When planning a family cruise, there are so many activities and options it can be overwhelming. In the past year, I have taken four cruises with family members, and this latest cruise travel advice stems from what I've learned during my time at sea. I've narrowed down a list of must-dos and a few things we always skip when we cruise.
Latest Cruise Travel Advice From an Expert
Before we set sail, I poll my travel party to decide if we want to plan any excursions or if anyone has a specific activity they want to try at one of the ports. Each person highlights one thing they want to do, and we plan the rest around these activities. This way, everyone gets to do something they want to do on vacation. I always do a few things on a cruise that make sailing more manageable and enjoyable.
Do Pack Smart
Packing for a cruise is similar to other vacations, but there are specific items I always bring when we sail. If the cruise line allows alcohol in the carry-on, I always bring wine or champagne for the room to cut down on drink costs. I love making mimosas in the morning with orange juice from room service.
Lanyards are easy to pack and help everyone keep track of cruise ship cards, which act as room keys, payment, and identification when disembarking the ship. A lesser-known fun fact is cruise ship walls and doors are magnetic. I bring magnetic hooks to hang the lanyards, hats, and other random items to keep our stateroom tidy. When traveling as a family, it makes a big difference.
Do Plan To Relax
There is so much to do on a cruise ship you could plan your days full of activities. However, we always plan to sleep in at least one day, nap whenever the mood strikes, and enjoy the rest. We also attend at least one of the shows and enjoy a meal in a specialty restaurant.
I typically don't have an issue with the food choices included with a cruise, but the atmosphere of the smaller venues makes the upcharge worth it at least once. If traveling with kids, let them hang out in the kids' club so you can get a date night!
Do Prepare for Time in Port
Whether in the Caribbean or sailing the Baltic Sea, knowing the details of each port you visit is essential. I always check my cellphone plan to see the charges I might incur when using cellular data on land. It's worth my small daily expense to use my phone for maps, quick searches, and even payment for scooters where available.
Make sure credit cards don't charge foreign fees. With so many no-fee options, it's an unnecessary cost. Finally, remember that sail away happens on ship time, not local time, so be sure you are looking at the correct clocks so you are on time. The ship will not wait for late passengers.
Booking a cruise and adding additional costs like deluxe drink packages, dining, and internet connectivity is tempting. For my family, these options are convenient but unnecessary. Drink package typically sells at a rate of around six alcoholic drinks per adult per day.
I have sailed with and without the drink package and found that I can have several daily drinks and still spend less than the drink package costs. Your mileage may vary. Dining at one or two specialty restaurants is plenty for us, so I skip the pricey upsell for unlimited specialty dining.
Finally, I only pay for Wi-Fi when my husband and I sail together without our children. Otherwise, we skip it and check in using our cell phones on land during ports-of-call.
Don't Try To Do Everything
Your vacation has no agenda. It's easy to see activities and entertainment offered each day using the app for your cruise or daily schedules provided each night. Skip shows and activities that don't interest you. Find a couple you like and enjoy without feeling rushed to the next thing.
We almost always forego the sail-away party to organize our stateroom and relax after a day of travel. I have learned that freebies and shopping presentations aren't worth my energy since they typically focus on gems and jewelry, which don't interest me.
Unforeseen cruise emergencies can and do happen. If your cruise itinerary changes in any way, the good news is there are plenty of things on the ship to enjoy. If the ship docks at a port-of-call you aren't interested in, feel free to stay on the ship and enjoy a less crowded experience. If you aren't hungry at dinner time, skip it and grab a bite when you are ready.
The best part of cruising is having so many options at your fingertips. Instead of being overwhelmed, know that whatever you don't do on this trip, you can save for the next one. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.