A cruise is a great vacation value, but there are ways that people booking a cruise (even seasoned travelers) can diminish their overall cruise experience. Likewise, even people new to cruising can enhance the cruise experience by following certain guidelines. Here are seven ways to get the most from your cruise.
First - Travel with a like-minded partner or friends. Most cruise ships are like Noah's Ark: people board in pairs or in groups. While cruise lines will gladly allow you to cruise solo, it is not the best way to enjoy a cruise. Not only will you sometimes feel awkward during dining or cruise ship activities, you also get slapped with a surcharge since all cruising is based on double (or more) occupancy rates.
Furthermore, travel with compatible people. If you like to party, don't decide to go on a cruise with a tee-totaler or a recovering drinker. Whether you are a sun bather or a casino denizen, you are going to have your best time if you travel with people who share your interests and values.
Second - Board your ship as early as you can and take any tours of the vessel or facilities that are offered. Most ships allow you to board many hours before the ship sets sail and during that time you may be offered free tours of the ship, the spa, and so on. Although they aren't going to be the highlight of your vacation, these tours help you get oriented and can give you a glimpse of facilities on-board that you may have not known about.
If you can't get an official tour, try to walk through the ship systematically. This will help you get your bearings plus you may find out about lounges, snack bars, clubs, meeting rooms, or other areas that you might not have known about.
On a recent cruise, I found out on the tour that the cruise ship had a guarantee program for purchases made in port. If you bought merchandise from certain recognized stores, the cruise line would guarantee them providing you filled out certain paperwork and turned it in to the onboard shopper. It was a great tip, and I never would have known about it had I not taken the pre-sailing tour of the ship.
Third - Do everything. This may sound counterintuitive to most cruise fanatics, who seek unstructured time and the opportunity to just lounge around and do nothing. Actually, most cruise directors will tell you the best cruises are those in which you really attempt to try and do everything offered.
This means you should extend yourself a bit. Sample the dancing, casinos, the pools, on-board games, art auctions, spa services, bingo, shows, and fine dining. Even if you don't normally do those things, the more you try to take advantage of all that is offered, the more fun you'll have.
Fourth - Don't overeat. While some people do take cruises to gorge themselves, this is usually a rookie mistake. It may sound counter-intuitive to avoid overindulging on a cruise ship, since most cruises really emphasize the wonderful food they offer. But here's how to handle it.
Do enjoy yourself. Order what you love. Chances are that cruise ships will offer it, whether it's steak or lobster, ice cream or pizza, eggs benedict at sunrise, or chocolate decadence at midnight. Do, by all means, eat the foods you love.
But don't stuff yourself. You'll wind up feeling miserable during the cruise and fat after you get off the boat.
When in doubt, pass on food. Why? Because on a cruise ship, you're never more than a few minutes away from the next opportunity to eat. Sample all you can, but don't eat too much of any one thing and say no to a lot of the food and drink offered.
You'll wind up feeling fitter and stronger and you'll really enjoy what you do eat.
Fifth - Drink water. That's good advice anywhere, but most of us forget about it on vacation, particularly on a cruise. Furthermore, if you drink alcohol or spend a lot of time in a hot climate, your need for water increases so you need even more water to avoid dehydration.
Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, aches and pains, and digestive disturbances. Why ruin your vacation? Drink lots and lots of water. It's available just about anywhere beverages are offered on a cruise ship and bottled water is typically brought every morning to your cabin.
Sixth - Protect your skin. Even if you cruise to Antarctica, you will still need sunscreen. The sun's intensity is amplified by the water's reflection, so ramp up your sunscreen protection for a cruise. Put on sunscreen when you go to the pool or beach or even if you're just sitting on deck in the shade.
If you do get burned, use some of the after-burn products on the market. They should be available on board ship if you don't bring your own. Whatever you do, protect any burned skin from further sun exposure. If you get a burn on top of an existing sunburn, you can do serious damage to your skin and may even require medical intervention.
Seventh - Don't be cruise-stupid. That's a term I made up for a behavior I frequently observe on cruise ships. For some reason, being on a cruise makes some people act foolishly or recklessly and do things they would never normally do. Maybe it's the unreal experience of being on a cruise ship.
On a cruise ship, people wait on you. Everything is nice and clean. You don't have to do any work at all. Everybody seems happy. You never have to worry about pulling out your wallet, cooking a meal, or even picking up after yourself. After a couple of days at sea, it really starts to seem like "another world."
Some folks take that as a cue to start behaving irresponsibly and sometimes they get hurt. I'm not trying to minimize anyone's pain or say that the bad events are deserved, but let's face it. People who start acting recklessly sometimes get hurt.
If you stand on a guard rail, you can fall off. If you leave your purse or wallet unattended in a public area, you can get robbed. If you get roaring drunk at a foreign port of call, you can get yourself in trouble.
Observe the same good, common sense tactics you use on land or in your everyday life.
For more information on cruising, pick up a copy of Ten Things to Consider Before You Book Your Cruise, available only at http://www.thecruise-shopper.com/sign_up.html
. It's free with our compliments. This article was written by Mandy Karlik, a frequent contributor to TheCruise-Shopper.