3 Tips for Checking In at the Cruise Port

Not sure what to expect when you arrive at the cruise port?

 

Every cruise line and port is a little different from the next, but there are a few things you can count on every time you arrive to check in for your cruise. These are the top three things you can expect when checking in at a cruise port.

1. Baggage Porters

When you first step foot on the street outside the cruise port, one of the first sights you’ll see are baggage porters. These people are eager to collect your bags and carry them onto the ship on your behalf. They are perfectly legit, and the only way to transport any bags bigger than a carry-on on board. You can personally carry any bags that will fit through a typical security scanner—like the conveyor-style ones found at the airport. Anything bigger needs to be handed over to a porter. Make sure you have a dollar or two per bag available to tip the porter. It is expected, and I always think it’s best not to upset the person responsible for safely getting all of my belongings on the ship.

Most often, your bags will arrive before your ship sets sail, especially if you’re at the port early. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you will not get them until a few hours later. Be sure you have everything you need right away inside your carry-on. This includes medications, a swimsuit and sunscreen if you plan to sit by the pool for the sail-away party, a sweater if you get cold easily, or any other essentials. Also be sure to remove your wallet, ID, cruise papers (including your boarding pass), and other valuables from any bags you check with a porter. You will not be able to get in the ship if you do not have proper identification or the papers from your online check in.

The cruise line knows you may not have your bag in time for dinner, so they don’t usually set any expectations for your attire in the dining rooms on the first night. Still, I like to assume I may have to wear whatever I have on. I try to choose an outfit that is comfy enough to lounge around in for a few hours but also classy enough to wear to a restaurant. It’s a fine line to balance.

Pro Tip: Be sure your bags are properly labeled with your name and cruise ship cabin number before turning them over to the porter. Otherwise, they won’t know where to take them, and you’ll be without your bags longer than you need to be while they try to sort it out.

2. Long Lines

No matter what time you arrive, you will encounter a long line of people. The longest lines tend to be when the cruise port first opens and the first two or three hours after that. Don’t be surprised if the line extends outside and wraps around the building. Some cruise lines and ports have very organized lines with signs telling you where yo go. Others are quite disorganized and seemingly chaotic.

Depending on how many times you have sailed with a particular cruise line, you may have priority boarding over other cruise guests. There is a special line for these people. Some cruise lines have multiple lines for past cruisers, each with its own special boarding privileges. There is also a special line for people who have paid through the teeth for priority boarding, even if they have never sailed with the cruise line in the past. Don’t jump into the first line you see. The best way to sort through the hustle is to simply ask someone where you should go.

Once you have found yourself in the appropriate line, expect to wait 30 minutes to and hour to reach the front of the line. Even if you have checked in online, you still have to go through this process. Don’t try to skip ahead—you’ll end up right back where you started. The good news is that once you reach the front of the line, the check in process usually only takes a few minutes.

Most times, you’ll be able to walk right onto the boat after you’ve check in. But sometimes, you’re ship simply hasn’t come in or is still being prepped. If this is the case, you’ll need to wait some more. You will likely be handed a number and told to wait until it’s called to come to the boarding area. In the meantime, you’ll need to find someplace out of the way to stand in the overcrowded embarkation area (there are rarely very many seats available and you need to stay out of the way of people in line).

3. Don’t Wait Til the Last Minute

If you’re boarding the ship in a foreign city, it may be tempting to spend every last minute you can touring the local sights. But be sure to leave yourself lots of time to get to the cruise port and through the boarding process. The same goes for anyone flying or driving into the cruise port on the same day the ship sets sail. No one wants to have to wait for a straggler. Not to mention, it puts the ship behind schedule. And while it may seem like the captain has tons of time to sail to the next destination, it’s simply not the case. There are many factors the crew needs to consider at each port, from weather to underwater obstacles, tight turns, and high-traffic ports. The last thing they need to worry about is whether or not everyone is on board when they should be.

Your boarding pass likely says you must check in at least two hours before the scheduled sailing, but I recommend arriving a minimum of three hours before that time. This will give you extra time in case you run into any last-minute snafus…like forgetting your paperwork in your checked baggage. The ship will sail without you—I’ve seen it happen many times. Don’t be that person…you know the one.

