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Scooped by Walter Christen

5 Things I Learned On My First Cruise

5 Things I Learned On My First Cruise | Cruise basics |

I spend 6 days floating and porting through the western Caribbean on this lovely ship, called the Getaway. Now, I will admit, while I was enthused for this first trip out of the country I was extremely leery of the idea of living at sea for such a long period of time. Will I get seasick? Would I get bored? What if my roommate and I have a disagreement? Will the food be good? Will everything have pork or shellfish in it? Will my allergies be going crazy? Will there be a lot of loud children? Do I have enough books to keep me occupied? Will they play trap music? Will there be cute men on board? Will this be the beginning of a whimsical fairy tale romance?

 I ended up really enjoying the trip and officially down to attend any and every cruise. I quickly learned that cruising is a lifestyle and picked up some life-saving tips as soon as I landed at the port. Some of these things where ideas that never crossed my mind before boarding or questions I asked but couldn't really find answers for when I searched the interwebs before my trip. I think they'd be really useful to everyone so check out this quick list

Walter Christens insight:

Considering this was a first cruise (on the Norwegian Getaway), the takeaways are pretty solid.

Negotiate everything - Here is where a good travel agent (like the Cruiseable travel advocates) can help to insure you are getting the right cruise for you at the right price.

 Pack light - In our early cruise days, my wife and I admittedly over packed. It actually was amazing to see what clothes we did not use. I recommend that you try to pack clothes that you can mix and match and re-use. Also travel size toiletries are great.

Also research the cruise line and ship you are going on.  Some ships are more dressy than others (Norwegian is very relaxed dress code wise).

 Don't forget gratuity and bring cash - Make sure you budget for the gratuities as they will be added to your final bill. You can also prepay these on many cruise lines. You can pay you cruise charges in cash prior to the final bill but we usually have the charges for the cruise go to our credit card which gives us points.

Don't buy any drink packages - My wife and I are not big drinkers so we do not even consider the drink packages although when my son comes with us, we get him a soda package as he is a big soda drinker. Even then he has to drink at least 4-5 sodas a day to break even (not hard for him). Cost it out and figure if it makes sense for you.

Buying the "duty and tax-free" liquor on the ship isn't a steal - Maybe years ago the duty free shopping for liquor any have been a deal, but sadly, this is no longer the case.  If you know your prices, you may be able to save a few dollar but it wont be a lot.  Also remember that you will have to lug what you purchase off the ship and you would have to check it if you have to fly home.


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Scooped by Walter Christen

Five things to consider before embarking on your first cruise

There’s nothing quite like a cruise to help you unwind. The scented ocean breeze, calming open water and the chance to see several destinations in one holiday, they all have a unique appeal and a cruise can make it a reality. If you have never cruised before then some aspects can seem a little daunting, but here are five things to help you on your way and to keep in mind before you embark on your first holiday at sea.

Walter Christens insight:

Five very good points for the first time cruiser.  In fact they are good even for the seasoned cruiser.  Here is my take:

Get there the night before - Unless you live close to the cruise terminal, it is smart to arrive at least the day before your cruise.  In Florida, where I live, many of the hotels near the cruise terminals also offer free transfers to the terminal. 

Don't forget your medications - If you need to take medications on a regular basis, make sure you take a ample supply.  On a 7 night cruise I usually bring at least a 10 day supply. Also remember to pack these medications in your carry on and not in your checked luggage.  They should be with you cruise documents and passport.  If you also take over the counter medications, it is a wise move to pack a supply with you.  Although the ship may have what you need, the prices are usually high.

Take note at the lifeboat drills - Although you may never need to know the information from the muster drill, better safe than sorry.  Also do not think you can duck out of going to the muster drill.  On every cruise I have taken, they do check via roll call or scanning of you sea card to insure that every one attends.

Get the right insurance - On every cruise I have taken I have always included the cost of insurance.  Although I have never had to use it, it does give you piece of mind that you car covered if something does happen.

Know the dress code - If you have a real aversion to dressing up for dinner, there are some cruise lines that would better than others.

