As some of you may know, Seth and I just returned from our Cruise to Bermuda. It was a type of trip I had never been on before- one where getting to the destination was more than half of the vacation. I can’t really say it is the type of vacation I would do again, but Seth and I both had a great time, and we’ve accumulated the following tips and tricks that we learned while cruising, and even what to avoid.
We cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to Bermuda (a British Territory, so unfortunately it doesn’t count toward our 30 Before 30 goal). It was a 5-night cruise with the following schedule:
Day 1: Depart at 4pm
Day 2: Sailing
Day 3: In Bermuda
Day 4: In Bermuda, depart at 4pm
Day 5: Sailing
Day 6: Arrive back at 7am
Some of the following will be specific to this cruise, but much of it will also be applicable to any cruise. So, without further ado:
Tips and Tricks:
- GO TO THE BEACH THE SECOND DAY– If your cruise was like ours and had about a day and a half at your Caribbean destination, do yourself a favor and go to the tourist-ridden beach the second day. Everyone flocks there on the first day, so you’ll be fighting crowds and squeezing into buses and shared taxi cabs. Instead, go to some of the towns on the first day. Because of the length of time it takes to get to some of the towns, and the spotty transportation options to get there, it is a much safer bet to take that gamble on the first day. This way, if you do miss your ferry or bus on the way back, you don’t risk being left behind by the ship (yes, they will leave without you).
- SPEAKING OF BEACHES, IF YOU THINK YOU’VE REACHED THE BEACH, KEEP WALKING- This is another somewhat specific tip, but who knows, it may relate to other places. When we visited Horseshoe Bay Beach, we plopped down at the first beach we came to. Admittedly, it was gorgeous, but it was also insanely packed. We spent the day climbing the bluffs (Amanda got scraped up while Seth bounded to the top with ease) and jumping the waves. The water was clear and warm, but you could barely spread your arms without hitting someone on most parts of the beach. Once Seth and I were pretty tuckered out and ready to go, we decided to take a walk over a grassy crest on the other side of the beach. Once we got over the hill, we were met with sandy pathways through succulent-like shrubbery that led from one gorgeous, secluded beach to another. The further we went, the less people we encountered and after just 2 or 3 inlets, we could have had an entire beach to ourselves. I’m so glad we took that stroll but I really wish we would have done that at the beginning instead of squeezing onto the already-crowded beach.
- TIP IN CASH- This was a tip that was actually passed along to me by someone else in my party. For my intoxication-inclined friends, the drink package may be a good idea for you. For our trip, it was $48-62/day (depending when you purchased it) for unlimited drinks, including alcohol. If you plan to drink over 5 drinks per day, it is a good deal. Personally, I knew I wouldn’t drink nearly that much so I did not get the package, nor did Seth. For those that do get the package, the cruise is understandably strict about making sure drinks are not being requested by package-holders and then handed out to non-package-holders. Now, I would never advise cheating any system, BUT I will innocently let you know that the bartenders GREATLY appreciate cash tips, as so much of the payment on the ship is automated, that if you were to tip in cash (and tip well), they may or may not turn a blind eye to a package-holder ordering multiple drinks at a time and way faster than one person could reasonably consume while surrounded by non-package-holding friends.
- VISIT GUEST SERVICES ON DAY 1- When you first get on the boat, I fully support taking time to explore, find all the places to eat, and find where you’ll nap while on the water. After that, though, visit guest services! Seth and I did NOT do this, and when we visited the morning of Day 2, every single activity that required a reservation was fully booked. Go on the first day and book those activities, girl.
- ACTIVITY BOOKED? QUEUE UP ANYWAY- Okay, I know I just said to try to book on the first day. But if you’re too busy belly flopping onto a lounge chair or getting started on making every second of your drink package worth it, you may not make it before everything is booked. So, if there is an activity you want to try but it’s already full, line up for it anyway. Maybe not on the first day, but by the second half of the cruise, when most people have already gotten in out of their systems, give it a shot! Seth and I checked out the North Star (the 300 foot tall observation ball) on a whim on the last night after dinner. There was absolutely no line (though it was “totally booked”) and we were able to get right on. In fact, had we gotten there just a half hour earlier, we would have been able to get on right at sunset and see the most sought-after views. Long story short, “booked” does not always mean all hope is lost.
