What Does it Mean to Tender on a Cruise?

So you’re reading the website description for your cruise, and it says you need to “tender” to shore.

Unless you’ve taken a cruise before, you’re probably wondering what the heck that means. In a nutshell, a tender is a smaller boat that carries people from the ship to the shore.

What Are Tenders?

Many times, tenders are owned and operated by local companies. They are small ferry boats that hold anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred people. If there are not enough local ferry operators to service the cruise ship’s needs, the ship may even drop a few of its own lifeboats into the water to use as tender boats.

Side note: My mom thinks this is about the coolest thing ever and insisted I mention it in this post. The reason this is cool? Because you get to see what lifeboats are like and how effective they are. Wash the thought of rubber dinghies floating in a vast ocean out of your head. Lifeboats are fully operational boats that hold hundreds of people.

Why Do Cruise Ships Need Them?

Sometimes, ships aren’t able to dock in port. The water may be too shallow, or there may be a coral reef nearby. In some cases, the port city may not have a dock large enough for a cruise ship, or it may already have other ships using the dock. For whatever reason, your ship needs to park in the open water, and you need a more practical way to get to shore than swimming.

tender

How Do They Work?

Your ship’s cruise director team will let you know in advance of reaching a port if you’ll need to tender. They will also explain how the process is going to work for your ship. In some cases, it’s a free for all. Simply head to the gangway, and walk onto the next tender. In many cases, people who have purchased tickets to ship-sanctioned shore excursions will be given exclusive access to the first few tenders. Once they are all on their way, the ship will open up the tenders on a first-come first-served basis. Typically, the ship will tell you in advance an approximate timeline for when this will happen so you can be prepared.

Some ships require people planning to board early morning tenders to acquire a tender ticket when they are ready to get off the ship. There tends to be a bit of rush-hour traffic until about noon, so the ship tries to manage the chaos. You will likely need to go to a lounge or theater area to obtain a ticket. That said,  you will only be able to get a ticket if your entire party is ready to go. If you’re still waiting on someone to finish breakfast or apply sunscreen, hang tight, and let someone who is ready to go get on board instead. If you’re a late riser, by mid-day, the traffic tends to die down and tickets will likely no longer be required.

Tenders run all day while you’re in port. They are a continuous service so you never have to wait long for the next boat. In most cases, as soon as one is full, the next one pulls up and starts loading.

Have questions? Let us know.

5 Hours in Punta del Este, Uruguay: From Beautiful Beaches to Urban Delights

Punta del Este is paradise defined.

With its glistening azure waters and stunning sandy beaches, it's hard to imagine a more perfect place to drop anchor than this resort city on Uruguay's Atlantic coast. While Punta, as the locals call it, boasts a population of fewer than 10,000 permanent residents, the city comes alive for two weeks in January each year, when hundreds of thousands of rich and famous sun seekers swoop in to take advantage of this coastal playground in its peak season.

In recent years, Punta del Este has become a popular port for some of the world's most prominent cruise lines, including Costa, MSC, Celebrity, and Norwegian. One of the best things about cruising is that you get to sample many different parts of the world, and you can always revisit the ones that really stand out. Punta del Este is one of those places.

Cruise Ship Shore Excursions

With only a few hours to explore Punta del Este, it's important to maximize your time. Cruise ships typically offer shore excursions that take you to the most prominent tourist sites. These types of excursions are a great way to ensure you get a good feel for the place you're visiting. However, on this particular cruise, I found the options lacking. I decided to research other options for my day in Punta del Este. I wanted to create a custom experience that met my unique needs. That's when I came across a company called ToursByLocals.

For nearly a decade, ToursByLocals has been connecting travelers with local guides in more than 150 countries around the world. They've sourced the best experts in each community they serve so they can guarantee an exceptional experience every time. What's more, they offer port pick up, the option to create your own itinerary or select from a variety of excursion options, and a "no one left behind" return to ship guarantee.