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Scooped by Walter Christen

Why You Should Use A Travel Agent When Booking A Cruise: Hint it Will Save you Money! -

Why You Should Use A Travel Agent When Booking A Cruise: Hint it Will Save you Money! - | Cruise basics |

So, you have decided to take a cruise and are ready for the best vacation of your life. All you need to do is actually make a reservation and put a deposit down on this trip.  You decide to go to the cruise line’s website to find an available cabin and book it online or call that nice lady pictured on the company’s website. You will make a reservation and be on your way. Even though they are telling you that you are getting a good deal on the cruise, how can you be sure?

In fact, it is more than likely that you are NOT getting the best possible deal!  Why? Because you are not taking advantage of the best ally you have when trying to score a great cruise deal, a travel agent.  Here, we outline why we use a travel agent and why you should too.

Walter Christens insight:

I whole heartedly agree that that you should consider using a travel agent to help you book a cruise.  I also have found that the prices the cruise lines show and what a good travel agent can get for the same cruise are vastly different.

I have booked cruises both directly with the cruise line and also with a travel agent.  I know better now and only use a travel agent.  I like saving money and many times the travel agent has additional perks available like onboard credit or free room upgrades.

You should give the travel experts at Cruiseable a try and see what they can do for you.

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Tips for first time cruisers: A newbie's guide to setting sail

Tips for first time cruisers: A newbie's guide to setting sail | Cruise basics |

Going on your first cruise can be a little daunting as some things are handled differently from a land vacation. But, being a cruising newbie doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.

Before I took my first cruise I had many worries. Would I feel trapped? What if I didn’t like the food? What if I got bored? (Hah!). I wish I’d seen tips for first time cruisers myself as it would have helped set my mind at ease so much.

Walter Christens insight:

I really liked the cruise tips presented.  Not only applies to first time cruisers but everyone.  Here is my take on the main points.

Don't miss the boat - Nothing will ruin your vacation more than missing the ship.  If you are flying in to take your cruise, yes, come in the day before and stay at a hotel near the cruise terminal. Living in Florida, many of the cruises I take originate at one of the many cruise ports in Florida.  I Drive in the morning of the cruise leaving a lot of time in case we get delayed due to traffic. I would rather sit in the terminal than wonder if I am going to make it in time.

Also when in the ports of call, Stay on ship time and allow for plenty of time to get back to the ship.  Remember that if you are using your phone, it may reset to local time when in port.

Carry on luggage - My wife and I each have a backpack we use for our carry on.  Mine has my camera equipment, and my wife carries the passports, cruise documents, and medications.  We do not typically hit the pool when we board the ship but if that is your plan, you should bring your bathing suits in your carry on. We normally wander around the ship checking it out and also go to the dining room to see where our dinner seating is.

Ships are cashless - before you board the ship you will have to either fund your account with cash or what we do is have our credit card attached to the account.  When on the ship, all purchases are made using your ship card

You will also use this card as your room key and to leave the ship when at ports of call. Remember also that at the end of your cruise, you will need it one last time to disembark. Do not pack it away in your suitcase. 

Most cruise lines make it easy for you to track your spending so you do not go into shock at the end of your cruise.  I recommend that you take a look at what you have spend so far on a daily basis.

Dining - One of the best parts about cruising is the dining experiences available. Great time to try something new, and if you do not like it, ask the waiter to bring you something else.  Have a picky eater with you, most cruise lines also offer a assortment of traditional entrees and when all else fails the children's menu may be the ticket.  You do not need to be a child to order from the children's menu.

Daily newsletters - Each evening you will receive in your stateroom a newsletter that gives a breakdown of all the cruise has to offer for the next day.  We usually go over the newsletter prior to going to bed and refer to it during the day.  You can do as much or as little as you desire. Listed will the times that events are happening, when bars and dining options will be open, the recommended dress code for dinner in the main dining room,  and the drink of the day.

Main thing to remember of your first cruise is that this is your vacation, don't stress it and have fun.

