by Fred Tutwiler
Cruising is such a great thing to do. Shoot, what’s not to love about it? All that wonderful leisure fun, getting taken care of by all those people, going to cool places. Damn skippy!
One of the things I really like about cruising is telling people neat stuff to make their cruising experience better. Now, I know, it’s pretty hard to improve on something that is so intrinsically great to begin with, but, I do what I can. And, it’s not a bad lifestyle (giggle).
So, here’s another installment of my life’s work — sharing the fun and delight of cruising to the Caribbean. In this instance, I’m sharing a few tips about how to smooth the process of cruising, and get a bit more bang for your buck. In the interest of space and the amount of time you have to read online articles, I’ve only included 11 cruising tips here. The criteria used for which tips to present in this article were 1) how easy the information was to explain in a few short paragraphs; 2) how useful it is to someone who doesn’t know much about the art and science of cruising; and, 3) tips that pay off (you’ll know what I mean after you’ve used these little jewels on board a ship).
Tip #1:Take Care Of Your Cabin Steward.
One of your best friends on the cruise will be the person that picks up your dirty clothes, hangs up your wet towels, straightens up you messy vanity and turns down your bed every night – your Cabin Steward He, or she, will do an excellent job of making up your cabin twice a day, and sometimes more often if needed. This is the person who will also handle any special requests you have, like if you need an extra pillow. I make it a point to get to know my steward and on the very first day, make sure I tip him (or her) an extra $20. Yes, I know the daily gratuity that gets added to my account does cover the cabin staff, but, make no mistake. These guys, who do an excellent job anyway, can add a nice extra dimension to your journey. For example, I like to keep my ice buckets full and sometimes I even dedicate my sink or a cooler to holding our beer, which a happy Cabin Steward will keep covered in ice for all day long.
My generosity is always understood and rewarded. I’ve been delighted to find extra towels, robes, chocolate hors d’oeuvres and even a bottle of wine. One other point, my favorite way to communicate with my steward (if I don’t bump into him/her in the hallway) is to place a Post-It note on the mirror over the vanity. It always works.
Tip #2: Copies Are A Good Thing
Make copies of all the important travel documents that you take (driver’s license, passport, credit card, etc.) and keep them in a safe place on your person while you are traveling and in your cabin once you get on board. If anything happens, you will have all information you need, and the purser’s office will be better able to help you. While you’re at it, print out the cruise info you expect to use the most (such as directions, phone numbers, etc), on a colored piece of paper. That way it stands out from the various other pieces of paper you’ll have in your cruise documents.
Tip #3: Electricity Is A Really Good Thing.
Each cabin has only one electrical outlet, which is located right next to the desk/vanity. And it has only two plugs. If you’re like us and you want to use your computer, charge your camera, listen to music and use a hair dryer while someone is taking a shower… well, you get the picture. Bring a power strip or surge protector. You may also find it useful to being an 8-ft extension cord, that way, you have electricity anywhere you want it in the cabin.
Tip #4: Prepare Your Stomach.
For about a week before leaving, eat at least one serving of yogurt every day, or take acidophilus supplements. It helps to build up the good bacteria that your digestive track needs to deal with any little bugs or impurities that you pick up. Some of the best food you’ll find will be in small local establishments, or even roadside venues. The chow is really good in these places, and authentically spiced. But, the sanitation requirements in the Caribbean are not the same as in the US. Also, the normal diet for locals is different than what you may be used to. Your stomach may not be used to it all. The yogurt is an easy and effective way to build up your digestive balance and immunity.
Tip #5: Freshen Your Luggage
If your travel time to the ship is more than 24 hours, put fabric softener sheets between your garments to keep everything in your suite case smelling fresh. This is particularly nice with garments or accessories that are not regularly laundered, such as sweaters or jackets. You may want to cut one in half and place each half in your shoes. You’ll be even more appreciative on your return home, since your luggage will be packed with soiled clothes, some of which may even be damp.
Tip #6: Bring Bungee Cords
Bungee cords are one of the most useful items you can take and for reasons other than you might first think. They are easy to pack, take up virtually no room at all, and can even be useful in keeping your bags lashed together as you maneuver onto the ship. But here’s the really cool part. One thing you’ll find when you get to your cabin is that there are never enough places to hang things – like a shirt, or hat, or camera case. Most cabins have two or three hooks and that’s about it. While a hook is only big enough to hold one hat or other similar item, it is big enough to hold two or three bungee cords. What’s more, there are lots of places through out the cabin that can accommodate one end of a bungee cord but would never work as a hanging place, such as a lamp or the edge of your mirror. Just hang the bungee cord from any suitable place and — voila! — you have a hook that is sturdy enough to hold anything you’ve got.
