Read these 11 Life Onboard Ship Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Cruises tips and hundreds of other topics.
We live in a wonderfully diverse world and one of the greatest benefits of travel is the opportunity to experience different cultures and lifestyles. No one likes to be stereotyped as a “Tacky Tourist” or an “Ugly American.” Yet, people who are polite, patient, and pleasant at home sometimes behave in ways that are inappropriate, rude and offensive during travel. Try these tips to make sure travel etiquette on ship and shore is up to par:
Not every cruise line offers the same onboard tours, but most cruises feature several opportunities for a look “behind the scenes.”
After a late afternoon nap, it's time for a night a sea. Dine in the Main Dining room and enjoy a seven course meal and interesting conversation with your tablemates. Opt for a romantic dinner for two at one of the specialty restaurants on board. Stay in your swimsuit and dig into the buffet on deck. Have room service.
After dinner, the ship hums with excitement and entertainment choices at a dozen clubs including a
Days at sea are all about choices. Each night the ship's official newspaper is delivered to your cabin filled with activity and dining schedules for the following day, what's on sale in cruise shops, ports of call information and other tips. Sometimes it is difficult to choose activities among so many choices. Seasoned cruisers agree that those who enjoy a cruise the most are open to new experiences and take advantage of a variety of new activities and entertainment.
Choices begin on awakening. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast on your private balcony or indulge in a bountiful breakfast buffet at the top of the ship. Choices. Relax in the sun beside one of the pools. Play poolside games. Try your luck at Bingo or in the casino. Attend a port lecture or self improvement workshop. Have a mid-morning snack and work off calories in the state-of-the-art gym.
Lunch time rolls around. Head for the dining room for a five course lunch or dine al fresco at the buffet on deck. Nothing is as good as a hamburger grilled in the open air at sea…except maybe a specialty pizza and a cold beer. After lunch, attend a cooking class or wine tasting. Get a massage or facial. Bid on art work by famous artists while sipping complimentary champagne. Try your hand at table tennis, shuffleboard, high tech interactive games or work on your golf drive. See a first run movie in the ship theater or stateroom television. Make new friends in the card/game room. Go for a swim and on and on. Do as much or as little as you prefer. There's also a lot to be said for the sheer luxury of doing nothing...sitting on deck with a good novel enjoying the sea air and endless horizon.
As the day winds down, toast an incredible sunset. There is no sunset like a sunset at sea with no land in view. As the sun sinks below the horizon, it paints a golden, red, and plum masterpiece across the sky and sea. After sunset, take a nap before dinner and night activities. When do you ever have the luxury of a nap right before dinner at home?
If you are not cruising with an all-inclusive cruise line, plan ahead for these onboard a la carte charges not typically included in cruise fare:
At mid-point on the cruise, ask the purser's desk for a print-out of your shipboard account and get another copy a day or two before the end of the cruise. If you have questions about any charges, address them with the purser's desk before the last morning of the cruise. Also, if you do not re
Tipping is a fact of life on most cruise lines. Some luxury cruise lines do not permit tipping or include it in the basic cruise fare, but most cruise lines automatically add $10-$12 per person per day to your shipboard account to cover tips for your personal cruise staff (cabin steward, waiters and assistant waiters). In addition to cruise staff tips, a 15% gratuity is added to all alcoholic beverages and sodas.
If you do not want charges applied automatically for your personal cruise staff, notify the purser's desk and they will delete the charges allowing you to tip cruise staff personally. Whether you choose to accept the convenience of automatic tips on your shipboard account or prefer to tip on your own, please do not neglect to tip your personal cruise staff. They typically do not earn a salary. They work long, hard hours to make your cruise special and rely on tips for their livelihood. On most cruises, it is also customary to tip the headwaiter or maitre d', favorite bartenders or cruise musicians a few dollars at the end of the cruise if they have performed special services for you during the cruise.
Here's how a typical dinner at sea goes. After you are seated in the dining room drink orders are taken and your server presents the evening's menu. Dinner usually consists of six or seven courses from appetizers to desserts. Can't decide between shrimp cocktail and paté? Have both. Can't choose between steak and shrimp? Have both. Your server wants happy diners. A pleasant request is almost always accommodated. (You can even have doubles on Lobster Night!)
