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Share some tips for people new to traveling


klfrodo
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I am an independent and somewhat adventurous traveler.  What this means is that, to me, the word tour is a 4 letter word!  And "excursion" is an even uglier word that defies a label ").  After more than half a century of independent travel (all over the world) we can offer a little advice that is mostly common sense.  Do your pre-trip homework!  Read about the places you may visit, learn about local/regional transportation options, and look at most of the possibilities/options at your port/destination.  You can learn on the Internet, through books, or by reading the description of excursions.  Many experienced independent travelers have learned to keep their options open by not getting tunnel vision about a single itinerary.  So, for example, if we were planning on taking a jet boat from Naples to Capri (Italy) for the day, and it turned out to be an ugly rainy day, we would probably walk past the ferry port and head into town (Naples) where we could spend a nice day at some local museums, shopping, and enjoying a long lunch or perhaps some of the pizza for which Naples is quite famous.  Meanwhile, folks booked on the overpriced excursion to Capri would take the boat through rough seas and bad weather, and get to Capri (which is primarily an outdoor kind of place) and try to deal with the rain.

 

So the lesson is to learn about all the options so that you can change plans (on the fly) to suit the weather conditions and your mood of the day.

 

Hank

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41 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

I am an independent and somewhat adventurous traveler.  What this means is that, to me, the word tour is a 4 letter word!  And "excursion" is an even uglier word that defies a label ").  After more than half a century of independent travel (all over the world) we can offer a little advice that is mostly common sense.  Do your pre-trip homework!  Read about the places you may visit, learn about local/regional transportation options, and look at most of the possibilities/options at your port/destination.  You can learn on the Internet, through books, or by reading the description of excursions.  Many experienced independent travelers have learned to keep their options open by not getting tunnel vision about a single itinerary.  So, for example, if we were planning on taking a jet boat from Naples to Capri (Italy) for the day, and it turned out to be an ugly rainy day, we would probably walk past the ferry port and head into town (Naples) where we could spend a nice day at some local museums, shopping, and enjoying a long lunch or perhaps some of the pizza for which Naples is quite famous.  Meanwhile, folks booked on the overpriced excursion to Capri would take the boat through rough seas and bad weather, and get to Capri (which is primarily an outdoor kind of place) and try to deal with the rain.

 

So the lesson is to learn about all the options so that you can change plans (on the fly) to suit the weather conditions and your mood of the day.

 

Hank

 

This is good stuff.  Earlier this year we unexpected had to extend a trip by almost a week.  Those additional unplanned days were among the most enjoyable.  It was a valuable lesson learned.  

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2 hours ago, ldubs said:

 

This is good stuff.  Earlier this year we unexpected had to extend a trip by almost a week.  Those additional unplanned days were among the most enjoyable.  It was a valuable lesson learned.  

We have had some Europeans ask us what it is about Americans and their love of tours.  I have no answers other than booking tours/excursions are easy and some folks like being among large groups of other Americans/cruisers.  The truth about independent travel is that it does take work, research, a spirit of adventure, and a lot of "travel sense."  The rewards that come from doing things on your own can be amazing including the ability to meet and interact with locals, make friends among folks you meet in foreign countries, and go to places that are not specifically designed for tourists.  Some of the best times we have had in Europe are when we have simply rented an apartment for 1-2 weeks in various places, had a car, and just got to experience a region.  Living in a place like St Remy Provence, walking home from the boulangerie with bread under my arm and a bag of fresh croissants is a neat experience.  And discovering that some of the locals started to become friendly after the first week (this seems to be a rule) was also enlightening.  Getting a big hug from the boulangerie owner on our last day was one of those precious moments that will never be experienced on an excursion.  

 

There are some others here on CC who truly understand about what I speak, and others have no clue.  We have had fellow cruisers spend hours with us on long cruises while they pumped us for information on going ashore on their own, and then later apologized because they ultimately booked an excursion (which they did not like).  The truth seems to be that most Americans are just not comfortable anywhere outside America.  Being on a large bus, with other like thinking souls, best suits their preferable way to travel.  So be it.

