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Hints for New Cruisers ~ Part 1

By George Hall

Like a baby’s tentative first step and a teenager’s first real kiss, every passenger embarks on a first cruise at least once.  For smooth sailing, these tips can help make your initial embarkation and first evening on board just a little more comfortable.


1.      Bring along some single dollar bills for the luggage handlers at the pier. Of course that is if you’re planning to see the luggage again. They are not cruise line employees but members of the stevedores union.

2.      Fill out all your documents (such as island immigration forms, etc.) before leaving home. Not only it is a pain fumbling for a pen, but have you ever tried to write while standing in an embarkation line? If you start filling them out at the embarkation desk watch out—those looks can kill.

3.      If you are flying to the port city early for a pre-cruise hotel stay, be sure to read your documents for luggage instructions. Cruise lines no longer forward suitcases directly from the airport to the port terminal, even if they have cruise ship luggage tags affixed to them. You'll have to claim them yourself at the airport and take all your luggage to the hotel and then to the ship on embarkation day. Luggage delays occur with more frequency these days, so be sure to have a carry on bag containing your necessities.

4.      Check your dining room seating assignment as soon as you receive it. You will generally get it either at the embarkation desk or you will find it in your cabin. If there is an error, proceed to the Maître’d immediately. Trust me, there will already be a line! Most ships have dining room personnel stationed in a specified lounge to assist with problems and special requests.

5.      Ladies, make the very next stop the spa/salon area if you really have your heart set on a particular service. Make scheduling hair appointments one of your first priorities. Even at the quite high prices on board ship they sell out quickly.


1.      Most cruise lines process your credit card during check in. If yours didn't, there's no need to rush and get in line at Reception to validate your on board account. Your “sail and sign” card will be accepted without validation for the first day or two. Let everyone else wait in those slow lines. You can head down to the reception desk at your leisure the next day or after everyone has boarded and the ship has sailed. There will be no line and you can validate your card in about one minute compared to the twenty or more minutes it would have taken earlier.

2.      Don't get upset when you see the long lines for the welcome buffet. They won't be like that all the time. For future reference, never rush to get to buffets at the moment they begin serving. Trust me, there is enough food and no reason to rush and wait in line. Let the onslaught pass you by.

3.      Don't hurry to wait for the dining room to open. If your dinner seating is at 8:30, arrive at 8:35. Those who are there at 8:15 will spend the next twenty minutes huddled in a huge crowd waiting for the door to open. Your table is assigned and you will be just as “on time” walking in at end of the crush.

4.      Don't think those lovely bon voyage drinks in souvenir glasses that are repeatedly offered to you are complimentary. They aren't! Drinks are served on board in regular glasses and souvenir glasses. The ones in souvenir glasses are more expensive and you can buy souvenir glasses later in the shop. Many people don't even realize they paid for the glass and walk away, leaving it on the table when they are finished. Buy a regular drink in a lounge or ask the bar server to bring you a drink without the souvenir glass—unless you really want it.

5.      Don't go nuts waiting for your luggage. Chances are excellent that it will get to your cabin sooner and sometimes later. The evening dress code is casual the first night on board and no one really feels like dressing up after a travel day. Heck you can even fib and say you’re still waiting for your luggage. (Let's hope it’s just a fib.)

6.      Don't get crazy, you're on vacation! You'll figure everything out quickly enough.

Remember—on your next cruise, you’ll be a veteran cruise diva

Bon Voyage!

Copyright © 2000 George Hall
Edited by Linda Coffman

More Hints for New Cruisers ~ Part 2 by George Hall

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