Cruising — Day One Pro Tips for Smooth Sailing
Whether you are on a 3-night “happy hour” cruise or an extended journey over weeks, starting your adventure off on the right foot can make for smooth sailing (ha ha!) the rest of the trip. Whether you are a first-time cruiser or Diamond member who knows all the captains by name, below are just a few recommendations for how to spend the first day (or at least the first few hours) of your cruise.
First, get on early. When you check in online the cruise line will assign you a time to arrive at the pier, and post-COVID they are trying to not have everyone arrive at once. If you check in for your cruise as soon as you are able (usually 30 days out) you will have more choices for times. Getting on early provides for a few less wrinkles.
First, you will obviously have fewer people in front of you. That means your luggage also gets on earlier and will likely get to your cabin a bit sooner. Second, in the hopefully unlikely event that you have any hiccups with the process, it gives you plenty of time to get them sorted out without stressing yourself.
I have had clients forget their bag tags, their Sea Pass, leave their passport at the hotel, and being at the port early has meant these issues were easily solved in plenty of time and without anyone having to make a run for the ship.
So you’re onboard early, now what? Well if you’re not ready for lunch yet, there are some things that you can do to get ready for the fun! First, take a moment to exhale and if you haven’t already, officially turn your brain to vacation mode. Grab a beverage and knock out the following items:
Wifi. If you have purchased the wifi package, log on and make sure you are not having any issues. If you are, heading to the wifi service desk (often located by guest relations on Day 1) right away will put you at the front of the line. It tends to get really busy after lunch once folks are turning off their cellular and switching over.
If you were waiting to get onboard to purchase, the same thing applies. Go ahead and get it done and set up. If you have to work during the cruise, now is also a great time to ask them where on board the wifi signal is the best. Some ships (thank you Celebrity Edge) now have access points in the cabins to boost your signal, but others (I still love you Cunard) have you propping your cabin door open with a shoe to let that magic in.
Dining. If you do want to do speciality dining and you have not already made reservations, take care of this now. Now that folks can make reservations and purchase through the app, the most popular days and times can often be fully reserved before you even board.
So if you haven’t already gotten everything settled, now is the time. Similarly, if you have an assignment for Main Dining that does not work for you (you wanted early and got late, you have anytime dining and want reservations), head to the main dining room to get this sorted. You may need to ask which deck of the dining room is set up for this purpose.
Spa. Whether you need an appointment, want to check out the fitness classes or get a look at the specials, stop by on Explore journey. The best deals for treatments are usually found if you are willing to make multiple appointments, or to have an appointment while the ship is in port.
Always ask about the specials, as it may be the one you want isn’t the one they are promoting at the moment, but it still exists. If you are thinking you might want to get your hair done for the formal night on night 5, book it now. Just be clear about their cancellation policies in case you change your mind.
Oh, and if you do decide to use the spa services, a friendly reminder that you are not required to buy the products they use. If you really like something, wait until you have wifi and check the pricing to buy it back home.
You can always run back over to the spa and pick it up if its that great a deal or something you can’t otherwise get. Oh, and when you are buying those full sized creams and cleansers, do a mental check of your packing situation and how you will get them home.
Explore! Especially if you are new to cruising, or on a ship that is new to you, take some time to get to know it. If you have more than 1–2 sea days in your itinerary, scope out those nooks and crannies where you might want to hang out.
Just by taking care of the items above you may already have seen quite a bit of the ship, but often these items are consolidated onto 2 or 3 decks so maybe not. My preferred method, once I have taken care of business, is to go to the uppermost deck and work my way down.
This is because oftentimes I don’t naturally make it up to the top of the ship — I’m not playing basketball these days — and they have added so many things now that I would otherwise miss. Many ships have “rooftop” bars and terraces, movie areas, mini golf and other activities going on up there.
I like to see the space so that when I see activities on the schedule I have a better sense of what they are talking about. An added benefit is I get my steps in walking down the stairs deck by deck.
At some point during this list you may have already stopped to have lunch, but if not now is a great time to do so. You can check out the buffet, and on some ships the main dining room is open as well. Often they may also have an embarkation day special for lunch in the specialty restaurants, and this can be a lovely way to settle in and fully commit to vacation mode.
By the time you have accomplished all of this, it is pretty likely that your cabin is available. If so, absolutely check it out. If you have been lugging your carry-on around with you, dropping this in your cabin at the first opportunity makes the Exploring so much easier :).
The rest of your luggage may or may not already be there, but getting a sense of your cabin’s amenities and where it is located in reference to other things can help to get your internal map set up. If your luggage is there, and you are like me, you may feel compelled to unpack. I know I do.
I like to knock it out first thing, as once I get going I find my time filled with so many more interesting things to do than decide where to stash my toiletries. If you are going to need extra hangers, also good to be at the front of that request line with your room steward.
This long list may make it seem like your vacation just turned into a whole bunch of logistics and work- not a vacation at all. Absolutely not. After all, it’s still YOUR vacation, so you can make it whatever you want it to be. In fact, you can ignore this article and my feelings won’t even be hurt (after all, I won’t be there to know). However, if you play along and try this just once, I think you will find that a couple of hours of exploring and making sure everything is as you want it to be will leave you with little to do the rest of the trip but enjoy. And please do. Enjoy, that is.
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