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Scooped by Walter Christen

Cruising 101: 4 tips for final disembarkation

Cruising 101: 4 tips for final disembarkation | Cruise basics |

The hardest part about cruising is leaving the ship… not because it’s difficult, but because it’s hard to leave the fun. But since that final disembarkation is inevitable, knowing what to expect should make it a bit easier.

The final night on board, you’ll get a detailed list of all charges made on the ship during your vacation. If you didn’t keep up with that during the cruise, check that everything is accurate. Mistakes are rare, but they do happen. Remember that gratuities for cabin stewards and wait staff will be added to your account as well. If there’s a problem with your account, go to Guest Services as soon as possible. There’s always a long line to dispute charges (rarely a cruise line error, but it is possible) or to make final settlement if using a debit card. Be patient.

Walter Christens insight:

No one likes to think about the end of their cruise vacation, but leaving the ship need not be a stressful situation.  The 4 tips presented in this article will help.

Living in Florida we for the most part drive to the cruise terminal.  for this reason we carry our own luggage off of the ship.  The main reason is I do not like having to find my luggage in the sea of luggage in the cruise terminal.

Here are a few pointers I have found useful:

  • Remember you will need your cruise card one last time to get off the ship.  Do not pack it away until you are off the ship.
  • Keep your passport/identification handy with the customs declaration form you filled before you left the ship.
  • Do not bring any fruits or vegetables off the ship with you.  Your cruise line will have information on what you cannot bring off the ship.
  • if you plan on one last dip in the pool or Jacuzzi on the last night of the cruise, use a plastic bag or Ziploc bag to keep the bathing suits from getting everything else in your luggage wet.
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What to Do If Your Cruise Encounters Bad Weather

What to Do If Your Cruise Encounters Bad Weather | Cruise basics |

Keep your river cruise from turning into a bus tour. Get cancel-for-any-reason travel protection and research weather forecasts and water levels before you depart.

__Q: Last November, my wife and I and another couple took a Viking cruise, Portraits of Southern France, on the Saône and Rhone rivers. Of the seven nights of the cruise, we spent six tied to a dock because of high water caused by abnormally heavy rain the week before. We were bused to most of the places we were supposed to visit.

I looked online and discovered this was a frequent problem, and this ship often did not cruise for the seven promised days. I also spoke to a crew member, who admitted, quietly, that it happened at least 50 percent of the time.

When I contacted Viking after returning home, they offered us about $240 each toward another cruise. After paying almost $7,000, that is unacceptable. We booked a Viking cruise because we believed it would offer us an exceptional journey through southern France. Instead, we spent six days tied to a dock and had two-hour rides on a bus. Could you help us secure more substantial compensation? —Paul B., Vero Beach, Florida__

A: As I said to Paul in our initial reply, we don’t usually pursue river-cruise cases that are affected by high or low water levels. This is true even when they become, in many ways, bus tours. We know cruise lines are not obligated to offer compensation when they must change itineraries for reasons outside their control.

Walter Christens insight:

Very interesting article on river cruise itinerary changes and travel insurance.  This year, there have been some river cruises in Europe cancelled due to unusually low water levels in some rivers used.

This article could have been related to any cruise. My wife and I usually take trip insurance, although I have never had to use it.  Also since we live in Florida, we do many cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.  Only once, about 6-7 years ago, did we have a change of Itinerary on a cruise due to many hurricanes in the Caribbean.  We were handed a piece of paper while in the security line before boarding stating that there was a good possibility that we would not be going to the ports scheduled. Worked out well though and we went to ports of call we had not been to before. 

Last year on a cruise to the southern Caribbean the order of the ports of call was changed so the cruise ship could get out of the way of a storm.

If you decide to take out trip insurance, make sure you know what is covered and what is not.  For the most part, weather related issues are not covered.

