Posted on 09-Feb-2022 by Deesha Jhaveri - avid traveler and cruise-lover
Crurientation (Cruise Orientation)
Travel is an exciting, awaited and an integral part of life. People form some of their most cherished memories when they travel. Seeing new lands, exploring different cultures and cuisines with your loved ones is what most people look forward to all year. Those few days that provide an escape form the rudimentary monotony of one’s daily lives and gives people enough momentum to work through the year so that they can explore the world and create lasting memories.
An exciting new way to travel is on a cruise ship where you can sample the ports and cities that dot the coastline of the mighty oceans & seas across the 7 continents. A cruise holiday is very different from a land vacation and offers many perks - for starters, no matter how many cities, countries and ports you visit, you will only unpack and pack your bags once. All your meals are taken care of on the ship which is a floating hotel that also provides all the entertainment & facilities as you hop from one exotic port to another. And when on sea, your views can change every hour, with the color of the ocean changing going from blue to turquoise to dark as ink.
Like I said, in a nutshell, no matter how avid a traveler you might be, cruising is an experience in itself. For those planning a cruise vacation the first time, you might find this blog immensely helpful as we list some of the most fundamental dos and don’t’s on a cruise.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: Just like your international flights, cruises too have a somewhat lengthy procedure for embarkation. Make sure to check-into your cruise no less than two hours before your scheduled departure. Any friends and family that may have come to see you off shall only be allowed till the pier and not inside the ship, for obvious security reasons. As for your baggage, once you’ve checked in, you will see your luggage directly in your staterooms in a couple hours or maybe three so do pack a few necessities in a small hand bag in case you need something before your check in bags arrive in your cabin.
Cabins: Rooms on cruises are known as Staterooms or cabins that differ in terms of size and luxury based on your preference. Cruises today provide a wide array of choices for accommodations, from studio cabins for single travelers, to giant duplex family cabins with sliding staircases. With every passing year, cruise cabins are getting grander and more creative. Naturally, grabbing the best view of the ocean is the goal of most of us when booking a cabin, which is precisely why the same should be done well in advance. Cruises have a range of cabins with their own balcony and floor length windows as well as a few with a partial sea view blocked by the feeder boats. Be sure to pick and choose your rooms wisely and remember the simple principle, the higher the deck, the better the view (if you have opted for a balcony cabin). The newer ships have a higher ratio of balcony cabins when compared to inside or oceanview cabins so we would highly recommend balcony cabins for a cruise of 5 nights or more duration – its well worth the price difference! Also an average, a standard cabin on a cruise is smaller than your hotel room, so remember to pack light and carry as little unnecessary baggage as possible in order to save space.
You also need to decide whether you would like your cabin in the forward, mid or aft (back) of the ship AND whether on the portside (left) or starboard side (right) of the ship – we would recommend cabins in mid-ship area since the central location makes it easier to reach all parts of the ship. Both portside and starboard side have their advantages but it doesn’t really matter for round trip cruises.
Currency: The standard currency on most cruises is the USD. However, guests are given a multi-purpose ‘Cruise Credit Card’ upon embarkation which also serves as the cabin key card. You can use the cabin key card for all on-board expenses, shore excursions, spa treatments, etc and settle the bill on the last day of the cruise either by your credit card or with USD currency.
Familiarizing: Navigating through a cruise ship can be a daunting task, especially for first time cruisers, with each new ship grander and more complex than the previous one. To ensure you don’t miss out on all that the ship has to offer, you must attend the muster drill on the day of embarkation. Not only will it give you all the information in the case of an emergency, it’ll help you get acquainted with the ship. When exploring, do begin from the top deck and then go downwards, and always keep a map of the ship handy. The crew onboard are generally from various nationalities and speak English (apart from their native language) so do ask them for directions in case you get lost. Many cruise liners have developed apps which they recommend that you download when you board the cruise – the day’s schedule of activities, ship map etc are loaded on the app for easy reference. Besides, you will get a schedule of the ship’s daily programme in your cabin the night before so you have ample time to plan your next day’s activities.
Tipping : Tipping etiquette dictates that each guest should tip at least eight to ten dollars a day, per person. Most cruise liners have made gratuities compulsory which is either collected at the time of booking the cruise OR added to your extras billing which is settled at the end of the cruise. This saves the hassle of tipping for individual services availed on the ship.
Liquor: Liquor is strictly, unequivocally not allowed to be carried by passengers to the ship. So, in case you were planning on sipping from your vintage collection, beware, don’t let those bottles occupy any space in your baggage. You can buy your share of exotic liquor from the ports of call, but the same will most likely be retained by the cruise line until the end of your voyage. You can of course, try all the wine and vintage liquor in the multiple specialty restaurants and dining rooms on the ship and pay for it at the end of the cruise.
Shore Excursions: You will have multiple stops throughout your voyage, whether it’s the marvelous European cities of Rome and Santorini or tiny snow-capped villages on an Alaskan Cruise. It is advisable to book some of the popular shore excursions in advance from the cruiseliner especially for destinations like Alaska & some ports in Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.
Many of the ports like Barcelona, Copenhagen etc are also geared to handle cruise tourists so you can simply disembark from the ship and book your shore excursion from a local travel agency or just hire a taxi and drive around the destination. But remember to return to the ship atleast 45 minutes prior to the ship leaving the port. Ship gates close 15 to 30 minutes before sailing.
Onboard Communication: Most ships offer WiFi access either across the entire ship or atleast the common areas of the ship. Some cruiseliners offer WiFi complimentary for the entire duration of the cruise and some offer WiFi packages which you can purchase onboard the ship. Cell phone network will be strong at the ports but weak when you are cruising on the high seas – since you will be travelling through multiple countries, choose your international roaming pack carefully.
Cruise Lingo: This isn’t strictly something that you should or shouldn’t do, but basic cruise lingo can be a lifesaver that’ll help you feel more at home on your ship! First and foremost, your vessel is always a ‘ship’ and not a ‘boat’ and is always, always referred to as ‘her’. Her floors are called decks and bedrooms called cabins. Fore and Aft refer to the front and rear of the ship respectively, and the ‘Bridge’ is the area of the ship from which the captain and his crew navigate the ship. Also, the tiny boats that you might use to get to small ports of call are called ‘Tender’. Your cabin crew are called ‘cabin stewards’ and they will be in charge of cleaning and upkeep of your cabins. Any housekeeping related jobs are to be assigned to your cabin steward.
Another important tip is to avoid elevators during embarkation and disembarkation days, they will be especially slow and crowded and will occupy a lot of your first and last hours on the ship. Make bookings as far in advance as you can - whether it is for a fine dining restaurant on the ship, a particularly favourite shore excursion or a coveted spa appointment. Always keep maps in handy, and thoroughly go through the ship’s daily newsletters and announcements. Double check with your respective cruise line as to what you will not find in your cabin, so that your holiday pictures are not marred by a bad hair day.
And most importantly, take all the photos you want, click away to your heart’s desire, because the sea will change shades with every hour, and each picture will be more beautiful than the last. So go up to the top deck and take that Titanic pose no matter how cliché it is, devour every inch of the ship during your stay, and get yourself memories glorious enough to last through the rest of the year!