Tips for a more enjoyable and safer cruise.
You may have been dreaming of it for years and planning for months, but as the date of your first cruise draws near you may be getting nervous. You’re facing the unknown, a pleasant one but still something new and untried, something out of your normal comfort zone. If it’s a honeymoon or company event the stress is even greater. Seasoned cruisers generally have a few tricks they’ve picked up on previous cruises that allows them to fit in right away. We are going to give you some tips that will help you feel more comfortable and enhance your safety.
Before the Cruise.
The beginning of your cruise is in many ways like getting on an aircraft for an international trip. Your luggage is checked in curbside or taken directly to the ship from the airport. Since you are separated from your luggage for a number of hours it is best to carefully prepare your carry on. Carry your valuables and medicine with you of course. Also, carry a change of clothes and if the weather is suitable, your swim suit or other causal clothing to sit around the pool. When you enter the cruise terminal your hand carried luggage is inspected and you check in and receive your boarding card. The boarding card is more than just entry to the ship; it allows you to use your on-board account for purchases, is the key to your stateroom on many ships, and allows you to get off and on the ship in port. Guard it carefully.
Once you are on-board it best to go directly to your stateroom. Generally your first impression of the interior of the ship is the centrum in all of its glamour. However, as soon as you enter the staterooms area that quickly fades. Some elevators are not available to guests at this time as they are being used for luggage delivery and you will see piles of luggage waiting to be delivered. Cabin stewards may still be cleaning some cabins. Do not worry about it, things will look better shortly. When you arrive at your stateroom secure your valuables and change into your causal clothes. On the back of the cabin door are the emergency instructions which include your assembly point / muster station in case of emergency. The boarding card should have the same information. Look the information over and locate your life jackets. You will have a safety at sea drill later so at this point you are just checking it is there.
In your stateroom you will find a newsletter that has a schedule of the days events. The newsletter generally has a small map of the passenger areas of the ship. Grab the newsletter and head to the nearest stairwell not being used by the luggage handlers. At each stairwell will be a ship map. One portion will show the layout of the deck you are on and another will have a side view showing the different decks and your location. On the public decks, there may also be a model of the ship with the different areas highlighted. Find where you are and head towards the pool deck or another open deck.
Cruise ships today are huge. If you took the decks and laid them out side by side, the space would be the size of a small town. When you arrive at the open deck, find a place to sit down and relax. Look over the newsletter and see what’s going on later and what interests you the most. Many first time cruisers look lost the first few days. This is often because they cannot think in three dimensions and they can’t find what they are looking for because it’s on a different deck. Select a few places to find then head to the bow of the ship on a public deck. As you do, notice what is on the level. When you reach the furthest forward you can go, check your map and plot your route to one of your selected locations. Don’t use the elevators if you are physically capable of using stairs, it easier to remember the number of flights of steps. Again, notice what is along the way. When you arrive, plot a route to another location. Most people start to be comfortable getting around the ship with just a few locations if they take the time to do this orientation as soon as possible. The sooner you start after boarding, the less crowded the ship will be with people walking around lost. One of the newsletter items will tell you where and when food is being served. Head to someplace serving food, get something to eat, and relax for a while. Make sure you drink a few glasses of water because it is easy to get dehydrated on a cruise ship.
Safety at Sea Drill AKA the Lifeboat drill
International laws require each cruise ship conduct a Safety at Sea Drill within the first few hours of a ship sailing. Most cruise lines do the drill after embarking is complete before the ship actually sails. The time of the drill is in the newsletter and there will be ship wide announcements leading up to it. Ten or fifteen minutes before the time of the drill, head back to your stateroom and get your life jackets. The life jackets are large, many people find them awkward to walk in and wearing them can be hot as well as uncomfortable. To minimize your discomfort, after retrieving your life jacket, head to your muster station. As soon as the drill starts you must put on your life jacket. Some cruise lines use public rooms as muster points while others have the muster points at the lifeboat. Once at the muster station the crew will account for everyone. Participation in the drill is mandatory and each person must be accounted for. When everyone on-board is accounted for, the person in charge of each muster station will give a safety briefing. The ship’s captain is required to inspect a percentage of the muster stations before the drill is complete. Once the all clear is given you can remove your life jacket and start your vacation.