(These pages contain Information on things to do while on board your cruise)
This is the fourth part in a series of six “Cruise Mini Camp” informational offerings
Now that you have completed customs inspections, and have finished waiting in the holding areas, had your mandatory boarding photograph (you remember the one where you posed with the phony cheesy smile while headed to the ship) and now finally on-board, what should you do first?
First things first – (if you board after 2pm), locate your stateroom and get rid of your hand carried items, and any roll aboard bags you have been dragging around. Hopefully you will be greeted by ships personnel who will aid you in getting to your stateroom. Short of that, you should have close access to your stateroom information that your cruise planner has provided to you in your travel documents folder which was given to you before you departed from home on your cruise vacation. Note: If access to staterooms has not been allowed yet, then you may wish to consider heading directly to the informal dining area to get something to eat or drink, or maybe to one of the many lounges for something stronger. This is a great time to introduce yourself to your stateroom steward(s). They will probably be milling about around your stateroom location. Find out their first name(s), let them know yours. They are instructed to call you by last name, (unless you tell them otherwise). Make friends with them, a smile and a friendly introduction will go a long way in getting you not only better treatment, but you have set the stage for both you and them to have fun on this voyage.
Don’t go overboard! – (Pardon the Pun), but there will be a MANDATORY life boat drill click here to see what one is like on every cruise ship that departs from any embarkation port of call. During this procedure you will need to dawn (put on) your life vest (which is normally located in the main closet of your stateroom), and proceed via stairways only to your designated rally point. These locations instructions are typically found on the door (inside) of your stateroom which shows your exit procedure and directions and explain where your designated muster (rally) point is. Some ships you will meet at or near your lifeboat, others will have you meet in a particular pre-determined designated area. As a general rule, these drills are normally conducted around 4:00pm or about an hour before actually departing from the dock. If you just made your ship at 4:55 not to worry, there will be a makeup drill for you tomorrow around noon time. So don’t think you can get away with shirking your drill by getting there too late. Lifeboat drills are MANDATORY FOR ALL PASSENGERS.
Let’s Eat – If you were fortunate to be able to arrive at the terminal early, and was allowed to board early, Lunch on-board ship will begin around 11am (or thereabouts), normally the open venue restaurants are located on or close to the uppermost decks of the ship. Most of the time, they will be situated in the aft (rear) of the ship. Generally the ones that are forward are your upscale or reserved dining areas for suite guests or you can pay to eat in them. You should know that most of your best lunch and dinner will typically take place in formal dining room. If you have chosen early or late seating, you will be introduced to your waiter, assistant waiter, as well as your table location the first nights dinner. If you chose anytime dining, then you will just show up between the appointed open seating times, and you will be seated first come basis, and your dining partners and wait staff will change each time you go there. Breakfast is normally sought out by most in the casual restaurant area (buffet style service) and generally is the first food venue to open each morning. Some folks like the ease of casual dining and never even visit the formal dining room. Trust me if you do that you will certainly miss out on some of the ships better food, and service. Specialty restaurants offer some of the best food and service in the world. White Glove, Very formal settings, generally very quant and romantic. I strongly urge everyone to at least try the premier dining facility if you can manage to make reservations before they are completely filled. It’s well worth the $25 to $35 pp service charge to do it. The charge isn’t for the food, it’s for the service staff, as they typically have no other means of receiving tips/gratuities, as do the staff in the formal dining areas. You can also normally find food venues either at or near the pool and spa areas. Normally the food near pools is sort of outdoor venues with hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries. You know pool food. The venues near the spa’s will generally be more “healthy” oriented, and like the specialty restaurants, charge a service fee of some type, customarily like $5-$10pp. All this talking about the food has made me hungry.
Inside your stateroom will be a wealth of reading material that will help you navigate the ships many points, and places of interest. Also many cruise lines now feature interactive TV screens that also have the ability to use the remote and scan through in a menu type format for many of the guest services, on-board acct, and amenities located on the ship. You should also have a copy of the daily ships activities that show when and where all the important things are taking place. Note: the following day’s activity sheets normally arrive during your 2nd daily stateroom freshen up which occurs while you are at dinner. You will find it on your bed, generally guarded by some kind of towel shaped animal. (Some stewards are very creative and will make use of your sunglasses etc). There will also be blaring announcements of information over the ship wide PA/speaker system. If you should be traveling on cruise ships that cater to numerous international passengers, don’t be alarmed at the multi language announcements. These will most likely take place in every event or activity that requires voiced welcomes or instructions. Maybe you will be able to pick up or “brush up” on some of your old high school French or Spanish (you took decades ago) before your cruise ends!!!!!