While the cruise line offered only two ways to spend the day in Punta del Este, ToursByLocals provided a plethora of opportunities. From food and wine to walking and wildlife tours, there was something for every taste. There were also a variety of guides to choose from. You can read their bios to find out their areas of expertise and interests to select the one that's right for you. I opted for the Punta del Este and José Ignacio shore excursion with the delightfully fun and exceptionally intelligent Mariana.

Getting Started

Prior to our arrival in Punta del Este, Mariana contacted me to arrange a meeting time and place—10 a.m. at the very end of the pier. Since we needed to tender ashore, this gave us plenty of time to relax in the morning before our excursion. From the moment your ship drops anchor in Punta del Este, you'll be blown away by its beauty. Just taking in the sun shining over the marina while drinking your morning cup of joe is a enough to make you wish you had more than a few hours in this amazing resort city.

punta del este

We arrived at the pier a little before 10 a.m., and while Mariana was holding a sign inscribed with my name, it was completely unnecessary. We locked eyes on each other long before I was near enough to read the sign. Mariana looked just like her picture, and from the moment we met, it felt like I was reuniting with a long lost friend. After a quick embrace and official introductions (my mother was also traveling with me), we were on our way.

Mariana wasted no time jumping right into guide mode. Though she did it in such a way that you felt you were just slipping into a casual conversation. It was relaxed and easy. She showed us the dockside fish market where stout sea wolves anxiously await scraps of seafood from tourists who are all too eager to feed the massive marine creatures.

From there, we headed toward the car, where we met Mariana's mother, who had graciously agreed to be our chauffeur for the day. This was a pleasant surprise—by not having to focus on driving, Mariana was able to give her full attention to my mother and myself. But this wasn't our only surprise. Mariana had a few sweet treats for us to try, too. One of the two local delicacies included dulce de leche, which is made from sweetened milk that is heated until it forms a thick caramel-like substances, and it's absolutely to die for. The second treat was an alfajor, which is made up of two round cookies with dulce de leche sandwiched between them—also delicious.

We enjoyed our treats as we drove along the coastline, taking in the magnificent mansions lining the shore. All the while, Mariana provided fascinating details about Uruguay, Punta del Este, and the sights we were seeing. Punta is built on a peninsula that extends well into the sea, and a 2.5-mile pathway lines the shore along the peninsula. You can get off the ship and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the area as you walk along the water.

Embarking on Our Adventure

One of our first stops was to take in the rocky point that marks where the Rio de la Plata river and estuary meet the Atlantic Ocean, creating a completely unique ecosystem. It's at this midpoint that we made a quick pit stop to take some photos and talk about how these two distinct bodies of water converge.

Mariana talked in detail about the diversity of nature found in this place, as well as recounted the discovery and history of the country. She then showed us the remains of two mermaid statues that once stood proud on the rocky shoreline, as well as the site of the first naval battle of World War II. Mariana added a personal touch by telling us how her own grandmother had witnessed the fighting first hand and would often share stories with her grandchildren.

From here, we hopped back in the car, pausing for a quick look at the lighthouse and the beautiful blue Candelaria Church located across from it. Mariana, who teaches touristic geography at the local university, is extremely well educated about the area and provided tidbits of knowledge and fun facts about every site we visited and Uruguay in general. Her zest for life and passion for preserving Uruguay's natural beauty are infectious. It was immediately apparent we were in excellent hands for the day.

As we continued our drive along the coastline, Mariana explained that the river side of the water is called La Mansa, or tame beach, and it's perfect for swimming and relaxing on the sand. The ocean side, called La Brava, or fierce beach, is known for its rough waves and is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a little adventure in the form of surfing and other water sports. It was here that we made our next stop for a picture with the infamous sculpture of the hand rising from the sand, or La Mano.

From here, we began our long and scenic drive along the Atlantic coastline. Mariana regaled us with countless facts about the scenery and landscapes we passed. She explained that Punta is located in the Maldonado Department, or state, of Uruguay, and we would be traveling to the entire length of this department on our excursion. To begin, we crossed over the wavy bridge—so named for its notorious ups and downs—into the town of La Barra. Located at the northern end of Punta del Este, this idyllic beach resort community is the perfect place to kick back and soak in the sun.

