Now that you’ve actually booked your cruise, it’s important to make sure that you take care of a few things before leaving. Here’s a handy cruising checklist to assure that you will be ready before the ship leaves:
- Check with your medical and renter’s/homeowners insurance to see if you and your belongings are covered by your current policies when traveling abroad.
- Check with your cell phone carrier for international rates; beware of exorbitant roaming charges.
- Notify your credit card company and your bank of your travel plans. They will usually deny suspicious transactions from foreign locales if they weren’t forewarned about your plans.
- Make from 2-3 copies of your passport, birth certificate, and identification. Have one copy of the documents on your person separate from the actual documents when in port cities, place a copy in your luggage and if you opt to utilize a stateroom safe, place a copy within it as well.
- Make sure your passports are 6 months or more before expiration when traveling. Most countries will not allow you entry otherwise.
- Be sure to purchase travel insurance. It truly buys peace of mind in the event that you find yourself unable to travel after booking airfare, car rental, hotel stays, cruise fare, etc. If you do not have it, if you have to cancel, you will lose any monies that you’ve spent.
- Your Cruise Line will probably send you self-adhesive luggage tags that will have your stateroom number printed on them. Be sure to affix them to your luggage as instructed before leaving home.
Here is a list of miscellaneous items that you will want to know about because you could come in contact with each one once you are on board:
OBC or On Board Credit is monies applied to your cruise account that can be spent on board. It is usually awarded as a perk from either your travel agent or the cruise line itself. It acts like cash but can’t be redeemed for it. You may use it to purchase alcoholic beverages, premium meals or anything from the cruise gift shop. Unfortunately, it can’t be applied to your Casino player’s card. (Darn it!)
Guest Services is centrally located on one of the lower decks and is essentially the ship’s customer service center. If you have any issues regarding service, billing, etc. This is the place to go. They can also be reached via phone or your television menu. Typically, you should settle your bill for any outstanding on board charges the night before the cruise ends. This would be the equivalent of checking out of your hotel.
Cashless System – for security reasons, it’s standard procedure for cruise lines to not deal with currency on board the ship. For this reason, they will require that you have a credit card on file with them for any extra purchases outside what your cruise will normally provide. Your room key will usually double as a type of onboard credit card. When you purchase an alcoholic beverage, for instance, your room key will be scanned and your account will be duly charged. If you happen to have on board credit available it will be applied toward the purchase. If there is no OBC available, your credit card will be charged for the purchase.
Formal Nights – depending on the length of the cruise, there’s bound to be at least ONE formal night. So come prepared to be dressed to the nine’s for this long-time tradition. Dress code is enforced and while it’s not my absolute favorite thing to do, it is special to dress up once in awhile. The meal is extra special too. However, you aren’t usually forced to participate. Many of my cruise mates opted to eat in one of the more casual restaurants during the cruise and that’s okay. I would recommend participating in at least one formal night. 7+ day cruises usually have two formal nights.
Disembarkation – The last night of the cruise, you will receive a Disembarkation (which simply means leaving the ship at the end of the cruise) Information Sheet. The sheet will give you explicit instructions of when, how and where to disembark the next day. It will usually give you details of when you should leave your luggage outside the door so that the crew can take it down to the holding area. You will have to go back through customs, then immigration before being allowed to pick up your luggage at baggage claims.
Our ship was scheduled to arrive back in Miami at 7 am but arrived 2 hours earlier. We took that time to watch the boat arrive safely to the Miami port while enjoying a hearty breakfast. However, we decided to indulge in one last shore excursion! We had the opportunity to select a Hop on/Hop off tour of Miami and jumped at the chance.
We had visited Miami before but wanted the chance to learn more about the city. One of the perks of this excursion was that we were allowed to disembark first to avoid the inevitable crowds. We made our way to the gathering area that was indicated on our disembarkation sheet and was given quick instructions on how this would all play out.
I know. You’re wondering after a week at sea, why in the world would I want to spend more time away from home? Well, unfortunately, we had booked a really late flight. We didn’t want to spend six hours twiddling our thumbs at the airport, so this was the most sensible way to pass the time. Besides, the best part about this excursion is that it included transportation back to your airport (MIA or FLL) after the tours ended.
It was simple enough, we were led down the gangplank then off the boat to immigration where our passports were examined and then to our luggage which was all congregated right outside the building waiting for those of us who had signed up for the tour. Once we collected our bags, we promptly passed them along to the tour driver who was loading them into an empty truck that would eventually end up at the tour’s main boarding area outside a nearby mall. Our luggage would be reclaimed as soon as we finished our tours (there were four different segments to choose from).
We decided to participate in all of them but opted to stay on board the entire time to just enjoy the ride. We figured that would give us enough time to see everything and still make it to the final bus that would take us back to Ft. Lauderdale. I highly recommend that you take advantage of this excursion if you happen to have time to burn and need an organized activity to tide you over until your flight leaves.
So, what are your thoughts? Has this three part series convinced you to give cruising a try? Let me know in the comments section.