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First thing to do once onboard?


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This may get a little long winded so I will try to limit it. For those of us that have never cruised, some of the things that need to be done onboard are unknown or with only the information we gather from sites like these. I am going to ask by cruise line because we have two different booked.

 

NCL: We got the "free" things which include 2 specialty dining options. So those can't be reserved before boarding to my knowledge.

  1. Can entertainment/shows be reserve ahead of time in the app or online pre-cruise? If not, where can this be done on the ship?
  2. The free specialty dining has to be booked once onboard. Where do you go to make those reservations (preferably where 1,000 other passengers aren't doing the same thing)?

CCL: No addon specialty dining, but if you buy it before the cruise you can reserve your spot.

  1. Can you make entertainment reservations before boarding through the app or site?
  2. If not, where can this be done onboard where there are not tons of people doing the same thing?

 

I know once I get onboard I will want to start with a cocktail. That will make waiting in a small line a bit more enjoyable. After that, it is taking in all the information overload, trying to learn how to navigate the ship, and take everything in that we can.

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33 minutes ago, BoozinCroozin said:

CCL: No addon specialty dining, but if you buy it before the cruise you can reserve your spot.

  1. Can you make entertainment reservations before boarding through the app or site?
  2. If not, where can this be done onboard where there are not tons of people doing the same thing?

 

 

I cannot help you with NCL, but I can offer my suggestions--and what I do--for CCL as well as any other cruise line.

 

1.  When you get to your cabin, sit down, take a deep breath, and read the daily program to get an overview of what is upcoming that afternoon and evening so that you don't inadvertently miss something that you would have liked to attend.  Pay particular attention to any information about the REQUIRED Muster Drill instructions and when that Drill take place.

 

2.  Any spa or specialty dining reservations that need to be made is next.  I am not aware of having to make reservations for any entertainment.  I have never needed to do so.  If you have chosen open dining and want to make a reservation for a specific time for dinner that evening, this would be the time to "try" to do so.  But, probably, be aware, many others will also probably be trying to do this.  As an open dining guest, that first night might be a good one for a specialty restaurant or choose to have dinner at a time that is not "prime dinner time" for many.  

 

3.  Time for a visit to a bar and/or lunch in the ship's dining room if it is open.  If only the buffet restaurant is open, but there are alternative dining venues available--as CCL does offer--avoiding crowds in the buffet restaurant by patronizing these dining facilities might be a good idea.  

 

4.  After lunch, time to explore the ship with your route taking you back to your cabin where, hopefully, your luggage will have arrived and you can unpack and start to get settled into your new "home".  Your Cabin Steward will hopefully be able to meet you during this time.    

 

5.  Sailing time:  on Carnival, they have a great sailaway party.  Try to attend.  If you are not inclined for such festivities, there will be many open decks--maybe your own veranda, if your cabin has one--to enjoy a more quiet sailaway.  Enjoying your beverage of choice as you sail is also recommended by me.  

 

Whatever you do:  do not stress.  "Go with the flow".  Do what seems "natural" for you.  And, that is different for each of us.  

 

Enjoy your first cruise!  My first one was memorable and is among my favorites.  I hope your first cruise will be the same for you as well.  

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Thank you for the post. There will be 0% stress unless something crazy happens and I mean that would have to be very crazy (lost luggage would not even qualify even if not available all cruise). My question is more related around dining reservations for the free dining on NCL, any shows onboard, or some of the other things that need reservations onboard (I don't know what those are).

 

As for drinks, lunch, etc. Those are easy for me. I will hit a bar, get a drink, relax, and find a place to eat if necessary. I am a muncher instead of an eater usually on vacation. I will even munch at dinners, even paid dinners.

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CCL doesn't take reservations for entertainment unless something has changed recently. The only real time we've had any kind of an issue is for the comedy shows, which take place in a venue smaller than the main theater. When we board we will usually head to the buffet to grab a bite and they will oftentimes have waitstaff going around taking drink orders.  Other times we will try to find a seat in the Atrium and grab a drink from the Atrium bar. A lot depends on exactly when we board and when our cabin is ready. Once the cabin is ready we'll go there and drop off the carryon and if our luggage is there we'll unpack.