Passing through the countryside, we took in sights of kite surfers, local vegetation, and beaches en route to the town of Manantiales. According to Mariana, Manantiales' Bikini Beach is the place to spot models and other celebrities during the peak season, and lavish condos are available to rent right along the waterfront.

On the next leg of our journey, we made our way to José Ignacio, an ultra chic beach town that serves as a quaint getaway for Latin America's the uber elite. If you're hoping to spot a South American celebrity, this is the place to be. We ventured through the city streets, getting a good feel for the way the other half lives—and boy, do they live. This exclusive community boasts some of the most expensive housing in the area and is the ultimate seaside paradise.

A trip to José Ignacio wouldn't be complete without a visit to the picturesque lighthouse that sits astride the rocky shoreline. It was here that Mariana shared with us the details of some of the important work she does to promote sustainable tourism and environmental awareness.

Roundabout at Rocha

By this time, we were only about halfway through our adventure with Mariana. There was still much to see and do. We continued our journey to the edge of Maldonado via the incredibly cool circle bridge that spans across Laguna Garzón. Once we hit the border with Rocha Department, we turned around and made our way back down the same road. Mariana pointed out rare indigenous cacti and revealed even more interesting facts about Uruguay.

Prior to meeting Mariana, she emailed to ask our dining preferences. She tries to tailor the excursion to individual tastes and wants to ensure her guests have an exceptional experience. Some people are looking for an upscale eatery where they can eavesdrop on the stars. Others seek a seafood extravaganza. Us? We opted for a simple outdoor eatery in Mariana's hometown, La Barra.

Before heading for lunch, Mariana treated us to a glimpse into her own life. We drove past her house and down her street. She even took us down a back road and through a farmer's field where we could glimpse the city from afar. It was an extraordinary and unexpected experience that turned out to be the highlight of our day. And just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we found ourselves at the most delightful little restaurant. At first glance, it looked like nothing more than a tiny log cabin with a few picnic tables set out in the open air. But it turned out to be a truly gourmet experience. We were greeted with a warm embrace by a few of the locals, who seemed to know Mariana well.

Within minutes of our arrival, the small establishment was swarming with hungry patrons. We were delighted to find Mariana's husband and young daughter had arrived ahead of time to snag a table under the shade of the extended rooftop. Immediately, we engaged in conversation, giving us unprecedented insight into life in Uruguay. And have I mentioned the food yet? My goodness, I can't forget the food...it was the ultimate in deliciousness. The restaurant offers three different choices on its menu each day, and at least one is vegetarian. Seeing as I don't eat meat, I opted for the pumpkin quiche, and I was not disappointed. The generous portion was enough to tide me over until a late night dinner seating back on the ship. And it was accompanied by a fresh-from-the-garden salad doused in vinaigrette and sesame seeds that tasted like heaven.

Since there were still a few sights left for us to see, we made quick work of our meal, bid farewell to Mariana's family, and headed back out on the road. As we made our way back toward Punta del Este, we drove through a shantytown to balance the excessive wealth we'd witnessed earlier in our tour. We also drove past the Maldonado university where Mariana works and through Maldonado City.

The last leg of our journey took us to Punta Ballena, or "Whale Point," a small peninsula in the Rio de la Plata. En route, we learned that Punta del Este is the perfect place to view southern right whales from July to November each year. In fact, they come so close to shore that you can "smell" the water they exhale through their blowhole. Mariana is an expert in this particular species and offers specialized whale tours during the peak season.

Punta Bellena is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the river. It's also the ideal location to spread your proverbial wings for a little hang gliding or take a gander at the infamous architecture of Casapueblo. Looking like something straight off of a Santorini postcard, what was once a summer home and workshop for Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró is now a hotel, museum, and art gallery. You can take a tour of this incredible location if you'd like to get up close and personal.

All Good Things Must End

As it always does when you're having fun, the time flew by all too quickly. With what seemed like the blink of an eye, our time with Mariana was up. We had spent five perfect hours in Punta del Este, enjoying the area and making new friends. And, just like a good friend, Mariana anticipated my mother and I would like to spend a little time wandering the main street on our own. She gave us the option to be dropped off at the pier or on Gorlero Avenue, where you can find souvenir shops, clothing boutiques, and more.

