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.

 

 

 

One Day in Reykjavik, Iceland: From Modern Streets to Tasty Eats

Guest Post by Robin Young Burinskiy

Visiting Iceland gives you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience unparalleled geological phenomena.

 

Hot springs and geysers are geothermally-heated water rising up from the center of the Earth. The waterfalls and mountains were formed by the continual collision of the North American and European continental plates, which may eventually divide Iceland in half. All around you, you’ll see the evidence of ongoing changes in the Earth’s crust, and it’s something you simply can’t miss.

We bought our tickets last-minute because of a deal that WOW was running. We stayed in an Airbnb for the first time on this trip, and I would recommend giving it a go in Iceland if you’re game. So much of Reykjavik was built very recently, so the apartments can truly be as nice as hotels, for the same or lower cost. We stayed in an impeccable, hyper-modern one-bedroom off of Laugavegur; another couple we met ended up in the home of a former member of Of Monsters & Men.

Because we decided to visit last-minute, we didn’t put much thought into when the best time to visit Iceland might be. We were there from November 8 through 12, and the daylight hours were from about 9:30 to 4:30. In the summer, it’s light for a much larger portion of the day; and in late December, it’s only light for about 4 hours per day. I’m glad that we visited during a time when we had about 8 hours of daylight in which to explore; but since we were visiting outside of the normal tourist season, our plane tickets and excursions were cheaper than they would have been a few weeks earlier. This made early November a smart time to visit, but I will say that it’s now on my bucket list to return in the summer to experience a whole different side of Iceland.

The weather in November is a mixed bag. It can be the best time to see the northern lights; however, rain is also a strong possibility. The weather seems to behave in a cyclical manner, with 4 or 5 days of rain alternating with several clear days.

We spent one day exploring Reykjavík itself. If you happen to be blessed with a day of nice weather, take advantage of it! Visit all of the places at the top of your list and take all of the pictures you can, because the unpredictable weather can change in minutes. Sights we saw:

Go on tours around the country! I was worried that tours would be restrictive or gimmicky… I was wrong. They’re essentially like public transportation that takes you right from your doorstep to all of the sights you could ever want to visit. You’ll hear fascinating stories about the country’s natural and cultural history as you travel between destinations, and you’ll get to see in one day what other people might see in a week for just $100 to $200 per person (which is more than worth it!). I recommend Reykjavik Excursions, which the locals echoed because it’s the longest-running tour company (and they’re also the same buses that take you to and from the airport).

Expect to spend a lot on food and drinks in Iceland. The sticker shock is unavoidable. The food is worth it (expect to pay $45 to $65 per plate at a nice restaurant), but a bottle of wine may not be. It can set you back $150 to $200 (apparently because Iceland only recently began to allow alcohol), so you may want to stick to a glass of local beer (we recommend Einstök White Ale if you’re a fan of Belgian whites!) and reallocate that money toward your meal instead.

The dishes you have to try: The salmon is 100 percent wild and is absolutely delicious. If you want to try a fish you’ve never had before, I highly recommend Arctic char (just like salmon in texture, but with a milder taste) and plaice (a delicious, meaty white fish that even those who find white fish boring will love!). They’re extremely proud of their lamb in Iceland as well—I don’t eat it, but Alex got it almost every night! Lastly, skyr is a type of yogurt that has been enjoyed in Iceland for over a thousand years. It’s very high in protein and has a characteristic tangy flavor that fans of Greek yogurt will love.

About 99.5 percent of Iceland residents speak English—likely better than some North Americans! If you feel anxious or guilty about visiting a country without knowing a single word of the language (like I often do), that’s not a concern here at all.

A short trip isn’t wasted in Iceland. Reykjavík is a surprisingly tiny city, both in terms of its population and its physical size, and you’ll have seen it all in 1 to 2 days. In addition, much of the island is largely uninhabited. If you spend two or three days on tours around the country, you’ll leave feeling like you truly experienced so much more than you would in a larger country. If you don’t have time for lengthy vacation, Iceland is the perfect destination.