If you are not a foodie, don't worry. There are healthy choices on the menu at every meal. If you have food allergies or require a special menu, notify the cruise line at least three weeks before the cruise. Otherwise, be adventurous. Try new dishes. If you are not sure what something on the menu is, ask your server. He or she will do everything reasonable to ensure that you enjoy meals onboard. If you do not care for the food or it is not cooked to your request, it is acceptable to politely request a different serving.
If you are not accustomed to dining with multiple courses and a vast array of silver and glassware, just remember the old adage, “outside in.” Use your utensils from the outside in toward your plate as courses come to the table. Servers will remove used silverware after each course. Also remember “eat to the left, drink to the right” and you'll never have problems remembering which bread plate belongs to you.
Although the days of extravagant buffets are over on most cruises, each cruise line usually hosts one magnificent showcase buffet toward the end of a cruise. Even if you can't eat another bite, bring your camera. It is remarkable gastronomic photographic moment.
Cruise cuisine is one of the greatest treats of cruising. You can eat around the clock and work off the calories in the gym or on deck. Each night, the main dining room features different ethnic cuisine such as: Italian night, French night, Asian night and Mediterranean night. Lobster night is also a hit with most cruisers.
Some cruise lines have moved away from structured meal times; others still feature first and second seatings in the main dining room. For example, Princess Cruises currently offers traditional first and second seatings or “Dine Anytime.” Norwegian Cruises boasts totally Freestyle Dining. Most modern large cruise ships also feature alternative dining venues such as specialty Italian or Steakhouse restaurants, pizza parlors and casual buffets and bistros.
If only traditional dining is offered, you must choose to dine at the first seating (around ) or late seating (around ). Make your choice as soon as possible when booking your cruise. First seating fills fast on cruises with seniors and families with small children. Many seasoned cruisers prefer late dining. The advantage of late dining is time for a late afternoon nap after excursions rather than dashing off to dinner sometimes before sail-away. No matter what time you dine, productions shows are repeated and you won't miss entertainment.
With traditional dining, you may also request a table for two, four, six, eight or ten. Choices are first-come, first-served, so make your table size request when you book your cruise. Notes: At large tables, service is slower and conversation is difficult. At a table for four, if you have nothing in common with the other couple, meal times drag. A table for six offers the best opportunities for commonalties and conversation. Finally, don't despair. If your table mates turn out to be bores, discreetly notify the dining maitre d' and request another table.
While you are exploring and learning the lay of the ship, here are a few common nautical terms you should learn.
Mega-cruise ships are floating cities. For instance, Royal Caribbean's new
Veteran cruisers start each cruise with an orientation tour. Pick up a copy of the ship's deck plan from your cabin or the purser's desk and go exploring. Start at the highest deck in the bow (front) of the ship. Work your way aft (back) and then go down one deck and work your way forward. Head down another deck and work back aft again until you have covered the ship. On most ships, even numbered cabins are on one side or the ship and odd numbers are on the other side. There are also deck plans on the walls of public areas throughout the ship near elevators and stairways.
The big day is finally here! Even the most jaded cruisers get excited when they see that big beautiful ship sitting at the dock. Stepping aboard is a special moment on every cruise. Although embarkation time is noted in cruise documents, most cruise lines begin embarkation an hour or more before the stated time. Arrive at the port early. Beat the long lines for check-in and board the ship at the earliest possible time. Speed up embarkation even more by completing immigration and emergency contact information online. Complete cruise baggage tags after your flight to avoid confusion with checked baggage, but before arriving at the dock for cruise check-in. Make certain you have necessary documentation close at hand. Never pack passports, cruise tickets and other important documents in checked luggage.
It takes several hours for luggage to be delivered to each cabin. Don't waste time waiting impatiently for luggage. Bring a carry-on bag with medications, toiletries, a camera, change of clothes and a swimsuit. Use this time to get acquainted with the ship or relax by the pool. Indulge in the buffet for early boarders. Enjoy the sail away “drink of the day” special…maybe two.
Soon, it's time for the Sail Away Party. Get out on deck with everyone and experience the thrill of watching the lines cast off as your ship eases away from the dock. Don't forget to leave your worries at the dock. Don't worry. No one will take them; they'll be waiting when you return. Relax and prepare to be pampered and entertained.