Needless to say, we opted for the latter, and after saying our goodbyes and snapping a quick selfie, we parted ways with Mariana and her mother. We spent an hour or so meandering in and out of Gorlero's quaint shops. If you're looking to take home a special reminder of your time in Punta del Este, an amethyst is the way to go, and you'll find no shortage of them here.

From the center of town, it's only about a ten-minute walk back to the pier. We grabbed a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the waterside restaurants and took another walk around the fish market—I just had to see those incredible sea wolves one last time. You'll also find free Wifi near the pier if you want to tell friends and family back home about your awesome adventures in Uruguay.

I have traveled to about 50 countries on 6 continents. I've been on countless cruises and tours, but none have come even close to the amazing experience I had in Punta del Este. I can say with some authority that ToursByLocals has found something truly special in Mariana. If all of their tours are even half as good as the one I took in Uruguay, then they are well worth every penny.

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5 Reasons a Cruise Cabin is Better than a Hotel Room

A cruise cabin has some major advantages over a hotel room.

cruise cabin

I know, you’re thinking, “how different can they be?” And you’re right. In terms of the amenities the room itself provides, they’re pretty similar. You’ll find a bed, bathroom, and dressers, for example. But there are a few pretty big differences, too. Check out these five reasons—in order of importance—why a cruise cabin is better than a hotel room.

1. Towel Animals

cruise cabinNothing brings a smile to your face like a towel monkey hanging from the curtain rod. It seems such a simple thing, but it’s true. Each night when you return to your room, you’ll find a different animal crafted from the linens. Elephants, dogs, swans, and snakes are just some of the adorable animals you might find frolicking on your furniture. I especially love when my sunglasses become a prop for a personal touch.

2. Nightly Turndown Service

Do you remember the tale of the cobbler and the elves? When the cobbler goes to bed at night, the elves come and do his work for him. Well, the cabin crew on a cruise ship are kind of like those elves. Sometime between when you leave for dinner and when you next return to your room, a magical transformation will take place inside your cruise cabin. The lights will be dimmed, your bed will be turned dine, the bathroom will be restocked.

3. Personal Touches

From the minute you board the ship to the day you disembark, your cabin porter will provide personal service tailored just for your needs. You can expect to see them almost every time you step out of your cruise cabin. They’ll greet you by name and offer assistance or advice. Once, a porter from a previous cruise recognized me many months later on a different ship in another part of the world. That’s how awesome they are.

4. Starry Nights

There’s nothing quite like sitting on your balcony late at dusk and watching the sun sink behind the horizon, except maybe waking up early to watch it rise over the ocean. With the sound of the waves crashing below and the gentle rocking of the ship, it’s an experience you simply can’t match in a hotel room.

cruise cabin

5. A Whole New World

By far, the absolute number one reason a cruise cabin is better than a hotel room is that you can go to bed in one city and wake up in a totally different one.

Do you have other reasons why a cruise cabin is better than a hotel room? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

6 Places to Find Peace and Quiet on a Cruise Ship

There area plenty of places where you can find peace a quiet on a cruise ship.

 

If you’re like me, as much as you love the live entertainment and activities on a cruise, you also want a little time to yourself. I love to kick back with a good book, and just relax. It may be hard to imagine anyplace on a cruise ship where you can get away from the hustle and bustle, but if you know where to look, you can carve out a little space that’s all your own.

peace and quiet on a cruise ship

Check out these six places where you can find peace and quiet on a cruise ship.

1. The Library

Every cruise ship has a special place set aside for people to read, play, cards, and do a little work. It’s usually tucked away in a rarely used corner of the ship. Typically, talking in anything louder than a hushed tone is taboo in the library.

2. The Spa

It’s no surprise that you can find peace and quiet in a spa, but what many people don’t know is that for a small, daily fee, you can buy access to an exclusive part of the spa that is off limits to other guests. Typically, these rooms feature a few hot tubs, heated lounge chairs, floor-to-ceiling windows, snacks, and other amenities that make it the perfect, peaceful retreat. Ask at the spa reception desk for more details.