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10 hours ago, sparks1093 said:

Other times we will try to find a seat in the Atrium and grab a drink from the Atrium bar.

 

Ah, the Atrium Bar:  My favorite bar on any Carnival ship!

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You can definitely book specialty dining online ahead of time (90 days?) and shows if on a mega ship (not needed on the smaller ships). You can download the app and book things from the terminal, onboard by the elevators or from your cabin TV. We like to go to a MDR after boarding, by the time we’re done with lunch our cabin is ready, we drop off carry-ons and explore before muster.

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Posted (edited)

NCL will allow you to book specialty dining something like 30-days before embarkation. Depending on your Latitude status you are allowed to book earlier.  Previous practice was to only allow 30% early booking, the rest on board.

 

When you board an NCL ship somewhere near Guest Services there will be a counter or table for "dining reservations"; easy to find there will be a line.

 

Just make sure you're in the right line. The other line is for Guest Services for people to set up cash accounts or trying to remove the prepaid tips/service charge😎

Edited by Philob
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On 3/18/2021 at 1:02 PM, BoozinCroozin said:

This may get a little long winded so I will try to limit it. For those of us that have never cruised, some of the things that need to be done onboard are unknown or with only the information we gather from sites like these. I am going to ask by cruise line because we have two different booked.

 

NCL: We got the "free" things which include 2 specialty dining options. So those can't be reserved before boarding to my knowledge.

  1. Can entertainment/shows be reserve ahead of time in the app or online pre-cruise? If not, where can this be done on the ship?
  2. The free specialty dining has to be booked once onboard. Where do you go to make those reservations (preferably where 1,000 other passengers aren't doing the same thing)?

 

 

If you're in a suite or Haven you can book your dinning and entertainment 120 days prior to sailing.  All other cabins 90 days prior to sailing.

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I've only been on CCL once and wasn't a fan.  Of course it was on one of their older ships and was only a 5 day cruise.  Anyway, I can't speak to dining or entertainment reservations as we didn't make any. 

 

What I can speak to is what I like to do first thing on any cruise I take.  I don't like to get there and try to be first on the ship.  I usually wait until 1pm or so to try and board as lines are usually short to non-existent, plus my cabin is usually ready by the time I get on the ship.  Then I grab a cocktail as I get on the ship and go up to my cabin to drop off my carry on and sit on my balcony and enjoy my cocktail and let the sunshine take all my cares away! 

 

If I do get to the ship and my cabin isn't ready, I do like to hit a specialty restaurant for lunch if possible.  That way I avoid all the crowds in the buffet and can relax more.

 

After 7 cruises, I don't really find the need to explore the ship so much anymore.  I just want to kick back and relax.  I do acquaint myself with where the dining room is and the best bars, but that's about it.  Everything else will just be a scavenger hunt for me!  🤣

 

Enjoy your first cruise and welcome to cruise-aholics anonymous!

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5 hours ago, olemissreb said:

 I don't like to get there and try to be first on the ship. 

 

Your post is an excellent one, I think.  I don't try to be "the first" on board either.  But, I have had three "first aboard" experiences that are memorable.  

 

Boarding Coral Princess in Whittier, Alaska:  I was an early bird among with a very few others.  Quick check-in, brief need to be seated before embarkation began, uncrowded walk to and up the gangway, stateroom was ready.  I went to lunch in the MDR.  There were Stewards standing around with few guests to serve.  I doubt there were more than 18-20 guests in the dining room during the time it was open.  Both of my Stewards had time to "chat" as well as two visits by the Maitre d' on duty to inquire about my satisfaction.   

 

San Antonio, Chile:  I was in the first bus load being transported from the terminal building to the Zaandam.  Literally, I was in the first half dozen people up the gangway.  

 

Montreal:  Embarking the Maasdam, I found myself in one of the first small groups that embarked after we were checked in.  It was so early that the MDR had not yet opened for lunch.  I roamed around the public rooms almost alone.  

