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Things to Know for First Time Cruisers (Am I missing anything?)


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I have found myself in the position of being the informal travel agent for six people (including myself). Half have never cruised before. I, having been a former Carnival Staff member, and also cruising on Norwegian Sky and MSC Musica, am the designated "cruise expert." No, Idonotthinkofmyselfasanactualcruiseexpertbutcomparedtotherest. . . Yeah.

 

Anyway, I am putting together an email to inform the first timers of things they need to know and expect. Could some experienced cruisers take a look over it and let me know if I'm leaving something out or something I say should be worded differently?

 

Thanks in advance. See below

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Things to Know about the Cruise

 

1. Embarkation

Embarkation sucks. It’s easily the worst part of the cruise. You are aware how tedious is going through customs at the airport? Airplanes only hold about 200 people. Our ship holds between 4,100 and 4,800 passengers per cruise and each one has to have their bags and passports checked before they are allowed on. It is generally recommended that we arrive the earliest possible time in hopes of being at the front of the line and getting through the quickest OR showing up about an hour before sailing in hopes of being last and the rest of the line will be gone so we can get through quickly. Notice that in these examples, an hour to get through the embarkation process is considered on the short side. No matter what, expect a long wait in a boring line.

 

2. What You Can Not Bring On Board

There are a few things a cruise line will not allow a passenger to bring onboard. If you try to bring them, most likely they will be confiscated at embarkation, kept in a locked, secret area of the ship, and probably returned to you at the end of the cruise. Hopefully.

  • Beverages

    • The two greatest money makers for cruise lines are the casino and onboard beverages. That’s why you can get all inclusive resort experience that also moves you to tourist destinations for a relatively cheap cost. Most cruise lines do not allow any beverages of any kind to be brought onboard from outside. Royal Caribbean allows two 750ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom, as long as one person in that cabin is over the legal drinking age.

  • Power Strips

    • Most staterooms have plenty of outlets to serve anyone’s purpose. Power strips for extra outlets can easily overload a circuit and create a fire risk. As opposed to popular belief, ice bergs are not the greatest danger to a cruise ship. It’s fire. Where are you going to go to get away from it? You’re surrounded by ocean! Because of this, cruise lines do not want extra outlets added to their circuits and will confiscate any splitters you might have with you.

 

3. Muster Drill

Speaking of icebergs, back in April 1912 there was this little, unimportant ship known as RMS Titanic. That ship hit an iceberg and sank. However, due to a combination of poor planning, hubris, cost cutting, and sheer ignorance Titanic didn’t have enough life boats for every person, guests and crew, NOR did it train or prepare every person on board for what to do in case of emergency. 1,517 of the 2,223 people on board died. Since then Maritime Law requires every person onboard a cruise ship must participate in a Muster Drill.

 

First, “muster” means to gather/assemble. Each cabin is assigned a muster station where everybody in that cabin must meet, with crew and guests from other cabins, when called from the bridge.

 

A Muster Drill is like a fire drill at school or work. It takes about 15 – 20 minutes to complete. There will be several announcements over the ship’s intercom system instructing you on what to do. The basics are go to your stateroom, grab your provided life preserver/flotation device and bring it to your designated muster station. Directions to your muster station are usually posted in your stateroom. Crew will also be throughout the ship to help guide you.

YES it is required. As several newlyweds have discovered, the crew do open the door and check every cabin to make sure no passengers are trying to skip the muster drill.
If you think it’s an annoying/boring interruption of your cruise, think about the crew that do this exact same scenario every few days, just so they can save you in case of emergency.

 

This, of course, does not prevent disaster. In 2012 the Costa Concordia hit a rock about 60 miles northwest of Rome, Italy and was pushed aground by winds. It then slowly partially sank. Out of 4,229 people onboard 32 people died. The Concordia was within Maritime Law but had not yet completed it’s Muster Drill.

 

4. Ship Time

Once you embark a ship you are officially operating on “Ship Time,” a magical realm where the only time that matters is what the Bridge clock is set to. From the beginning to the end of the cruise, even when you’re in port, no matter what the local time says you are on ship time. Because of this, and international data/roaming charges, I recommend an old school watch and not depending on your phone, which may update to local time. When the ship schedule says it departs the port at 5pm. That is 5pm ship time. PERIOD. You better be onboard or become a Pier Runner.