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The World’s Most Famous Bartender Invents “The Isaac” Cocktail for Princess Cruises - Pursuitist

The World’s Most Famous Bartender Invents “The Isaac” Cocktail for Princess Cruises - Pursuitist | Cruise basics |

Dos Equis beer may lay claim to “the world’s most interesting man in the world,” but Princess Cruises can trump that when it comes to a proper cocktail king.  To help celebrate its 50th anniversary, Princess Cruises welcomed aboard the world’s most famous bartender, popularly known as Isaac Washington from “The Love Boat.”

Everyone’s favorite barkeep was portrayed by actor Ted Lange in the hugely-popular 1970-80s TV series, but few of his fans know that he’s actually an expert mixologist. “I was a licensed bartender when I starred as Isaac in ‘The Love Boat,’” Lange explains, flashing his famously friendly smile. “So Princess Cruises asked me to come back on board to invent a cocktail which I think everyone’s going to love.

Ted’s favorite cruise destination is The Caribbean, so he recently sailed there with Princess Cruises on the Crown Princess to introduce his new tropical rum cocktail that he named “The Isaac” in honor of, well, himself. He showed the Crown Princess beverage crew how it’s done:

Walter Christens insight:

This new drink created by Ted Lange for Princess Cruises sounds line it would be tasty and refreshing.  I am going to have to try this one out at home and the next time I am on a Princess Cruise try it there to compare.

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Cruising tips for first timers

Cruising tips for first timers | Cruise basics |

Taking your first cruise can be both exciting and stressful. You’ve probably been booked for months and as it inches closer and closer your getting more and more excited but at the same time your not sure what to expect. So, here’s a few tips that may come in helpful for you if this is your first time cruising!

Walter Christens insight:

Your first time going on a cruise need not be stressful.  In this article 7 tips are presented.  Here is my take on each.

  1. Documentation - Make sure you have all your documentation in order well in advance.  Although on some cruises you can use an original birth certificate, I suggest that a passport is still the way to go.  If you are getting a passport, remember to leave enough time from when you apply.  It can take 6+ weeks to receive.
  2. Online check in - The check in process at the cruise terminal can be stressful.  There are many people doing the same thing as you are.  Anything you can do to speed the process such as online check in makes it go all that much faster.
  3. Arrival at the cruise terminal - Living in Florida, I have 4 cruise terminals within driving distance.  I like to arrive early.  I would rather be sitting at the terminal, knowing I will be soon to be on the ship, than still be driving wondering if I will make it on time.  If you are flying to the terminal, it may be a wise option to arrive a day early and spend the night in a hotel.
  4. Shore excursions - Depending upon where you are going, you may want to pre book your shore excursions. When we cruise in the Caribbean, we do not pre book, but when we went to Alaska,  we heeded the warning and pre booked all our shore excursions.  Not all were sold out but a few were even before the ship left port.
  5. Cell phones - Only use your cell phone in an emergency.  it is very expensive and you will not see the damage until you are back from your cruise. If you really need to be connected while away, you may want to investigate the Wi-Fi packages that the cruise lines offer (not cheap either).
  6. Your Bank - Yes it is a good idea to let your credit card company know you will be using their card when out of the country.
  7. Soda and Alcohol - Check with the cruise line you are going on so you understand what you can and cannot bring onboard with you. You may also want to check if one of the beverage packages sold by the cruise line may be cost effective for you.

Here is a additional tip from me for when you are on your cruise so you can remain stress free.

If you are worried about your spend rate while onboard your cruise,, you can check you shipboard account anytime you would like.  Some ships make it easy as pulling up your account on the in room TV and others have kiosk where you can print a current statement.  If neither of these options are available, the pursers desk can print you a copy of your current shipboard statement.

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Disney Cruising 101 | Which Cruise Should You Choose?

Disney Cruising 101 | Which Cruise Should You Choose? | Cruise basics |

The first step in planning your Disney Cruise Line vacation is picking a cruise. With four amazing ships visiting a variety of cruise destinations throughout the year, this is no easy task.

Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of cruises from different ports, ships, and itineraries. We break down the options to help you decide which cruise is right for you and your family.

We've been on a number of cruises, and three of those have been with Disney Cruise Line. Here's how to choose your cruise...

