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TIPS FOR FIRST TIME CRUISERS
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GILLIE’S GETAWAYS TIPS FOR A CAREFREE CRUISE!
Let’s start with WHAT YOU DON’T NEED (The Cruise Lines Provide You With)
Shampoo, Body Wash, Soap, Towels (for the shower and ones you can bring to the beach).
WHAT YOU WILL NEED… Check List!
Some of these may seem obvious but you wouldn’t believe the things I have forgotten in the past!
___ Passport or a Birth Certificate (with a raised seal) and a valid NON EXPIRED Government Issued ID.
___ Sun Screen, Aloe and any other product to help if you burn easy!
___ Sun Glasses
___ Bathing Suit
___ Flip Flops / Sandals
___ Jeans (1 or 2 pairs)
___ Light Jacket (It can get cool or breezy at night)
___ Long Sleeved Shirts (Just a couple in case it’s cool at night)
___ Shoes / ___ Sneakers (some excursions or activities don’t allow sandals)
___ Tooth brush / Tooth Paste
___ Medications /___ Vitamins
___ Phone / ___ Phone Charger
___ Camera / ___ SD Card(s),___ Batteries and ___ Charger
___ COPY OF YOUR ID, BIRTH CERTIFICATE, PASSPORT, CREDIT CARD info along with the number you can call collect to report it lost or stolen… (better safe than sorry). There’s a safe in the room you can leave it in.
___ A Beach Bag or backpack to carry your towels, change of clothes, sprays, beach gear….
___ Cash! Bring cash to the island. Some of the smaller shops, bars, food stand, cab companies… may not take credit cards. Most of the businesses do take American Cash depending on where you go. Many will take credit cards but it’s good to have cash. Also, tipping on the islands is highly encouraged. Our (American) money goes a long way especially in the Caribbean!
___ Dress Clothes. Carnival has 2 nights that “require” you to dress for dinner. Although you’ll still see people in jeans and a polo / shirt you may feel out of place if you don’t dress on the formal nights. Norwegian doesn’t require you to dress up but many people still do. The dining rooms have a NO sleeveless shirts / Tank Tops (for men), gym shorts, flip flops, cut off shorts rule. This rule does not apply at the buffets. It’s best to bring (men) khakis, dress pants, polo, dress shirt, tie(s), (women) dress pants, blouse, dress…. Jeans and sneakers are acceptable. Just check the calendar depending on the cruise line you’re on to make sure it’s not a formal night.
WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO BRING….
___ THEME NIGHTS - Outfits / Costumes! - Check your itinerary to see what parties your cruise line may have planned. Norwegian does a Glow Party where people wear White Clothes and bring glow and light up items. They also have an 80s party, A Disco as well as other parties. Some people dress up for the different themes many don’t. The majority do dress up for the glow party on Norwegian. Carnival does a lot of parties as well. People might wear something fun or crazy, have T-Shirts made and so on! Have fun with it if you want!
___ SNORKLE / SWIMMERS - If you’re doing a snorkel excursion they’ll provide you with the gear you need. If your cruise is going to the Caribbean or Mediterranean and you plan on going to the beach you may want to grab your own mask and snorkel and bring it! You can rent them at many beaches but bringing your own is a good option! Grab one from Amazon. There are a lot of amazing things to see in the ocean and the water is usually very clear!
___ Travel Mug or Cup. Sometimes the cups they provide are small. So rather than having to keep going back to the drink station or bar to fill up, bring one!
___ Head Phones
___ Book / reading material if you want to escape the party scene and relax. There are adult only areas if quiet is what you’re looking for!
___ Decorations for your door! Have fun with your cruise door! You’ll see many doors decorated with pics, magnetic items and various decorations! Have fun with it.
___Power Strip or outlet adapter - There aren’t many outlets on the cruise. If you have a lot to plug in you may want to bring one to share with your cruise mate.
___ Wrinkle Release – there is a laundry room on each floor that will provide an iron. However, you’re on vacation! You do have the option of using the room provided to do laundry and iron or house keeping will take care of them for a fee. I usually bring wrinkle release for my dress shirt, spray it and go.
___ Waterproof Phone Case
___ Motion Sickness Patch and / or Dramamine. Although they do sell them in the gift shop it will be cheaper if you get it before. Your doctor can get you a patch if you’re really nervous! Most don’t have an issue with motion sickness.
___ Small Portable Fan. If you are someone who gets really warm when you sleep and don’t have a balcony or suite where you can open your balcony room consider bringing one.
___ Corkscrew – If you’re bringing champagne or wine on board some cruise lines provide a fee to open the bottle. You’re allowed to bring a bottle on board! There is a limit to how much you can bring.