 

5. Phone Data/Wifi

There are no cellphone towers in the ocean. Also your destinations are usually international. Phone companies, typically, do not play nice with international connections (Your mileage may vary. Check your phone companies policies and your individual plan). Onboard the ship you might accidentally get a data connection that will result in astronomical charges. Put your phone in Airplane Mode and turn on Wifi. A lot of companies are beginning to use an app that you can use onboard, without purchasing Wifi time, to book reservations at onboard restaurants, shore excursions, and various other things.

Also, you’re on vacation. Unplug from the rest of life and relax. Right?

 

6. Dramamine

I do not have issues with sea sickness. Call me lucky but motion sickness does not affect me until the circumstances become extreme. However, my girlfriend does and she got some advice years ago that works for her.

 

A) Get Dramamine.

B) Begin taking it at least 24 hours before boarding the ship.

C) Take it at regular, prescribed intervals throughout the cruise.

D) Keep taking it for 24 hours after leaving the cruise.

 

Regular, full strength Dramamine has a tendency to make people sleepy, so If you want the non-drowsy formula, do that. However, I can’t vouch for the difference in how well one works over the other. Other people have said great things about sea sickness patches that absorb through your skin, but those seem less reliable (in my limited experience).

 

7. Copies of Your Passport

International travelers know you should have at least one copy of your passport photo page stowed away in your luggage. Personally, I like to over prepare and make four copies. I keep my passport in an under-shirt pouch. Two copies in my backpack for carrying around and two copies in my luggage. It’s over-preparation, but as the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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I'll disagree with a couple of points.

 

1.  Power strips cannot "overload" a circuit and cause a fire.  The circuit breaker is designed to prevent this.  Fires caused on land by "outlet splitters" and multi-outlet extension cords are due to the cords themselves being overloaded and catching fire.  The prohibition on power strips is due to the fact that many of them have surge protection installed in them, and these surge protectors are what form a danger, and can cause a fire even if nothing is currently plugged into them, if there is a ground fault anywhere else on the ship.  If you are going into the level of detail you have presented, then give correct details.

 

2.  The loss of life on the Concordia really had very little to do with not having had the muster drill before sailing.  While I am 100% in agreement with the importance of the muster drill, had the Captain of the Concordia signaled the passenger muster at the appropriate time, even folks who didn't know where their station was would have been directed there in time.  The passengers were kept away from their muster stations, on the orders of the Captain, for over an hour after the ship was known to be flooding.

 

3.  Ship time.  You may want to mention that some ships, in some cruises, will change time onboard to match local time, and some may not.

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I think you can bring a power strip as long as it doesn’t have a surge protector. I’ve found that cabins really lack outlets, especially when everyone wants to charge their phones. You are supposed board no later than 1 1/2 hours before sailing, so I wouldn’t suggest showing up an hour ahead of time.

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I have made some updates based on feedback
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

 

Things to Know about the Cruise

 

1. Embarkation

A cruise ship holds between 4,100 and 4,800 passengers per cruise and each one has to have their bags and passports checked before they are allowed on. It is generally recommended that you arrive the earliest possible time in hopes of being at the front of the line and getting through the quickest OR showing up about an hour before the required onboard time in hopes of being last and the rest of the line will be gone so you can get through quickly. No matter what, expect a long wait.

 

2. What You Can Not Bring On Board

There are a few things a cruise line will not allow a passenger to bring onboard. If you try to bring them, most likely they will be confiscated at embarkation, kept in a locked, secret area of the ship, and probably returned to you at the end of the cruise. Hopefully.

  • Beverages

    • The two greatest money makers for cruise lines are the casino and onboard beverages. That’s why you can get all inclusive resort experience that also moves you to tourist destinations for a relatively cheap cost. Each cruise line has it’s own policy regarding bringing beverages onboard. Royal Caribbean allows two 750ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom, as long as one person in that cabin is over the legal drinking age as well as 12 standard sized (17oz) cans or bottles of non-alcoholic beverages.


      Norwegian Cruise Lines allows ONLY bottles of wine and champagne. No non-alcoholic beverages are allowed brought onboard.