3. The Upper Deck

Look up. Look way up…above the Lido Deck where all the outdoor action takes place, you’re bound to find at least one or two more decks. On these upper decks, you’re far enough from the noise of the pool and other activities yet still near enough to the buffet that it’s the ideal place to kick back. And, you can still get a great tan since you’ll be outside in the sun.

4. The Cafe

In addition to the tea and coffee service at mealtime, most cruise ships have an onboard cafe where you can buy a latte or cappuccino for a nominal fee. It’s often located someplace mid-ship in a quiet corridor. Not a lot of people hang out at the cafe, which makes it a great place to grab a cup of joe and enjoy the silence.

5. The Spaces in Between

Take a walk around your ship. Chances are that you’ll find a cozy space in a quiet corner that you can call your own. Plenty of ships have window seats lining the aisles, lounges that are unused during the day, or even lesser-known hideaways just waiting to be discovered (check out the hanging chairs between the family and adult pools on the Norwegian Epic, for example).

6. Your Stateroom Balcony

Now this might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Your stateroom balcony is the perfect place to watch the world go by in complete silence. I love to wake up early and watch the sun come up, or at night, bring a hot cup of tea back to my cabin and stare at the stars while reading a good—AKA cheesy—romance.

These are just a few of the places where you’ll find peace and quiet on a cruise ship. Go others? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Top 5 Reasons to Spend Your Sea Day on the Lido Deck

The Lido Deck has tons of fun stuff to do on a day at sea.

 

But what is a Lido Deck, you ask? Well, it took me about five cruises to realize that the Lido Deck on pretty much every cruise line is the upper deck where you’ll find all the outdoor pools and fun in the sun. If you’ve booked and inside cabin or have only a window in your room, it’s fair to say you’ll spend most of your time on board the ship on the Lido Deck. But even if you have a balcony in your cabin, there’s no way it can compare to all the action that goes on upstairs.

Check out these five reasons why the Lido Deck is the best place to spend a fun day at sea on any ship, big or small.

1. Food

You never have to walk too far from your lounge chair to find something to eat on the Lido Deck. Typically, it’s on the same floor as the buffet, but there are often several other dining options as well. If you’ve got a hankering for a hot dog, burger, or fries, chances are you’ll find them at the outdoor grill. Often, on sea days, cruise lines will host a seafood BBQ or dessert buffet by the pool. On most ships, you’ll also find free ice cream and several bars on the Lido Deck. You can’t lose!

2. Playtime

If you’re looking to spend the day in the sun—and here’s hoping you’ve got it for your vacation—the Lido Deck is the place where it’s at. The bigger ships will have at least two pools on the open-air Lido Deck. One is designated for adults only, while the other will be for families with children. There may also be an outdoor water park, climbing wall, mini golf course, basketball court, and more up on the Lido Deck.

3. Music

If you love music, the Lido Deck is the place to be. Many of the bigger ships have live bands playing throughout the day. Soul-soothing Caribbean sounds waft up through the air around you as you relax and enjoy the ambiance. On some of the smaller or more budget-friendly cruise lines, a DJ spins tunes in place of a band. This person will often take requests and tailor the music to the people he’s playing for. It sets a great vibe for the day.

4. Entertainment

There is no shortage on entertainment on the Lido Deck on a day at sea. Hairy chest contests, dance offs, ice carving demonstrations, and cocktail competitions are just a few of the fun activities you might find around the family pool. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, stick to the adult-only area because you won’t find it on the Lido Deck.

5. Movies

Dive-in theaters are common on most cruise ships. One of the pools will likely have a massive screen hanging just above it. Often, blockbuster movies play throughout the day and into the evening. You may even find a popcorn machine at one of the bars where you can grab a bag of buttery goodness to snack on while you watch the movie.

I usually make my way up to the Lido Deck bright and early on a sea day. I toss a towel over my favorite lounger and kick back with a good book and a nice cold bottle of water. I put my swimsuit on under my comfy clothes or cover up, pack a tote bag filled with everything I might need for the day, like sunscreen and my camera, and soak up the sun…okay, so I burn easily and most sit in the shade, but you get the gist.

