Saturday, January 16, 2010
Last Day of Cruise & Travel Tips
Last Day of Cruise: At Sea WWMA’s Cruise Travel Tips
It’s been a great week sailing the Eastern Caribbean but all good things must come to an end. So we decided for today to share some travel tips in case you decide to do this yourself. This is our sixth (6th) cruise and the last five have been with Princess. The first on was on Carnival to the Mexican Riviera which was my introduction to this great way to travel.
This brings us to Tip #1: Find a cruise line you like and stick with them. There are lots of advantages to this. For one thing the ships are decked out similarly and you get to know the layout and how things function. The embarkation, steward services, dining arrangements, entertainment, and a host of other things all combine to make it an enjoyable experience and you don’t spend a whole lot of time with the deck maps figuring out where things are.
We have stuck with Princess because of the high quality of their staff and facilities. They also have the largest selection of cruise destinations in the world. After five cruises there are certain amenities that you acquire on future voyages because of their loyalty program: free internet instead of $75 for 100 minutes, preferred check-in lines, etc. Even after your very first cruise with Princess you get a gold card which has a lot of benefits. So find a cruise line and stick with that one instead of bouncing around.
Tip #2, Pack Light! We took a cruise to South America and the Antarctic two years ago and we dragged four large suitcases packed to the limits, 50 lbs each, checked the luggage with the airline , then get them to the hotel and then on to the ship and then reverse the whole process on the way home.
After that we said “no more” and were determined to “pack light” and we have succeeded. Even after this trip with two smaller rolling suitcases and one carryon I found two shirts that I didn’t need and I don’t know why I even brought them along. This tells me that on our next adventure I’m going to pack even lighter. Our theory is we can always buy what we forgot or find a need for, but so far haven’t had to do that, except the time I forgot our suitcases when we took Jacob to San Antonio. But that’s another story and MA found everything she needed at Target!
We saw the “space bag” commercial on TV, decided they would help a lot with packing and so we ordered some. They really work. You load the bags up with your clothes and vacuum all the air to the point they shrink down to at least half the original size. You can go from two bags to one. For return trip packing the cabin steward’s vacuum works just fine although explaining to them what you’re doing with their vacuum is challenging!
Decide ahead what you are going to wear during the cruise. Try to color coordinate, like for example, blacks and whites, tans and browns, etc. I wear Ex Officio pants and shirts that you can hand wash in the sink, hang up and they’re dry in a couple of hours.
That brings us to ironing. We’ve found a way to take all the wrinkles out once we unpack. You simply hang them up on hangers and put them in the bathroom, turn on the hot water and close the door. The steam from the shower head melts all the wrinkles and your clothes look like they’ve come from the dry cleaners.
One thing I have not purchased yet is a tuxedo for formal nights. On a 7-day cruise there are two such evenings. Getting that tux is on my to-do list. Guys, the ladies really like it when we dress up and they get to do likewise. I’ve found out that you can get a really nice gently used light weight tuxedo coat and pants, shirt and tie at a formal rental company. My good suit is staying home on future trips!
Tip #3: Shore Excursions. There are two schools of thought about shore excursions: Pay for the ship’s versions or wing it on your own. The advantage of ship excursions is that the ship will wait for you if for some reason you’re not back on time. If you go out on your own they do not guarantee that. I can’t imagine anything worse than running down the dock only to see your ship sailing off into the sunset.
Having said that, the ship excursions are usually very well planned from the moment you hook up with your group, continue on to board your bus or catamaran or train, and to the guides who always speak great English. They also tend to remember creature comforts like restrooms and refreshments. This is also a good way to make new friends from the ship.
We particularly like the “photographer’s tours”. The groups are smaller, we share the love of photography, albeit at different skill levels, and the tour leaders are more flexible about the itinerary. By that I mean if you want to stay longer at a certain stop, or skip a stop, of deviate from the schedule, they’re more than willing.
If you’re a brave soul and don’t want to pay ship excursion prices, you’ll usually find a local tourist office somewhere around the pier when you disembark. Their tours often mirror some of the ship’s excursions and they cost a great deal less. Some folks actually hire a taxi and driver and set out on their own. We did that once in South America with great success, but then MA speaks Spanish! That helped.
Tip #4: Food! What can I say! There are three breakfast options: room service, sit-down dining room service and the grand buffet which on Princess is open 24 hours. By the pool you’ll find the hamburger/hot dog grill, the pizza parlor and the ice cream stand. Lunch has the same three options as breakfast although the menu in the dining room is different from the main courses in the buffet.
Then there’s afternoon tea, the international sandwich/salad café, the coffee bars, the wine and tapas bar, and then of course dinner! For dinner you can choose 1st seating, same table and dining companions each evening, dinner is at 6:30. Or you can choose 2nd seating, doors open at 8:15, same table, same dining companions. Or you can choose “anytime dining” from 6:30 to 10:00, luck of the draw as to table and companions.
This day was spent packing, turning in library books, relaxing, trivia, and watching the NFL playoffs on a 20 foot screen by the pool. We disembark tomorrow at 7:00 am doing what is called a “walk-off”, you roll your own bags but you get to leave the ship before anyone else.
As for us, well it’s time to get back to reality, normal diets and check out our memories stored in the camera!
For our TLC friends, we’ll see you next Saturday! To all others, thanks for tuning in to “Traveling Wayne’s World.” MA and I have a lot of fun doing these.