Tips for newbie seafarers

By Patti Pietschman, Travel Diva (photo by Richard Pietschmann)

Prior to the pandemic cruises were sea-deep in popularity. But there are still some folks who have yet to step food on a ship.  But since you’ve had plenty of time to think about it, maybe your ready. And  you probably have some questions.

Glad you ask

Read our Questions and answers below:

Q:  Will I fit in?

A: Wow this pops up a lot especially for clients going on luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal for the first time. Those lines boast humongous repeat passengers and newbies worry about blending in. Well, not to worry your sea legs about this. While it’s true those companies attract an upscale clientele you will find ship mates in all shapes, sizes, income tax brackets and personalities. And whatever your style, you will fit in.  Of course you should practice etiquette and good behavior.

Q:  How much money should I bring?

A:  So many people don’t understand that you don’t need much cash on ships. You see,  anything  you buy on board such as drinks, spa treatments, boutique shopping etc. as well as shipboard gratuities goes on your shipboard account for which you must leave a credit card.  Cash comes in handy ashore for tips  or taxis. Bring a couple of hundred dollars in small bills. Cash is never used to pay for anything on a ship.

Q:   Tipping. Not to worry especially if  on ships such as  Celebrity, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas,  Seabourn, or Silversea,  where gratuities are included. Otherwise the cruise line deducts a certain amount a day  per person for tips. If you want, you can dispute higher or lower when you pay your bill.

Q:  What do I wear?

A:   A big conundrum of newbies.  It’s fairly simple. Dress for evenings as you would at a fine local restaurant.   While not as prevalent as it once was, a few ships still have formal nights when men don tuxes and women wear gowns or chic numbers.  This has become more optional.  If you don’t want to doll up you can always opt to dine in  your stateroom or go to one of the casual restaurants.  When on deck shorts, jeans, bathing suits with cover ups, sun dresses and the like are acceptable. In doors during the day most ships prohibit short shorts or bathing suits. Also before you sail, check the cruise line website for dress codes. Some lines ask you not to wear jeans at night.

Q:   Should I buy a beverage package?

A:   Depends on how much you intend to drink.  If you like cocktails or drink wine with meals, yes purchase a package it will save you a bundle.  Remember drinks are free on Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and a few other lines.

Q:   Will I gain weight?

A:    Only if you over indulge–in which case expect your clothes to shrink (LOL).  Just eat prudently, lay off or limit desserts and exercise if you can.

Q:    Can I workout?

A:   Of course you can. There are fitness rooms, pools, jogging tracks, exercise classes and other ways to burn calories on ships such as using the stairs in lieu of elevators.

Q:   Should I buy shore excursions if they aren’t included in the fare?

A:   While I prefer exploring on my own, most of the time, escorted tours are a good bet when you don’t know the area, want to assure you won’t miss the boat because they are obligated to get you back on board in time.  You can find your own shore excursions on the Internet, too and also on your own in port but it’s challenging. Sometimes if my husband and I just want to go snorkeling, we take a cab to the nearest beach. It’s a lot cheaper than a shore excursion and less hassles of riding a bus with a lot of other people. Plus you always get more time at the water.

Q:  How often are bathroom breaks on the excursions?

A:  This was a real question posted on Facebook. And well there is no real answer. If you have a bladder problem probably don’t want to take a long excursion.  There are restrooms but you never know.

Q:  Do I need a passport?

A:  Yes. We are required to have a passport whenever we go into another country.  And yes if you’re traveling with children, they need them, too.  In some cases you might also need a Visa so double check with the cruise line. A few years ago we took an Amazon cruise and didn’t learn to the last minute that we needed a Visa for Brazil, we had to pay a lot extra to get an expedited document.

Q:  Is there a limit on luggage.

A:  Usually not but of course there is on airlines. It is best to travel light. You will need half the clothes you’ll pack the first time, they will just go unused. Trust me.

Q:  Can I drink the tap water on the ship?

A:   Well, I usually don’t, but it is okay to drink it. I consume only bottled water especially on lines that provide it  (Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea) and buy it if I have to. Why, because our digestive systems sometimes don’t take well to tap  water.

Q:  Will I be bored?

A:  Depends on whether you like to read, swim, sun, workout, go to shows, play bingo and other games, watch movies in your room or a theater, gamble in a casino, get spa treatments, explore ports, meet people, take language lessons or brush up on computer usage (Crystal Cruises has the best Computer University as Sea, go to interesting lectures or plotz in a deck chair.

Q:  Should I book with a travel agent or cruise line?

A:  Well of course we think you should always use a travel agent.  Not just because that’s our business. But, travel agents proved a major asset with all that went down during the pandemic. Using an agents not only makes arrangements more seamless but helps when you need refunds or cancellations. And, Pavlus agents are really nice.

Any more questions, pose them here or email me at ppietschma@aol.com.

Bon Voyage!

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