      Carnival Cruise Lines allows one 750ml bottle of wine and 12 12oz cans (no bottles) of non-alcoholic beverages.

      Check your cruise line’s policy for specifics.

  • Power Strips

    • On some ships, power outlets can be scarce. But surge protectors are also dangerous onboard a ship. The prohibition on power strips is due to the fact that many of them have surge protection installed in them. If there is a ground fault anywhere else on the ship, these surge protectors can cause a fire even if nothing is currently plugged into them. If you’re going to bring a power splitter ensure it does not have surge protection installed.

 

3. Muster Drill

Maritime Law requires every person onboard a cruise ship must participate in a Muster Drill.

 

First, “muster” means to gather/assemble. Each cabin is assigned a muster station where everybody in that cabin must meet, with crew and guests from other cabins, when called from the bridge.

 

A Muster Drill is like a fire drill at school or work. It takes about 15 – 20 minutes to complete. There will be several announcements over the ship’s intercom system instructing you on what to do. The basics are go to your stateroom, grab your provided life preserver/flotation device and bring it to your designated muster station. However, each ship is different and many don’t require you to bring your life preserver. Pay attention to the instructions given. Directions to your muster station are usually posted in your stateroom. Crew will also be throughout the ship to help guide you.

YES it is required. As several newlyweds have discovered, the crew do open the door and check every cabin to make sure no passengers are trying to skip the muster drill.
If you think it’s an annoying/boring interruption of your cruise, think about the crew that do this exact same scenario every few days, just so they can save you in case of emergency.

 

4. Ship Time

Once you embark a ship you are officially operating on “Ship Time,” a magical realm where the only time that matters is what the Bridge clock is set to. From the beginning to the end of the cruise, even when you’re in port, no matter what the local time says you are on ship time. Because of this, and international data/roaming charges, I recommend an old school watch and not depending on your phone, which may update to local time. When the ship schedule says it departs the port at 5pm. That is 5pm ship time. PERIOD. You better be onboard or become a Pier Runner.

 

5. Phone Data/Wifi

There are no cellphone towers in the ocean. Also your destinations are usually international. Phone companies, typically, do not play nice with international connections (Your mileage may vary. Check your phone companies policies and your individual plan). Onboard the ship you might accidentally get a data connection that will result in astronomical charges. Put your phone in Airplane Mode and turn on Wifi. A lot of companies are beginning to use an app that you can use onboard, without purchasing Wifi time, to book reservations at onboard restaurants, shore excursions, and various other things.

Also, you’re on vacation. Unplug from the rest of life and relax. Right?

 

6. Dramamine

I do not have issues with sea sickness. Call me lucky but motion sickness does not affect me until the circumstances become extreme. However, my girlfriend does and she got some advice years ago that works for her.

 

A) Get Dramamine.

B) Begin taking it at least 24 hours before boarding the ship.

C) Take it at regular, prescribed intervals throughout the cruise.

D) Keep taking it for 24 hours after leaving the cruise.

 

Regular, full strength Dramamine has a tendency to make people sleepy, so If you want the non-drowsy formula, do that. However, I can’t vouch for the difference in how well one works over the other. Other people have said great things about sea sickness patches that absorb through your skin, but those seem less reliable (in my limited experience).

 

7. Copies of Your Passport

International travelers know you should have at least one copy of your passport photo page stowed away in your luggage. Personally, I like to over prepare and make four copies. I keep my passport in an under-shirt pouch. Two copies in my backpack for carrying around and two copies in my luggage. It’s over-preparation, but as the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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I can almost guarantee that your "party" is not going to read this thing.  Tell them to have their ID's and money...then let them figure this out on their own.  YOU are not responsible for their vacation.    Telling folks too much ruins the "joy of discovery".   You do not need to "over prepare".  It's a vacation.  It's supposed to be fun and laid-back!

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14 hours ago, cb at sea said:

I can almost guarantee that your "party" is not going to read this thing.  Tell them to have their ID's and money...then let them figure this out on their own.  YOU are not responsible for their vacation.    Telling folks too much ruins the "joy of discovery".   You do not need to "over prepare".  It's a vacation.  It's supposed to be fun and laid-back!

 

100% correct in my opinion .

