First, I'd like to say congratulations for deciding to go on your first cruise. I have been on eleven cruises and I have loved them all! Cruises combine the freedom of the open air, the adventure of the mighty sea, and the taste of delicacy.
Money on board-
*Each stateroom will have a safe for you to secure your valuables and excess cash.
*Your room key will be your on ship currency. Upon arrival, you will either link a credit card or cash account to your ship card. Each purchase you make on the ship will add to your ship account. At the end of your stay, you will be given a final bill which can either be paid with cash or credit, depending on your preference.
*I would suggest bringing cash for the stops. You will want this cash for cabs, excursions, food, beverage, shopping, etc. Remember to bring small bills so that change can be made easy (especially true when traveling to islands in the Caribbean and Mexico).
*Tipping: Tips are typically built into the bar service. I suggest asking the bartender to make sure. However, tips are not included for your waiters or cabin maids. Cruise lines typically suggest that each passenger set aside $10 per day to go towards tip. The $10 will be divided among your waiters and cabin maids. You will receive instructions for tipping when you receive your final bill. Of course, you may adjust the $10 dollar recommendation at your discretion.
What is Included?
*FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD!! Cruises are well known for their abundance of food. Luckily for you, now that your trip is booked, you can plan on eating like a king! All food (with the exception of specialty on board restaurants) is included in your vacation price. The dining room delivers themed dinners each night (Italian, Spanish, etc). This will include a five course meal, so undo that top button!
*On board entertainment- all shows and live entertainment, with the exception of BINGO, are included in your fare.
*Use of the gym is included in your fee. However, any classes such as Yoga or Pilates will cost extra.
*Spa treatments are not included in your cruise fare.
*Alcoholic drinks are not included in your cruise fare. However, most ships allow a wine bottle per passenger free of charge (Either a twist off or bring your own cork-screw as they will charge a "corking fee" ).
*The casino is not included in your cruise fare. If you plan on hitting the slots, bring some extra change.
*Excursions are not included in your fare. You may book excursions online or at the costumer service desk on board.
*Most ships have an internet cafe; internet use is not included in your fare. Check your ship's rate.
*Water, orange juice, and tea are included. Sodas are not typically included. If you are a soda drinker, or have a child who drinks soda, you may want to ask about the "soda card". This is when you pay a down payment on soda for the week. The clerk will put a soda emblem on your ship card to indicate that your sodas are "free". This card typically runs $10-15 dollars for the week, which is a good deal if you drink a lot of soda. Each ship may vary on soda policy.
*You keep mentioning food, what are my options?
*Late night or 24 hour room service (Usually included with fare)- grilled cheese, fruits, cereal, toast, jelly, chicken nuggets, etc...
*Dining room - The breakfast option typically consists of french toast, egg entrees, fresh fruits, coffee, pastries, bagel and cream cheese/lox etc...
*Dining room- The dinner option includes a five course meal. The wonderful thing is you can order as many of each course as you'd like. I ordered two lobster tails one year- no additional charge. Courses generally include a soup, salad, small appetizer such as a shrimp cocktail or escargot, a main course (Italian dishes, Indian dishes, fresh seafood, steak, etc...) , and a delicious dessert.*** Vegetarian entrees are often offered.
*The windjammer or (insert top deck buffet restaurant name here)- This area of the ship will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This area is buffet style and will usually also include a wok or grill. For breakfast you can expect: eggs, an omelette station, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fruit, cereal, corn-beef hash, oatmeal, etc. For lunch you can expect: burgers, sandwiches, fruit, mac n' cheese, burritos/tacos, various pastas and pasta salads, salad bar, dessert trays, etc. Note, each ship will have some sort of specialty lunch line like a WOK . For dinner you can expect: pasta dishes, cooked beef, salad bar, burgers, pizza, various sides, soups, and hot entrees. Portions of the menu will change daily.
*24 hours pizza and ice-cream machines- Most ships include a 24 hour pizza place.
*Most ships will have a midnight buffet. The midnight buffet will be themed such as chocolate buffet or taco buffet.
*Some ships will include a specialty restaurant such as Johnny Rockets or a fancy steakhouse (these restaurants are not included in your cruise fare)
What is there to do on the ship? Will I get bored?
*I assure you, there are plenty of things to do for all ages.
*There are children programs that are supervised by staff members.
* scavenger hunts, hairy chest contest, live music, live shows, casinos, pools, hot tubs, live comedians, bingo, eating, working out, dance parties, captain's dinner, island excursions, lounge areas, gift shops, movie nights, (some ships also include mini-golf, basketball, ping pong, video arcades, and shuffleboard).
*Check your daily planner for each day's activities and times. You will receive a daily planner on your pillow each night when you return from dinner. The cruise director also does a great job of announcing on board activities.
*Excursions can be booked through the cruise website , at the customer service desk on board, or through a third party if you choose. (Typically $35-110 p/p depending on the type of excursion).
What should I pack?-
*Pack what you would normally pack on a vacation, but be sure to include:
*Comfortable walking shoes if you are planning on an excursion
*A light jacket or long sleeve shirt (even if you are traveling somewhere warm) because the decks can get windy, especially at night.
*Formal wear for Captain's Dinner. One night for cruises under 7 days and two nights for for cruises 7-9 days. Lookin' good.
*Sunscreen and aloe (for those traveling to beachy locations).
*cash and your credit/debit cards.
*Some ports may require a ferry to and from land- be sure to get to the departure deck early to avoid lines and congestion.
**Be sure to listen to the captain about ship time vs. island time. For example, the time zone may change at your destination. This means the clocks on the ship (or your watch) will not match the clocks at your destination. If you do not keep up with the correct time, you may miss your last ferry back to the ship or miss ship departure.
**Always keep your ship card with you. This card is your passenger identification for getting on and off the ship, your room key, and your on board currency.
** There will be a drill performed on day one of your vacation. Each passenger will have an assigned deck or location to go to once they hear the siren. This is a protocall in case of a real emergency. All passengers must participate. From my experience, the crew will come find you if you decide you'd rather be doing something else. The drill doesn't take long and it is better safe than sorry :)
MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE FUN AND TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES!!