Taking a cruise requires some planning and preparation, but it’s worth every step. If you give yourself enough time and know what you need to accomplish, preparing for a cruise can actually be a fun, low-stress experience. At Windstar Cruises, we’re ready to help. In this post, we’ll show you how to prepare for your cruise and enjoy every moment of it.
Welcome to Your First Cruise
Are you going on a cruise for the first time? As a first-time cruiser, you likely have some questions, such as:
- What should I wear? Many first-time cruisers wonder what they should wear on a cruise. This depends on your cruise line, your destinations and the activities you plan to do. Some cruise lines have formal nights that require formal attire, while others don’t. Windstar Cruises does not have a formal night, but we ask guests to follow a casual-elegant dress code when dining in the evening at one of our restaurants. You’re always free to dine in your stateroom if you prefer.
- How can I prevent seasickness? There are ways to prevent seasickness such as reserving a cabin in the center of the ship and staying hydrated. If you know you’re prone to motion sickness, consider meeting with your doctor before your cruise. You may want to take medicine to prevent motion sickness until you adjust to the sea.
- Can I bring beverages or food on the ship? Food and beverage policies vary by cruise line, so you’ll want to check with your cruise line first. For example, Windstar passengers are allowed to bring aboard two bottles of wine or champagne for a seven-day-long cruise.
- How does the cruise handle emergencies? In the event of a medical or family emergency, most cruise lines allow you to leave the ship at the next port of call so you can catch a flight home. If you face a medical issue while you’re cruising, know that Windstar has a doctor on board. If you should need further medical assistance, you will be transferred to a medical facility onshore. If you’re worried something might arise while you’re away, consider purchasing a protection plan through your cruise line. Windstar’s travel protection options help protect guests against unexpected events.
Seasoned cruisers would agree –– cruises are addictive. Imagine sailing to just about anywhere in the world on a comfortable, elegant ship where you’re treated like royalty. Whenever you get the urge, you can step on the deck to take in the ocean breeze or watch the sunset on the horizon. At every port, you’ll have the chance to see something new and amazing. If you wish, you can spend the entire day lounging by the pool. When you cruise, you feel free. So, there’s a good reason you’re excited.
How to Prepare for a Cruise
Besides managing your anticipation, how else can you prepare for your cruise? To enjoy your cruise to the fullest, you’ll want to plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time to research activities, ask questions, pack your luggage and get everything set for your departure. Everyone has different needs, but here’s a general list of ways to prepare for your cruise, whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a long-time sailor.
1. Find out What’s Included
Although cruises are an excellent value, most of them do not include all costs. A Windstar cruise, for example, includes ocean transportation, accommodations and all onboard meals and entertainment. Items such as alcoholic beverages, laundry services and unlimited internet access, are extra. Find out what your cruise line includes ahead of time, so you know what to expect. You’ll also understand any charges that appear on your account.
If you want to enjoy your cruise worry-free, you have the option to purchase an all-inclusive package. With Windstar’s All-In Package, you can enjoy unlimited cocktails, unlimited Wi-Fi, laundry services and gratuities –– all wrapped into one.
2. Create a To-Do List
Creating a list of everything you need to do will help you determine what you need to buy and take care of before you set sail. It’s much easier to organize and plan when you write things down. Make a to-do list as far in advance as possible to save yourself from stress later on, and make sure to double-check your list the night before departure to ensure everything is packed and in order. Use this list as an example of what to do about a month before your cruise:
- Book shore excursions.
- Complete and print out cruise documents.
- Create a packing list.
- Find friends or family members to care for your home while you’re away.
- Call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling.
- Call your cell phone carrier and consider signing up for an international calling plan.
- Refill prescriptions.
- Obtain a small amount of foreign currency for tipping.
3. Set a Daily Tip Budget
Although you will not need cash while you’re on the cruise ship, because extra onboard costs are charged to your guest account, you’ll still want to carry a little bit of cash with you.
For example, you are not expected to tip cruise staff while you’re onboard. Most cruise lines charge gratuities automatically to guests’ accounts. At Windstar, our guests are automatically charged $13.50 a day as a Hotel Service Charge. This charge helps ensure our staff is rewarded for their efforts and work to meet our high standards every day.
However, if you wish to tip room-service waiters, who are usually tipped in cash, or you want to tip tour guides or drivers, make sure to keep some singles on hand. As a rule of thumb, budget between $12 and $15 a day for tipping.
4. Prepare for Foreign Currencies
What countries will you be traveling to throughout your cruise? Will you be exploring ancient ruins in Greece, or sampling cuisine in the shadows of Mount Fuji? It helps to know the currencies you’ll encounter during your cruise so that you can prepare in advance. You likely won’t want to carry a ton of cash around in the local currency, but it can be helpful to have a small amount for tipping drivers, buying snacks or purchasing small souvenirs.
About a week before your departure date, contact your bank and ask about ordering currency for your planned destinations. If you have the foreign currency on you before you leave for your cruise, you won’t have to worry about finding and ATM in each port, or paying higher prices at currency exchanges stations.