They also make a great clothesline. Some bathrooms have a retractable clothes line in the shower, but not all. Your bungee cord can be strung across the opening of your shower, or between a couple of towel bars. Be creative, you’ll find several places that work.
And finally, one of the main irritations of being up on the deck when the ship is underway (as is the case with Sea Days) is the 20 knot winds that you have to deal with. When you get up from your seat to hit the bar or take a break, It’s not unusual at all to see a pool towel or shirt or hat go sailing over the edge of the ship. If you have a bungee cord with you, you can easily strap everything to your chair.
Tip #7: Bring Extra Clothes Hangers
There are often not enough clothes hangers in your cabin, and those that are there can be a pain in the butt to use. They’re usually the kind that has a little peg which slips into a metal ring which is permanently attached to the clothes bar in the closet. So be sure to pack enough extras to handle all of your important hang-up clothes, so you have enough and you don’t have to mess around with the ones in the closet.
And speaking of clothes hangers, you can buy INFLATABLE clothes hangers (that’s right, inflatable coat hangers. Who’da thunk it?) from Amazon.com (click the “Apparel” tag” on the website). They take up no space at all, are totally easy to inflate and are sturdy enough to hold shirts and coats. They are also great for eliminating those pesky bulges that you get on the shoulders of your shirts. You might need to get a couple of sets so you can keep one set for traveling and use the other in your home closet.
Tip #8: Check With Your Insurance Company (auto and medical)
If something happens and you are required to get any kind of medical treatment while you are cruising, there is a really good chance that you will have to pay for the treatment and get reimbursed later. So, find out before you go if your health insurance will pay for such treatments, and what kind of documentation you’ll need to file a claim with your company. This is one of those times where you may want to inquire into travel insurance, especially if you are traveling with a condition that elevates the risk (such as older travelers, pregnancy, or some other pre-existing condition). Get very clear information from your company about the documentation you need from the ship or port, because once you leave where the treatment is delivered, there is virtually no chance you will ever get medical records sent to you without hiring an attorney. If you have a pre-existing condition, you’ll get better treatment if you provide the medical staff with your medical history.
In the same vein, check your coverage with your auto insurance company. You may find that you don’t need any additional coverage, which can save you a lot if you decide to rent a car or scooter. Keep in mind, however, many rental companies require you to make good on any damages when you return the vehicle, so if you are using your personal insurance you will have to pay for the damages and get reimbursed. That little fact is one of the major incentives the rental companies use to sell you the insurance. Unfortunately, even though they are blood-suckers for trying to manipulate you, it is often less hassle to go ahead and buy the local insurance. But, get a professional opinion from your agent.
Tip #9: A Can Of Air Freshener
Especially if you are traveling on one of the older ships, it’s a really good idea to pack a can of your favorite air freshener. I prefer the types that kill odors as opposed to those that just scent the air (i.e., Lysol, because it not only deodorizes the room if needed but also sanitizes surfaces). In the small confines of a standard cabin, any unpleasant odor can be stifling and the room ventilation system can take a while work.
Tip #10: Stay Out Of The Steam Baths.
Yes, we know, there isn’t anything quite like the soothing and cleansing feeling of a steam bath to relax you or rid you of the after effects of a late night partying. Even so, we NEVER use public steam baths. This isn’t a knock on any particular cruise line, it’s a knock on public steam baths. A steam room is the absolute perfect environment for all kinds of airborne germs and bacteria — hot, moist, subdued lighting. Oh yeah, perfect for that little cold bug or other mischievous virus that gets sneezed out of people. STAY AWAY FROM STEAM BATHS!
Tip # 11: Use Porters When You Leave The Terminal.
There are two really good reasons to use porters.
# They carry your bags, in exchange for which you should tip them about $2 per bag with a minimum of $5. This is especially good if you have several bags and if you have a ways to go to get to your transportation.
# They have a special desk they go through at Customs and so you don’t have to wait in the line. That alone is worth $5!
Alrighty, gang. That’s all you get here. Check out my resource box for how to get more tips if you’re interested.
See ya in the Caribbean. Aaaaaarghh!!
Fred Tutwiler is a best-selling author, consultant and speaker whose current passion is to explore the vast, beautiful domains of the Caribbean aboard huge cruise liners. He has written 7 books on cruising and is working on a video documentary. Download Fred’s FREE e-book “The Best Darn Cruising Tips EVER!“, and find out why you should pack zip-loc bags, a first aid kit, walkie-talkies, trash bags and suction cup wall hooks. You’ll also get some great info about choosing travel agents, buying trip insurance, preventing seasickness and the perfect way to get a wake-up call.
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