 

Hank

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1 hour ago, Hlitner said:

We have had some Europeans ask us what it is about Americans and their love of tours.  I have no answers other than booking tours/excursions are easy and some folks like being among large groups of other Americans/cruisers.  The truth about independent travel is that it does take work, research, a spirit of adventure, and a lot of "travel sense."  The rewards that come from doing things on your own can be amazing including the ability to meet and interact with locals, make friends among folks you meet in foreign countries, and go to places that are not specifically designed for tourists.  Some of the best times we have had in Europe are when we have simply rented an apartment for 1-2 weeks in various places, had a car, and just got to experience a region.  Living in a place like St Remy Provence, walking home from the boulangerie with bread under my arm and a bag of fresh croissants is a neat experience.  And discovering that some of the locals started to become friendly after the first week (this seems to be a rule) was also enlightening.  Getting a big hug from the boulangerie owner on our last day was one of those precious moments that will never be experienced on an excursion.  

 

There are some others here on CC who truly understand about what I speak, and others have no clue.  We have had fellow cruisers spend hours with us on long cruises while they pumped us for information on going ashore on their own, and then later apologized because they ultimately booked an excursion (which they did not like).  The truth seems to be that most Americans are just not comfortable anywhere outside America.  Being on a large bus, with other like thinking souls, best suits their preferable way to travel.  So be it.

 

Hank

My favorite thing about foreign travel is ambiance. It’s fun to immerse yourself in another culture, explore the villages, hear the language and enjoy the food. I’m so excited for my first cruise to immerse myself in cruise culture and that includes those horrendous tours. It’s a whole new world. 

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10 hours ago, GreenFamily said:

My favorite thing about foreign travel is ambiance. It’s fun to immerse yourself in another culture, explore the villages, hear the language and enjoy the food. I’m so excited for my first cruise to immerse myself in cruise culture and that includes those horrendous tours. It’s a whole new world. 

What you say also happens when we cruise on MSC out of Florida.  That cruise line attracts a high percentage of European passengers (often in excess of 50%) and when we relax inside the Yacht Club enclave, it has a very Euro-centric atmosphere.  We hear quite a few different languages, chat with folks from many different countries, and you can feel the European culture in many ways such as when folks go to dinner (dining after 8 is pretty common).  Just socializing with our fellow cruisers is lots of fun and a small challenge since one needs to be up on issues like the Premiere League and Euro politics to not feel left out of discussions.    There are many travelers (including DW and me) who really enjoy mixing with other cultures.  It is something you do not get when you are on a 60 person excursion bus where everyone is from the ship and North America.   On excursions folks generally rely on the guide to dish out some of the local culture.  But when you go off on your own you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture (including food and wine).

 

Hank

 

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, Hlitner said:

We have had some Europeans ask us what it is about Americans and their love of tours.  I have no answers other than booking tours/excursions are easy and some folks like being among large groups of other Americans/cruisers.  The truth about independent travel is that it does take work, research, a spirit of adventure, and a lot of "travel sense.

 

Your most recent series of posts on this topic are excellent.  I would suggest that another factor is the discomfort many Americans have when English is not the primary language of the places they are visiting.  Not knowing the language can cause insecurity in some people and these same people lack the "travel sense" to be able to deal with the situation. 

 

Your last sentence in the quote above is very relevant to many posts we read on CC.  How many posts are seeking information from others when that information is readily available online or in a library.  How many times has a question about "parking in the Port of Miami" been answered on the Florida Message Board, just as an example?  

 

Please don't misunderstand me as to my willingness to help answer others' questions.  I am pleased to be able to share my knowledge (CC posters have surely helped me over the years!) and answer their questions to the best of my ability.  But, to be an informed traveler, it requires some effort on the part of the traveler.  In some ways, I am reminded of my days teaching early adolescents.  ("Mr. RKA, why does xylem transport water and not food in a tree?"  My response:  "Excellent question, student.  Why don't you go to the library and see what you can find out."  