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So what I am gathering, I don't really "need" to do anything other than relax, explore, and enjoy. I have watched videos of people saying the following and I could not find other information about it:

  • Immediately reserve shows and dining 
  • Go to Guest Services to make sure everything is set correctly

 

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1 hour ago, BoozinCroozin said:

So what I am gathering, I don't really "need" to do anything other than relax, explore, and enjoy. I have watched videos of people saying the following and I could not find other information about it:

  • Immediately reserve shows and dining 
  • Go to Guest Services to make sure everything is set correctly

 

If you are on a ship that takes reservations for shows and dining AND you need to reserve a specific show or dining time then it might be prudent to do that as soon as you are on board (presupposing of course that it can't be done before the cruise). I try to steer clear of Guest Services especially on embarkation day. I figure I have the whole cruise to straighten anything out that needs to and I will typically do that late at night or early in the morning when there is no line. (I am normally up at 6am so it is easy to go the GS with no line.) I believe that both NCL and CCL have systems in place where you may check your account details in your cabin on the TV.

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20 hours ago, olemissreb said:

What I can speak to is what I like to do first thing on any cruise I take.  I don't like to get there and try to be first on the ship.  I usually wait until 1pm or so to try and board as lines are usually short to non-existent, plus my cabin is usually ready by the time I get on the ship.  Then I grab a cocktail as I get on the ship and go up to my cabin to drop off my carry on and sit on my balcony and enjoy my cocktail and let the sunshine take all my cares away! 

 

Sorry for the dumb question, but I've been wondering this - does this mean we are allowed to take drinks from bars to other parts of the ship? Like would I be able to grab a cocktail from the Alchemy bar on deck 5, and take it to my room on a different deck? I really have no idea how any of it works - still planning my first cruise.

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1 hour ago, Donniss said:

 

Sorry for the dumb question, but I've been wondering this - does this mean we are allowed to take drinks from bars to other parts of the ship? Like would I be able to grab a cocktail from the Alchemy bar on deck 5, and take it to my room on a different deck? I really have no idea how any of it works - still planning my first cruise.

Yes, you can walk everywhere with a drink.  EM

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2 hours ago, Donniss said:

 

Sorry for the dumb question, but I've been wondering this - does this mean we are allowed to take drinks from bars to other parts of the ship? Like would I be able to grab a cocktail from the Alchemy bar on deck 5, and take it to my room on a different deck? I really have no idea how any of it works - still planning my first cruise.

The only restriction is they don't allow glasses in the pool area. 

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On 3/22/2021 at 8:57 AM, Donniss said:

but I've been wondering this - does this mean we are allowed to take drinks from bars to other parts of the ship?

 

As sparks1093, no glasses in the pool area, but plenty of plastic type glasses/mugs.  

 

If you are a wine drinker and enjoy a specific wine that the ship has in stock, a money saving tip is to buy a bottle of wine, have it kept at your favorite bar, and the bartenders will dispense the wine as you order it.  More inexpensive than buying wine by the glass.  

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On 3/22/2021 at 5:12 AM, BoozinCroozin said:

So what I am gathering, I don't really "need" to do anything other than relax, explore, and enjoy. I have watched videos of people saying the following and I could not find other information about it:

  • Immediately reserve shows and dining 
  • Go to Guest Services to make sure everything is set correctly

 

 

I support what the following poster has said.  

 

On 3/22/2021 at 6:35 AM, sparks1093 said:

If you are on a ship that takes reservations for shows and dining AND you need to reserve a specific show or dining time then it might be prudent to do that as soon as you are on board (presupposing of course that it can't be done before the cruise). I try to steer clear of Guest Services especially on embarkation day. I figure I have the whole cruise to straighten anything out that needs to and I will typically do that late at night or early in the morning when there is no line. (I am normally up at 6am so it is easy to go the GS with no line.) I believe that both NCL and CCL have systems in place where you may check your account details in your cabin on the TV.

