Cruising with MJ – It’s Almost Time to Cruise! What Do I Do Now?

Cruising with MJ – The Series

Cruising with MJ – Setting Sail on Your Own the MJ Way

Cruising with MJ – A Word on Picking the Right Cruise Line for You

Cruising with MJ – You’ve Booked Your Cruise So Now What?

Cruising with MJ – Let’s Get Packed

Cruising with MJ – It’s Almost Time to Cruise! What Do I Do Now?

Cruising with MJ – Three Days Until Sail Away

Cruising with MJ – Embarkation Day (It’s Time to Play)

Well, we’ve run the gamut of things to think about in planning and booking a cruise. We’ve talked about everything from choosing a cruise line to whether or not to buy travel insurance. Then there’s the overpacking lecture. 🙂 One thing I haven’t mentioned in the series, but have blogged about before, please…please…please…I beg of you….please get a passport. I don’t care if you can board a closed loop cruise with just your birth certificate. just don’t do it! (off soapbox) Now, you’re down to the last few days prior to your cruise, what’s left to accomplish in the final few weeks before you finally set sail?

The Document Dance

You should thoroughly review your cruise documents prior to sailing. This includes your contract of carriage (the legal stuff that too many people don’t bother to review) and some fun stuff like gee-whiz information on your cruise. You can also complete a lot of the check in formalities before you ever leave home. It’s not unlike checking in for a flight, with the exception of entering a little more information than you would for your average plane ride. You’ll print a “boarding pass” that you should take with you to the port. You certainly aren’t required to check in online before your cruise, but I like to do so for the aforementioned time savings, and not to mention…it’s just a little reminder that your vacation is coming soon.

A Word on What Time to Show Up on Embarkation Day

Your average 5PM departing cruise usually lists something like 2PM for boarding. Get there earlier. You will almost always be able to board earlier than the time listed. I typically plan on arriving at the port around noon for a 4:30 to 5PM departure, perhaps a few minutes before. Once in 30 cruises, have I waited for more than half an hour. The majority of the time, the ship is already boarding by then, and I love getting on board before the crowds show up later. One thing is certain, if you get there early and have to sit a while, you’ll still be taking your cruise. Get there later than the posted boarding cutoff time, and with few exceptions, you are out of luck and will be meeting your ship at your next port.

Cash or Credit

When you check in for your cruise you will be given the option of charging your onboard expenses to a credit card or opening a cash account. I find the thought of carrying enough cash to pay my onboard expenses for a cruise to be frightening, but I am not everyone. With a cash account, you’ll need to stop by the front desk every so often to pay up. That’s also why you might notice a big line at guest relations on the last night of a cruise and again on disembarkation day. Folks are settling up. I don’t do lines if I can help it, so I would always use a credit card. Just a personal preference. Yes, cruise lines accept debit cards, but be advised that the cruise line will be authorizing your card (credit or debit) throughout your cruise to ensure you aren’t hitting your credit limit. You could lose access to your cash while the authorization is still attached to your account.

One more item about cash, it’s a good idea to keep a few bucks on hand for random gratuities on board. I’m not talking about the gratuities that are automatically charged to you, or included in your fare on the upper end lines. I’m talking about a few bucks for the porter that collects your luggage on embarkation day, and a few more for staff onboard that provide you with great service and you want to give them a little extra for their efforts. Not a requirement, just something I do.

Well, you’re packed, you’ve got your paperwork ready to go, a few bucks (and a credit card) in your pocket, and soon, it will be time to head to the port and board your ship. More on embarking and enjoying your ship in a future post. Fellow cruisers, how do you spend the last few days prior to your cruise?

-MJ, March 5, 2013

About Marshall Jackson

Marshall Jackson is a former airline pilot, grounded by diabetes. After spending several years in operations management, he exited the airline business for a more stable career. But that hasn't dampened his interest in airplanes, airlines and travel in general.

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