These are just a few tips for checking in at the cruise port. What other advice do you have for fellow travelers? Join the conversation on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

7 Ways to Make Your Cruise Even More Special

For a few extra bucks, you can make your cruise even more special.

 

Everything you need to have a good time is already included in the price of your cruise. You don’t need to spend one extra cent if you don’t want to. But you may want to budget for a few extras once you’re on board. Here are some of the main ways you can upgrade your experience as you sail the seven seas that will make your cruise even more special.

1. Specialty Dining

Every cruise ship has places you can dine for free. There is usually at least one dining room and a buffet. But most ships also offer alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can eat at a sushi bar, steakhouse, teppanyaki house, or pizzeria, for example. Prices usually range between $10 and $30, depending on the restaurant. Many ships also have a full-service cafe, where you can buy specialty coffees and pastries for a few bucks.

make your cruise even more special

2. Beverage Packages

Water, coffee, and tea are always available on typical cruises. Most also offer free juice at breakfast and some sort of water-based beverage, like iced tea or lemonade, throughout the day. But if you’re thirsty for a pop, bottle water, or anything with alcohol, you will need to open your wallet. But there’s a loophole. You can buy a beverage card that lets you drink as much as you desire, and it usually costs much less than you would spend overall buying one drink at a time. You can get either alcoholic or nonalcoholic versions of the card so the entire family can take advantage.

make your cruise even more special

3. Spa Treatments

Ships of all shapes and sizes have an on-site spa. But beware, the prices are typically well above anything your would spend on land. A massage typically costs at least $120 but can be close the $300 if you’re in the mood for a something more specialized, like a seaweed wrap. If you’re really looking to treat yourself, you can even get acupuncture, Botox, and cellulite treatments on many ships. But relax, there are a few affordable ways to pamper yourself on a cruise, such as a scalp massage, haircut, or manicure.

make your cruise even more special

4. Shore Excursions

If you’re not sure what you want to do when your ship docks at each cruise port, fear not. There are plenty of tour options available through the cruise line. They would with the best local tour companies and guides to make sure you have the best experiences on land. Whether you’re into adventure, culture, shopping, or history, they’ll have something for every taste. Parasailing over the open ocean, horseback riding on the beach, a cooking class at a local restaurant, a visit to the outlet malls—you’ll find it all and more at every scheduled stop.

make your cruise even more special

5. Celebrations and Gifts

Are you celebrating a special event during your cruise? For a small fee, you can arrange to have your room decorated with flowers, balloons, special signs, desserts, wine, and more. You can choose from a variety of themes, including birthdays, anniversaries, and bon voyage. Even if you’re not sailing, you can surprise a friend or loved one by contacting the ship in advance. You can also purchase cruise merchandise and other gifts in advance of sailing so that they’re waiting in your room when you get on board. I’ve secretly hoped someone would surprise with a celebration or gift, but alas…maybe they’ll read this post and get the hint.

Pro Tip: If your travel agent lets the ship know about your special day when you book the cruise, you may get a little something special for free. That’s right…I said free. On my last sailing, I got a gift card for a bottle of wine and a free photo of my choice from the photo studio. It was lovely.

make your cruise even more special

6. Photo Packages

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like the movies and every minute of your special getaway was captured on film (or digital thingamabobs)? Well, every cruise ship has a photo studio to do just that. Every time you get on or off the ship, a team of photographers will be on standby, ready to snap a shot of you at each port. At night after you’ve dressed for dinner, they’ll have impromptu portrait studios set up in strategic locations around the ship. You can even hire a photographer to follow you around for the day.

make your cruise even more special

7. Shopping and Sales

If you love to shop, you don’t even need to step off the boat to do it. Designer handbags, fine diamonds, and couture cosmetics are just some of the upscale items you can purchase in the ship’s boutiques. You’ll also find duty-free tobacco and alcohol, candies and chocolates, costume jewelry, cruise merchandise, cheap tees, and knick knacks. You want it, they got it. And they have special sales every evening. One night you might get a deal on scarves and sunglasses, while the next night there may be a special offer on earrings or t-shirts. The deals are often amazing.

make your cruise even more special

Pro Tip: You can purchase just about everything on this list in advance of your sailing by contacting your travel agent or accessing your online itinerary. You can even buy gift cards to make purchases in the ship’s shops. This way, you still don’t have to spend any extra money once you set sail.