5. Print out Documents and Make Copies
Make sure you have all of your important documents printed and ready to go as soon as possible. You don’t want to find your printer is out of ink the day before departure, so taking care of this at least a week before you leave can save you stress. Here are some of the documents you’ll need to bring with you:
- Flight boarding pass
- Cruise documents
- Luggage tags
You’ll also want to make copies of the following items:
- Passport and visa
- Vaccination certificates if needed
- Medical insurance cards
- Driver’s license
Aim to have three copies of each of the above documents so you can keep one copy in your carry-on bag, one in your checked luggage, and give one to a trusted person at home. If you’d rather save paper, you can also send scanned documents to your email. That way, you can access your documents from any computer. Lastly, check your airline tickets and cruise documents to make sure every bit of information is correct so you can address any errors immediately.
6. Let Friends and Family Know Where You’re Heading
The last thing you want to think about when you’re preparing for a voyage to paradise is the need for an emergency contact. Hopefully, you or anyone else will not need to use the emergency contact, but it’s always a good idea to have a way of reaching someone back home. It will also give you greater peace of mind as you sail away from the ordinary world.
Therefore, let a close friend or family member know when you’ll be cruising and exchange contact information. Also, leave copies of your important cruise-related documents with this person. Make sure they know the dates you’ll be away, the cruise contact information and your flight number. If you don’t have someone to use as an emergency contact, consider alerting a neighbor about your travel plans, or exchange contact info with your pet sitter. You want someone to know of your travel plans just in case.
7. Contact Your Cell Phone Carrier and Bank
Your phone won’t always connect while you’re at sea, and if it does, you could be charged roaming fees. Be prepared to put your phone in airplane mode while you cruise to avoid international roaming charges, and find out the cost of using the cruise ship’s Wi-Fi instead. Consider calling your cell phone carrier before your cruise if you want to know the different plan options. Ask about maritime roaming pricing, data usage on and offshore, and texting and calling. Also, contact your cruise line to discuss communication options and internet packages. Make sure you’re clear on how things work, so you’re not surprised by any charges when you get home.
Also, make sure to call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’ll be traveling abroad. That way they won’t suspect something when they see charges in a foreign country, and they won’t freeze your account. While you speak to your bank and credit card about your travels, find out what foreign transaction fees you can expect for making purchases abroad or withdrawing cash.
8. Book Special Treatment
In itself, a cruise is a relaxing way to travel. When you tour the world via cruise, everything’s taken care of for you. You don’t have to worry about how you’ll reach the port of call or where you’ll park. You don’t have to worry about cooking or where or when you’ll eat next. You can basically kick back and enjoy the ocean views as you sail to the most breathtaking places on the planet –– if that’s your style.
However, did you know you can take cruising to an even higher level of enjoyment? Many cruise lines offer special treatment packages to enrich your experience further. It’s a good idea to book gift packages or extra services about a month or two in advance.
If you want special treatment for you or someone who is about to go on a Windstar Cruise, you can select from a variety of packages to make the experience even more memorable. For example, do you want to treat yourself and your companion to the ultimate pampering experience? Consider our Pure Pampering package and prepare to indulge in chocolate-dipped strawberries, champagne and an aromatherapy massage.
9. Decide What to Wear
Deciding what clothes to bring can be part of the pre-cruise fun. How do you imagine yourself dressing for lazy days on the beach or venturing into the jungle? Once you start packing, expect to feel excited as reality sets in –– you’re finally taking a cruise!
With all the excitement aside, packing the right clothes can make your cruise experience comfortable and easy-going. To make sure you pack smart, consider your destinations, the weather and the activities you intend to do. Always pack something to prepare for rain, like a waterproof jacket or poncho. Start with a cruise packing list that includes essentials such as a swimsuit and a good pair of walking shoes. With a packing list in front of you, you won’t feel overwhelmed, and you’ll be less likely to forget something important.
No matter what you decide to wear on your cruise, aim to pack as lightly as possible. Packing light will free up space in your suitcase, and you won’t want to pack items you may not wear anyway. To save yourself the hassle of hauling heavy luggage, consider adding laundry service to your cruise package, or take advantage of a luggage shipping service to make all aspects of your cruise feel effortless.
10. Don’t Forget to Sleep
Chances are, you can’t wait to get on your cruise and leave your everyday routine behind. You’re likely looking forward to the food you’ll eat, people you’ll meet and the amazing sights you’ll see as you explore. On top of all this, you may be checking your to-do list once an hour to make sure everything’s in order.
Despite the anticipation, make sure to take a deep breath and give yourself time to unwind at the end of the day. You’ll want to try to get decent sleep, especially the day before you depart. Departure day will be busy since you’ll be catching your flight and boarding the ship. However, if the excitement is too much, and you weren’t able to drift off to dreamland, hang in there –– your dreams will come true soon.
Reach out to a Windstar Vacation Planner
Planning a cruise and preparing for departure is a thrilling experience, but it can also feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time cruiser. If you’re excited to go on a cruise and visit your top destinations, know that you don’t have to plan and prepare alone. At Windstar Cruises, our Vacation Planners are waiting to help you plan your cruise every step of the way and answer all of your questions. Reach out to a Windstar Vacation Planner today, and start to plan that cruise you’ve been waiting for.