Today I’ll set sail on Disney’s newest and largest ship, the Disney Dream, for a quick two-night media cruise to get acquainted with the ship. Now, while this may be my first Disney cruise, this isn’t my first rodeo (rodeo = cruise in this case), so I know a bit about the ins and outs of a cruise vacation. If you’re considering a cruise (and why not, with prices now up to 65 percent off), there are a few tips first-timers need to know to make the most out of a vacation on the high seas. Keep in mind these are general guidelines and may not be applied across all cruise lines.
1. Consult your daily bulletin. This will typically arrive under your door as you sleep each night. The bulletin will have all the information you need to know for the day ahead including group activities, entertainment options, information on shore excursions and more.
2. Room service is available 24 hours a day for no additional charge. This, to me, is one of the great joys of cruising. When I was on family vacations as a child, I was never allowed to order room service as my parents were appalled (appalled!) at the prices. However, you should tip your server as you would a person delivering food to your home.
3. You can usually board the ship several hours before it leaves the port. Though you may not be able to go straight to your cabin, you can at least take advantage of the ship’s amenities like the pool and fitness center.
4. Spa prices are often substantially higher than what you might pay back home. You can save some money by having your spa treatments done on a port day when there’s usually a discount.
5. Cruises include a lot, but they’re not all-inclusive. Included is all your accommodations, transportation between ports, all meals and most on-board ship entertainment. Not included: spa treatments, alcohol and gratuities.
6. Even an independent traveler can learn to love cruising. Your ship is going to make several port visits along the way. Use port days to explore the locales and learn about the locals, just make sure you’re back in time to re-board the ship before it sets sail.
7. Cruise from your homeport to save. Even if a cruise is a bit more expensive from your home port (say, New York City) than a more popular port (say, Miami) you’ll often make up the difference and more on what you’ll save on airfare and a night in a hotel before the cruise.
8. Get there the day before. If you do decide to cruise from a port city you have to fly to, make sure to get there the day prior. One flight delay can derail your entire cruise vacation (and believe me when I say the ship isn’t going to wait for you.)