Top 10 Things to Do Before Your Next Cruise

Things to remember to do or bring before going on your next cruise - Photo by Canva

It’s FINALLY time to cruise again! But, before you start thinking of white sandy beaches and frozen cocktails or cruising by the majestic glaciers of Alaska, there are quite a few things to prepare before you get onboard the ship. In this ‘new world’ of cruising there are a lot of protocols and factors to take into account when getting ready for your trip. 

Across the board, cruise lines have implemented health and safety protocols which have changed the cruising process. One of our top tips that we recommend before getting onboard is to do your research first so that you will be well prepared for any new changes. To help you plan we’ve rounded up our list of top ten things to do before your next cruise. 

10. Get to Know the Ship 

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Even in cruising, prior to COVID, this is a planning tip we highly recommend doing so you know what to check out before stepping foot onboard. Some ships offer so many activities and restaurants that you may not be able to fit them all in on a 7-night sailing! 

Our Return to Cruising Guides are a great resource to learn all about your ship, as well as a great place to direct you to reviews, photos, and descriptions for everything you can imagine about the vessel. Also, each one of our Ship Pages is home to Deck Plans that show the location onboard. Be sure to familiarize yourself before getting onboard so you know exactly where to go to find the activities you want to check out. 

9. Plan Your Port Excursions in Advance

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With likely only a few hours in port, we recommend researching activities and must-see highlights for the destinations your cruise will visit. Depending on the protocol for your cruise line, you may be able to experience the destination on your own outside of a cruise line-sponsored trip.  

Our Port Reviews are a great resource to use for searching for information and getting great tips from other members who have previously visited the port. For each destination, you will also find some of our top suggestions for must-do excursions from our partners. 

Find Shore Excursions

8. Buy Travel Insurance

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Although it can’t save you from a rainy day, insurance can come in handy if you have an issue at sea. It’s also helpful in cases of sudden and unexpected emergencies that require you to return home at a moment’s notice.

Be sure to check cruise line requirements on travel insurance requirements for unvaccinated travelers approved to sail. 

Read More: Everything Cruisers Need to Know About Travel Health Insurance

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7. Make Reservations in Advance

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To accommodate social distancing protocols, ship venues may be running at a more limited capacity than usual. Therefore, if there’s a dining, spa, or entertainment option you are dying to try on your ship, we recommend booking a reservation before you get onboard. Many times you can book reservations prior to sailing on the cruise line’s website or app, or by working with your travel agent to secure a booking. 

6. Download the Shipmate App

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Shipmate is the #1 cruise app! It can be used before, during, and after your cruise and works for most major cruise lines. Some of the features of Shipmate include a cruise countdown, deck plans and ship info, port excursion booking, detailed ship and information, as well as a photo gallery. 

One of the great features of adding your cruise to Shipmate is that it will organize all of the information for your voyage right in one place including the itinerary, roll call, cabin info, packing list, and more.  

Download Shipmate App

5. Research Your Cruise Line's New Health and Safety Protocols 

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To comply with regulations from local governments as well as protocol instituted by the CDC, cruise lines are continually revising health and safety protocols. Until the day of your cruise, we recommend keeping watch for any new information from your cruise line on things you will need to do before getting onboard. Before even getting to the port, you may need to share information with the cruise line or even take a COVID test. These details are regularly changing so keep an eye out for any notices from your cruise line or stay in touch with your travel advisor. 

A new element that several cruise lines have instituted for their restart is introducing their own onboard apps. This new feature serves as a remote way to do things like making reservations in line or signing up for a port arrival time. You may be requested to load documents, like COVID test results or vaccine records, to these digital portals before you are allowed to board the ship. 

4. Dust Off Your Suitcase & Start Packing

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It may have been a while since you last packed for a vacation! So, the first tip we recommend is to start a bit earlier than one hour before your trip to the airport.

In cruising you are constantly moving, sailing from port to port, in a different environment than when you are vacationing on land staying at a hotel. Therefore you may want to consider purchasing items beforehand to make your onboard experience as comfortable as possible. 

Check out our list of Top 12 Packing Must-Haves for Your First Cruise, our ultimate Guide to Packing for a Caribbean Cruise, or our list of Things to Pack for Your First Cruise Post COVID for great packing suggestions. 

3. Join a Roll Call

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Our Roll Calls are forums for passengers on the same sailing. It's an excellent opportunity to ask questions about the ship or meet other cruisers with shared interests. Want to organize a meet-up at the comedy club or a zipline excursion? Just sign up, make a post, and get to know your fellow sailors!

Read More: What is a Roll Call

2. Pack All Essential Documents

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This is an important step to remember and could make or break your cruise. Depending on your cruise line’s policy, you may be required to present your proof of COVID vaccine before getting onboard. It will differ per line, but you may need to present the original proof of the vaccine card. There may also be documents, such as results of a COVID test, that you will physically need to show before getting on the ship. 

Also - don’t forget your passport! Although there are some cruises that do not require a passport, we recommend traveling with one as it can make things easier should you encounter any unexpected issues in port. 

Read More: Which Cruise Lines will Require a Vaccine?

1. Get Excited!

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Between remembering all of your must-have documents, navigating cruise line policies, and packing, it can seem like an overwhelming experience. However, there’s one important thing to remember - you're finally headed out on a cruise! So it’s time to get into vacation mode, put your out-of-office message on, and have fun! 

Bon Voyage! 

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