Happy Friday, friends!
As you may know, when we went on our big European adventure this summer, a good chunk of our traveling was on a cruise ship! Before we’d been on a cruise ship, we didn’t really know what to expect, so today, we’re sharing our top 9 tips before you board a cruise ship! If you’re planning a cruise in the near future, we hope these tips will get you the most out of your time (and money) on the high seas!
1. On-Board Credits
Don’t book a cruise without getting some kind of on-board credit to spend. Cruise lines are always advertising specials where booking gets you some kind of cash to spend on board, whether it’s $50 or $250, don’t leave home without it! And if they’re not offering one at the time you book, just ask! It if means filling a cabin with two people, they’ll probably do it!
2. What to Keep in Carry-On Bags
Keep your toiletries, bathing suit, and a change of clothes in the bag you carry on the ship. It takes a few hours for your luggage to get to your room, but if you have those things in your carry-on, you can get right to it when you get on board instead of waiting around for your bags!
3. When to Board the Ship
Plan your arrival time at the cruise terminal for the earliest you’re allowed to board. The cruises we’ve been on had a 12:00 p.m. on-board time and a 7:00 p.m. departure time. That’s seven hours of food and entertainment that we already paid for, so we took advantage of it!
4. Stay Away from Sail Away Parties
On some cruise lines, there’s a sail away party where servers pass out specialty cocktails and flutes of champagne. They don’t make it clear that you have to pay for it until you’ve already taken the glass – and those drinks aren’t cheap!
5. Inside Cabin or Balcony?
If you have to choose, spend your budget on land excursions instead of an upgraded room. We’ve stayed in the cheapest rooms on the ship twice now — inside cabins with no view – and we’ve loved it. To be honest, we only really use our room for sleeping a night and napping during the day, and it’s pitch black when you turn the lights off in an inside cabin room, which is exactly what we want! Plus, it’s thousands of dollars more for a balcony over an inside cabin, so if you have to choose, go with on-shore activities instead! They’re experiences you’ll never forget, and everything else about your experience on the ship is going to be exactly the same whether you pay twice as much for your room or opt for the cheaper one. Of course, if you have the extra wiggle room in your budget, and can swing it all, go for it!
6. Bring Some DVDs
The TV channels on cruise ships are very limited and, of course, there is no internet connection, so streaming your favorite shows from Netflix is out of the questions. In Europe, we only got a few international news outlets and one movie channel that showed the same pictures on a loop. For us, there was just only so much Palestine-Israel coverage and Moneyball re-runs we could handle. Fortunately, we brought all seven season of our favorite TV show, Gilmore Girls, so we had something to fall asleep to every night and something to escape to during the lulls in the day.
7. Bring Laundry Detergent
Sending out your laundry on the ship can get expensive, so we recommend bringing your own detergent, washing your clothes each night in the sink, and then hang drying them the next day in your room or on the deck until they’re dry!
8. Pay Gratuities Ahead of Time
The cruise line will give you the option to pay gratuities at the beginning (for a lower amount) or pay them at the end (for a slightly higher amount), so save some money and do it up front!
9. Research Online
The best way to get a feel for the character of a cruise ship is to visit VacationsToGo.com because they break down every cruise line and each ship on the open sea. They’ll tell you when the ship was built, what’s on it, and, most importantly, they’ll give it a 1-5 star rating to help you decide what level of accommodations you can expect – and they’re pretty darn accurate!
Looking for more travel tips? We’ve got ‘em here!
Part 1: 5 Gear Essentials for the Traveling Photographer
Part 2: 5 Tips for Photographing your Vacation
Part 3: 8 Things to Consider When Packing for Europe
Part 4: 4 Tips for Eating Well in Europe (Without Breaking the Bank)
Part 5: 5 Money Must-Knows When Traveling Abroad
Missed our European Adventure? It’s all here!
For those who asked, we photographed our trip with the Canon 5D Mark III camera and Canon 50mm 1.2 L-Series lens. In hindsight, a wider lens would’ve been helpful! The European streets are tight, the buildings are tall, and the tourists are plentiful! If you need gear recommendations, you can view what’s in our bag by clicking here.