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.

 

 

 

Guide to Booking Cruise Shore Excursions

Chances are if you’re booking a cruise, you’ll also want to book shore excursions.

 

What’s a shore excursion, you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like…an excursion while you are at shore. Every time you dock in a port, your cruise ship will offer variety of tours to local or nearby attractions. They can range from parasailing adventures in the Caribbean or visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico to wine tasting in Provence or a tapas tour in Spain. There are usually a plethora of options catering to a wide variety of interests.

So, how do you go about booking a shore excursion, or should you even bother? Perhaps you’d rather do your own thing in each port but are worried you might miss out. Follow these handy tips for everything you need to know.

Book in Advance

One of my favorite things about cruises is the fact that they are more or less all-inclusive. If you don’t want to spend more than your fare to get on board you don’t have to. But if you’re planning to take a shore excursion, your costs can quickly pile up. For this reason, I recommend booking all of your excursions before setting sail. That way, you won’t have any nasty surprises when you when you get your receipt at the end of the cruise.

But how do you book in advance, you ask. Well, it’s easy. Visit the website for your cruise line, and log into your account. There will be a selection of activities available for your sailing. Read up on the ones you like, and simply add then to your cart. Alternatively, your travel agent can book them for you. It’s that easy.

Onboard Port Overview

Sometimes there are just too many shore excursions, and you can’t decide which ones to choose. Well, there’s help for that. Before arriving at your first port, the cruise staff will host a presentation showcasing the top excursions for your entire itinerary. It usually takes place on embarkation day or the next day if you are at sea. You can then fill out the firm they give you at the presentation, and leave it with one of the staff members. They’ll get you booked in without the hassle of waiting in line. If you’re on one of the more modern cruise ships, you may be able to book on the the TV in your room or on a touchscreen monitor located in a main thoroughfare.

Alternative Excursions

The cruise line will make every effort to persuade you to take one of the excursions it offers. There are a number of valid reasons to do so. They have established relationships with credible vendors. And they will guarantee their services. If for some reason and excursion doesn’t go to plan, the cruise line will do something to make up for it, such as offer a discounted rate. As well, if you are on a cruise sanctioned excursion and it runs long, the ship will not set sail until you are safely back on board.

Cruise ship shore excursions aren’t your only option. There are other reliable companies that have made an entire business out of providing amazing alternative excursions. They even allow you to search their offerings by cruise line, cruise ship, and sailing. Often, you can find cheaper prices because the ship isn’t acting as a middleman. What’s more is that they are often the same companies providing the ship-based excursions. But you may even find tours to places that aren’t offered by the ship.

Pro tip: If you take an alternative excursion, be absolutely certain you will return to the ship on time. It will not wait for you. I have seen many people left behind as the ship sails to its next port. The captain has a strict schedule, and the ship will receive a hefty fine if it doesn’t leave on time. If it’s your first cruise I recommend taking one of the ship’s excursions to get a feel for what to expect before trying out other options.

Opt Out

You don’t have to take an excursion at all. There are plenty of fun things to do all day on the ship. Or you can check out the port on your own. I’ve gone so far as to recreate excursions myself based on information I learned at the port overview presentation. Be cautious about taking taxis or tours with companies that greet you when you get off the ship. While many are legitimate businesses that will provide amazing services, neither you nor the ship have vetted their business. Do they have proper insurance? Have they got legitimate licenses to operate? You just can’t be sure.

On one cruise, there was a family that wanted to visit a popular site that was not accessible through any of the shore excursions offered on board or otherwise. A local taxi driver happily agreed to take the family to the site. But the driver failed to tell the family that even though the site was typically only a two-hour drive each way, a construction project often tied things up for many more hours. Needless to say, that family missed the boat (pun intended). Cruise staff had learned of this traffic issue and pulled all pertinent excursions weeks earlier, as had other local tour companies. Some times it pays to pay attention.

Do you have other handy tips about shore excursions? Share them 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.

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.

5 Fun Things to do at Night on a Cruise

No matter your age, there are plenty of fun things to do at night on a cruise.

 

I can’t tell you how often I get asked what there is to do at night after the ship has set sail from port. So many people think they’ll feel trapped once the ship is out to sea—like they’re stuck on a floating prison. Other people think cruises are for “old people” who want to turn in as soon as the sun sets. But rest assured, that’s simply not the case.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet night of good conversation among friends or to dance the night away, there are tons of great ways to spend your nights on a cruise ship. Young or old, it’s impossible not to have a good time every evening of your cruise.

Here is a glimpse at just a handful of the fun things to do at night on a cruise.

Live entertainment

All of the major cruise lines pride themselves on their live entertainment. Most ships have an entire team of singers and dancers dedicated to bringing you amazing Broadway-style shows every other day. But it doesn’t end there, each ship also flies in special guest performers for the evenings the staff entertainers are taking a break. Their diverse talents range from magic to comedy to acrobatics and more.

