Cruise : Bookings, Packing and Prep

BOOKINGS : ONE FISH IN THE SEA

After going through a bunch of cruise websites, we weighed our options and picked NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE for our first ever cruise experience.

ship2
Top of the vessel

Reason 1: NORWEGIAN CRUISE lines had incredibly vast options to choose from and the offers were very tempting. What helped us narrow down the options was the fact that I was determined on the location. I had no doubt that my first cruise experience had to be at the CARIBBEAN SEA. And I’m so glad I stuck with it because choosing NORWEGIAN ESCAPE – Eastern Caribbean Cruise turned out to be the best decision ever.

Reason 2: Apart from the location, the onboard facilities, perks, entertainment options and reviews from previous guests made us go ahead with Norwegian. We didn’t want to spend more than 2 days at a stretch on the ship.

Tip #1: Keep a close eye on best deals and offers from different cruise lines and compare them in an excel sheet. Note down everything that’s included in the price to get the best out of your budget. Draw an average budget from that to give you an idea of the total expenses.

Tip #2: Consider 2-3 locations for your cruise and prioritize them. For each location, there may be a couple different tours offered by each cruise line. Narrow down at least 2 cruise lines offering cruises in similar locations around the same price range. Also check Costco Travel if they have good deals.

Tip #3: Once you have your budget and location fixed, look for what you can get for your money’s worth. Dining experiences, onboard entertainment options, discounts, offers etc play a big role in the final decision. It also depends on how much time you want to spend on ship versus the time you want to spend on different locations. Separate entertainment areas for kids and teenagers are a big plus on a cruise vacation to keep them.

Here’s the itinerary for our cruise with NORWEGIAN ESCAPE:

You can also find the details here .

Tip #4: A balcony state room is absolutely worth the extra bucks. Go for it! Look for one in the center of the ship as opposed to the front or rear, especially if you’re prone to motion sickness. That’s the most stable part of the ship. Also, the bigger the ship, the more stable it will be.

One of the most frequently asked questions by Indian citizens living in US on a work visa is:
“Do we need visa to get down at the international ports while on cruise vacations?”.
And the answer is :
“Only if you are going to stay at the locations for a day or more. You do not need a visa to spend few hours at the international ports.”

WHAT TO PACK?

tortola1
Bikini, hat, sunnies, sunscreen and a big smile! I’m one happy girl!

Packing for the cruise was a whole different story. Organizing the suitcases with essentials was no problem but we had to add unusual stuff like motion sickness patches & medicines like Advil, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol to our vanity kits this time. Swim wear & beach wear, hats, sun glasses, sunscreen(SPF 70+), comfortable shoes/sandals made it to the list of essentials. Naturally, camera kit, lenses, tripod, GoPro made it to our luggage.  You might want to carry GoPro gears like mounts and straps to keep your hands free while participating in adventure activities.
The only big problem was deciding what clothes to pack. My first thought was “cruise equals nautical designs” and my immediate next thought was “Caribbean equals floral patterns”. I couldn’t win the war against me, so I packed both.
I used all of my swim suits during the entire week so I would say 6-7 swim suits were essential for me.
It was sunny on all days. Fortunately, I had packed a bunch of cover-ups, sarongs and shorts to pull up quickly after stepping out of the pool and onto a bar stool. Followed by the intense task of slathering copious amounts of sunscreen all over.

Tip #5: Pack enough swimwear if your cruise lasts for a week or longer. Apart from beach wear like sarongs and cover-up dresses, you may want to pack for comfortable clothing to roam the streets. Also add evening gowns/dresses and dress shoes for evening soirees at the ship. Bohemian look is trending!

Tip #6 : Keep empty takeout containers and a picnic basket/bag to carry food for stopovers if you don’t want to buy food outside.

A WEEK BEFORE THE TRIP

We planned out every single day of our vacation which means we did prior bookings for airport shuttle, shows, activities and restaurants.

First things first! Even though an Uber would cost just as much or a little more than the airport shuttle, we booked the airport shuttle($25 pp each way) because its much more reliable.
Next thing, there’s no drinking water in the cabins and they don’t allow to carry your own. So we booked 6 bottles of water for $14. It wasn’t enough for the entire week so we bought one more later during the trip. We carried one bottle of champagne but they charged us $14 for it. We also carried some snacks along but we never touched them during the entire trip. Food options at the ship were endless.

Made reservations for shows, movies, dinners at a-la-carte restaurants, adventure activities, on-board wifi. We realised these places fill up pretty quickly.

They added 18% gratuity/service charge to our bill which was charged to our credit card at the end of cruise. There’s also an option to pay it before the cruise.

Seems like an obvious thing to do, but somehow skipped our mind at the time. So I thought I should mention that getting a flu shot, a week before boarding, is a good idea. My partner went down with flu on the last day of the trip. Left with a bitter ending.

I fervently hope these tips help you!

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