Preparing For Your Cruise Tips

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(55) Don't Forget These Cruise Must-Haves

In addition to your cruise wardrobe, here are some additional items that will make your cruise more enjoyable:

  • Pack a crushable tote bag or backpack for excursions and explorations on shore. This bag is also an “overflow” bag at the end of the cruise for all the purchases made along the way.
  • Small and large zipper plastic bags also come in handy for a multitude of uses, especially avoiding leaks and spills for liquids packed in checked luggage. Zipper bags are also handy for organizing sets of jewelry, maps and guidebooks, snacks and small personal toiletries for carry-on bags.
  • Purchase a hanging cosmetic bag and stock it with prescription medications, personal hygiene items and over-the-counter medications for common complaints like indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, eyestrain, toothaches and cuts and bruises. Hang it on the back of the door to free up space in a tiny cabin bathroom. (Check the latest prohibited items on the TSA Website before bringing questionable liquids in a carry-on bag.)
  • You never know when rain showers will pop up at sea and ashore, especially in the tropics. Don't forget a small umbrella and disposable poncho.
  • Most cruise ships do not have alarm clocks in the cabins. They want you to forget time and relax. You can leave a wake-up call or coffee order for early morning excursions, but there's no guarantee you will get it on time. Bring a small battery-powered alarm for back-up. (Even if you are not a morning person, set it one morning for a few minutes before sunrise and treat yourself to a glorious sunrise at sea.)
  • A pair of small binoculars should never be far away for spotting whales, wildlife and coastal landmarks or viewing passing ships and the starlit sky. Some cruisers also enjoy tracking the ship's course with a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • A small flashlight and nightlight come in handy in dark cabins at night.
  • A travel journal will be your best souvenir when it comes to capturing and reliving cruise moments long after you are back on land.
  • Small gifts that are representative of your hometown are a fun way to delight shipmates and show extra appreciation to crew members. (Small gifts do not take the place of onboard gratuities!)


(53) Are You Ready to Travel?

When it comes to cruising, especially international cruises, it pays to plan ahead to be spontaneous. Isn't that contradictory? Not if you want to be ready to grab a great travel deal and go on short notice. See how you score on this “ready-to-go” cruise travel document checklist.

Do you have a current passport? If you are dreaming of taking a cruise someday, get a passport now. Passport deadline dates fluctuated throughout 2006 and 2007; however, regulations now require a current passport to return to the United States from Canada , the Caribbean , Mexico , Central America and Bermuda by air. That means you can no longer fly down to Jamaica for a Caribbean cruise or Vancouver for an Alaska last-minute getaway cruise unless you have a passport! Passports for cruise travel and road travel may be required as early as 2008 for the same regions. Check the latest passports regulations at

To obtain a passport for the first time, you must go in person to a passport acceptance facility. Check for a list of acceptance facilities anywhere in the U.S. All acceptance facilities have application forms, but it will hasten the process if you print and complete an application in advance. (New passport or renewal passport application forms are online at

Heads Up: If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Many countries won't allow you to visit if your passport expires within six months! Don't put off getting or renewing your passport. The Department of State recommends allowing a minimum of six weeks after application to receive your passport. When new passport requirements became effective in 2007, the number of passport applications increased dramatically. Don't cut it close; allow 90 days and relax. In an emergency you can pay for expedited service, but it is costly.Will you need a Visa? You may be required to obtain a visa when cruising to certain countries outside the United States. While you can obtain a visa directly from the consulate of the country you're visiting, it is much easier to arrange the visa through your travel agent or a passport/visa fee-based service. Travisa is one company that assists in expediting both passports and visas for a fee. Their website ( is a goldmine of information about which countries require visas and country demographics.

Are your health records and vaccinations current? If you have chronic health problems or severe allergies, always travel with a summary copy of your medical records. Compile a list of emergency medical contact numbers and keep them with your medical records and other important travel documents.

Check immunization requirements for countries you may want to visit if the opportunity arises. Even if specific vaccinations or preventive medications are not required, it's smart to ensure that immunizations such as typhoid, smallpox, tetanus, and influenza are up-to-date. Talk to your physician about a two part hepatitis A and B vaccinations. If vaccinations are required, they must be recorded in booklet PHS-731, International Certificates of Vaccination. Keep vaccination records with your passport.