Captains Reception – This is traditionally a first night function, where everyone on the ship who desires, gets the opportunity to actually meet the captain along with his senior officers’ staff. Something you may want to do, or not!!! It’s up to you.
Attention all suite guests – If you are traveling in suite accommodations, there may be a concierge lounge which you will have access to either by your stateroom key, or another key you will be given at some point during your embarkation process. This is a great place to get to know the staff there, as they can be a vital link to services. Tickets to sold out events, reservations for specialty restaurants, and recreational activities, excursions, and shows and performances. Many times ships have specially reserved areas for these activities already pre-reserved for the suite guests. If you should encounter any difficulties, these folks can also be helpful at getting resolutions to such problems.
Specialty Events – Always be alert for special offerings that occur during cruises. Especially on At-Sea-Days. Things like Mystery/Comedy Dinners, Who Done It Dinners, Sommelier Dinners, Sing Along Contests, Sexiest Male Leg Contest, Newlywed Game Show, Dancing Contest, Chocolate Extravaganza, Ice Statute Carving Shows, whether such events come with a fee or free, they are normally well worth the price to attend.
Internet Café – Most every cruise ship has areas set aside for internet while on board. While some have as many as 15-20 computer terminals all which are connected to printers, you should know that I have seen some with only 5 to 8 computer stations. You should familiarize yourself with the computer center’s hours of operation. I typically find these places are usually not at capacity during the dinner hours, and later in the evening. Internet access is not free on ship (even if you bring your own computer) but normally every cruise line offers packaged time plans which you can buy. Same thing holds true for your cell phone. The only time cell service will be free to you is when you are parked or close to US coastline, or ports. Otherwise there will be roaming charges or even more expensive (ship satellite service charges) on your bill when you get back home!
Kids areas – if children are traveling with you, be sure to acquaint yourself with the location and hours of operation for the various kid venues on board. Find out what the age requirements are, and policies on whether they need to be accompanied, or can participate in the planned activities on their own. Sometimes a parent may just be required to check them in, and out. Also for those with younger children check to see the availability and fees associated with the on board babysitting services. Fees for this service will show up on your onboard cruise account. Take a moment and check out a video on the new “Aqua Duck” a first of its kind kids feature on the Brand New Ship Disney “Dream”. If you like, you can check out my entire review of the Disney “Dream” here. Most all cruise ships, but especially within the mass market cruise lines feature not only will the ships offer kids clubs or kid only areas, but they will be further classed by age groupings, so that the kids have more in common when being entertained and taking part in various children’s activities.
A Word about Shore Excursions – While each cruise ship has a cruise excursions sales desk, you should count on any shore excursion that is popular was probably already sold out, before you came on board the ship. That is because most cruise lines offer the availability to go online and pre order your excursions (some up to) 90days before your departure date. But it won’t hurt to check out the excursions desk, just in case someone turned in tickets as they couldn’t go at the last minute, etc.
Entertainment On Board – the same holds true as cited above with regards to entertainment. Any hot “Broadway or Review” type performances, or acts on board may well be a “sell out” prior to arriving at the ship. So be sure to check out the cruise lines web site for those service capabilities as well. Otherwise tickets for these on board performances are normally handled at the main reception or purser’s desk if they have one. Some of the free activities you can expect to find on board (depending on the ships size and age) are: Outdoor (open air) Movies, Rock Climbing (or repelling)Wall, Basketball, Batting Cage, Flow Rider (surfing),Putt Putt, Driving Range(Golf), Ice skating, Bowling, Zip Line, (only on Oasis and Allure ships) and all of the old standards like swimming pools, water slides/tubing, dodge ball, and volleyball, and in the kids specialty areas, Video and DJ Equipment, Pin Ball, Air Hockey, Foosball, Playstation 3, Wii Gaming Areas, to name just a few things to do on board to get your heart racing. Nightly entertainment will include performances such as, Vegas Style Dancers, Broadway Musicals, Ice shows, Comedy Acts, Music Performances, Dancing Demonstrations/Instruction. Be sure to check out the section on Education/Enrichment Sessions (listed below).
