Saturday, June 25, 2016

13 Tips for Starting Off Your Cruise Vacation

cruise tips for families

We just returned from a quite lovely cruise vacation to Alaska! So, I definitely have cruising on the mind! This cruise was my 9th and my husband has 20+ under his belt. As you can imagine, we have developed methods that help us launch into our cruise vacation. I have put together 13 ideas to help you start on the right foot as you begin your cruise vacation!


  1. Arrive to the initial port city a day or two before the cruise. Embarkation itself can be a bit of a process, so you do not to compound that with worry about flight delays. Plus, arriving a couple of days early will afford you time to visit your port city and start vacation relaxation before the cruise.
  2. Purchase extra sundries before embarking the cruise. One great perk to arriving early is that you do not need to transport messy and sometimes bulky items like shampoos, nail polishes, etc. with you. Even if you do, there is a chance you will forget something. So, extra time in port will allow you time to pick up these items cheaper than on the cruise and without wasting precious time in other ports of call.
  3. Research port cities before leaving on the cruise. Sure, there will be information about the ports provided on the cruise. Some of this can be useful but some of it will direct cruiser to stores that have paid for cruise advertising. Even quick research can send you to stores with locally made goods or bites that are local to the area. Knowledge of the layout of the port may also help you determine whether a shore excursion is necessary or if you can explore the port on your own. Cruise Critic is a fabulous research to gain inside knowledge from cruisers who have been there!
  4. Prepare your carry-ons. You will have some of your luggage checked and brought to the room. It is important to make sure you have what you need for the day in your carry-ons. Often, we throw in bathing suits, a change of clothing for each of us, sunscreen, etc. in case our luggage does not arrive until late.
  5. Board early. We love to board as early as possible to avoid some of the rush. This will give you time to explore the ship without the crowd that develops later. Plus, you can hit the buffet before it becomes inundated and sit back and relax while others are in the thick of it!
  6. Read boarding materials. You will most likely receive some initial materials in your state room. I recommend reading this info because there may be some perks included. We received a number of coupons and invites for free experiences during our cruise as well as discounts.
  7. Reconnaissance. Walk around the ship. Get a feel for where everything is. Sometimes, you can find nice little alcoves on deck to sit away from everyone else. Each ship has its own amenities, so a great way to not miss those is to take some time to explore right away.
  8. Foraging. We usually pick up some fruit, bread, crackers, etc. to keep in our room just in case we want to nosh without heading to the dining or waiting for room service.
  9. Organize room. Once your bags have arrived, take a moment to unpack and organize your room. I love to do this first, because I don't end up wasting time trying to find things later.
  10. Set up a suitcase for laundry. We always start off with suitcase to throw laundry in as we go. It makes packing easy at the end.
  11. Get to know the staff. Take some time to talk to different staff members you encounter on the first day (and all days). Having fun conversations with the staff will certainly make your trip more enjoyable. Plus, staff members will clue you into amenities that you may not know about and help you handle any bobbles that may occur.
  12. Purchase shore excursions. I do recommend booking your "must-do" shore excursions before the cruise. They sometimes sell out and some definitely sold out ahead of time for our Alaska cruise. There are some ports you can do on your alone. Once again, do some research ahead of time. However, it is important to know that if your excursion purchased through the ship is late the ship will wait. If you are one a private excursion, it will not. If you still have shore excursions to purchase, purchase on embarkation day to avoid them filling up by the time you reach the port.
  13. Visit the kids activities area. If your kids will be attending activities, give them some time to check out the main location for the activities and meet the staff. Additionally, they may meet another kid in their age bracket right off the bat. A great way to make them feel more comfortable! 
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