Are your travel documents organized? File and carry all important travel documents in a documents folder in your carry-on luggage. Never pack important travel document


(62) Additional Cruise Money Smarts

The well-prepared traveler doesn't depend on any one method of travel funds. A combination of all four travel funds offer the peace of mind of knowing that your travel needs for pleasure and in an emergency are covered. Here are some additional money smarts for handling cruise travel funds:

  • When traveling with a companion, each person should take a different credit card. If one card is lost and must be cancelled, you still have a back-up card.
  • Make a copy of both sides of your ATM and credits cards before you leave and keep the copy separate from your cards. Leave a copy of all credit cards at home with friends or family. In the event of loss or theft, a copy expedites cancellation.
  • When traveling outside of your home country, notify credit card companies in advance what countries you are visiting. Most companies have security procedures that call for automatically canceling a credit card if “strange” international purchases begin posting to your account.


(61) Credit Cards Offer Buyer Benefits and Protection

Credit or charge cards are a fourth important source of cruise travel funds. The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Discover. Using a credit card also offers the benefit of a wholesale bank exchange rate and many credit cards offer perks like cash rebates or airline mileage.

Most importantly, when you use a credit card for purchases, you get some form of purchase protection. Never pay for a purchase to be shipped without using a credit card. Pay cash and fail to receive the goods…you are out of luck. Use a credit card for purchase and you have some “insurance.” Check with your card company before leaving to determine what travel benefits and protection are offered.

Even if you are opposed to using credit cards on a daily basis, cruise travel experts strongly recommend that you take at least one major credit card with a high available balance for travel. If you have a medical emergency or another type of emergency, a credit card is a must-have.


(60) Use ATM/Debit Card for Best Exchange Rate

Whether you are cruising close to home or across the world, an ATM is a convenient and easily accessible source of cash. Even with the usage fee; you typically get a best rate of exchange since cash withdrawals from an ATM are at the wholesale bank rate. There are literally thousands of automatic teller machines linked through systems like Cirrus, Star, Honor and Visa. (Learn what systems an ATM card is valid with before leaving on your cruise.)

Most ATM cards also function as debit cards when making purchases. A debit card does just what it says. It debits your checking account for the amount of the transaction. Since most debit cards are processed through the Visa or Mastercard system, it is as easy to use them for purchases. That said, they do not offer the purchase protection or benefits of major credit cards. They are the same as paying cash.

Finally, do not depend on just an ATM card for your travel dollars. ATM systems can be “down” or a card's magnetic strip can be damaged and access to cash is cut off.


(59) Travelers Checks Are Good Back-Up Funds

Travelers check usage has declined since the introduction of ATM/debit cards. However, many travelers still choose to get some “emergency” cruise travel funds in the form of American Express Travelers Checks. If you use travelers checks as your primary travel funds, you will get the best exchange rate at an American Express office, bank or post offices. Avoid the exchange bureaus on every corner in port shopping areas. They have the poorest rate of exchange and there are extra handling fees or per item fees for exchange transactions.

Heads Up: Do not keep your receipt with the traveler's checks. Have your travel companion carry the receipt for your checks and vice versa. If you are traveling alone, keep the receipt in a separate bag.)


(58) What Kind of Cruise Travel Funds Should You Take?

Whether you are cruising in the U.S. or abroad, travel dollar options are very similar. Travel funds may be in the form of cash, travelers checks, ATM/debit cards and credit cards. Take a combination of all four, especially for extended travel or on international cruises.

Always plan to carry a cushion of cash. That said, carrying too much cash is dangerous. Never flash your cash. Purchase a good money belt or neck pouch before you travel and never carry more cash than you can afford to lose.

Travel experts recommend taking $20 in $1 bills. Regardless of the local currency, $1 bills are usually welcomed. Also when traveling with cash, ask for crisp, undamaged bills. Old and worn paper currency or bills that have been defaced with words or drawings are illegal or may not be accepted in some international locations.

Some travelers get foreign currency before leaving on their cruise. However, most local banks do not keep foreign currencies in stock. It must be ordered in advance for a fee. Most international cruise ships have an automatic teller machine (ATM) onboard with currency for each port of call and there are plenty of ATMs in ports around the world.