What’s your favorite thing to do on the Lido Deck. Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Food on a Cruise: What to Expect for Free

Did you know all of your food on a cruise is included in your cruise fare?

 

Not everyone realizes that the price you pay to get on board the ship includes three meals a day—or as many as you’d like, really. That’s right, there’s no shortage of food on a cruise. But is it any good? And will there be anything you like? The answer to both these questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

Whether you’ve got a hankering for sushi or steak, ice cream or apples, you’ll find something for every taste on a cruise ship. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables, and even I can find an overwhelming amount of delicious fare to chow down on. So, what can you expect for free? Let’s take a look.

Main Dining Room

Each night, a three-course, gourmet dinner is served in the main dining room. You’ll get your choice of three or four appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and you can order more than one of each if you’re feeling extra hungry. Typically, the menu matches with your itinerary, serving up local flavors whenever available. And you can count on lobster being featured at least once on your cruise. On most cruises, you can choose either an early or late seating in the dining room, though many cruise lines also offer a dine anytime option. In the morning, you can grab breakfast in the main dining room if you prefer being served over standing in line at the buffet.

Buffet

Day or night, you can always find a wide array of options at the buffet. It’s open bright and early, offering made-to-order omelets, sausages, cereals, pastries, and more. At lunch, you can find a variety of salads, soups, sandwiches, meats, vegetables, and other snacks. For dinner, the buffet often includes the same foods being featured in the main dining room. The only difference is that you have to serve yourself, and you can take as much as you want.

Poolside Grub

While the buffet is usually only a hop, skip, and a jump from the pool area, on most cruise ships, you’ll find a poolside, outdoor eatery. These quick-service restaurants typically offer up fast foods like burgers and fries. My personal favorite? Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise ships. The fires are to die for.

24 Hour Snacks

Are you the type of person who likes a bedtime snack? Or maybe you want something greasy to fill your stomach after a night of partying. If you’re like me, you get hangry if you don’t eat every couple of hours. Have no fear…you’ll always have access to food on a cruise, whether it’s the wee hours or the middle of the night. Most cruise lines have a designated 24-hour restaurant where you can grab some chicken tenders, a chocolate brownie, fries, and other fan favorites.

Room Service

I cannot tell a lie…I have never ordered room service on a ship. I figure if I’m sitting in my room when there are so many amazing activities going on, I’m doing something wrong. But I recognize, there are times when you just want to drink a cup of coffee or an orange juice on your deck when you wake up in the morning. And you don’t want the hassle of having to get dressed and go get it yourself. Room service is always available with a limited menu.

Pro Tip: Depending on the time of day (like 2 a.m.) or the type of food you want (AKA an entire pizza), there may be a nominal charge for room service.

Sea-Day Specials

On some ships, you’ll find special food-based events on days when you’re at sea. These may include tasting menus or cooking classes. Watch your daily itinerary for times and events. Two of my favorites happen to take place on Carnival cruises. Each sea day, Carnival hosts an afternoon tea in one of the dining rooms. Choose from several specialty teas, and enjoy macarons, traditional English sandwiches, scones, and other delicious treats. Carnival also puts on a special sea-day brunch that includes some fun food selections. My favorite is the cereal-crusted French toast.

Specialty Splurges

In addition to all of the amazing free food on a cruise, there are a few specialty restaurants on each ship that cost a few extra dollars. These fine-dining establishments specialize in everything from Italian to French to Asian cuisine. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to try something different, you can treat yourself to specialty experience, such the entertaining and flavorful Japanese teppanyaki restaurant on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). You will also find a cafe or bakery on most cruise ships where, for a few dollars, you can grab a sweet treat, such as gelato, cupcakes, or biscotti. If you’re a fan of the TLC hit show Carlo’s Bakery, you’ll be excited to know you can grab one of Buddy’s infamous cannolis on most NCL ships.

With the exception of the cafe and specialty dining venues, all of the food on a cruise is free. Tell us about your favorite foods to eat at sea on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

 

The Top Reason Cruises are Better than All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive resorts are a great way to travel.