 


 Author Bio: Feather & Flint is a lifestyle blog by Boston-based writer & photographer Robin Young Burinskiy. From break-ups to weddings, recipes to photographs, introversion to perfectionism, traveling the world to hosting a dinner party, the blog will share her story as it unfolds.


 

 

3 OCD Travel Tips for Your Next Trip

I have OCD and not in that fad way that people say they have it.

 

I have severe OCD and have since I was a child. This is a huge challenge when it comes to traveling. I have to overcome a lot of obstacles when it comes to packing, flying, and safety, to name a few. But I’ve persevered and have a number of travel tips to share as a result. These are my top three OCD travel tips.

1. Touch Nothing

Airports, cruise ports, bus depots, and train stations are some of the worst places to pick up a bug. If you want to avoid a virus on your vacation, steer clear of touching handrails, door handles, pin pads, and pretty much anything else. I know this is practically impossible, but it can be done. I have no shame, so I wear gloves everywhere. Once I’m comfortably seated in my personal space, I clean the entire area with wipes or Lysol spray before removing my gloves. But I’m pretty bold and realize that’s not the most practical solution for most people. For a more reasonable option, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket and splash a little on your hands every time you touch something that could carry germs. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Organize Your Affairs

If you’re anything like me, triple checking you have your passport, money, and other paperwork in order simply isn’t enough. Print off all your trip vouchers, tickets, and confirmation details and sort them by date in a small, plastic organizer envelope. Toss your passport and currency into the front pocket so that you have everything in one easy-to-access place. This envelope is the only thing that matters for your entire vacation. As long as you have it, you have everything you need. As you tick flights, tours, and other events off the list, toss out the paperwork for those items on your itinerary to make your load a little lighter.

3. Take a Picture

Are you one of those people who can never remember if you’ve locked the door or turned off the oven? For someone with OCD, worry over whether or not you unplugged the iron can ruin an entire trip. Do yourself a favor and snap a few pics just before you leave the house. Take one of the oven, the front and back doors, electrical sockets, or anything else that might otherwise cause you concern. A quick peek at the pictures is the perfect reminder that you did, in fact, turn off the TV.

Pro tip: Try to get a part of your travel outfit in the picture. That way, you’ll know for sure it was taken the day you left the house on your vacation.

As a bonus, a few years ago, a dear friend of mine took three months off work to travel through Asia. Before she left, I made her the ultimate OCD travel kit. She used every single item in it and has often encouraged me to share its contents with the world. So, here goes…I hope you find it as useful as she did.

  • Tissues – for drying tears after a sad farewell, blowing a congested nose due to poor airplane ventilation, or opening doors without touching germy handles
  • Gloves – to wear while boarding the plane so you don’t catch a virus touching all the seats, overhead bins, and trays with your bare hands
  • Hand sanitizer – to clean your hands before every meal
  • Wet wipes – to clean off your tray and other surfaces or wipe off your hands after eating
  • Toilet seat covers – need I say more?
  • Tide to Go – for accidental spills
  • Laundry detergent packets – to rinse undies, tees, and socks
  • A book – to pass the time on public transit or if your in-flight entertainment is out of service (a great distraction from turbulence, especially if your MP4 player/eReader/phone is dead)
  • Mini Lysol spray – for disinfecting surfaces, such as airport chairs that double as a bed (you may not be allowed to carry this through security if it’s in am aerosol spray can)
  • Expanding towel tablets – for drying up unexpected spills
  • Travel toilet paper roll – for when there’s no other choice

These are some of the things I always have in my carry-on. What other items would you add to my ultimate OCD travel checklist? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group, along with any other OCD travel tips you might have.

3 Ways to Travel Europe Cheap

There are so many great ways you can travel Europe cheap.

 

So you want to see as much of Europe as you can, but you have limited time and money. Lucky for you, there are a lot of options for getting around Europe for not a lot of money. Follow these easy tips make the most of your European travel budget.