Back in 2012, we were planning a Disney cruise vacation not just for ourselves, but for our extended family as well. This included nearly every age range, from infants to teens to adults, with many first-time cruisers.

We needed to find the perfect cruise for everyone, and we think we did.

Walter Christens insight:

Reading this article brought back all the fond memories I have when my children were much younger and we booked a Disney cruise on the Disney Wonder.  The entertainment for my children, wife and I, was fantastic and kept us amused for the entire cruise.  The cuisine was first rate and my daughter still remembers the Mickey Mouse pancakes and the waiter making Disney characters with her ketchup.

My son and I did a lot of snorkeling on Castaway Cay.  Quite an incredible private island experience.

I would highly recommend any of the Disney Ships for cruising with or without children.  Disney really does now how to provide exceptional service, memorable entertainment and cuisine that is second to none.  I also think that that all of the Disney ships are just plain beautiful.

Disney Cruise ships to consider

Disney Dream

Disney Fantasy

Disney Magic

Disney Wonder

At different times of the year the itineraries of Disney ships change.

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Cruising For The First Time? Here Are Things You Need to Know | Holy Smithereens!

Cruising For The First Time? Here Are Things You Need to Know | Holy Smithereens! | Cruise basics |
Cruising is fast becoming a popular way to travel. It can be daunting going on your very first cruise, so here's a list of personal observations on what to
Walter Christens insight:

First time Cruising in the Mediterranean.  Holy Smithereens gives a good overview on what to expect.

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Scooped by JD Lasica

My First Cruise Ship Experience - Royal Caribbean #RoyalOasis - What the Redhead said

My First Cruise Ship Experience - Royal Caribbean #RoyalOasis - What the Redhead said | Cruise basics |
I had never been on a cruise ship before and had never expected to go on one either, until Royal Caribbean gave myself and a handful of other bloggers the chance to experience a day on their current largest ship, Oasis of the Seas, when it came to...
JD Lasicas insight:

I always love hearing insights from first-timer cruisers: the kind of questions they ask, the kind of experiences that really animated them.

It's a good reminder that, last stats I checked, 77% of Americans have still never taken a cruise of any kind. But once you do, the vast majority opt for another.

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Princess Cruises Presents New Web Video Series to Guide First-Time Cruisers

Princess Cruises Presents New Web Video Series to Guide First-Time Cruisers | Cruise basics |

Princess Cruises brings the joys of cruising to first-time cruisers with the debut of "Cat's First Cruise", a new web video series featuring Cat Greenleaf, three-time Emmy award winner and host of Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf. The video series serves as a useful resource for vacationers interested in taking their first cruise, by following Greenleaf, a busy professional, wife and mother of two young boys, as they plan and embark on their first cruise aboard Regal Princess. 

Viewers can follow the on-the-go Greenleaf and her family in this engaging 20-part short video series highlighting their Princess cruise experience onboard and ashore from start to finish, including:

  • Busy Family, Dream Vacation (Where Do We Begin?)
  • Food, Glorious Food
  • A Sanctuary For Mom
  • Kids Zone
  • Date Night
  • Come Back New

The family also experiences the local culture of the Caribbean. The series is available to view online here:

Walter Christens insight:

Princess Cruises has come up with a wonderful set of video's about Cat Greenleaf's first cruise experience with her family aboard the Regal Princess.  They have a winner here.

It has been a long time since my first cruise but I did get to see some of the excitement recently as my wife and I just returned from a 5 day Royal Caribbean cruise on the Independence of the Seas.  We went with dear friends of ours who were first time cruisers.  It was a lot of fun and very interesting to see their reactions to everything on the ship.  I doubt it will be their last cruise.

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The finer things aboard Royal Caribbean

The finer things aboard Royal Caribbean | Cruise basics |

In the world of cruising, family and budget friendly usually come to mind when thinking of Royal Caribbean cruises, not the finer things.  I want to share with you two experiences I recently had on the Vision of the Seas that were quite grand events and elevated my perception of service and epicurean significance.

