Saturday, May 29, 2010
In celebration of the fact that we will be sailing away in exactly one week (well, maybe we are the only ones celebrating), I thought I would give my tips for going on a cruise. This will be my 7th cruise since I was 18. Cruises are my vacation of choice because they are fairly inexpensive (with food included) and you can visit so many different places. I've been to The Bahamas (twice), San Juan, Martinique, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Barbados, Cozumel (twice), The Cayman Islands (twice), Jamaica, Key West, Bermuda and now we'll be hitting the Hawaiian Islands. There is no way I could have afforded, or fit in, all of these destinations had I gone to them one at a time.
Even though it's an exotic vacation, I still do my best to make it as frugal as possible. Here are some of my tips:
1. Get the cheapest room possible. We have had the nice balcony room, and in my opinion the cheapest inside (dark and cool) stateroom is the way to go. All you really do there is get ready, sleep and *ahem*. You aren't on a cruise to lounge in your stateroom.
2. Look at the layout of the cruise ship and choose your room. We always try to get one in the middle of the ship (to avoid seasickness), one that is near an elevator and one that doesn't have any busy place above it (like the casino or a dance club).
3. Buy the insurance. It's less than $100 a person and will protect you if a hurricane comes through and destroys your destination the week before, or will give you some relief should your luggage be "misplaced" or gives you refund options should you or one of your children get sick and preclude you from going on your vacation. Money well spent.
4. Book your own excursions. My experience with this came when we were in Cayman. We paid $80 per person to go swim with stingrays (an experience of a lifetime, I tell you!). The second we got off the ship to meet our tour guide, I saw the MANY signs for sting ray tours. They were $40 per person. Also, when we were in Cozumel, I booked Rick and the kids for a dolphin swim adventure. By doing it online, they participated for $89 each. When we got there we saw a family that was on our cruise. They paid $175 each for the excursion through the cruise ship. Yes, there are risks involved because the ship won't wait for you if you are late. But, just pay attention to the times you book things for and you'll be fine. We have never been "taken" and have always had plenty of time both ways. Are you worried that you don't know what's out there? Look at the excursions offered by your ship and then just google them for private companies. We are doing that this trip with a luau and zipline tour.
5. If you are driving to your cruise ship terminal, take a case of soda and a case of water. The cruise ship will allow you to bring those on. (Not so if you're flying to your terminal city).
6. Pack a small soft side cooler in your suitcase, and small and large ziplock bags. When you are going to be out on the island for the day, order FREE room service that morning (sandwiches, etc.) and pack them in the cooler. Then you have lunch when you are out and about, and it doesn't cost you the astronomical prices of the island food.
7. Pack a large insulated cup for each of you. Tea and water are free on the ship, so we pack a large insulated cup to fill with tea while we are at the pool. Our ice doesn't melt and there is no need to purchase the soda card.
8. Claim your pool chair before breakfast. We come up for breakfast, put some towels and a beach bag (and our insulated cups) on a chaise lounge and then go eat breakfast. If you don't, you won't have a chair.
9. Stay in your terminal city an extra day. Instead of booking your flight for the day you dock (which is EXTREMELY STRESSFUL when you have a flight to catch!), stay an extra night. Get a unique hotel room in that city and spend a day exploring that city! Extend your vacation! We did this in Baltimore when we went to Bermuda and we had just as much fun in Baltimore that day as we did in Bermuda. This time we are staying in Honolulu an extra night so we can take our time seeing Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and attending a luau.
10. START TAKING DRAMAMINE THE DAY BEFORE YOU BOARD! To me, this is the most important tip. I have seen SO MANY people ABSOLUTELY GREEN the first morning of the cruise. I always take a dramamine the night before we leave for our cruise, and take it every four hours until at least the second day. It does make you extra tired, but I'm always tired the first night we board anyway because of all of the traveling to get there. Believe me, the extra sleepiness is worth not being so sick you can't eat or move!
These are just a few of the things we do every time to make our experience more enjoyable (especially to our pocketbook). If you have any other questions, let me know and I'll see if I have any advice to dish out.
Posted by Nicole T at 8:26 AM