Life Nomadic: Tynan’s Top Ten Cruise Tips

Ahoy! Here’s a quick followup on my last post about cruising, posted from Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas. I’ve been on a bunch of cruises now, and have come up with a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your cruise.

1. If you’re really into safety, go to the “mandatory” lifeboat safety drill. If you’ve been to one before or think that you can handle following the green arrows and putting on your life vest, stay inside your cabin. They don’t actually check names or your cabin to make sure you go.

2. Never go on official shore excursions. If you just walk off the ship you’ll find lines of touts waiting to give you the same thing for half the price, usually with more flexibility if you want something slightly different. Walk past the touts and you’ll usually find stores offering the same tours for 25-30% of the cruise line quoted price.

3. When choosing your cabin, choose one near the stairwells and elevators. You’ll be making that walk many times every day.

4. At dinner you can order as many things off the menu as you want, not just one appetizer, salad, and entree. My record is 31 plates divided between a friend and I.5. You can also have meals customized based on your dietary needs. Contacting the cruise line in advance will get more promises than actual actions, but if you talk to the Maitre’D the first night, he’ll make sure you get what you want.

6. Don’t eat your meals at the buffets or informal dining rooms. The food quality in the main dining rooms is ten times better. If you’re hungry before or after your assigned dinner time, go to the other seating and eat two dinners.

7. Insist on carrying your own bags up to your room when you check in. If you give them to the porters you’ll end up waiting in your cabin for a few hours for your stuff, and you’ll have to tip them. It’s a short walk to carry them yourself and you’ll be able to explore the ship as soon as you get in.

8. On long cruises, don’t buy an internet package until the first sea day. The daily newspaper will usually have a 50% off sale, and you can use the minutes you buy for the rest of the cruise.

9. Make friends early. A good way to do this is to enter contests or sing karaoke on the first day there. People will recognize you and start conversations. If you have a choice of what size table to sit at, pick the biggest one possible.

10. You will be assigned a checkout time for the last day of the cruise. The cheaper your cabin, generally, the earlier it will be. Do like I do and ignore the time. Pack up the night before and sleep in until the maid comes knocking to clean your room for the next group. I’ve been the last person off the ship every single time.

Bonus tip: Make friends with the staff. They’re from all different countries and have all sorts of stories. They also know the ins and outs of each port and might even invite you to the staff parties, which are a lot crazier than the passenger parties.