So you’ve booked and now the only thing standing between you and your cruise holiday are months of dreary weather, an endless stack of work at the office and that feeling of “I wish….if only this time I could get myself organized beforehand….where do I start?” Try this for size!
SIX MONTHS BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Ensure that your passport has plenty of time left before its expiry date. Some countries require a period of up to six months unexpired on your passport. Do you need any visas for the countries that you’ll be visiting? If so and if the cruise line is not taking care of this for you, find out lead times and make arrangements as necessary. Make independent flight arrangements if you have booked a “cruise-only” fare. Try to plan to fly to your departure port the day before you sail. If you are a member of a frequent flyer club, provide this information when booking.
Make your pre and post cruise hotel arrangements if you have booked a “cruise-only” fare. If you are in a hotel’s frequent-guest programme, provide this information when booking. Are you a member of your cruise line’s past passenger programme? Ensure that your travel agent and/or the cruise line have your membership number and that you enter it on your pre-cruise registration forms.
THREE MONTHS BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Check out the cruise line’s shore excursion programme and look at the internet, in bookshops and at the library for information on independent tours. If there is a ship’s sponsored excursion that you feel is a “must”, book it now as it may become oversubscribed if you wait until you’re on board.
Do you need any vaccinations for the areas of the world that you’ll be visiting? If so, see your GP or a travel clinic. Some vaccinations take several months to become “effective”. Ensure that you have travel insurance is in place, if you did not purchase this in conjunction with your cruise. If you travel several times a year, consider taking out an annual travel insurance policy.
TWO MONTHS BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Have you made your final payment on your cruise? Liaise with your travel agent and/or the cruise line on this as sometimes they don’t send you a reminder! Depending on the cruise line, you can expect to receive your cruise tickets around three weeks before your cruise. Are you sailing or flying from a UK port or airport? If you are driving to the port or airport, check out port/airport parking facilities and make your booking if required.
Do you require a coach transfer or train ticket to your departure port or airport? Check it out and buy your ticket.
ONE MONTH BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Watch out for your cruise tickets in the post. Depending on the cruise line, they should be with you around three weeks before your departure date. Check them to make sure that you have been assigned the cabin that you booked, the dinner seating you requested, that you have enough luggage labels and if the cruise line is making any air or hotel arrangements for you, that these are correct and that the flight tickets and hotel vouchers are enclosed.
If you haven’t already, enjoy your holiday clothes shopping. Have you got your swimsuit, “cover-up”, shorts, t-shirts, sun hat, sandals and your casual/informal/formal evening wear?
Do your “sundries” shopping some suggestions:
- Insect repellent
- Mini bottles of travel toiletries
- Sun hat
- Ear plugs
- Paperback books
- Water wallet/wet and dry case
If you are planning to take a significant amount of currency, consider purchasing and using a “safe wallet”/money belt, until you are able to access your in-cabin safe. Make your home/pet/children/parent-sitting/newspaper-picking up and houseplant watering arrangements. Arrange to have newspaper/milk stopped if appropriate. Ensure that loved ones at home know how to contact you on the ship (the ship’s telephone, fax number) in case of emergencies. Complete any pre-boarding Passenger Information forms that the cruise line requires. If possible, do this “on-line” rather than “hard-copy”.
Are you driving to your departure port? Get your car serviced.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Pick out your cruise clothes, try them on in “fashion show” and do a dry run of your packing to see if it all will fit in your suitcase. Get your dry cleaning done. Polish/clean shoes. Ensure you have adequate supplies of any vitamins, over-the-counter and prescription medicines that you require. If you are taking spectacles or contact lenses make sure you have a “back-up” pair and adequate contact lens solutions. Get your hair cut/coloured/permed.
ONE WEEK BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Do your laundry. Get your foreign currency/travellers cheques. Think about whether you will want extra currency for tipping and get enough accordingly. If flying, re-check your flight times and check-in times via the phone or internet. Phone your credit card company and tell them where you’ll be visiting and that you may be using your credit cards there. Make a separate note of your credit card numbers and their issuers’ emergency phone numbers (in case of loss or theft) and keep this in a separate place from your credit cards. Leave a copy of this as well as a photocopy of your passport at home with someone you trust.
THREE DAYS BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Do your ironing. Luggage labels 1: complete the cruise line-supplied luggage labels with your name and cabin number. However, unless you’ve been instructed otherwise (that is, if you have been told by the cruise line that your luggage is going “bonded” on the flight and that you will next see it in your cabin on-board the ship), do not put the cruise line labels on your luggage until you are pier-side and ready to hand over your luggage to the porters who will convey it onto the ship. Luggage labels 2: make sure your cases have a separate personal luggage label on them with your home contact details.
TWO DAYS BEFORE YOU CRUISE:
Book your taxi to the airport/pier/train station. Do your final packing. If you are taking more than one suitcase, try to “cross-pack”. This means putting a little sports wear, a little casual wear, a little semi-formal wear and a little formal wear in each suitcase, in case one suitcase gets lost or delayed. Add some empty carrier bags to your suitcase to bring soiled clothes back in. Pack a flashlight, particularly if you will be in an inside cabin (no windows, no natural light). If you have extra room in your suitcases, take a few wire coat hangers (which you’ll leave on the ship). Place a sheet of paper with your name, flight and cruise details and travel dates and your home/mobile telephone number and address into your suitcase before you close it. This is in case your luggage labels or other external identifiers are torn off.
THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU LEAVE:
Prepare your handbag/carry-on/overnight bag here are a few suggestions:
- Photocopy of your passport (in case of loss or theft)
- Cruise tickets
- Air tickets
- Hotel confirmation voucher
- Car rental confirmation voucher (if renting a car)
- Drivers licence (if renting a car)
- Travel insurance documents including the policy number and emergency assistance phone number
- Currency/travellers cheques (consider using a money belt/”safe wallet”)
- Credit cards
- Note of credit card emergency numbers
- Diary/address book with addresses for postcards and emergency contact numbers
- Frequent cruiser/flyer/hotel membership cards
- Prescription medications
- Ear plugs
Set your alarm clock. Set a second alarm clock just in case. Dream of blue seas, white sandy beaches and a world without checklists. And Bon Voyage!