What to Do Before You Board Your Cruise
Even cruise aficionados occasionally neglect to pack sunscreen or make reservations to the most talked-about restaurant onboard. Check out our list of common things people forget to take care of before setting sail:
1. Book shore excursions.
If there's a specific excursion on your to-do list, don't wait to book it on the ship. - Photo by Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock
Most cruise lines offer extensive information about shore excursions on their websites, so take a look to see what’s available in your ports of call before you board. Check your line’s policy on its website: The time tables vary — Princess Cruises lets you book excursions 120 days prior to sailing, while Disney’s policy is 75 days out. (Some fill up long before embarkation day, so consider yourself warned!)
While most passengers book excursions through the cruise line, you can also book directly with the vendor, who typically offers a better rate. Just make sure your independent excursions aren’t so long that you cut it close to being back onboard in time — cruise ships won’t wait for cruisers who booked through a third party.
Of course, in many destinations, we prefer just to sightsee on our own. Check out our handy port guides for tips on what to see at your destinations.
2. Buy travel insurance.
Travel insurance can also cover lost luggage. - Photo by Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock
Although it can’t save you from a rainy day, insurance can come in handy if you have an issue while at sea, such as if you’re a diabetic and need insulin. It’s also helpful in cases of sudden and unexpected emergencies that require you to return home at a moment’s notice.
Think it can’t happen to you? According to Carnival Cruise Lines spokesperson Vance Gulliksen, it’s not that uncommon. “That’s why we strongly encourage guests to purchase travel insurance, either through Carnival or a third-party supplier,” he says.
Shop around to find the best policy for your needs. A good place to start is an insurance comparison site, like squaremouth.com or InsureMyTrip.com.
3. Make onboard reservations.
Some cruise lines, like Norwegian, have their own apps where you can make reserverations right on your phone. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
Most cruise lines give you the opportunity to make entertainment, dining, and spa reservations on their websites by logging in with your confirmation number.
Some lines even let you make reservations on your smartphone. Norwegian Cruise Line has a (free) app, for example, for Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway. If there’s a particular show or specialty restaurant you’d like to try on one of those ships, book them in advance to ensure that you won’t be disappointed.
4. Pack a carry-on for embarkation day.
Your luggage may arrive at your cabin several hours after you do. Plan accordingly. - Photo by Maksim Vasic / Shutterstock
It can take as long as half the day for bags checked at embarkation to arrive in your room, so make sure to have essentials with you. Planning on catching some rays before being let into your cabin? Pack your bathing suit, e-reader, shades, and sunscreen.
5. Call your bank.
The bank could put a hold on your card if they suddenly start seeing charges in the Caribbean. - Photo by Rasulov / Shutterstock
If you’re not a frequent traveler, before leaving the country it’s important to inform your bank that you’re going on vacation so the bank doesn’t presume that your change in spending patterns means that your credit or debit card has been stolen. Otherwise, some financial institutions will temporarily disable your account. Neglecting to notify the bank is a common mistake that can result in expensive, long-distance calls while other cruisers are off exploring.
Join the discussion
What’s something you’ve forgotten to do or pack before a cruise?