Walter Christens insight:

This article hit upon two of the things my wife and I like to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise (actually on any cruise line).

Wine tasting is a lot fun and informative. I like understanding the different types of wine and why you would select one over another to pair with a meal. My tastes lean more to dry red wines where my wife likes lighter white wines. I recommend that if you do want to do wine tasting that you book it early.  On my last cruise we did not and found out that it was completely booked.

Chops Grille is also a favorite of ours and usually book a seating as soon as we board the ship. We also like to book Chops Grille for our last night on the cruise. The steaks are outstanding and the service is fantastic.

 Be warned that these finer things on Royal Caribbean are at an additional cost and do tend to sell out but if feel that they are worth the extra cost and planning involved.

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Samantha Brown - Cruising: Why I Love It

Samantha Brown - Cruising: Why I Love It | Cruise basics |

“If I can do it, you can do it.”  That’s been my motto since I began traveling as a career and passion 15 years ago.  I’ve experienced all kinds of travel from Luxury 5 star resorts to hiking to remote villages in Vietnam to spending the night on a frozen lake with no tent just a sleeping bag.

I like luxury travel. Who wouldn’t?  What I don’t like is that most travelers can’t afford it.  But there are travel companies that make luxury accessible and that’s what brought me to Carnival Cruise Lines

Luxury is not just champagne service and 5 to 800 count sheets.  For me luxury is time.  Being able to spend time with your children, grandchildren, best friends since high school-you name it.  That’s why I love a cruise.  It gets many over-scheduled and under-rested people together and allows them to simply focus on being in the moment with the ones they love (and possibly finishing that novel that’s been sitting on your bedside table for 6 months).  You don’t have to worry about where you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner or how you are going to get from point A to B..

Walter Christens insight:

Like Samantha Brown, I also love cruising. I find it a great way to unwind from the work a day world and I do get into relax mode much faster on a cruise than any other type of vacation.

Just not having to decide where to drive a car to have my meals and entertainment makes it all worth while.

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We like free Stuff! Amazing Perks You Can Get on Cruises

We like free Stuff! Amazing Perks You Can Get on Cruises | Cruise basics |

Brand loyalty among cruisers is a funny thing. Each enjoyable cruise you take on one cruise line entrenches you more firmly in your comfort zone. You feel good about your vacation choice, knowing in advance what you are getting. You love that it feels like home when you step onboard. You practically have the menus memorized. What if you switch and Brand X doesn’t have that soufflé you love? Or the right pillows? Once you settle in, it feels like you could sail to the ends of the earth fearlessly with your chosen cruise line.

But you want recognition, too! The cruise line should treat you like royalty for all that loyalty. In some cases they do. Yahoo Travel went in search of the best cruise perks available on the major lines, digging deep into the muddled fine print to find what each loyalty program is best at. Which cruise lines have the best plans for new cruisers looking to begin the loyalty game? And which cater more to serious cruisers whose crowns need a little polishing?

Walter Christens insight:

Cruise loyalty programs seem to be a no brainer.  It does not cost anything to join, and depending upon how often you cruise and if you seem to frequent the same cruise line, can add up to some nice perks.

On a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, there were a few bottles of water in the room.  I asked the room steward about them and he said that they were free and part of my Crown and Anchor rewards.

We have also received room upgrades, lower deposit requirements and also free drinks and other discounts onboard.

Also not mentioned is that for some cruise lines they have special waiting areas for loyalty members for embarkation and can mean you may be able board the cruise ship earlier. 

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First Time Cruise Tips: Dining on a Cruise

First Time Cruise Tips: Dining on a Cruise | Cruise basics |

One of our favorite things about taking a cruise vacation is not worrying about keeping our dining on budget, because it’s included in our cruise fare. Dining on a cruise can be a little confusing for first-time cruisers, so here are some answers to common questions about cruise dining..

Walter Christens insight:

Dining on a cruise ship need not be confusing or stress inducing. 

