Saturday, May 5, 2018

Don't jinx your cruise vacation

Cruising can be one of the most relaxing and fun vacations. But a bad experience can jinx your time away, especially if you’re a newbie to cruising. Here are some easily avoidable mistakes that even experienced cruisers sometimes make.
Some itineraries are made for relaxing.
Choose the right type of cruise: Some itineraries make port stops almost every day. If you’re the active type, this might be ideal. Do you prefer historical or cultural lectures, bridge lessons or dance lessons, partying late at karaoke or the disco, or solitary time to read, knit, or rest? Talk with your travel agent about which ships and itineraries best match your vacation desires.

Different cruise lines appeal to different demographics, so think about the age groups that usually choose a particular ship. Consider timing of your cruise and availability of children’s programs if you’re taking a family or multigenerational trip. If not, avoid ships that cater to young families and choose a cruise of longer duration during typical school months.
Cruise South America during our winter, their summer.
Consider weather: The Caribbean is a wonderful place to cruise—warm days, blue water, and golden beaches.  But remember that June 1 to November 1 is hurricane season. Be sure to buy travel insurance if you book a cruise then.

It's best to cruise Alaska during warmer months.
Prices for Alaska cruises are lower in May and September, but you might experience cold weather, even snow, and most likely rain. Fares to Europe may be lower in winter, but unpleasant weather can curtail some of the activities you have planned.

Pack carefully: I’ve never been on a cruise where I wore everything in my suitcase (gotta do better!). When cruising you tend to wear clothes more than once, so less is needed. Longer cruises have self-service laundries, so it’s easy to keep a clean wardrobe. And be sure to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs to bring home. Just be sure to carry passport, prescription medicine, eyeglasses or contacts, and seasickness patches or bands, if necessary, in a carry-on that stays with you.

 Avoid same-day flights: If your embarkation port requires an airplane ride, you’re rolling the dice to book a flight that arrives there same day prior to sailing. Sure, you might save a few dollars (no hotel overnight), or you might miss your cruise or checked luggage that doesn't arrive when you do.
Once, after aarriving at the airport, we learned that the incoming flight was canceled due to bad weather at the origination point. Fortunately, we were able—after much angst and several phone calls—to get seats on another airline. Since we had booked flights that time with the cruise line, they expedited travel from the airport to cruise dock, and we set foot on the ship minutes before it left.

A better way—what we usually do—is arrive at the embarkation port a day or two prior and spend some time sightseeing. Then we have plenty of time to get to the pier, board the ship, and relax a bit before it leaves.
Seeing penguins on the Falkland Islands is best done on a
pre-booked excursion  with the cruise line.
Pre-book shore excursions: Most cruise lines allow you to pre-book shore excursions online before the scheduled departure date. If excursions are included in your plan, book as early as allowed to get the best selections. Ship sponsored excursions may be crowded and involve bus rides, but if the excursion is long or travels a good distance away from port, you have safety in knowing that the ship will not leave without you should there be a delay. We have been on ships that waited six hours for a tour to return and passengers to re-board.

If you prefer to plan your own excursions, still research each port, know what you want to do, and book your activities before departure. Find private guides online ahead of time, so you can contract with a reputable company with which you feel comfortable. Plan to arrive back at the ship at least an hour before departure time. Message boards like Trip Advisor can help you get a group together to lower costs on excursions.
If children are traveling choose a cruise with plenty of active
events and opportunities. Check out kids' clubs.
Stick to your budget: You know what the cruise costs, but once you’re onboard, there are myriad ways to spend more money: alcoholic or specialty drinks, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, certain exercise classes, shopping, and many other services and activities that you might not have planned for. It may be hard but stick to "look, don’t buy," if you have a limited budget.

And, speaking of budgets, include the cost of travel insurance when planning your vacation. Some people think insurance is a waste of money, but it only takes one incident to pay for insurance purchased for a lot of trips. No one wants to be in a foreign country with a health issue, but even healthy folks can have accidents, legal problems, miss a connection, or lose luggage.
However, remember that you may have to pay expenses and then file a claim after returning home, so be sure you have a credit card or other means of covering unexpected expenses.

Leave work at home:  A cruise should be a vacation, a time to put electronic devices away. Yes, you can get online on the ship, but look at this as a time to free your mind, relax, and enjoy your traveling companions. You’re in the middle of the ocean—admire the sunset!
Photos by Beverly Burmeier and from free sources.


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