How Do You Feel About Cruising?
Do you like to cruise? I generally find that folks either love it or hate it. Most of my family really like to cruise, but my husband only goes because I force him! Here’s the thing – how else can you visit a variety of different places but only have to unpack once? For me, cruising gives me an opportunity to see if I really like a port enough to go back for a longer vacation.
We prefer to cruise with Royal Caribbean (I have cruised with Carnival a long time ago) and like the perks of their loyalty program. We are planning a cruise next month for Kid #2’s college graduation on Harmony of the Seas, so here is some advice for you new or not-so-new cruisers if you are planning a trip.
Here are some tips:
- You do not need to book your cruise through a travel agent, but you certainly can. Sometimes that agent will give you onboard credit, a bottle of wine, or another nice gift for booking with them. Since I travel so much and admittedly am kind of a control freak, I like to book the trip myself on the cruise line’s website so that I have total control of my reservation.
- If you are leaving from a port that you have to fly to, plan on flying in at least the day before. Even though we leave out of Houston and there are lots of flights going to Florida the day of our cruise, it is too risky to fly in the day of the cruise, especially if the cruise is leaving around 4:00 or 4:30. Passengers generally have to be on board two hours before the ship leaves for a variety of reasons, so that leaves very little wiggle room for flight delays or missing baggage. You do not want to be that cruise passenger who is decked out in clothing with the cruise brand logo on them. You can spot them a mile away!
For Royal Caribbean Ships:
- If you are booked on any of the Oasis class or Quantum-class ships, you should book your show reservations before you board. This is also the case for any dining reservations that are important to you. I didn’t know this the first time I sailed on Oasis of the Seas and we ended up waiting in endless lines for shows. You can reserve your shows online free of charge and it will help you plan out your day ahead of time. You can always modify your schedule when you get on board.
- The drink package…is it worth it? The drink package is offered by RCCL as opposed to being charged per drink. It covers alcohol, but it also covers water bottles, soda, and smoothies. I like it because if I don’t like something, I don’t feel forced to finish it because of the cost; I can just try something new. If you’re not a big drinker, it may not be for you, but just do the math. The cost of the drink package also includes gratuities, so you are set!
- In booking excursions, I rarely go through RCCL anymore because I am more comfortable with making my own arrangements. But if you book an excursion through the ship, and the excursion is late getting back to the ship for whatever reason, the ship will wait for you to get back. If you did not book through the ship, you are out of luck! So make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back on board before the ship leaves. As a side note, it is kind of fun to watch the runners who are late getting back on board. Cozumel is a great port for runner watching!
- Dining: You have two choices for eating dinner in the main dining room – Traditional Dining and My-Time Dining (again, this is specific to Royal Caribbean). Traditional Dining has two seating times, usually around 6:00 and 8:30. My Time Dining is just that – you decide what time you want to eat. You can either walk up when you are ready to be seated or you can make a reservation for that day or a standing reservation for the week. All ships also have Specialty Restaurants for a small upcharge, which is a nice break from the main dining room. If we sail on an Oasis class ship, we will skip the main dining room altogether and try the many specialty restaurants for the variety.
Traveling in General
- Travel Insurance: Just get it. Seriously. It’s not that expensive and covers anything from lost luggage to medical evacuation. Ever hear about those helicopters picking up cruise passengers from the ship? That’s not cheap! A great site to look at options is www.insuremytrip.com
In the next few weeks, I’ll post more about our upcoming cruise plans. If you have any questions about cruising, please let me know!