Dinner Seating Times -Most mainstream cruise lines have 2 set dinner times.  Usually around 6PM and 8PM.  In addition, most have flexible dining (Anytime dining, Freestyle dining, etc.) where you can pick your dinner time. Remember that the reason for the set schedule is that the cruise lines gear the evening entertainment around when dinner is scheduled, so if you pick a odd time, you may miss a show or other activity. My family usually schedules dinner for the late seating.  We are already used to eating later at home.  We also check out table assignment soon after we board the ship and if needed request a change.

Dress Codes and Formal Nights - on many of the mainstream cruise lines, the dress code is much more relaxed than it used to be.  Early in my cruising history, I do remember wearing a suit or rental tuxedo on formal nights and other nights dress slacks and a sport coat.  Not so much anymore.  While there are still plenty of people cruising that dress up for dinner, there are also people like me that for the most part wear dress slacks and a dress shirt (although I have been know for wearing a Hawaiian on occasion) .  The choice is directly up to you.  Still, shorts, swimwear, tee-shirts, tank tops and such are not allowed.

Here are some additional pointers I think that were missed.

  • If you find more than one appetizer or entrée on the menu that you would like to try, order them. Also, some entree's are available as a appetizer, ask your server if it is possible.
  • If you have a picky eater, request a children's menu. Although my daughter is older, she still loves Royal Caribbean's chicken strips and fry's.
  • A cruise is a great place to try a new food that you do not know if you will like.
  • Talk to your waiter and staff.  I find it fascinating talking to them and finding out about where they are from and how they started working on a cruise ship.
  • My wife I usually try to have breakfast and lunch in the dining room as well, although depending on if we sleep in, breakfast is sometimes not doable.  Also sometimes lunch is not available when in a port of call.  It is a nice treat to be served your meal.

Remember this, you are on vacation, enjoy and relax.

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First Time Cruise Tips: Tipping on a Cruise

First Time Cruise Tips: Tipping on a Cruise | Cruise basics |

It can already be difficult to know when to tip while traveling, and tipping on a cruise often has its own rules, which can be confusing for first-time cruisers. Here are a few tips for what to expect about tipping on your cruise.

Gratuities are generally automatic on cruises. Each day of your cruise, a gratuity per person will be charged to your stateroom account. (As an example, Royal Caribbean’s daily gratuity per guest is $12.95.) This gratuity will be distributed amongst your servers and stateroom attendants. Different stateroom categories, such as suites, may have different automatic gratuity amounts if additional services are provided for that category.

Walter Christens insight:

This article does explain how gratuities works on a cruise ship.  I for one find having the gratuities automatically added to my stateroom account to make it much easier.  If you know how much is being added and you know the length of your cruise, you know how much to budget.

I felt that there are a few other pointers that can be added.

  • it is customary on embarkation and debarkation to tip the baggage handler at the port.  Some say a dollar a bag is sufficient but I feel this is low.  I feel that 2-3 dollars a bag is more reasonable.
  •  I usually bring extra money while on a tour at a port of call to tip the tour guide.  Recently when on a  tour of a local zoo on Aruba, the young man that acted as our tour guide provided such a extraordinary tour, it would have been very hard to leave without showing our gratitude with a tip.
  • Although most cruise lines now do automatic gratuities, it does not mean that you cannot give an extra tip.  Many a time have we had a server, stateroom attendant or other ship personnel that have over and above and made our cruise that more enjoyable.

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Western Mediterranean Cruise Basics

Western Mediterranean Cruise Basics | Cruise basics |
Of all of Europe’s cruise regions, the Western Mediterranean offers the most of the most: arts and culture, surf and sand, cafe hopping and boutique shopping. It encompasses the absolute best variety of sights, attractions and activities.

Itineraries that sail the Western Mediterranean typically emphasize ports of call in Spain, France and Italy with a few interesting detours along the way. These could also include stops in Portugal (primarily Lisbon, though Porto is occasionally featured), Canary Islands, Morocco (Casablanca and Tangier), Tunis (La Goulette), Monte Carlo and Gibraltar. Within these choices, however, actual ports of call vary wildly and can include everything from France’s oh-so-chic Villefranche to Italy’s open-air museum of Florence.