1. Fly Someplace Central

One of the best things about Europe is its compact size. You can get to so many different places fast. But what’s even better? Europe is known for its budget airlines. On a good day, you can get a flight for just a few dollars. A great way to travel cheap is to fly into a central, or hub, city, and then catch a flight someplace else from there. Look for the cheapest deal. If you have time to see a few places, simply look for cheap flights from one city to the next. Another option is to take a train from the hub city. Europe’s rail system is unparalleled. It’s fast, frugal, and easy. It’s especially great for travel within a single country. You can get from Venice to Rome for just a few dollars. And it’s faster than traveling to the airport and waiting for a flight.

For a recent vacation, I found a super cheap flight deal to London Gatwick. As much as I love London, I’ve been there a lot, so I wanted to spend part of my vacation in another country. I found a flight deal to Algarve, Portugal, where I stayed for five days before returning to London for the rest of my trip.

2. Business Travel Advantage

Do you travel for work? If you ever fly overseas, consider tacking a few vacations days onto the beginning or end of your trip. Your company will pay for you to fly overseas, and from there, the world is your oyster. You’ll need to pay out of pocket for airfares and accommodations in any other places you visit, but usually the most expensive part of a trip to Europe is the flight overseas. The rest is just frosting, and you can always find a good deal on the extras, like hotels and activities.

I used to fly to Frankfurt each year for work. I would fly in a few days early and immediately dash off to a different destination. One year, I got a $30 flight to Athens. Another year, it was Prague. The options are endless.

3. Rent a Boat

A great way to travel Europe cheap is by boat. With so many canals and rivers running throughout Europe, there are quite a few companies that offer affordable boat rentals. For a few hundred dollars a week, you can be the captain of your own adventure. Whether you travel via traditional penichette in France or narrowboat in England, your rental fee covers both your transportation costs and accommodations for your entire vacation. Not to mention, you can moor up just about anyplace you want, giving you the opportunity to check out villages and towns you might not otherwise have known existed. And you can save even more money by cooking your own meals on the boat.

These are just a few great ways to travel Europe cheap. What other ideas do you have? Join the conversation by becoming a member of 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.

3 Tips to Take the Chaos Out of Holiday Travel

‘Tis the season for holiday travel.

 

Can you smell it? That’s mom’s turkey roasting in the oven. Oh, and is that pumpkin pie for dessert? You can taste it, can’t you? But none of that matters if you never make it home for the holidays. Remember that movie with that woman who’s trying to get home for a festive dinner with her family but her flight gets canceled? She’s stranded at the airport and tries to rent a car instead, but there are none left. You don’t want to be that person, do you?

holiday travel

Follow these handy tips to make sure your holiday travel plans go smoothly.

1. Check in with Mother Nature

No matter how you’re getting to where you’re going, the weather plays a very important role. If there’s a snowstorm, accidents happen on highways, causing traffic to back up. Flights get rescheduled—or worse. And even the most reliable trains and buses get delayed. Be sure to start checking the weather and road reports days in advance of your planned holiday travel schedule. Have alternate plans in place in case of a service disruption with your preferred mode of transportation.

2. Find Out if There are Any Gift Guidelines for Your Flights

There is nothing worse than finding out at the security gate that the bath bubbles you bought for your Auntie Sandra aren’t allowed in your carry-on…and don’t even get me started on that cap gun you thought would be so cool for your nephew. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised some of the things you’ll forget in the holiday travel chaos. It’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks, like that bottle of whisky you got for your pops. Save yourself the grief and check the TSA for holiday packing tips. Find out what you can—and cannot—bring on board the plane, as well as any gift-wrapping guidelines.

3. Leave Plenty of Time

Set your alarm an hour earlier than normal…and don’t hit the snooze button. And if you simply can’t resist falling back asleep, set your clock an hour ahead and have the alarm come on at your regular time. Do whatever you need to do so that you’re not racing against the clock. Nothing good ever comes of it: You forget things, get sweaty running around like a chicken with your head cut off, and feel frazzled. It’s not the best way to start the holidays. You’ll be irritable before you even arrive, and we all know spending time with family can be frustrating at the best of times—no matter how much we love them. But perhaps the biggest reason to leave yourself a little extra time is that you won’t have to drive like a maniac to make up for lost time. At the end of the day, the most important thing about holiday travel is that you arrive alive.

These are just a few help holiday travel tips. What other advice do you have for fellow travelers? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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.