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29 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Your most recent series of posts on this topic are excellent.  I would suggest that another factor is the discomfort many Americans have when English is not the primary language of the places they are visiting.  Not knowing the language can cause insecurity in some people and these same people lack the "travel sense" to be able to deal with the situation. 

 

Your last sentence in the quote above is very relevant to many posts we read on CC.  How many posts are seeking information from others when that information is readily available online or in a library.  How many times has a question about "parking in the Port of Miami" been answered on the Florida Message Board, just as an example?  

 

Please don't misunderstand me as to my willingness to help answer others' questions.  I am pleased to be able to share my knowledge (CC posters have surely helped me over the years!) and answer their questions to the best of my ability.  But, to be an informed traveler, it requires some effort on the part of the traveler.  In some ways, I am reminded of my days teaching early adolescents.  ("Mr. RKA, why does xylem transport water and not food in a tree?"  My response:  "Excellent question, student.  Why don't you go to the library and see what you can find out."  

And student responds, "what is a library?"

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I keep on my phone copies of our passports,  driver's license, and visa (if any), vaccination cards, credit card phone numbers to report a stolen card, pictures of the outside of any prescription meds we are taking, telephone numbers of our doctors, our itineraries, boarding passes, ticket confirmation numbers, hotel phone numbers and address, and cruise line/ship numbers. Yes, I have all that in hard copy in a folder in my carry on, but it's great to have it at your fingertips if you need it, particularly if you are out sightseeing when something happens and can't get back to the hotel or ship right away. Conversely, having the hard copy has saved me a couple of times when my phone died or I didn't have internet access.

 

If traveling overseas, I also put in my phone the address and phone number of the closest US embassy or consulate in every location where we will be traveling.   While I haven't ever needed it, there have been a few times I was glad I had the information handy - such as the time my taxi in Shanghai was involved in a car accident.  

 

Also, while English is considered a universal language, don't count on everyone being able to speak English to you, particularly if in Asia.  Even in Europe where nearly everyone speaks English, people appreciate you giving it a try in their language. 

 

And one last tip - consider getting TSA Precheck. If you plan on your travels taking you outside of the US, then consider Global Entry. 

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Carry passport and one credit card on your person- possibly also car/house keys. A travel wallet is a good idea. Know where they are at all times, if you lose them it's bad news. Pickpockets can be found everywhere.

Second credit card from a DIFFERENT provider. It happened to me. I lost one card, even though I was absolutly clear which card was lost, the alleged  "Customer Service" cancelled both (I did have a third, different card).

Your medical insurance MUST fit your specific situation and third party providers are almost always better. You must call the insurance provider before a claim, make sure the information is readily available.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/25/2022 at 7:59 PM, MaggieNY said:

Invest in magnetic hooks. Of all the suggested items I've seen on this board, this is the one that was a big game-changer for us. We hang all sorts of stuff from them. They keep things handy and help cut down on the clutter in our cabin.

I read this or a similar recommendation and bought some magnetic hooks.  For me, a solo first-time traveler, it was a waste of money and unnecessary.  I found no need for them.  I think it's probably unnecessary for two people traveling together, also.

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On 11/4/2022 at 8:47 PM, Hlitner said:

The truth seems to be that most Americans are just not comfortable anywhere outside America.  Being on a large bus, with other like thinking souls, best suits their preferable way to travel.  So be it.

No, that's not the truth.  Non factual generalizations aren't helpful.

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  • 3 weeks later...

1. As others have said, particularly if you are flying, travel to cruises one day early. Period. A LOT of nightmare stories about missing cruises due to flights, especially now when the airlines are understaffed. If you book an airfare deal with your cruise, make sure you make it 100% clear that you need to arrive one day early (on current NCL BOGO flight deal, this is called requesting a one-day deviation). Before you take these flight deals, read up on them on Cruise Critic!