These are some of the main ways you can make your cruise even more special. What other ways can you think of? Share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Cheap Spa Treatments on a Cruise Ship

I bet you think every treatment in a cruise ship spa will cost you an arm and a leg. Think again.

 

It’s true. Most spa treatments on a cruise are extremely pricey. But there are a handful of ways you can pamper yourself without taking out a bank loan. Here are four tips for getting a little spa action on a shoestring budget.

Cheap spa

Tempting Tresses

Treat yourself to a trim and a blowout. It may not seem like much, but it won’t break the bank, and it always feels good to have someone else style your hair. I wouldn’t do anything too crazy, like chopping off your long locks or getting a fringe of bangs. Leave that to your regular stylist. But it doesn’t hurt to get the dead ends cut off. Or maybe even an up do.

Pro Tip: Find out when formal night is, and get your hair done that day. You’ll feel like a princess with your locks perfectly coiffed.

Cheap spa

Feet to Fingers

While manicures and pedicures often cost quite a bit less on land, they are still two of the cheapest things you can do in a cruise ship spa. And they usually come with a bit of a twist, like a fire and ice treatment. If you purchase the mani and pedi as a package, you can usually get a bit of a break on the price, too. Ask nice, and they may even toss in a fun freebie, like painting each nail a different color.

Cheap spa

Sensitive Scalp

Is there anything better than having your head massaged? Well, for a small fee, you can spend 30 minutes of pure bliss doing just that in the spa. It’s one of the cheapest spa rituals you can receive on a cruise ship. If you have a few extra dollars, you can pair it with a special hair treatment for added awesomeness.

Cheap spa

Deal of the Day

I know it’s tempting to pre-book spa sessions before boarding the ship. And it’s hard not to bite when you take that spa tour on Day 1 of the cruise. But trust me when I tell you to hang tight. Each day, the spa offers a new deal. Just check the cruise planner the cabin steward leaves on your bed each night to find out the deal for the next day.

Sometimes, you can choose three rituals for 20 minutes each at rate well lower than you would pay for a massage alone. For example, I once got a mini facial, Swedish massage, and scalp massage for under $120. Other times, you can get 10 percent off your first treatment, 20 percent off the second one, and 30 percent off a third one. It’s a great deal.

Pro Tip: If you really like what you see in the planner but wonder if the next day’s deal will be better, fear not. You don’t have to get the treatment on the same day the deal is offered. You only need to book it that day. So, take a boo at the next day’s planner, and if the deal isn’t as good, you can still book the current offer for later in the trip.

Cheap spa

These are just a few spa treatments you can treat yourself to on a cruise without blowing your budget. Do you have other tips? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Things to do on a Cruise: A Fun Day at Sea

If you’re like me, you’re worried about being stuck on a ship for days with nothing to do. Fear not, there’s plenty of things to do on a cruise.

 

I remember the first time I stepped foot on a cruise ship. I was so concerned about being bored once we set sail. The thought of being trapped on a floating island terrified me. When I realized we would be spending an entire day at sea, I was sure I would die of boredom. Those of you who have been on a cruise are likely laughing hysterically right now because you know how ridiculous this is. There are so many things to do on a cruise that it’s virtually impossible to fit them all in.

Lounging

things to do on a cruise

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like to cram as much as I can into every vacation day. I have one exception to this rule. I like to spend at least one day lounging around when I’m cruising. In fact, I’ve mastered the art of doing absolutely nothing on a “fun day at sea.” But it’s not as easy as it sounds. To relax well, you need to follow these simple tips.

