Preparing for a cruise is a little like preparing for a flight, and preparing for a resort stay at the same time–but not really. Yeah, I know, that wasn’t really helpful. Let me explain.
Bring the right documentation
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, nearly all cruises will visit at least one other country. Also, cruises leave from ports all over the world. So not only do you have to make sure you have the documents to enter the country your cruise leaves out of and ends at, you have to also check that you don’t need any special documents for any ports you visit.
Most of the time, you don’t need a visa if you don’t spend the night in another country (so for example, you don’t need a visa for a cruise that docks at Istanbul in the morning, then leaves that evening to the next port, but you do need a visa if the cruise ends at Istanbul and you fly from there back to your home country).
So definitely do your research–most countries’ tourism sites are good sources, as well as your cruise line. You can also call your embassy or talk to that country’s representative in your country for information.
Do not, under any circumstances, forget your passport. And on that note–make sure your passport is valid! Most countries require a validity period at least 6 months beyond your cruise dates.
Sort out the cruise particulars
So you’ve booked your cruise and paid for it. Nope, you’re not done. If you haven’t already, you need to do one or more of the following things:
Select your cabin.
You typically do this while booking. We didn’t particularly care, so we left it to the fates–but we did have to choose a category, whether inside, outside, balcony, etc. We honestly didn’t feel like a balcony or outside cabin was worth the extra cash (and it was cool to have our cabin pitch black if we just turned off all the lights–easy to sleep whenever!) but if you know you get seasick or claustrophobic, you might want to be able to see outside.
Another important thing to check: where your cabin is on the ship. On our last cruise, we happened to be located directly underneath one of the ship’s music venues. We’re late sleepers, so it wasn’t too big of a deal, but early sleepers would’ve found the dancing and stamping on their ceiling very annoying.
Choose a dinner arrangement.
You also get asked this while booking. You have to decide what time you’d like to have dinner, or if you’d rather an open slot. Some cruise lines can set you up with the same group and server every night. Other cruise lines, like Norwegian, don’t have a particular dinner arrangement. However, they do have specialty restaurants on board, and those book up fast. Reserve your table as early as possible if you’d like to try them out.
Unlike flights, cruises allow you to check in weeks ahead of time. You can do this on your cruise line’s website. No reason not to do it and you probably should because they actually close check in a few days before the cruise embarks. You can print your paperwork and get your luggage tags as well.
Pack all the things you need
The main thing to consider here is that a cruise ship is both your hotel and your transportation.
During the day, you’ll be out and about, touring, eating, shopping, whatever you like to do at port. So you have to prepare for the normal things you do when you’re on vacation. Bring the appropriate shoes and clothes, make sure you have enough money (and the right currency), get your camera and other gear ready.
At the same time, the ship is where you eat, sleep, and chill when getting from one port to another. You’re going to need some nicer clothes for dinners and entertainment onboard. You’ll want your pajamas to sleep, your swimsuit for the pool and hot tubs, and some casual clothing for when you’re just hanging out on the ship. Maybe a few books, a tablet or computer to watch movies, or a board game for those long at-sea days. My personal favorite is a good guide book or two. I don’t plan my port days too far in advance, so I like spending the at-sea days reading up on upcoming ports.
The nice thing is most ships carry the essentials–toothbrush, toiletries, a hair dryer, maybe even a robe. Still, if you’re particular about having your stuff, then pack what you need for a week or so.
A special note on liquor: you are typically allowed a bottle of wine per person. If you’re on the ship for more than a couple days, this supply is likely going to run out fast. How do you avoid paying a sh*t load of money at the bar? Two words: Rum runners. We can attest to their effectiveness. We did look like major alcoholics because we bought Ouzo and vodka at a port in Greece and poured them into the flasks while standing on the sidewalk, but whatever. Got the job done. 😉
I know this was a very general topic, and people have written entire series of posts on each of the above items. However, I hope a glance at this page gave you an idea of the essential things necessary to get ready for your cruise.
Do you have a good tip or must-do that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments!