12 Cruising Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Ports

This isn’t your first rodeo. You are a veteran traveler. You might have persuaded friends to join you on your latest cruise. They don’t have your level of experience. Here are a dozen common sense lessons to pass along when the ship docks and they bound down the gangway, eager to explore each port.

  1. Do – Carry proper ID. You have your cruise ship card. Pack your passport or a copy of the relevant pages. Your ship ID too. You want to prove who you are and where you need to be in case of emergency. Try to avoid the Paddington Bear look, wearing your documentation in a clear pouch suspended from a neck strap.
  2. Don’t – Bring every credit card you own. Either your VISA or Mastercard should suffice. Maybe your AMEX card if you insist. One or two is fine. If your wallet disappeared, you don’t want all you cards to be gone too.
  3. Do – Walk ashore with local currency. Don’t assume everyone accepts plastic or dollars just because that’s the way it works back home. You want bills and coins. You don’t need a lot, but enough for taxes, etc.
  4. Don’t – Board a city bus or train without knowing how you will get back. These are delightful ways to explore the area like a local. The routes might not be logical. Years ago, I took an early morning ferry from San Francisco to a secondary stop in Marin County. How was I to know it was a commuter ferry, not making a return visit until late in the day!
  5. Do – Stay with your tour group. It’s a great way to efficiently see the sights a port has to offer. Your guide is constantly counting heads. Don’t wander off to explore on your own. You risk giving your guide a panic attack.
  6. Don’t – Follow a guy telling you about cheap designer goods down an alley. This one’s pretty obvious. At best, the goods will be counterfeit. At worst, there aren’t and goods at all. They needed you away from public places for a darker reason.
  7. Do – Leave the expensive jewelry in the safe. Assuming this isn’t Monte Carlo and you aren’t spending the night in the casino, there’s no need to wear an expensive watch or lots of diamonds. Whether at home or away, it’s an invitation to thieves.
  8. Don’t – Dress like a tourist. This is tough. You are a tourist! While sitting in a Starbucks in Barcelona, we watched group of people walking down Las Ramblas. The large camera, baggy cargo shorts and cruise logoed tee shirt can be a temptation. You wouldn’t dress like that a home.
  9. Do – Be careful about eating street food. There’s a difference between restaurants with outdoor dining, regulated food trucks and guys with charcoal grills that run when they see the police. Let’s assume two are regulated. Want to guess which ones?
  10. Don’t – Assume you can get a taxi at the last minute to take you back to the ship. Years ago, manufacturing switched to the “just in time” delivery system for parts inventories. This doesn’t work when the ship will sail, with or without you. You can’t just assume a taxi will magically appear and traffic will disappear.
  11. Do – Avoid KTV bars and other places strangers invite you to visit. You might remember how years ago, NYC had “clubs” in Midtown where a shapely person asked you to buy them a drink, then you discovered pricing was exorbitant and it was just a con for tourists. If the ship’s tour takes you someplace, it’s probably OK.
  12. Don’t – Be the slowest shopper. You’ve seen them. Everyone is on the bus, waiting for one couple that’s haggling over a rug or painting. They board. Everyone glares. Don’t be that person.

You know all this stuff. You are a veteran traveler. Your friends might not.

Cover photo: Alesund, Holland America Line Eurodam in port, from Mount Aksla ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews

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