___ Poo – Pourri – Yes, it’s called that. It’s a small room and some of you know what you’re capable of! Let’s move on…
___ A Hat – to block the sun.
___ Lanyard – you can purchase these on the ship but if you have one bring it. They’ll punch a hole in your cruise card and you don’t have to worry about losing it or leaving it. Most people have these and wear them around their neck Your card is used as your room key and also for any purchases or drink orders on the ship. Your card will also get you on and off of the ship at each port!
___ Towel Clips – The ocean breeze can blow your towel right off of that chair! There are some fun ones on Amazon. You can check Walmart, Target or even the dollar store depending on the time of year!
___ Soda / Water Bottles - If you don’t have the soda and / or beverage package most cruise lines will let you bring a certain amount of water bottles and soda cans on with you. Each cruise line is different.
___ Large Zip Lock Bags. If you don’t want to spend money on the islands grab a sandwich or snack from room service or the buffet and pack it! You may also want to throw your phone or camera in one if you’re heading to the beach to avoid getting sand in it!
THE FIRST DAY OF YOUR CRUISE….
When you arrive at the port you’ll leave your bag with the baggage handlers. Tipping isn’t mandatory but highly suggested.
BRING A CARRY ON BAG TO TAKE ON THE SHIP WITH THE FOLLOWING ITEMS….
Bathing Suit. I would suggest wearing it on. If not pack it and change in the bathroom. Grab a drink and jump in the pool or hot tub! You may not get into your room for a couple of hours.
A change of clothes, medication, any toiletries (if you require them), sunscreen and sunglasses and deodorant! That will get you through. Also, if you don’t get your bag before dinner on the first night don’t worry! It’s the only night they’ll allow you to wear whatever you want into the dining rooms!
YOU MAY NOT RECEIVE YOUR BAG UNTIL LATER IN THE AFTERNOON OR EVENING! They will deliver it to your room. It’s usually left outside your door.
The buffets and dining room will be open for lunch so start eating and drinking!
OH NO!!! I FORGOT ______! If you forget something don’t worry!
There are gift shops onboard that have; toiletries, deodorant, colognes, nail clippers, chap stick, over the counter meds, cigarettes, select clothing… too many things to mention. Hopefully the shop will have whatever you need to at least get you to your first island! Many of the islands you visit will have all of these things for much less! You’re not going to find a Target or Walmart but there will be local pharmacies, gift shops, convenient, clothing and grocery stores where you’ll be able to get whatever you forgot.
AS LONG AS YOU HAVE YOUR bathing suit, sunscreen and shades you’ll be fine! Enjoy your cruise!
FIRST TIME CRUISER TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW…
TOUR THE SHIP WHEN YOU GET ON!! Most of the outdoor activities are up on the Lido Deck. Many of the restaurants, bars and casinos are inside and usually around the 5th – 7th floors depending on the ship. The Theater is usually in the front or the back of the ship. The Spa is usually next to the gym and on a higher deck toward the front! Your dining room will most likely be on a lower deck in the back of the ship. Grab a map and walk around!
MUSTER DRILL - As soon as you step foot onto the ship you are on vacation! There is only one more thing you’re required to do and that is attending the Muster Drill. Your location will be on your card. Before sailing you’ll be required to go to the Muster Drill. They will tell you when you have to go. There will be an alarm and an announcement. Any staff member can point you in the right direction. It’ll take about a half hour. This is the exact location you’ll go to in the event of an emergency where the ship will have to be evacuated. I may or may not have been drunk for a couple of these. Oh who am I kidding, all of these! Don’t rush down there. Walk slow! They’re boring and people are cramped in one spot. My suggestion would be stand as close to the door / hallway as possible. As soon as it’s over GET OUT OF THERE! The elevators and stairs are going to be PACKED! Also, this means the ship is about to leave. Get up to the lido deck for the sail away party and wave to those on land as you sail off to an amazing time!
YOUR ROOM - Sometimes it’s ready as soon as you board. Sometimes it can take a couple of hours. You never know when your room will be ready. You can go and check at any point. If you can get into your room then it’s ready! If not you can go to any of the public areas and hang out.
FOOD AND DRINKS – as soon as you step foot on the ship you can eat and drink. If the buffet isn’t your thing you can go to the dining room to attend a sit down breakfast, lunch or dinner where you’ll be served. You don’t pay anything extra for this! It’s all included. There are many restaurants and food stations on board. Some ships have “specialty restaurants” that you have to pay for. There will be a menu outside with pricing. Some are included in your cruise! Just make sure you know so there are no surprises. Ships usually have at least one restaurant with 24 hour food! There is also room service. Your food will be included in your rate. Some ships charge a service fee. Check first! Also if you do choose a specialty restaurant some of them do sell out each night so make a reservation!