Lounge/Nightlife Venues – Many of the newer ships can have as many as 20+ lounges and nightclub venues. Most all cruise ships will have a minimum of 10 to 12. Each vary as to their intended clientele from Young to Older, Martini’s to Champagne, Rock to Big Band Music. So it is something you will just need to scope out, to find the one that suites your style and tastes.
Casinos – Gambling anyone? Hey on board casino’s generally offer the best in Vegas style wagered play action. With Slot Machines, Poker, Roulette, Keno, just about anything you’d expect to find in a land based casino will be there on board! Just like on land based Casino’s at sea also do a good deal in the area of comp-ing but you need to be a very high stakes player in order to receive those comps and perks.
Spas – I’ll bet you could really use some pampered relaxation about now (especially after all the Entertainment, Nightlife, and Gambling you’ve been doing). Most all cruise ships offer first rate spa amenities, including messages, facials, sauna, steam room, Thermal Spa Suites, Teeth Whitening, Acupuncture & Botox, Hair & Nail (Beauty) Salon treatments. These are Fee Charged Services, but check out the special offers!
Shipboard Shopping – Most all cruise ships have designer and chic boutiques and stores, in addition to their own style of convenience store. Remember, there is no using your visa, master card, or even your American express in these top shops. You can only use your ship’s account, which can be linked to one of your credit cards. (Just see Guest Services for info on payments of your accounts) All cruise ships will also have Duty Free Shops, which generally offer below retail pricing with no taxes charged. (BUT!!Don’t forget to declare these purchases on Customs Paperwork). For any alcoholic purchases made, they will have to be picked up normally on your final sea day just before arrival back at port. That’s because they do not wish to have folks buying their alcohol in bulk, which would be competing against their own selves. Speaking of Alcohol many ships offer In Room Mini Bar Service, which gets restocked and charged to your on board account daily. While these are very convenient, they are also very expensive. Better to put your shorts and sandals back on and head down to the lounge for your drink.
Other Specialty Areas – Most ships will feature Library Areas with many books that can be checked out using your stateroom key. Others may even offer in room movie rentals for a fee as well. Some ships will have Cigar Bars on Board. For the smokers who cruise, there are a few designated smoking areas on board the ship. No smoking is allowed in/on Stateroom/Balconies. Some international (European Lines) have more lenient smoking regulations.
Education and Enrichment Sessions – Many of today’s cruise lines/ships offer a varied array of workshops, learning sessions, and classes designed to enrich or to expand one’s horizons. Ever been intimidated at reading a wine list? Or at being asked to order wine for the group you are with? Well how about taking a wine tasting, wine pairing, or general wine knowledge enrichment class. Into Gourmet Cooking? or simply would like to be? Why not attend an on board cooking class and learn from the Master’s. Maybe Crafts are your things. You will often find many cruise itineraries’ offering interesting topics from stitchery, to scrapbooking, to Educational Classes on Culture, History, Geography, and more. Some of the cruise lines even have Universities at Sea Programs. One very popular event that you will find on almost every ship is Art. Art Auctions are a very big money maker for the cruise lines, and while I have many friends who know art , have informed me their opinion towards ship board auction prices not being real great deals, I have other acquaintances who are major collectors, who tell me that many of their art findings have come aboard ship. But if you should be interested in purchasing artwork on board the ship, be sure you know your art, and be prepared for all of the costs associated with purchase, such as customs declarations, shipping costs, framing (as most of the work does not come complete with framing).
So if anyone tells you they got bored while on a cruise, well I’m not to sure they could be entertained anywhere they might visit. So Just Get Out There and Do it All! . OK you are now ready for our next module entitled Cruise Ships, A Glimpse from the Inside, which you can view simply (by clicking here). Hope you are enjoying the series, and gaining much in the way of knowledge and information. Happy Cruising All!!!
As you can see there is a lot to do on a cruise. For more information contact Mike at email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike or you can join our Cruise Club at http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/ Mikes web site can be found at www.mberryhill.cruiseholidays.com . and also follow his blog at http://www.cruisewithmike.com .
Why not share what your favorate activity, passtime, or favorate thing to do while on a cruise is? Please comment below…..Thanks!!
The End – Now that you’re on board