A few years back I took the plunge and booked my first cruise. Now cruising isn’t something I saw myself doing until I was well into my retirement years, BUT, when looking for warm destination to escape the Canadian Christmas holiday that was affordable during peak travel time, a cruise seemed like the best option.
I had heard through the grapevine by committed cruisers that the only way to book a cruise was through Vacations to Go*
Now this is in no way shape or form, a sponsored post. I’m just sharing my experiences…. Here is what I learned.
Vacations to go offer a world wide selection of discounted cruises. Focusing on the Caribbean region, I searched for week long cruises following Christmas. A seven day cruise leaving from Miami stopping in The Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos was the cruise we ended up choosing. I wanted to maximise the time I had away and four days out of six being able to explore a different island sounded like a really great way to spend out time.
Here is what I learned:
1. Book with Vacations To Go
2. Tip or not to tip – Read on the fine print. At least on our ship, tipping was included and added to our tab at the end of the cruise.
3. Room service is free – We quickly learned that the mini bar offered drinks at a price, however room service would bring juice, soft drinks (pop/soda) for no charge.
4. Consider getting an upgrade – I had been told an “inside room” (located within the inside of the cruise ship and therefore has no windows) is the way to go. You are barely in your room and it seems unnecessary to spend the extra money for a window or balcony. Having visited a friends “ocean view” suite (which we later found out was only another $50 more per person for the week), I would recommend the upgrade. While the inside room was comfortable and everything we needed, $50 is not much to pay. And if I ever did a cruise with my parents, I would recommend that they get a balcony as they would appreciate a space of their own to relax and escape the crowds.
5. Bring some fancy clothes – There will be dress standards in the dining rooms, be sure to look into that when packing your bags. Some cruise lines are more fancier than others – dress accordingly.
6. Don’t miss dinner – Dinner in the dining room is not a meal to be missed. The meals served were absolutely amazing and beyond anything I would have imagined. During our seven days on the cruise I sampled a number of firsts for me including alligator, escargot and braised rabbit. I also had the daily dilemma of which main course to choose from fillet minion, lobster tails, a variety of fresh fish, racks of lamb and chicken. Sometimes when it was too hard to choose, I just got both. Desserts were of course, equally amazing.
7. Don’t take your passport off the ship – Depending on where your cruise is destined of course. We found in the Caribbean the only thing we needed to board the ship after our daily excursions was government issued photo ID and the cruise line identification card. As a cruise employee told me, “best to keep your passport onboard, if it gets lost while in port you could be in a bit of trouble getting off the boat”. This should be confirmed prior to docking at port.
8. Book your own activities prior to leaving – If you plan to take part in some of the activities in a port-of-call, it was recommended to me to book these online through companies not affiliated with the cruise. It was good advice and if I had of been more organised prior to leaving I would have taken this advice. Boat activities squished people on the boats like sardines and snorkelling activities were too crowded to see any fish. Neither were very enjoyable.
9. Limit sea days – If you can, pick a cruise that maximises the opportunity to see new places. Spending a number of days “at sea” I can imagine would get old pretty quickly. There is lots to do on board but everyone else will be doing it too. On sea days it’s hard to find any deck chairs, room in the pool, or any sporting activity that doesn’t have a huge line. Lines for food will also be long, it might be a good day to get room service for lunch! The cruise I selected was a seven day cruise with two sea days and four port days – perfect in my opinion.
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