final payment you can often get onboard perks or credit towards the spa, wifi, arcade, etc.

Think about and give the agent the following information:  

Are you willing to upgrade or downgrade your room to get the sale?

Do you want a bundle for wifi, drinks, or excursions, or are you willing to give up your bundle for the sale pricing?

Do you need to keep a refundable fare, or are you willing to go non-refundable?

Are you willing to get onboard credit?

Are you willing to rebook your excursions?

If you purchased flights from the cruise line, are you willing to change your flights?

When you call to the get the sale pricing, you are essentially getting a new booking, so you will need to rebook your excursions, and it might change your other options – such as a bundle no longer being available with the sale or other differences.  Deciding beforehand will help your agent get the best pricing for you.

Even if you have to change your bundle or your room, you can often save quite a bit of money, so it’s worth the effort to decide or check into.

8 – Know Your Phone Plan

We live in a connected day and age.  Depending on where you cruise, you might have cell service throughout your cruise.  But find out your plan coverage before you go so you don’t come home to hefty fees.  You will need to contact your cell phone provider to get this information.

If you don’t have cell coverage, or your plan is too expensive and you still need to stay connected with those at home or work, get the wifi package.  With wifi there are several ways to stay connected. 

WhatsApp is one of the most popular.  It’s an app you download on your phone and use to call or text those at home.   Those you are trying to call or text will need WhatsApp as well.

You can also Skype or get an internet number.  Just make sure that you know and have a plan with those you need to keep in contact with.

7 – Read Your Cruise Documentation

Your cruise will send you documentation usually by email, and you might be tempted to brush by it and figure you’ll read it later.  But this is an important step in your cruise planning.

Each cruise line is just a little bit different, and it’s good to know all the small print terms and conditions for your cruise.  It will give you the latest health guidelines as well as what you can or cannot pack.  You don’t want to have anything confiscated as you board.

You might be surprised that a clothing iron makes most lists of restrictions as do the ever popular drones.  So roll instead of fold your clothes and read what and how much you can bring aboard so that you don’t have any surprises or lose your favorite gadget.

Also – pack extra toiletries.  Yes, there will be some available for purchase on the ship, but remember, you are a captive audience so the pricing will be higher.  So pack a little more than you need so you don’t run out.

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6 – Know Your Cruise Line’s Dress Code

Each cruise line is different in how they define formal, business, casual, etc.  Some lines it’s a hard requirements, other lines it’s more of a suggestion.  Before you pack, know what is going to be expected for the things you want to do.

It’s never a bad idea to take the more formal wear in your luggage in case you change your mind and decide that you want to go to some of the more dressed up events.  It just gives you more choices for how you are feeling that day.

9 – Bring a Day Pack

Part of your cruise planning should include thinking about what you will do each day – and also what you will need.

The first day, they will take your luggage before you check in.  You might not see your luggage again until later in the evening.  So pack a few toiletries, a change of clothes, and of course your swimsuit to make the most of that first day.

Then your pack will come in handy on your excursions.  Put in your sunscreen, and a few necessities or a water bottle that you might need while you’re out and about.  Also think about including a towel.  You usually can’t take towels from the ship on your excursions.

Your last night you’ll get everything packed up for the ships personnel to take and have ready for you as you disembark the ship the following morning.  It’s nice to have a bag to put in your clothes for the next day and the toiletries that you’ll need.  

10 – Seek Out Less Crowded Times for Activities

It should come as no surprise that the popular things are going to be crowded on the ship.  Plan when you will do what on the ship and think about when others might do the same to get the most out of those activities.

The pool, the activities, the dinning can all get quite crowded and you will find yourself waiting in line to enjoy something you were looking forward to.

If waiting in line isn’t exciting to you, plan to visit them at less crowded times.  Avoid the buffet the first day, and check out the restaurants instead.  On the other days, go to the buffet an hour earlier or later than normal meal times.  Head to the entertainment up to an hour early to get good seating. And our favorite:  Utilize the pool or onboard activities during port days.

If there is something specific that you want to be sure to experience, maybe plan your excursion to start or end a couple of hours earlier so that you can take advantage of the less crowded ship.

Generally, the ship is less crowded during the morning of a port day rather than the afternoon.  Planning ahead will help you to more fully enjoy what you’d like to experience and you’ll be prepared to jump right into your list.  You can also choose a cruise line that has a smaller ratio of people per square foot to avoid crowds.

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Bonus – Remember the Names of your Favorite Staff.

Ok, this one isn’t in the 10 because it’s technically after you are on the ship so not part of cruise planning, but it’s important so I want to shout it from the rooftops.

One of the greatest things about a cruise is the staff.  They are the hardest workers and help the cruise run smoothly and help you enjoy your trip.  They can be a lot of fun and really make a difference to your trip.

Beyond thanking them and being kind, the best thing you can do for someone that makes your trip great is to mention them by name in your after cruise survey or on a comment card.  It gives them opportunities for employee perks and promotions.

However, you can see someone and say hello every day, without knowing their name.  So take a minute to check out their name tag and jot down their name in the notes section on your phone or somewhere else that you’ll remember.  Knowing their names will allow you to greet them as they greet you, make your trip more enjoyable, and also bless their life with a kind review and mention.

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