The Chickster Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Cruise Vacation
Cruises tend to get a bit of a bad rap for being either for the old or those stuck with the very young (read: parents), but the truth is that with a bit of savvy know-how and a game attitude, a cruise can be your ticket for relaxation and truly getting away from it all. With so many cruise lines shipping out of Galveston these days, tropical vacations for Central Texans are only a four-hour drive away. Whether you’ve ever taken a cruise yourself or just considered taking a week-long tour of the high seas, read on for The Chickster Guide to Cruising, courtesy of veteran cruisers Shelby and Kelly.
Most cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine per person aboard now (750 mL per person to be exact). Screw-top bottles are definitely easier, but we heard success stories of people packing boxes of wine and getting more in, allegedly because the scanners that look for alcohol can only detect glass bottles filled with liquid. (If you want to re-purpose your contact solution bottle as a vodka dispenser, let us know how that works out.)
Order as much food as you want. Seriously. If the dinner menu for that night includes lobster, steak and pasta and you can’t make up your mind, get all three. You’ve paid for it all in advance so it’s yours to eat as much as you want of. This goes double for dessert.
If your ship has freestyle dining, hit the main dining room right when a show gets out. It can be so rushed that you’ll probably have to wait 10 minutes for a table instead of walking right in, but you’ll usually get a couple of free glasses of champagne for your trouble.
If your ship doesn’t offer freestyle dining, you’ll likely be sharing a dinner table with other passengers every night at a set time, which translates to making chit-chat with people you don’t know every night. If that sounds good to you, more power to you, but if not, you might luck into another option. It’s not common knowledge, but if you talk to the maitre d the day you arrive on the ship, you can actually ask to be squeezed in somewhere in a table just for two, though you may have to change your dining time.
Always hit the hot tub post-dinner. Even though the hot tubs are packed during the day, for some reason they are all usually empty at night. It’s a great way to relax and get a perfect view of the stars.
Commit to taking the stairs everywhere, even if your stateroom is eight floors above the dining room and eight floors below the pool. It will help you feel better about all that food you’re eating, and you won’t get annoyed every time you’re stuck waiting on a slow elevator. Your legs and ass will thank you.
Figure out on the first night which shows require reservations require reservations and which ones require a surcharge and plan accordingly so you don’t miss out on the ones you really want to see.
To stay hydrated, order a pitcher of water from room service every day. Surprisingly, free and easy drinking water access can be hard to come by outside of the dining room.
If the slide is packed with kids during the day, wait until the sun starts hitting the horizon, and it will be all yours. You can usually ride as many times as you want, and the resulting nausea is yours to keep for free.
Speaking of nausea, if the dreaded sea-sickness strikes, drink lots of water and eat pineapple. The smell helps, and (grossly enough) it tastes the same on the way down as it does on the way up. Also, stock up on lots and lots of Dramamine before you leave if you at all think you might need it. They may not sell it onboard, and if they do, you can be certain it will be marked up at a ridiculous rate. It’s the most effective motion sickness remedy by far (trust us), and it doesn’t interact with alcohol.
Call it a ship, not a boat. Respect the gargantuan vessel that’s chauffeuring you around the ocean.
To avoid nasty roaming fees, put your smartphone in airplane mode before you embark. If you’re afraid the temptation to text or surf the internet will be too great, lock your phone in the safe in your stateroom for the duration of the trip. Instead of using your phone to take pictures, take either an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera or a disposable underwater camera, which is excellent for snorkeling.
Also, make sure to give the cruise line’s 1-800 number to your family so they can contact you that way in case of an emergency.
Call the cruise line before you set sail to see if you can upgrade for cheap. Sometimes you can upgrade to a balcony room for only $100 more because it hasn’t been sold. The cruise line wants to pack as many passengers on the ship as possible, and sometimes it’s easier for them to sell cheaper cabins last-minute.
For a cheap souvenir, photograph the towel animals your room steward makes. They’re creative in general but are particularly inventive when you happen to leave something out, like sunglasses or clothes. If your hospitality staff gets bored, they may just incorporate an item or two into your towel animals.
Follow the drink specials. Usually your daily itinerary will have details on when and where to get cheap drinks and maybe even coupons for free ones. Pay attention if you want to feel the ship sway even when it isn’t.
Explore the whole ship the first day because you might get so busy you don’t get a chance to before the cruise is over. That’s how you can find less popular areas like the library and the ping-pong tables, so you’ll know a place to escape to when the pool gets too crowded.
Bring the fancy stuff for the formal dinner nights but also bring comfortable clothes. You’ll spend most of your day bumming around, and no one will notice if you repeat that nice dress for several dinners.
If you decide to do the shore excursions, choose the ones that have drinks and food included because those are the best deals. If you’re not an excursion kind of person, check TripAdvisor.com or CruiseCritic.com to find out more about your ports of call before your trip and have a plan for doing your own thing independently. If you recognize several crew members at the beach spot you’ve chosen, you’ll know you found the best beach on the island.
What are your tips for a successful cruise experience? Or is cruising a supposedly fun thing you’d never do again?