 

Once you’ve booked your vacation, you don’t have to spend another penny. Everything you could possibly want or need is part of your vacation packaged. From sun and fun to booze and food, there are no other expenses.

Cruises are very similar to all-inclusive resorts…only instead of being surrounded by sand, you’re surrounded by water. Like a completely self-sufficient, floating island. Like all-inclusives, the price you pay for your cruise includes everything you’ll need for a good time. Whether you want to lie around the pool and drink in the sun or dance the night away, you’ll find everything you need to have a good time on a cruise ship. And if you feel like splurging, there are a whole host of additional activities and services you can choose from. Spend a day at the spa or enjoy a gourmet meal at one of the specialty restaurants—the options are endless.

These days, most ocean-going ships are pretty stacked. Water parks, climbing walls, and mini golf are standard, all-inclusive features. Some even have ice rinks and circus tents. Most ships have multiple restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and swimming pools. There’s nightly turn-down service in your room, several swimming pools, daily dance classes and other activities, and much more. Most cruises don’t include alcohol in their list price, but they’re also much cheaper than many all-inclusives. And the good news is that you can buy a bottomless beverage package for a few extra bucks. Your travel agent can even book it for you so that you don’t have to open your wallet once you’re on the ship.

Each night on board a cruise ship, you’ll be entertained by live, Broadway-style shows. Cruise lines employee an entire team of talented singers and dancers to put on elaborate productions. They also fly in magicians, acrobats, comedians, and other performers to bring you a variety of entertainment options. But that’s not all, there are also house bands that play in the various venues around the ship. Styles range from rock to easy listening to ensure there is something for everyone.

While cruises share many of these things in common with all-inclusive resorts, there is one major difference. And in my opinion, it’s the top reason why a cruise is better than any all-inclusive resort you’ll ever visit. You travel someplace new each day!

Cruises are a great way to get a taste of several different places. For one affordable fare, you get to sample a variety of destinations. In the Mediterranean, you can travel through Greece, Italy, and Turkey all in one week, visiting the top attractions in several cities. Or, if you want to just lounge around by the pool all day, you can stay on board the ship.

Sure, you only spend a day—maybe two—in each place. But in some places, that’s more than enough to see all the sights. There are plenty of places I’ve thought about vacationing for a week or two, but thanks to cruising, I’ve visited those same places for a day and realized that was all I needed. On the flip side, if there are places you truly enjoy, you can revisit them on a future trip. It’s a win-win.

What’s your top reasoning why cruises are better than all-inclusives? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

 

 

Do I Need Formal Wear on a Cruise?

When it comes to cruising, everyone always has questions about formal wear.

 

Do you need it, or don’t you? That always seems to be the question. And the answer is easy: it’s entirely up to you. These days, most cruise lines know people want to tailor their vacations to their own unique tastes. For this reason, they give you plenty of options. Here’s what you can expect on most ships—from Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean’s mega ships to Avalon and AMA Waterways river cruises.

The Norm

Most evenings on a cruise, you can wear whatever makes you most comfortable—within reason. Swimsuits, tank tops, and shorts are typically frowned upon in the main dining rooms and dance halls. But you can get away with wearing them at the buffet and more casual eateries. I find a pair of dark denim skinnies and a pretty blouse are plenty nice enough for just about any evening activity, from dinner to dancing.

Formal Night

Back in the day, when you booked a cruise, you would be told how many formal nights to expect on your cruise. Typically, on a seven night cruise, there would be at least one formal and one semi-formal event. For the most part, this holds true today, but they aren’t highly publicized. And you’re no longer expected to take part. You can if you want to, but if you don’t want to worry about anything other than relaxing on your vacation, then sit back and enjoy the ride. On the other hand, some people love to dress up. There’s nothing they’d rather do than spend the afternoon in the ship’s spa getting their hair, makeup, and nails done for the big event. The choice is yours. Do whatever your heart desires.

