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Cruise Planning Timeline
Getting Ready to
Cruise—Things To Do
You’ve booked the cruise of your
dreams and the sailing date is drawing near.
Anticipation builds... but you'll
need to come down off Cloud Nine for some practical considerations.
I've tried to capture the really important things—and some of the
merely convenient stuff—that you should keep in mind to prepare.
These may not all apply to your cruise; however, you may be
surprised by what you hadn't thought of doing.
3 months before
- Check with your travel agent or
the State Department for the identification required for your
cruise. (Passport or proof of citizenship.)
- Gather the necessary
identification needed. If you need to replace a lost birth
certificate, apply for a new passport, or renew one that is
about to expire, start the paperwork now. Doing it at the last
minute is stressful and often costly.
- Apply for any visas required by
the countries on your itinerary. If visas are required, your
travel agent can provide applications or you may use a
professional visa agency.
60 to 75 days
- Make the final payment on your
cruise fare. Due dates vary by cruise lines and certain
itineraries, but your travel agent should remind you when the
payment date draws near. Failure to submit the balance due on
time can result in the cancellation of your reservation.
- Look over Cruise Diva's Packing
Lists and print out a list for each person you will be
- Begin your wardrobe planning
now. Try things on to make sure they fit and are in good repair
(it’s amazing how stains can magically appear months after
something has been dry cleaned). Set things aside in your
- If you need to shop, get started
so you have time to find just the right thing (and
perhaps to return or exchange just the right thing). You
may also need to allow time for alterations. Start early—last
minute shopping for just the right thing can be hazardous
to your nerves.
- Make kennel reservations or
engage a pet sitter. (If
you are traveling during a holiday period, you may need to do
this even earlier.)
- Arrange for a house sitter.
If you are
cruising, but your kids are staying home:
- Make childcare arrangements.
- Go over children’s schedules
to make sure they’ll have everything they need while you are
gone (a gift for Suzie’s party, supplies for school project,
permission slip for field trip).
- If you have small children, you
may want to put together a small bag of treats for them to open
while you’re gone—tape yourself reading a favorite bedtime
story or singing a lullaby (as long as it’s you, it will sound
fantastic to them).
If your children are traveling
with you, see the tips below for 30 days and one week before
30 days before
- If you purchased an air/sea
package, call your travel agent for the details of your airline
schedule. Request seat assignments and any special airline
- If your children are sailing
with you, check their wardrobes now (do it too early and the
real little ones may actually grow out of things).
- Make appointments for any
personal services you wish to have prior to your cruise. For
example, a haircut, manicure, pedicure, etc.
- Get out your luggage and check
the locks and zippers. Check for anything that might have
spilled inside on a previous trip.
- If you need new luggage or want
an extra piece to bring home your souvenirs, check out The
2 to 4 weeks
- Pick up your cruise documents
from the travel agent or print them out online.
- Examine the documents for
accuracy (correct cabin number, sailing date, and dining
arrangements) and make sure that names are spelled correctly. If
there is something you don’t understand, ask your travel agent
or the cruise line now.
- Read all the literature in your
document package for suggestions specific to your cruise. Most
cruise lines include helpful information and you can often
pre-book excursions and some onboard services.
- Go over your personalized
packing list again. Finish shopping.
1 week before
- Finalize your packing list and
continue organizing everything in one area.
- Buy film or media cards and check the batteries
in your camera.
- Refill prescription medications
with an adequate supply (bring along a copy of the
prescription if this is critical medication) and put medication
in your carry on bag.
- Make two photocopies of your
passport or ID and credit cards. Leave one copy with a friend
and carry the other separately from the originals.
- Get cash and/or traveler’s
checks at the bank. If you use traveler’s checks, keep a
separate record of the serial numbers. Get a supply of one
dollar bills for tipping baggage handlers (at the airport,
hotel, pier, etc.).
- If you are visiting ports of
call other than in the Caribbean, you might want to exchange
some money ahead of time.
- You may also want to put
valuables and jewelry that you won’t be taking with you in the
safety deposit box while you're at the bank. (See “1 day
before sailing”—you may want to put some of the contents of
your wallet in the safety deposit box as well.)
- Arrange to have your mail held
at the post office or ask a neighbor to pick it up.
- Stop newspaper delivery or ask a
neighbor to bring it in for you.
- Arrange for lawn and houseplant
care or snow removal during your absence (if necessary).
- Leave your itinerary, the
ship’s telephone number (plus the name of your ship and your
stateroom number), and a house key with a relative or friend. If
the ship’s telephone number is not included in your documents,
your travel agent can obtain it for you.
- If traveling with small
children, purchase little games or toys to keep them occupied
while en route to your embarkation port.
3 days before
- Confirm your airline flights;
departure times are sometimes subject to change.
- Put a card with your name,
address, and itinerary inside each suitcase.
- Fill out your luggage tags and
follow the instructions in your cruise documents regarding
- Complete any other paperwork that the
cruise line included with your documentation if you did not do
so online (foreign customs &
immigration forms, etc). Do NOT wait until you are standing in
the pier check-in line to fill them in!
- Do last minute laundry and tidy
up the house.
- Pull out the luggage and begin
The day before
- Take pets to the kennel.
- Water houseplants and lawn (if
- Dispose of any perishable food
in the refrigerator.
- Mail any last minute bills.
- Set timers for indoor lights.
- Reorganize your wallet. Remove
anything you won’t need (check cashing cards, department
store, or gas credit cards, etc), put it in an envelope, and
leave in a secure place.
- Finish packing and lock your
- Adjust the thermostat and
double-check the door locks.
- Turn off the water if there is
danger of frozen pipes while you are away.
- Arrange to be at the airport a
minimum of two hours before your departure time. (Or earlier for
international flights—follow the airline's instructions.)
- Have photo ID and/or passport
ready for check-in.
- Slip your car keys, parking
claim checks, and airline tickets/itinerary in your carry-on luggage. Never
check these items.
You’re underway! Bon Voyage!!!
Clothing & Packing Information from Cruise Diva:
- Where you'll find the clothing and accessories preferred by
veteran cruisers. Browse their reversible outfits and online
the choice of serious travelers...
Luggage: Organize!!! Using packing organizers makes things
much easier if security should need to check inside your bag. If
you pack with Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes or Pack-It Folders, it
is easy for authorities to inspect bit-by-bit, rather than
riffling through a whole pile of clothes. If you can find
problem items quickly, you'll be able to finish an inspection
- Your Carry-on: Take less
stuff. Expect to have your carryon bags thoroughly searched
and take as few things as possible. Try putting all your little
things, like pens and lipsticks, into Pack-It Sacs or Pack-It
Cubes, inside a larger tote or cabin bag. This will make it much
easier to empty and re-pack your bag. You may find it's easier
to choose a bag without lots of small pockets to empty and
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