2. Read your cruise dailies, even the fine print, every day. Otherwise you may be making assumptions and get frustrated. 

 

3. Read the fine print of your booking and understand cancellation policies. It is 100% foolish to think someone will take pity on you and refund your money. Time and time again, across cruise lines, they do not. They follow their cancellation policy. 

 

4. As others have said, STRONGLY consider cruise travel insurance not through the cruise line, even if you are young and healthy. We are all one excursion minor accident away from expensive bills.

5. Get your passport, even if you don't think you need it. Let's say you get injured on an excursion...they may not let you reboard this ship without going to the hospital. And won't necessarily hold the ship for you. So you are stuck at that port. How are you going to get home? Most cruise ships can work with you to get items from your room (e.g., passport), but if you don't have a passport, you can end up in a world of hurt!

6. Read up on airline carry on requirements and prohibited items through TSA checkpoints. Ask a traveling friend to help you adhere to these requirements. They will not hold items for you until you return. 

7. Check your stateroom location, and as someone said bring earplugs. Staying below the pool deck? Those morning loungers are loud. Staying above the theatre? Might be some late night noise. You get the point. Have an obstructed view? Google your stateroom number and ship to learn what that really means for YOUR room.
 

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Food for thought... back in 2018, I had scheduled a birthday cruise out of Miami, and thought that I would stay a few extra days beforehand. I stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Miami Brickell Downtown because it was right near the Brickell Transit center. Both the Miami Metromover (free) and Miami Metrorail were served by this transit stop, and the Metrorail Orange goes to the Miami airport. (Lesson learned). With some minor planning, I was able to visit places such as the Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science, Freedom Tower, HistoryMiami Museum, and Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. While I paid a little more for my hotel room, this was more than offset by the fact that I didn't have to rent a car. I had to do some walking, but the cost of a Metrorail ticket offset that cost. I think I paid $10 for a shuttle to the cruise terminal. 

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On 11/5/2022 at 12:54 PM, rkacruiser said:

 

Your last sentence in the quote above is very relevant to many posts we read on CC.  How many posts are seeking information from others when that information is readily available online or in a library.  How many times has a question about "parking in the Port of Miami" been answered on the Florida Message Board, just as an example?  

 

 

I think I might disagree with you on this.   Not because the info isn't available elsewhere.  I disagree that those with questions should look elsewhere before coming to CC.  The CC forums are for information.  CC is in fact "online" and should be a resource, if not the first resource, for cruise related questions.  Referring a poster's question to a google search is opposite what I think should be happening in these forums.  Of course, referrals to other websites for specifics is highly appropriate.   

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tips for new travelers?  Learn not to get riled up when things don't go the way you planned.  Yes, you will have the breakdown moment and cry, but then you will realize there are other options you can take to minimize the bad experience ( as long as you have not been robbed or assaulted).  There will be times where you miss a connection and sleep in an airport ( I always travel with a backpack, which makes a good pillow if needed).  Learn just a few phrases in the local language ( like.." do you speak ......, and the most important to learn is " where is the toilet").  Once you get back home, you will be able to laugh at whatever mis-adventures one may have had ( I had 1 misadventure that reminded me of The Out Of Towners.....see that movie).  Just think of your travel debacles as stories that can be told at dinner parties.  

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Great reminders for season travelers.  One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is storage space… On one of my first cruises, I cried and cried because there wasn’t room for all the unnecessary clothes I brought… So pack as light as you can,  open your suitcase and store it under your bed… It is great for dirty clothes and it is also great for extra clothes and shoes, I also bring a plug-in or something equivalent to make the room smell better… No matter what ship it seems like the rooms always smell like whoever was in there last… Not necessarily stinky, but I would rather have a fresh smell. Life is an adventure, and there are always surprises… Never leave home without an extra pair of underwear in your backpack or carry-on! We have been on 67 cruises with number 68 scheduled for March… And I’m still learning new tricks about cruising and international travel.

