17 Tips to Make Your Next Cruise the Trip of a Lifetime

Make this next cruise something really special. Regardless if it is your first voyage or your third this year, here are several ways you can “wow’ your partner and make any cruise the vacation of a lifetime.

  • Tip #1: Save the Date card: This is how the excitement begins in our home. If it is a simple domestic flight, there is four weeks’ notice. If it’s a road trip to a major city, two weeks is fine. When your favorite nonprofit announces its upcoming gala, they send out a “Save the date” card so you can block out that weekend. Details to follow. In our house, the opening of the envelope is followed by: “What have you done!”
  • Tip #2: The framed photo. Sometimes we give a cruise to each other as a shared Christmas present. Find a picture of the ship. Put it in a very nice frame. Box and wrap the frame as a present. The picture sits in a prominent place in the living room as a reminder leading up to the trip.
  • Tip #3: The pre and post cruise city break. Here is a great expression to file away: “Time to spare, go by air.”  Instead of stressing out over flight delays, plan to arrive one or two nights early and stay in town the day after your cruise. This way you aren’t pressed for time.
  • Tip #4: Dress up for the special occasion. When you prepare to fly, wear business dress when leaving the house. We have found the airline personnel actually treat you better when you dress professionally.
  • Tip #5: Check almost all your luggage. The airlines have made great strides in baggage handling. Some people try to maximize their carry-on luggage, competing for overhead space. Check almost everything (except medications, jewelry and other obvious stuff.)  Boarding with only a purse or briefcase allows you to slip it under the seat in front of you.
  • Tip #6: Hire a limo. You might plan to drive and park at your home port. You might be considering Uber. Maybe you are imposing on a friend or grown child to drive you. To make your trip unforgettable, surprise them with a limousine and driver pulling up to your front door!  Your vacation starts now. The chauffeur will find space for all your luggage.
  • Tip #7: Don’t seek out the cheapest cabin. This might be counterintuitive. We look for the best deals and hope for an upgrade. If you want this to be the trip of a lifetime, go for a suite!
  • Tip #8: Let your travel agent or cruise line know this is a special event. This is your 5th wedding anniversary. This is your 50th wedding anniversary. Get the word to the right people in advance. They are good at making unexpected, good things happen. Ships do wedding vow renewal ceremonies, for example.
  • Tip #9: Can the ship send your photo to your local newspaper?  This was a big deal back in the 70’s and ‘80’s. You have likely seen pictures of a happy couple and a life preserver bearing the ship’s name. “John and Jane Smith just returned from a 7-day Caribbean cruise.”  Ask your travel agent if the cruise line still sends photos out. Provide the contact information for your local paper. That would be a real surprise for your partner!
  • Tip #10: Buy flowers for your cabin. This can be done online through th3e cruise line’s website. I have found flowers are a pretty good deal.
  • Tip #11: If possible, book nights at the specialty restaurants. Sometimes these sell out quickly once onboard. It is one less thing to worry about. It avoids disappointment.
  • Tip #12: Pay for priority. If you are sailing on a ship the size of a small town, there can be long lines for going ashore or catching shuttle buses. If the ship sells some form of priority pass, it is money well spent.
  • Tip #13: Book your shore excursions before you board. Have you ever had the experience of putting off reading about tours until the ship sails, then discovering all the cool ones are sold out?  Get this done in advance. This should also establish priority for getting you off the ship quickly.
  • Tip #14: How can the concierge help?  You might need to book things you did not think about.  The Cunard Grills suites have a dedicated concierge. When something needs to be booked, you talk to them, and they take care of the rest. It beats waiting in line.
  • Tip #15: Bring cash. You want to tip everyone who looks after you. Yes, tipping is added onto your bill automatically. It might even be prepaid as a perk. People appreciate getting cash on a 1:1 basis. Do not forget TIPS is said to stand for: To Insure Proper Service.
  • Tip #16: Make an effort to make friends. Days at sea can be boring if you stay apart from others. Ships are good at putting people with similar interests together. Join in. Vacations can be memorable if you make new friends.
  • Tip #17: Buy a drinks package. Assuming you are like me, you enjoy drinking on vacation. No one is driving. This eliminates worrying about the size of your bar bill or what things cost. Do the math. If the per day cost of the drinks package equals two or three drinks, it is probably a good deal.

Yes, you are spending money. Let us remember your objective is to have the trip of a lifetime.

Cover photo: Along Stranden in trendy Aker Brygge harborfront section of Oslo, with marina and cruise ship Eurodam of Holland America Line in port ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews

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