 

Try to avoid visiting Guest Services as well as the Shore Excursion Office on Embarkation Day unless you urgently need to do so.  The lines are likely to be long with a few people asking such urgent questions as "What's the time for the Midnight Buffet"? 😀 Or, do I need to wear a bathing suit for my Swim with the Dolphins tour?  😀

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Posted (edited)
On 3/22/2021 at 7:57 AM, Donniss said:

 

Sorry for the dumb question, but I've been wondering this - does this mean we are allowed to take drinks from bars to other parts of the ship? Like would I be able to grab a cocktail from the Alchemy bar on deck 5, and take it to my room on a different deck? I really have no idea how any of it works - still planning my first cruise.

Yes you can get a drink at a bar and walk anywhere you like except the pool if it's in a glass.  I really like sailing on Celebrity because they meet you at the gangplank with champagne and mimosas free of charge!  So nice to grab one of those and then walk around.

Edited by olemissreb
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On 3/21/2021 at 4:43 PM, rkacruiser said:

 

Your post is an excellent one, I think.  I don't try to be "the first" on board either.  But, I have had three "first aboard" experiences that are memorable.  

 

Boarding Coral Princess in Whittier, Alaska:  I was an early bird among with a very few others.  Quick check-in, brief need to be seated before embarkation began, uncrowded walk to and up the gangway, stateroom was ready.  I went to lunch in the MDR.  There were Stewards standing around with few guests to serve.  I doubt there were more than 18-20 guests in the dining room during the time it was open.  Both of my Stewards had time to "chat" as well as two visits by the Maitre d' on duty to inquire about my satisfaction.   

 

San Antonio, Chile:  I was in the first bus load being transported from the terminal building to the Zaandam.  Literally, I was in the first half dozen people up the gangway.  

 

Montreal:  Embarking the Maasdam, I found myself in one of the first small groups that embarked after we were checked in.  It was so early that the MDR had not yet opened for lunch.  I roamed around the public rooms almost alone.  

On one cruise with my former in-laws, we got to port really early because my FIL had ants in his pants.  We were amongst the first few to get on board, but our experience wasn't like yours.  There were hundreds of people that had the same idea and so we didn't have the relaxing visit to the buffet.  Luckily though, we did pack bathing suits so my kids could change after lunch and get about an hour of swimming in before our rooms were ready.  That was really nice as there was no one else in the pool or even around the pool at that time.

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1 hour ago, olemissreb said:

Yes you can get a drink at a bar and walk anywhere you like except the pool if it's in a glass.  I really like sailing on Celebrity because they meet you at the gangplank with champagne and mimosas free of charge!  So nice to grab one of those and then walk around.

Sounds great! I'm so very much looking forward to drinking on vacation.. even if its just a little bit (due to meds) I am going to savor every sip I can manage. First priority for me will defs be orienting my parents, confirming any bookings.. but after that I'm finding me a mimosa!

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3 hours ago, olemissreb said:

We were amongst the first few to get on board, but our experience wasn't like yours. 

 

The 3 instances I related were surprising to me that my early embarkation turned out so pleasantly.  Of the three, that early arrival on Coral Princess was the best.  When I went to the dining room for lunch, I knew I was an early bird, but I expected other guests to appear.  As I said, only a few did.  The ones that also boarded early and headed to the buffet restaurant missed an unique opportunity.  

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3 hours ago, olemissreb said:

I really like sailing on Celebrity because they meet you at the gangplank with champagne and mimosas free of charge!

 

That is a nice "touch" and a pleasant way to begin one's cruise. 

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I asked the original question because we will not have cruised before. I wasn't sure how fast shows fill up for reservations. I know on NCL the free dining cannot be reserved in advance. I wasn't sure if this is something that has to wait until onboard or if you can due it the day of on the app.

 

My first plans once boarding the ship is cocktail, explore, and reserve. Not necessarily in that order based on what I need to get done before 4,000 others are doing it as well.

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15 hours ago, BoozinCroozin said:

My first plans once boarding the ship is cocktail, explore, and reserve.

 

Don't forget to eat!  I firmly believe based on my experience that one way to avoid mal de mer is to keep one's tummy full.  Why do cruise ships always have plentiful food available when one embarks and up to close to sailing time?  Is it just because it's lunch time?  Well, yes.  That's part of the reason.  But, I think "they" know that having some food in one's stomach is also helpful.

 

And, probably even more so  if a guest is enjoying multiple "drinks of the day".  

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