(57) When Flying to Your Cruise Port

Air travel is fraught with delays and cancellations. Travelers miss cruise ships daily because flights are delayed or cancelled by weather and mechanical problems.

Don't cut your travel day too close. Whether you opt for a fly/cruise package or personal air travel, it pays arrive at your cruise port a day or two before your cruise. Relax and enjoy local attractions with the knowledge that you will be at the dock and ready to sail on time.

  • If you don't arrive in port a day or more ahead, book the earliest morning flight possible. If the flight cancels or is delayed, you have a full day to get back on track and still catch your cruise ship.
  • Book a non-stop flight if possible. T he more stops you make, the longer it takes to get there and the more chances for a delay.
  • If you must change flights, avoid close connections. Making a flight connection may be as simple as walking across the hall or to the gate next door or as complicated as waiting for a shuttle or train to another concourse or another terminal. Close connections (under 90 minutes) also increase the possibility that even if you make the flight, but your checked baggage won't arrive for sail-away.


(56) Getting to the Ship

There are typically two ways to get to your cruise ship. If ports are within driving distance, you save the cost and aggravation of air travel. If not within driving range, you must fly to your departure destination and there are important decisions to make.

You may select a fly/cruise package where the cruise line books your air travel, meets you at the airport and transports you to the ship or a pre-cruise hotel. The advantages of a fly/cruise package are convenience and personal service. It's a great feeling to enter the baggage claim area and see a cruise representative holding a sign welcoming you. Once bags are claimed, you are transported directly to the ship or hotel. If you stay at a cruise hotel overnight, you are met around , escorted to the ship and will be among the first passengers to board. Also with cruise air if your flight is delayed, the ship is more likely to wait a reasonable amount of time for you or help you “catch up” to the ship at the next port.

Sometimes cruise airfare specials cost less than booking your own travel; sometimes it cruise air costs more than booking independently. Booking your own air travel for a cruise offers more flexibility. You can fly with the airline and at the time of day you prefer. However, if you book your own air travel, you really are on your own. No cruise representative will meet you at the airport. You must arrange your own transportation to the ship. This is usually not a problem in major cities where the cruise port is nearby. However, when cruise ships depart from ports that are far from the airport (such as Southampton for London) cruise transfers are helpful. Finally, if you book your own air travel and your flight is delayed and you miss the ship, it is completely up to you to make arrangements to board at a later port. (On a transatlantic cruise, there is no next port and you are out of luck.) Avoid problems by arriving at your departure port a day or so before your cruise.


(54) What to Wear on a Cruise

Don't be intimidated when you look at the cruise brochures with glamorous couples decked out in formalwear or frolicking by the pool in elegant designer swimwear. In reality, you see a mixture of everything when it comes to cruise attire. First-time cruisers typically over pack. To defend against guests with seven bags for a seven-day cruise, airlines and cruise lines impose baggage restrictions per passenger. Don't panic.

If you choose cruise attire wisely and pack smart, one large upright suitcase per person and one carry-on bag should be enough for a seven to ten day cruise. Follow these guidelines to be well-equipped and well-dressed. Your only excess pounds will be the ones you gain with all the wonderful cruise cuisine!