Some people go all out on formal night. Many women wear ball gowns, while men wear tuxedos. But this is pretty rare these days. For the most part, wear a simple cocktail dress or nice slacks at best. Men typically don dress pants and a button down shirt. If you’re planning to eat in the main dining room or at one of the specialty restaurants on formal night, I recommend making at least a tiny bit of effort. But you don’t have to. If you’re comfortable in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, the servers won’t stop you from taking a seat. And they’ll treat you as though you’re dressed to the nines.

Alternatives

If you prefer to keep it casual but you don’t want to make a poor showing at one of the more upscale restaurants, have dinner at the buffet instead. There are no formal wear expectations in the dining hall and chances are you’ll find the exact same fare that’s been served in the main dining room. I’m a fan of putting on something a little spiffier than my day wear after the sun goes don’t often bring anything dressy enough for formal night.

Packing Tips

I don’t mind putting on a pretty dress every now and then, but I almost exclusively travel with only a carry-on suitcase. It’s nearly impossible to fit anything too fancy inside and still get in the necessities. When packing for a seven night cruise, I take two dresses, one pair of dark wash or white jeans, and three or four pretty tops. This leaves me plenty of room for all of my more comfy day wear but also gives me lots of options for creating fashionable combinations at night. I’m never at a loss for something to wear that works for every occasion. Statement necklaces and scarves are a great way to spruce up any outfit, and they don’t take up a ton of space in your bag. I take just three pairs of shoes for my entire trip—sandals, sneakers, and something a bit flashier to go with my evening wear.

Now that you know what to expect, are you excited to dress up, or do you prefer to go casual? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

New Year’s Eve in Paris: A Wanderlust Experience

What could be better than New Year’s Eve in Paris? It is the City of Lights after all.

 

Paris is one of the most beautiful, romantic, decadent cities in the world, so it’s a real treat to ring in the new year in this amazing place. Throughout the holiday season, the city is filled with festive lights and holiday cheer. There’s are even Christmas markets all about town, including one that runs along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where you can grab a cup of steaming gluhwein or a sweet boules de Noel to enjoy as you shop.

If you’re heading to Paris for New Year’s Eve, here are the top three things you need to know.

1. No Official Events

Believe it or not, there are no official New Year’s Eve events in Paris. The city does not put on a fireworks show or anything of that nature. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fun things to do around town. Like any other big city, parties take place at most restaurants and bars—it all comes down to how much you money you want to spend and what you feel like doing.

If you’ve got a lean budget, you can make your way to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Sacre Coeur is also a great place to take in a beautiful panoramic of Paris. for Many people head down to the Champs-Élysées, have a meal at one of the many restaurants there, and then watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle as the clock strikes 12. If you’re prepared to shell out the big bucks, the infamous Moulin Rouge. A table for two in the cheap seats will run you a cool 800 Euros. Alternatively, you could check out the show at the Lido, which also comes with a lofty price tag. On the low end, tickets for two come in around 600 Euro.

2. Book a Boat Cruise

If you’re looking for something special that won’t break the bank, a late-night sailing on the Bateaux Parisiens is a lovely idea. For as little as 65 Euros, you can take a quiet cruise along the Seine for a view of the city lights. The tour departs from the dock just below the Eiffel Tower or near Notre Dame Cathedral and includes a half-bottle of champagne, a packet of macarons, and party favors, such as a hat and horn. This is how I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris, and it was wonderful. Even if it’s cold outside, you’ll be toasty warm sailing along the Seine. We chose to depart from the Eiffel Tower, which is also where we docked at the end of the cruise. We returned just in time to see the tower twinkling in all its glory, and though I had seen it many times before, it seemed just a little more special this time round.

3. Midnight Kisses

Whether or not you’re looking for a midnight kiss, be prepared to get one. Strangers will walk up to you on the street and plant a peck on your lips or cheek. They don’t mean any harm—they’re just a little drunk and a whole lot excited. No one seemed to understand what I was saying—or maybe they simply didn’t care. I’m a happily married woman, but it seemed a lot easier to go with the flow than to cause a ruckus. It’s all in the name of fun after all.

These are just a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Have other tips you’d like to share? Head on over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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.