Preparing for your cruise – the must-do check list

Booking a cruise is an important business.

Deciding where to go, when to go, which cruise line to travel with and which ship, it all takes time and a lot of consideration.

Once you’ve booked and paid, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all you have to do is board your cruise ship and start on the cocktails.

Well, yes, and no.

Yes, a cruise will provide all your meals and entertainment as part of the deal but it still pays to think ahead and do some planning before you leave home.

Then you will really maximize your time onboard.

So here are a few checklist suggestions you might want to think about.


Booking shore excursions

Once you’ve booked and paid, you will get an information pack from the cruise line, outlining all the shore excursions on offer.

Don’t put it to one side until the night before you board – it will pay to book your shore excursions online in advance for two good reasons.

Firstly, if you book in advance, the tickets will be waiting for you in your cabin when you arrive and you’ll avoid those lengthy queues at the shore excursion desk.

Secondly, by reserving your trips in advance, you won’t miss out on the popular ones, such as swimming with the dolphins in the Caribbean or dog sledding in Alaska.


Spa and salon appointments

Book in advance for your spa sessions and beauty treatments and you will not only avoid lengthy queues but you will get the popular appointment times – when the ship is sailing at sea.

Because you don’t want to be sitting getting your hair done when you could be exploring the ruins of Rome or kayaking around an Alaskan fiord – so again it pays to book ahead.


Anticipate extra costs – credit card planning

Most cruises are not all-inclusive so extras such as shore excursions, spa treatments and internet access can all add up. Another reason to book those shore excursions and spa treatments in advance!

So you do need to have a think about how much credit is available on your card because once on board, the cruise line will ask for a credit card number in advance to cover the cost of your on-board expenses.

If there is only $200 on your credit card you will be in for a shock when it comes to paying!


Check your passport and cruise documents

Don’t leave this until the week before – do it now.

It goes without saying you need to check whether your passport is valid and whether you need any visas for where you are heading. But if you’re like me, you pull your passport out from the drawer the night before you leave – so check it out early.

And mistakes do happen with flights – the date can be wrong either because you specified the morning rather than the evening, or the tour operator made a mistake, so check out your flights and cruise documents to make sure everything is OK. You don’t want to find out the mistakes when you’re standing at check-in.


Packing – what to take

The message here is – don’t over pack!

Pack lightly, especially for warm-weather cruises. Your cabin storage will be ample but not huge and you just won’t wear all those extras you brought along ‘just in case’.

It’s worth finding out if the cruise ship provides toiletries, whether there is an alarm clock in your cabin, a hairdryer and if they provide bathrobes. This will cut down on what you bring.

And it’s important to know the dress code – does formal mean black tie or does it just mean a shirt and tie? Don’t take a huge array of formal wear you won’t need.

And pack medication – even if it is only paracetomol – as you don’t want to pay a huge sum for a little pack on the ship.

Leave room in your suitcase to bring home souvenirs or better still take a small tote bag in your suitcase so you can fill it up on the way back.

And it’s worth checking out whether you can do your laundry onboard. On some cruise lines you have to pay for them to do it for you – which is expensive! Others have self-service launderettes which make life a lot easier and means you can cut down on some of your clothes.


Bring extra cash

Even on an all-inclusive trip there will be times you need extra cash.

And even though some ships have ATM machines, you will have to pay huge surcharges.

You will need cash for when you are on shore excursions – not every shop will take credit cards.

And if you enjoy having a flutter at the casino, you’ll need some cash for this too or some lines will allow you to add this to your onboard account.


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