EAT AS MUCH AS YOU WANT! When you’re in the dining rooms (excluding the specialty ones) don’t be afraid to order as many appetizers and meals as you would like! It’s fine dining so sometimes the portion sizes are small. If you’re on Carnival and it’s the Captains dinner and you want 6 lobster dinners then tell them you want 6! I usually always order a couple of appetizers, 1 -2 meals and then because I’m on vacation 1-2 desserts. I never eat dessert when I’m home!
LOST? WHERE AM I???? By every elevator there will be a map of the ship that tells you where you are and what floors the lido, restaurant and entertainment is on. There are pocket size maps of the ship provided at either check in or in your room. It’ll only take you a day or two to know where you’re going. NORWEGIAN CRUISERS – Spice H2O is the Adults only area can sometimes be hard to find. It’s always at the back of the ship. Just ask someone who works there how to get there. Most of Carnivals Adult Area (Serenity Deck) are at the front of the ship.
If you see FORWARD that is the front of the ship. AFT is the back of the ship.
TIPPING – You pay a daily gratuity fee each day so you’re already tipping. Even if you have the drink package the bartenders are being tipped on each drink so don’t feel guilty ordering a drink and not tipping. You already did! It’s included. They get credit for each drink you order. At the end of the cruise if someone provided you with exceptional service and you want to tip them something extra you can. Sometimes if the lines are long at the bar and you tip the bartender in the beginning they’ll “take care” of you! Just make sure they’re going to be around for a while so you don’t tip and then a new bartender comes on!
WHAT TIME IS IT?!! It is required that you arrive back on the ship an hour before it leaves the port. Sometimes your phone doesn’t sync with the ship time. If you’re using your phone make sure you have the correct time. The ship time and the island time may be different so just double check what time it actually is with a member of the staff. If you have a watch make sure it is set to the right time. If you’re doing an excursion they will usually have you back in plenty of time! Check your TV for the time! Again, I usually ask someone when I’m leaving to make sure I have the correct time.
EXCURSIONS - If you book through the cruise line they will have you back in time. In the event there is an issue it is their responsibility to get you back to the port. The ship will not leave without you. If for any reason it does they have to get you to the next port on their expense. Having said that I have taken 17 cruises and never book excursions through the cruise line any longer! There will be reputable companies right at the port where you can book an excursion for half the price and they will make sure they get you back in time. Sometimes you can negotiate a price with these companies at the port. My friends paid $60 for a snorkeling excursion through Norwegian and I paid $20. We were at the same beach! They want your business and they don’t want bad reviews so they do their best to accommodate! If you’re traveling solo or as a couple I wouldn’t suggest going off on your own. Do one of the group tours from one of these companies that again you will find right at the port. They’re sometimes the same companies the cruise lines use! I’ve tried with just one other person on certain islands. Don’t be afraid to take a cab on your own in places like the Bahamas, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Aruba, Curacao, Virgin Islands …. do your homework though and make sure you’re in a safe place! I wouldn’t go off on my own in Jamaica. Again I’ve been on 17 cruises (soon 18) and will be happy to give you more tips and suggestions!
SHOWS / ENTERTAINMENT - If you’re like me you don’t want to plan every minute of your cruise. Carnival has a freestyle cruise where you just walk into the shows. Norwegian requires a little more planning. For their Broadway shows you’ll want to make reservations. If it’s sold out there is a stand by line. Just get in line a little early and you should still be able to get in depending on where you are in line. You can find a list of shows and entertainment in the itinerary.
WHAT TO DO – Every night in your room you will receive an itinerary with a schedule of events, entertainment, dining, what island you’ll be stopping at (with the times) and so on! There will also be a list of specials and sales for the shops and spa. If you think you might want a massage wait till later in the week. They’ll have a sale! There are a few dinner shows you have to pay for. There’s so much entertainment included; bands, Broadway shows, club(s), karaoke, comedy shows, contests, piano bars, theme parties...and so on! Most of the night time parties are for Adults Only! Check that daily schedule so you know what is going on! There’s a lot to miss!!!
FUTURE CRUISE VOUCHER – if you loved your cruise so much you can get a future cruise voucher. Why? You’ll pay say $100 and receive an extra hundred to use on your next cruise! You don’t have to choose a cruise when you purchase this so don’t let them try and talk you into that! Wait till there’s a good deal on a cruise to book it. You can actually buy more than one and use them for years to come or give them to family / friends to use. Some cruise lines have a time limit. Just let me know when you’re ready to book your next one and I can help you apply!