  • Formal nights (usually one to two nights on a seven day cruise) require a tuxedo or dark suit for men and formal/semi-formal dress for women. Typically , only about 40 percent of male cruisers wear a tux, 50 percent wear a dark suit or sports coat and tie and 10 percent stand out from the crowd in leisure shirts. You can rent a tuxedo onboard if you wish. For women, a long/short elegant black dress or black silk pants go anywhere. A striking brooch or beaded shawl can make the same dress look “new” for several wears and it's easy to pair glitzy tops with silk pants for a smart evening look. (Note: if you're “allergic” to formal attire, you can avoid it entirely by choosing alternative dining such as the casual buffet, pizzeria or room service on formal nights.)
  • Bring an evening wrap. Show lounges and the dining rooms can be chilly. Since evening wear is often bare-shouldered, a classic black silk or beaded shawl is an elegant and warm touch.
  • For casual evenings, choose collared shirts and slacks for men and a sundress or nice pantsuit for women. Dress like you are going to a casual, (but nice) restaurant at home. Shorts are not allowed in the main dining room for dinner.
  • Daytime wear runs the gamut from funky to fabulous and tacky to terrific. Cruises are a great chance to show-off pretty sundresses or tropical print shirts and shorts. Start with several pairs of shorts, slacks and tops in coordinated colors to mix and match. Don't load your bag down with T-shirts. Buy a few great destination T-shirts along the way to show off when you get home.
  • Choose easy care clothing. Take advantage silks, knits and undies that can be washed and hung on the shower rod or retractable shower clothesline to dry and need no ironing. (Don't pack an iron! If you must iron, there are irons and ironing boards in the ship laundry rooms. On the same note, leave the hairdryer at home. There's one in your cabin.)
  • Go easy on shoes. They take up way too much room in luggage. Choose double-duty shoes. Pack one pair of dress shoes or sandals for formal wear and smart casual dinners, a good pair of walking shoes for strolls around the promenade deck and shore excursions and a pair or two of snappy sandals for poolside.
  • Take two swimsuits. You won't have to don a wet suit, if you decide after a morning swim to jump in the spa in the afternoon. Swimwear cover-ups are required in interior public areas of the ship. For maximum use, choose a cover-up, like a sarong, that doubles as casual wear.
  • Skip the bathrobe. Enjoy the luxury of fluffy terry robes provided by the cruise line. If there is no robe in your cabin, ask your attendant for one. If the cruise line doesn't provide a robe, a swimwear cover-up doubles as a sleep robe.
  • When cruising in cold climates, think layers rather than bulk. Pack silk long johns, medium-weight knits and a good windproof, waterproof Gore-Tex jacket. Don't forget gloves and a warm knit hat that covers the ears.
  • Leave heirlooms at home. Pack


(52) Protect Your Cruise Investment with Travel Insurance

When was the last time you knew in advance that you, a traveling companion, or a family member would break a leg or get sick? When the last time you knew in advance a storm would close the airport and stop all travel or you would open the mailbox and find a summons for jury duty just days before your dream cruise? Travel is expensive and it pays to spend a few dollars more to protect your cruise investment.

Research insurance you already have. Many seniors are not aware that Medicare does not provide coverage outside the United States. If your personal health insurance does cover you, call customer service or visit their Website for international claims procedures. Many companies have special international claims forms. Print copies of them to take along on all trips outside the U.S. Some homeowner's policies offer protection for baggage loss or theft. Some credit card providers offer medical benefits or include an accidental death benefit if you charge your trip on their card. It's critical to know what insurance protection you do and do not have.

Medical travel insurance covers you in the event of illness or injury during your trip and, if necessary, for medical evacuation. In developing countries, medical care is limited and you may need medical evacuation to get adequate care. Medical evacuation costs $35,000 to $50,000 or more on average. Trip cancellation/interruption insurance offers protection in the event something unexpected forces you to cancel or interrupt your cruise. Most policies cover trip cancellation/interruption due to illness or death of you, immediate family, or your travel companion (even if not related). You are also protected if your travel agent, tour company or cruise line defaults. You are covered if weather or certain other external forces cause you to miss your trip. This coverage also includes baggage loss and delay protection. A comprehensive travel policy covers both medical and trip cancellation/interruption events.

Watch for pre-existing medical condition clauses. If you or an immediate family member has a chronic medical condition, check a potential cruise travel insurance policy carefully to be sure you are covered. Most waivers of pre-existing conditions require purchase of the insurance within seven days of booking your trip. Plan ahead!

Least expensive is not the only criteria you should use to select a cruise insurance policy. Policies are priced by type of coverage, length of trip, cost of trip, and sometimes travelers' ages. Average cost of comprehensive travel insurance is approximately $65.00 per $1000 of the trip cost.

Visit or to research and compare travel policies from a multitude of companies. Compare benefits, options and restrictions to select the policy that best meets your personal travel needs. As with all travel documents and agreements, read policy information carefully before you purchase.

Pack your travel insurance certificate and emergency numbers in your carry-on bag with other important travel documents. Make an extra copy to leave at home with family.

Hopefully, travel insurance is protection you will never need; however, it can be a lifesaver. Don't leave home without it.

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Candi Wingate