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I realize you are trying to be helpful and feel that there is information that should be understood with new cruisers.  But IMO, this is way to wordy and long and most of it unnecessary to provide as a pre-cruise primer.  If you feel the need to provide any of this at all and expect your party to read and digest it, then edit it down to a few bullet points and let the process unfold. Thousands of new cruisers board and sail without this type of information every week without issue.  Besides all of this is available on the cruise line's website. 

 

Example regarding your information:

Embarkation:

Luggage can be dropped of with the porters typically by 10:00 AM or so and check in can begin after that.  If you are given boarding cue, you may want to schedule your arrival accordingly.  The process will involve checking in, a security check similar to that with airports, followed by boarding. 

 

What you can bring on board:

Check the cruise line website for a list of prohibited items that cannot be brought on board. Note as example that most only allow power strips that do not include surge protectors.

 

Most cruise lines allow certain beverages to be brought on board.  Example: RCI allows two 750ml bottles of wine per stateroom to be brought on board at original embarkation.  No other alcoholic beverages are allowed. Water and soda is also permitted.  Check with the cruise line website to confirm their policy.

 

Muster drill:

This is a required safety drill that is mandatory with each cruise line.  There will be instructions as to time and your muster location on the stateroom TV when you board and printed on a placard on the stateroom door. Announcements will instruct you as to the commencement and drill process.

 

Ship time:

If in different time zones than that of departure, the on board time in each port of call will be at the discretion of the Captain and will be announced with each port, published in the daily schedule in your stateroom, and on placards as you disembark.  This is the time you need to follow on shore to assure timely return to the ship for its all aboard time.

 

Phone:

Leave your phone in airplane mode to avoid roaming charges while on board.  Your phone carrier may offer temporary international calling plans for use on your cruise for phone and text.  Contact your carrier to discuss.  The ship will also offer WIFI plans on board at your option.

 

Sea sickness:

If you are prone to motion sickness, consult with your doctor or local pharmacist as to OTC options to consider. 

 

Copies of your passport:

If a Passport is required for your itinerary, it is suggested to carry a copy of your Passport as well that can be with you on shore in ports of call .  Verify with the cruise line the boarding and travel ID required for your itinerary.

 

Personally, I would just discuss this informally - IMO this is way too much to worry about when getting ready to enjoy a first cruise.  And, as chengkp75 pointed out, make sure your information is accurate and relative to your cruise line.  Some is also a bit over the top - four copies of your passport, really?  One with you off the ship is all that would be needed.

 

Enjoy your cruise.

 

Edited by leaveitallbehind
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2 hours ago, dkjretired said:

Don’t know where you are coming from but we always get to the port at least a day early especially in the winter.


Yeah. That's not a problem. We're coming from across the US (San Francisco, Denver, and Washington DC) and plan to get to Singapore about 4 days before our cruise. 😉

Thanks, though. I know that is important info for first time cruisers just not my group.

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Traveling/Cruising in Asia?  Make sure you bring your entire supply of medication, not just for enough for the duration of cruise.

Make sure that everyone does the on-line check-in.  It is the passengers responsibility, and not the big-box store or travel agent.

If you need Visas for certain countries, make sure you have them, or you will not be allowed to board the ship.

Good luck!

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On 3/5/2020 at 5:43 PM, Ferry_Watcher said:

Traveling/Cruising in Asia?  Make sure you bring your entire supply of medication, not just for enough for the duration of cruise.

 

 

At this point in time I would advise cruisers doing that no matter the destination.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Check up on your ship's dress code/formal night occasions (if any) to make sure you've packed appropriately.  Also, some ships have white night parties or other themed events that you might want to plan for as it relates to clothing. 

And join the roll call for your sailing/ship to keep up with planned events and activities.

Edited by Georgia_Peaches
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  • 4 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I am very impressed that you are taking the time to learn the best approach to your future cruise.  Good for you. What you will find out is your time invested will pay dividend.  I am going to give you a link to an article I recently wrote.  The title is: PRE-CRUISE ACTION CHECK LIST CREATING A “ROCK STAR” EXPERIENCE.  

 

I love cruising and years ago could not fine information on a check list except for a packing list. Therefore I wrote this.  Some of the items will not help you and others will.  My goal is to be so well planned out I can JUST RELAX.  My issue is I am the only person in my family that really plans our vacations.  So it it goes right, everyone takes credit. However, if it goes wrong, I am the bad guy.  Just the way it is.