CRUISE APP – Some cruises now provide a cruise app you can download on your phone. Some are free and offer more “services” for a fee. It’ll provide you with the itinerary and you can communicate with other guests and leave messages.
ROOM PHONE – You’ll have a phone in your room. Your phone number is your room number. You can call other guests and leave messages. Sometimes it’s hard to coordinate.
You’re on vacation PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!!!! However, if you have to use it….
CELL PHONE – Put it in airplane mode! They can charge you $9 a minute among other fees! If you have an iphone you should still be able to text in airplane mode with other iphone users.
INTERNET – If you get an internet package MAKE SURE YOU LOG OFF when you’re done. Unless you have the unlimited package you will be charged for every minute. So if you get 250 minutes and you forget to log off those minutes are still being used. You have to log off on the actual site. There’s an internet desk / associate who can explain this to you in person. I fell asleep on the last one and used up all of my minutes. Luckily they gave them back to me. “I swear sir, I logged off” usually works but only one time! The internet service can be slow! If you think you’ll be using this a lot for business get the unlimited package.
PHONE PLAN – Check with your provider (At&t, Sprint, Verizon…) to see what your plan covers. You should still be able to use your phone with no charges in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands… If you turn your phone on and you’re in international waters or on an island that is not covered, even if you don’t make a call but receive a call, voicemail, messages… you may still be charged. I took my phone off of Airplane mode one time and received a bill for over $200 even though “I never used it”. Some providers have inexpensive short term international plans that will get you through your trip. AGAIN, DO NOT USE IT EVEN ON THE SHIP! You will still be on the ships tower and will get charged! If you are docked at a “US Port” which I listed before then it’s most likely safe to use even on the ship.
FAMILY EMERGENCY / HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WIH YOU – Make sure your family knows the name of the cruise line, the name of the ship and the date you set sail. There’s a 1-800 number they can call on the cruise ships website. Feel free to give your family my information as well and I can help them.
CRUISE DOCTOR – Unless it is an absolute MUST do not use the doctor on board the ship! They won’t take your insurance and it’s about $900 just to step foot in the Cruise ER Room!
CREDIT CARDS - Call your credit card company before you leave and tell them your itinerary. Give them the dates you’re traveling and what countries you’ll be visiting. If you don’t there’s a good chance your credit card will be denied or marked as fraud.
DUTY FREE – You’ll notice some amazing prices on the islands. The Duty Free prices on the ship aren’t as good. Remember you have to claim these and are limited. I usually bring back more than you are allowed and have never been questioned but there’s always a chance they can check. If you’re with friends who didn’t reach their limit just have them claim in. Don’t forget you still have to get it home so if you’re flying don’t grab so much that you wind up having to pay for another bag!
THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU LEAVE… If you have time to spare and don’t want to carry your luggage off of the ship then you can leave it outside of your door before a certain time and they will come and take it for you. After you leave the ship you’ll get your bag on land.
THE DAY YOU LEAVE… It’s a horrible, sad, hectic and crazy day! They call you by room. Let’s start with those of you who have an early flight. Let them know your flight time and you can make arrangements to be one of the first ones off of the ship. The lines are horrible and its really hard to get an elevator! You will have to wait and most likely separate from your group if there are more than a couple of you. If you choose not to have them take your luggage the night before and can carry your bags down the stairs that is your best bet. Just because you leave your room doesn’t mean you have to leave the ship. Go have breakfast! Sit on the lido deck! Get in some last few rays of sunshine. Everyone needs to be off of the ship by a certain time. Believe me they will let you know!
For those of you who put your bags out the night before, you’ll find them inside at the port with hundreds or sometimes thousands of other bags. They’ll have them organized by the floor you’re on.
YOUR ACCOUNT – Curious to see how much you may have spent? Go to your TV in your stateroom and pull up your account! It’ll show you a list of what you spent, credits, your casino account…. You can also check the menu for dinner! You get a few tv stations for entertainment / news…
ADULT ONLY AREAS – If you want to escape from the kids each cruise line has an adult only area!
THAT’S ALL FOLKS! Well that is certainly a lot to take in! However, it’s not as confusing or overwhelming as you might think! It’ll take you a couple of days on one cruise to get the hang of everything! I’m sure there’s a lot I’m missing! If you have any other questions please reach out to me!
Have an amazing trip! Thank you for using Gillie’s Getaways!
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The NEW Norwegian Bliss was specifically made for Alaska! Heated Pools, Observation Decks to check out the glaciers and northern lights! Laser Tag, A Go Cart Track and more! Check out the videos to see the ship for yourself!