As soon as you wake up on the morning of your day at sea, grab a lounge chair in your favorite part of the ship. Do this even before you have breakfast. In fact, you may even want to set an alarm for 8 a.m. to be sure you get the spot you want. You can nap later…poolside. I love, love, love lounging in the adult-only area. No children are allowed here, so it’s much quieter, and you don’t have to worry about being splashed by a kid doing a cannonball. But spaces fill up fast in the adult-only section because it’s smaller than areas dedicated to family fun.

Save Your Space

All you need to do to save a lounger is toss a towel on each chair, along with a personal item, such as a sweater or book. This will ward off others and ensure you have a place to lay your head for the rest of the day. Once you’ve saved your spot, you can dash back to your room to finish getting ready. And don’t worry about your stuff. No one is going to take it.

Pack everything you need for the day in a tote bag. This includes a book, games, a laptop, a phone, a hat, sunscreen, and anything else your heart desires. Wear your swimsuit and a pair of flip-flops or whatever you’re most comfortable in. I love a good muumuu as a cover-up. The goal is not to have to worry about going back to your cabin if you don’t need to. Once you’re comfy on deck, all you need to do is kick back, relax, and enjoy. Aside from a dip in the pool, the most exercise you’ll get is waving your hand for drink service or a quick walk to the buffet for a bite to eat.

Food and Drink

things to do on a cruise

They say the average person gains 5 to 10 pounds on a cruise. It’s easy to see why. Almost every cruise ship boasts multiple restaurants, even older, smaller ones. Let’s see, there’s the buffet and at least two main dining rooms. These are free of charge, and you can have as much food as you want. Even in the sit-down restaurants you can ask for seconds. They won’t say no. It’s gluttonous in the best possible way.

In addition to “free” food options, most ships also have a number of specialty restaurants. For an additional fee, you can dine in style at one of these upscale establishments. You can find a gourmet steakhouse or sushi station on just about every ship. Other options include Teppanyaki or French fare, for example.

Most cruise ships offer room service and 24-hour snack stations where you can get pizza, fries, and other finger foods. There is also free ice cream and a café where, for a few bucks, you can get a made-to-order cappuccino or espresso.

Drink and Be Merry

And I would be completely remiss not to mention that drinks are free-flowing all day and all night in every corner of every cruise ship. From poolside service to wine with your meal, the cruise staff are more than happy to bring you any type of beverage you desire. If you can think it, you can drink it.

Pro tip: Before boarding the boat, be sure to purchase an all-inclusive beverage package if you plan on having more than one or two alcohol-infused drinks each day. With one of these packages, you can order all you can drink at no extra charge. Without a drink package, you’ll pay $9 to $15 per drink, which adds up fast.

Entertainment

things to do on a cruiseDay or night, there is no shortage of entertainment onboard a cruise ship. When your cabin steward turns down your bed each night, you’ll get a copy of the itinerary for the next day on your pillow (or next to your towel animal). Be sure to pop it in your tote so you don’t miss out on any of the fun. It’s likely the cruise director will announce major events over the intercom throughout the day, too.

On a day at sea, you’ll find tons of things to do on a cruise. Often, there’s an entertaining cooking class with cruise staff, ice or fruit sculpting displays, silly competitions, dance classes, and more. And of course, every night at sea, you can dance the night away in one of the clubs, listen to live music at various venues, see a theatrical presentation, catch a movie on a big screen, or more.

Some ships offer Broadway caliber performances. Others have a circus at sea or even an ice rink. Acrobatics, fireworks, themed parties, and other events occur every night on cruise ships. After your relaxing day at sea, you’ll be ready to let loose with a night of fun and shenanigans.

Activities

things to do on a cruiseWaterslides, spas, bowling, and mini golf. These are just a few of the things to do on a cruise ship. You’ll find everything from bingo and chess to rock-wall climbing and video arcades on your cruise vacation.

Of course, the bigger the ship, the more outrageous the options. But even the smaller ships pack in plenty of fun. If you get tired of lounging around, just leave a sweater on your chair and wander off for a while. You’ll likely stumble upon a shopping extravaganza, a name that tune game, an art auction, or even a wine tasting. There’s something for everyone.

What’s your favorite way to spend a day at sea? Share your ideas for things to do on a cruise on our Facebook page.