 

Have a read and it is a bit detailed and long.  Enjoy.  Love your feedback.

 

http://www.garytilkin.com/pre-cruise-action-check-list-creating-rock-star-experience/

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  • 3 weeks later...

Dear Sthrngary,

I am so pleased with your answer. Personally I am the girl to plan everything in my family, so I understand you pretty well!

Opened your article right now, going to read it with making notes! Hope it helps to plan our cruise trip)))

Will write you as soon as I read everything thoroughly.

 

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On 9/18/2020 at 9:13 AM, AnnaLaura said:

Dear Sthrngary,

I am so pleased with your answer. Personally I am the girl to plan everything in my family, so I understand you pretty well!

Opened your article right now, going to read it with making notes! Hope it helps to plan our cruise trip)))

Will write you as soon as I read everything thoroughly.

 

So glad if I was able to assist in some way.  Enjoy.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On ‎3‎/‎25‎/‎2020 at 1:43 PM, Georgia_Peaches said:

Check up on your ship's dress code/formal night occasions (if any) to make sure you've packed appropriately.  Also, some ships have white night parties or other themed events that you might want to plan for as it relates to clothing. 

And join the roll call for your sailing/ship to keep up with planned events and activities.

 

I always pack appropriately.  For security reasons, and the possibility of someone stealing one of my suitcases we separate each pair of shoes and put one of each in a different case.  In this way should anyone steal a case they do not get any pairs of expensive shoes.  It is important however to make sure that you do not put all the right foot shoes in one case and left foot shoes in the other case, you got to mix right and left up because if a case goes missing you will look silly wearing to lefts.  Only an idiot would make that mistake.

 

Regards John.

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  • 2 months later...

Muster drill for a while will be for you to watch on your phone or tv, then go by master station and get checked off as I understand it.

 

FYI your muster station with directions is ALWAYS on the back of your cabin door on every cruiseline I have ever been on. Remember to check the location unless you want to just have to look for it at some appointed time. Just easier to read the exact location on the back of your cabin door.

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On 3/25/2020 at 6:43 AM, Georgia_Peaches said:

Check up on your ship's dress code/formal night occasions (if any) to make sure you've packed appropriately.  Also, some ships have white night parties or other themed events that you might want to plan for as it relates to clothing. 

And join the roll call for your sailing/ship to keep up with planned events and activities.

 

White night party dress is always suggested but not required.  I do a lot of cruising on Azamara.  They have a white night dinner on deck on every cruise.  I think that the whole idea of themed dinners is silly and I never bring white dress.  I always however bring neat clothing and I don't dress like a slob.

 

DON

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  • 1 month later...
13 hours ago, CoasterGuy said:

 

Tons of stressing for a rock star stress free cruise. 😔

First of all and most importantly, "I Love Ohio".  I lived in Ohio City for two years and had a GREAT time. I met so many folk that to this day mean so much to me.  The best Tail Gate events I have ever gone to.  Cleveland had so wonderful restaurant that I will never forget. I will go back as soon as covid is gone for sure.  

 

On to my list and notion of stress free cruise.  You are right.  The level of detail I do is insane.  I would be the first to admit that.  For me, the details, strategic plan and thought is sport for me.  This includes doing excel spreadsheets comparing Luxury All Inclusive cruise when no prep is needed.  The essence of my op-ed was it is possible to get as stress free cruise experience as possible if that is your goal.  

 

It is my pleasure to take the YEAR, sad to say a year before any cruise; to gradually check all the boxes that I have done so many times.  If you make the activity fun, it is not stressful.  My hope is I gave you an idea or to.  The most important part is simply enjoying the cruise.  Thanks for you comments and hope to meet you on a future cruise. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing I have found that helps me with Dramamine or Bonine (the non-drowsy formula) is to take it at night before bed.  You get a good nights sleep and the benefits are with you in the morning.  Yes, even the non-drowsy stuff makes me drowsy, so they should try things several days before they leave to see how it affects them.

 

Oh and I find that if I wait till about 1pm or so, the initial rush of passengers is over and there are no lines at embarkation.

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