Because the euro’s value can fluctuate wildly against the U.S. dollar, it can be much cheaper to cruise to Europe than plan a land-based trip. For value-conscious U.S. travelers, a cruise helps to soften the blow of big-ticket items like hotels and restaurants.

Walter Christens insight:

I read this article with great interest as The Western Mediterranean is on my list of places I would like to visit.  Only recently did my wife also inform me that she would like to go here as well.  Time to start the planning....

This article points out that most cruise lines have ships that sail this region and that the itineraries vary based upon the cruise line and the size of the ship.

Ports of call mentioned include Barcelona, Florence, Naples/Sorrento, Nice/Monte Carlo/Cannes and Rome.

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A Look at the Fitness Areas and Gyms on Princess Cruises Ships

A Look at the Fitness Areas and Gyms on Princess Cruises Ships | Cruise basics |

Princess Cruises, made famous decades ago for having the ship featured in the TV series "Love Boat", now carries more than two million passengers yearly to more destinations than any other major cruise line.  

So, how can those passengers stick to their fitness regimens while onboard Princess Cruises' sailings?  

Princess Cruises' ships are known for their elegant design and luxury touches, but they don't have the activities onboard that other lines like Carnival Cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have been packing into the areas on the top of their ships, like rock climbing, ziplines, ropes courses, waterslides, etc. 

So, when you are looking to stay fit onboard a Princess cruise, you'll pretty much have to stick to the workout basics: weights, jogging and classes.

Walter Christens insight:

For some people, being able to continue their fitness regimen while on vacation is important.  Princess Cruises has all of the basics you would need to keep it up.  I especially like the sounds of the swim-against-the-current lap pools offered on many of their ships.

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A first-timer's guide to cruising | Fox News

A first-timer's guide to cruising | Fox News | Cruise basics |

We traditionally send off a new cruise ship by smashing a bottle of champagne against its bow.

So why is there no similar tradition to celebrate the launch of a first-time cruise ship passenger? How great would it be if people going on their first cruises received a similar kind of ceremonial sendoff? Granted, smashing champagne bottles over the heads of paying passengers may not go over well. But why not pour a little champagne over their heads or spray a little spritz of bubbly at the cruising virgin? 

Or better yet, just give them the whole darned bottle.

Sadly, there’s no such established tradition for first-time cruisers. All they get is the excitement of being introduced to this unique form of travel — and the stress of not exactly knowing what it entails. We can’t offer you champagne but we can offer you these answers to the questions you first-time cruisers might have about your trip. Drink them in. 

Walter Christens insight:

For me, cruising is the most enjoyable vacation.  Relaxing, meeting new people, trying new foods, and seeing interesting ports of call.

Take a look at the Travel and Ports guide to see exciting ports around the world.

Also has a extensive Cruise Ship guide to help you decide on a ship that is right for you.

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Top Five Apps for Cruise Travel - My Itchy Travel Feet

Top Five Apps for Cruise Travel - My Itchy Travel Feet | Cruise basics |
There are few travel industries that have come so far in such little time like the cruising industry. No longer are cruises offering tiny shoebox cabins and all-you-can-eat shrimp cocktail in exchange for exorbitant prices.
JD Lasicas insight:

I'm working on our own roundup of the top travel & cruise apps. But for now, these 5 apps are a good start:

1. Ship Mate AppOrganize your cruise itinerary, daily excursions, deck maps and  you can even reach out to fellow shipmates through their Roll Call function. Available for free on iTunes and Android.

2. Deck Director app is for those cruisers with absolutely no sense of direction. :~) $4.99 on iTunes.

3. Cruise Card Control helps you keep track of expenses while cruising. 99 cents on iTunes 

4. Cruise Cam lets you see what's happening on nearly 100 ships around the world. $1.99 on iTunes.

5. SeaSickness app does just what you'd expect.


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