Plan to try new things. On your cruise vacation you’ll be exposed to new places, dining choices and activities. Plan to make the most of what’s available, says Henk J. Mensink, hotel director on Holland America Line’s msAmsterdam.
“The idea is, how do you know what you like until you try it?” Mensink says. “There is always something for everyone in our daily programming. Your personal entertainment is subjective, but our ability to entertain you is not.”
P&O Cruises’ Baker adds that part of the fun of cruising is experimenting.
“You only get out of a cruise what you put in so why not try to learn something new such as juggling or ballroom dancing or attend one of the lectures by specialist guest speakers?” she suggests.
Map out port days. Whether you are booking shore excursions or planning to explore independently, you’d be wise to do advance research on your ship’s ports of call.
“I am always a bit confused by those who reach a port and then ask at the gangway, ‘What is there to do here?’ It pays to be ahead of the game,” advises Jessica Schumann, hotel director on Holland America Line’s ms Noordam.
Plenty of information is available online, or check out the travel books in your local public library or bookstore. Once onboard you’ll find port experts who can offer further advice. You may also want to pick the brains of your fellow passengers.
“Many of Seabourn’s guests are very well traveled and therefore they may have excellent tips and suggestions of things to do and places to see,” says Josef Schuppler, hotel director on the Seabourn Quest.
Don’t miss the ship. You may have heard horror stories of people heading off on their own in ports and then missing the ship. Such incidents are extremely rare, says Diane Belshaw, hotel operations & retail manager on P&O Cruises’ Oceana.
Still, it’s important to listen to shipboard announcements and note what time to be back onboard (times are posted in daily newsletter and at the gangway). If you do miss the ship or run into other issues on shore, know that the cruise line has you covered with a port agent onsite to help.
Consider pre-cruise overnights. If you have the time, most embarkation cities are great places to visit. Especially when traveling a long distance, you might consider arriving a day or two before your ship sails.
“There are a couple of important reasons as to why,” says Cees Tesselaar, hotel director on Holland America Line’s ms Prinsendam. “First, there is so much to see in these cities and you won’t get to know them on the transfer bus between the airport and the ship. Second, you won’t arrive onboard the ship exhausted from the flight. You will have had a couple of night’s rest.”
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Pre-book everything you can. You may be able to book shore excursions and make reservations for spa treatments and specialty dining well before you set foot onboard your ship. You are wise to use this option when available, advises Freddy Esquivel, hotel director on the Carnival Sunshine.
That’s because some popular tours sell out and booking in advance is also a timesaver.
“Rather than standing in line at the shore excursion desk, you can enjoy more time by the pool and doing other fun stuff,” Esquivel advises.
Take time to explore your ship. It pays to become familiar with your ship’s layout and amenities, advises Holland America Line’s Schumann. That’s what she did when she and her husband (who happens to be executive chef on the Noordam) vacationed on German brand AIDA.
“We spent our first day onboard exploring the ship from top to bottom to make sure we were not missing out on anything,” she says. “The rest of our week was about enjoying all the ship and ports had to offer.”