- READ THE MATERIALS LEFT IN YOUR ROOM- Every night when you return to your room, there will be a schedule of the next day, descriptions of some activities, and discounts. READ THESE! There are so many activities, fun tournaments, and events on the boat each day (literally- the daily schedules were pages long) and you’ll find things you never even expected. We found out about Adult Table Tennis Competitions (Seth’s dream), Rock and Roll-ke (Also Seth’s dream- live karaoke where you’re accompanied by a rock band), and when to line up for the trapeze activity (no, I’m not joking). It is so easy to wake up every day and just lounge by the pool, but take advantage of the many, many things there are to do on the ship.
- GET THERE EARLY- For most ships, you are allowed to board hours before departure. The crowds are usually much thinner at this time, and it essentially allows you to start your vacation hours early with practically uninhibited roaming of the ship. Get there early, get your pick of lounge chairs, and start on that drink package.
What to avoid:
- THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS- Okay, this one is pretty weak, but I’d recommend just using your own bathroom if you’re close enough. On our ship in particular, for whatever reason, it was a gamble each time I went if I could get the toilets in the public bathrooms to flush. Sometimes you could simply push the button, other times you had to unlock the door first, and other times, you had to do small-scale gymnastics to get it to flush. This resulted in walking in on a lot of unflushed toilets and a lot of confused guests. Also, the sink water was exceedingly hot to the point that I sometimes couldn’t hold my hands under (yes, I know this one is pretty whiny. I’m just trying to save you the embarrassment of someone walking in after you to your unflushed stall).
- SPENDING UNNECESSARY MONEY- I plan to do a second post about cruising for the frugal, but here is a quick run down. When you check-in, the cruise staff encourage you to connect your credit card to your Sea Pass (your “everything” card on the ship) so that you don’t have to worry about carrying around your wallet. It is very convenient, but it comes with its fair share of dangers too. Especially because you can also get a bracelet version of the card and either one takes a simple tap or scan by a crew member, it is so easy to mindlessly spend money. Especially if you’re without wifi and blissfully unaware of your bank account (Am I the only one who religiously checks my balances?). It’s very easy to tap your card a few times in the casino, buy a couple drinks, and reserve some paid activities and rack up your bill. These charges, on top of the daily gratuities you’ll pay ($13.50 / person / day for us), you could walk off the ship at the end of your trip with a hefty bill. Also be sure to check your charges on the last day to make sure all charges are accurate. Many times waiters or other crew will simply write down your information to charge your card later, which could result in mistakes and switch-ups. Some members of our family had incorrect charges on their accounts.
- PAYING FOR WIFI- Okay, this one is a bit personal and not necessarily related to the cruise, but I suggest not paying for the wifi package. Not only is it ridiculously priced, but, unless you truly need to remain connected to family or your job, consider taking the opportunity to get off the grid and leave Facebook behind for a week. Enjoy being in the middle of the ocean and able to see 360 degrees of water-to-sky horizons without feeling the need to check your email or feeds.
- PAYING FOR DRINKS AT ALL- On our ship, and I assume on others as well, we were allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine per stateroom. Again, I would never advise cheating any system, but members of my party may or may not have quite easily snuck on bottles of rum and coke. Additionally, they never even opened our bags to check our wine, water bottles, or mouth wash bottles, so I have objectively observed that one could get more than wine onto the ship. An idea for those of you (and me) who aren’t willing to pay $13 per cocktail (though that’s unfortunately pretty average for us here in DC).
- RUSH HOURS- I know you’re on vacation, but may I suggest getting up early on just one day to get to the breakfast buffets before the crowds hit. It will also allow you to snag the premium lounge chairs before they are all taken for the day AND you’ll be able to get in line for one of those fully booked activities that you didn’t make it in time to reserve. Seriously, the dining halls get SO PACKED and beating the crowds for even one meal is so worth it.
That’s all we have for now! What have you learned while cruising? What tips do you have?