But live entertainment on a cruise ship is about more than just stage shows. Each cruise has several singers, bands, or DJs that perform in the bars, lounges, foyers, and other popular spots around the ship. And there is almost always a piano bar where you can request your favorite song and sing along.

Specialty dining

In addition to the usual dining rooms and buffets, most cruise ships also have alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can enjoy a unique dining experience away from the hustle and bustle. Specialty restaurants might include Japanese teppanyaki, a steakhouse, or an Italian pizzeria. Make a reservation and share an intimate evening with your better half or share a bottle of wine—or two—with new friends.

Games

Cruise ships are notorious for their over-the-top renditions of popular TV game shows. Newlywed games, scavenger hunts, quiz shows are just a few of the common games you might find throughout the evening. You’ll get a good chuckle watching fellow cruisers take part in ridiculous competitions. And if you’re up for it, you may even volunteer to be part of the action.

Pro Tip: Bingo is a big deal on cruise ships. In fact, you can find one or more sessions per day. Jackpots are usually pretty lofty, so it attracts a broad range of ages.

Movies

Most cruise ships have a massive screen above one or more of their swimming pools. Each evening, they show popular movies on the big screen, which you can watch from a nearby lounger or while floating in the pool. Some ships even offer free bags of popcorn, and if the weather is brisk, they just might bring you a blanket to wrap up in. If your ship doesn’t have an outdoor cinema, there will likely be an indoor equivalent in one of the theaters.

Pro Tip: When a Disney movie premieres on land, it also debuts on the ship. You can see a brand new movie at sea.

Dancing

If you really want to pain the town—ship—red, put on your dancing shoes and head to one of the many dance spots. Most ships have at least one nightclub with a rocking DJ. Most nights there will be a late-night dance party in the club or under the moonlit sky on the Lido deck. There will likely be dancing in the main foyer and other live music clubs around the ship. If dancing is what you like to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Pro Tip: On most ships, the cruise staff host a 30-minute dance class highlighting a popular line dance or ballroom dance.  It usually aligns with the theme of the evening dance party so you can put it into practice later that night.

So, still don’t think there are any fun things to do at night on a cruise? Didn’t think so. Want to share your ideas? Post them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

4 Tips for Choosing Early or Late Cruise Dining

Selecting the perfect cruise dining option can be a slippery slope if you don’t know the pros and cons to each option.

 

When you book your cruise, you’ll be asked which dinner seating you want: early or late. If you’ve never taken a cruise before, this question has absolutely no context and is nearly impossible to answer. Even avid cruisers often flounder, since each cruise dining option comes with its own advantages…and disadvantages. Try these four tips to help you decide which cruise dining option is right for you.

cruise dining

1. When do you usually eat?

If you like to have dinner on the table the minute you get home from work, stick to your regular routine. Choose the early dinner seating—it usually starts around 6 p.m. But if you like to lounge around a while or hit the gym after work, you might prefer a later setting, which typically starts at 8:30 p.m.

I get up at the crack of dawn, which means I eat breakfast early. As a result, I usually have lunch around 11 a.m., so the thought of eating dinner any later than 6 p.m. makes me cringe. But if you like to sleep in, the later seating might be just what you need.

2. What activities are you taking part in?

If you like to dance the night away, a late dinner is a great option. You’ll have more energy and all the sustenance you need to soak up any spirits you might be imbibing. And you can sleep in a little longer the next morning before your stomach starts grumbling. But if you plan on turning in early, choose the earlier seating. No one wants to go to bed on a full stomach.

Evening activities are not the only things you need to consider when selecting the best cruise dining option. Check your cruise itinerary to see how long your ship will be in port each day, and consider what you plan to do once you’re ashore. If you’re not leaving the port until early evening, you may not want to rush back to the ship in time for an early dinner. If this is the case, stick with a late seating. The same thing goes if you want to take advantage of the hot afternoon sun on your days at sea. If you choose an early seating, you’ll need to cut the afternoon short in order to give yourself enough time to get cleaned up for dinner.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to show up at all for your dinner seating. There is always a buffet or 24-hour eatery you can head to instead. This is a great alternative if your shore excursion does run late and you miss your assigned seating.

3. Who is in your party?

If you’ve got children or seniors in your group, an early seating is probably better for you. But if you’re on a romantic vacation with your better half or a group getaway with a circle of friends, a late seating is the ideal choice. There are fewer children and families at this seating, lending to a more mature atmosphere.

4. Are you spontaneous?

If you still can’t decide which cruise dining experience is right for you, maybe you don’t need to choose at all. Many ships offer an anytime dining option. On NCL, you can simply show up at the dining room whenever you want, and you’ll be seated at the next available table. Carnival has a similar program—you simply show up at a designated area and wait to be assigned to a table in the main dining room.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry if you have second thoughts about the cruise dining option you’ve selected. You can always change your seating later. When you board the ship, simply head to the dining room and ask for a table at the opposite seating. The ship can usually accommodate your request.

Hopefully, now you have a better handle on how to choose the best cruise dining time for your next adventure. If you have other ideas, we’d love to hear about them 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.