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1 hour ago, BabySis said:

Great reminders for season travelers.  One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is storage space… On one of my first cruises, I cried and cried because there wasn’t room for all the unnecessary clothes I brought… So pack as light as you can,  open your suitcase and store it under your bed… It is great for dirty clothes and it is also great for extra clothes and shoes, I also bring a plug-in or something equivalent to make the room smell better… No matter what ship it seems like the rooms always smell like whoever was in there last… Not necessarily stinky, but I would rather have a fresh smell. Life is an adventure, and there are always surprises… Never leave home without an extra pair of underwear in your backpack or carry-on! We have been on 67 cruises with number 68 scheduled for March… And I’m still learning new tricks about cruising and international travel.

???

 

Didn't your room have a closet?  There was under-bed storage?  That's something I overlooked.  I found no reason, traveling solo, to worry about insufficient closet space, because mine was large on Serenade of the Seas.  My room didn't smell, like yours has, so no need for deodorant.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

Always buy travel insurance with good medical. ALWAYS.


Bring magnetic hooks for the room. I never thought I'd use them, now I can't imagine my cabin without them.

 

Pack swimsuit and cover up, etc, in your carryon-the-ship bag. That way you can hit the hot tubs or pool immediately (after lunch and muster drill), instead of having to wait for your bag to show up in your room.

 

Be super kind to all staff, especially the room steward. They work SO HARD.

 

Budget for unforseen extras, so you don't get on board and feel you need to skimp. You may decide you want to buy/play bingo, for example, or try something in the spa, or buy something in a shop onboard, things you originally did not plan on doing. There are always nice options on how to spend extra money while cruising. 🙂

 

Bring extra contact lenses, always bring sunglasses, and if you're on a long cruise, plan on doing laundry midway so you can pack less. (That usually costs money but not a lot.)

Get up at *least* once early enough to see a sunrise. Catch all the sunsets.


It's okay to not get off the ship while at a port. If you want to stay on board and enjoy the ship, do so.

 

Always fly in the day before.

 

Utilize your room safe for important documents.

 

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1 hour ago, Cruise Kay said:

Bring magnetic hooks for the room. I never thought I'd use them, now I can't imagine my cabin without them.

I recently cruised for the first time.  The one piece of advice I feel was a waste of expense was the magnetic hooks.  Totally useless.

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10 hours ago, 9tee2Sea said:

Take an old fashioned wrist watch.  Ships time and cell phone time sometimes are different.  Always pay attention to the Back On Board Time signage as you leave for your time on shore.

 

If you go into Settings →  System → Date & Time , you can turn off the option to "Set Time Automatically", you can set the time on your mobile to match the ship time. 

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15 hours ago, Z'Loth said:

 

If you go into Settings →  System → Date & Time , you can turn off the option to "Set Time Automatically", you can set the time on your mobile to match the ship time. 

i guess that is one option.  I just prefer to be as low tech as possible.  The wrist watch works perfect for me.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/25/2022 at 1:06 AM, klfrodo said:

If you flight is late afternoon or evening, many hotels offer “Day Rates”. They don’t advertise these, you have to call and ask.

Take bags to your room, go to the pool, catch a quick work out in the gym, take a nap, grab a shower, or whatever until it’s time to head to the airport.

Actually some chains offer those online:

 

Marriott: use code ZDY

Accor: search for 'day use Accor' and they will pop up

Hilton: Use the same date for check-in and check-out and the result is the day use rate

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/30/2022 at 1:31 PM, Longford said:

I recently cruised for the first time.  The one piece of advice I feel was a waste of expense was the magnetic hooks.  Totally useless.

 

This is funny - I'm just finishing my first cruise. I brought 12 magnetic hooks and ran out and wished I'd brought more. My hat, my husband's hat, my headbands, my scrunchies, my necklaces, my bracelets, my swimsuits while they dried, our towels while they dried, our lanyards which we used sometimes but not always ... 

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