I just assumed the first thing most people did when they checked into their hotel or took possession of their cruise stateroom was jump on the bed...
I mean, we're supposed to be having fun, aren't we?
Now, if I'm to encourage any sort of behaviour, including those which induce fun, I'd rather be chatting a bit today about making best use of the first day on board.
No matter if it's your first cruise or your hundred-and-first...
Even if you've never been on a cruise, maybe you've had some experience of all-inclusive travel or even simply caught a flight (or drove) into another city to attend an event?
The concept is the same, you've committed your time alongside the financial investment in enjoying an event or multi-day experience, in this case we're talking about a cruise.
You'll probably enjoy better value by getting on board earlier in the day and even just jumping in the pool or having a drink somewhere you can people watch (among my all-time favourite activities whilst travelling).
The point is, your cruise investment represents a whole day of value for every day that you're on board, even the day of embarkation. While you'll be happy to explore the ship a bit, you might be better served with some advanced knowledge of what to do and where to get it!
In some cruise lines the ship is the destination
In many modern cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean's all-new Symphony of the Seas, there is such an incredible variety of on board activity and entertainment that a whole closed-loop cruise itinerary might be enabled.
What's a closed-loop itinerary, you ask!
Well, it's a story for another day, but suffice to say that some people living in the US sidestep the need for a passport by sacrificing their exit at ports of call.
This is done by participating in a qualified sailing which departs and returns to the same port and during which journey, those without documentation are unable to exit the ship until they return to home port.
They may miss out on the destinations along the way, but they're there to enjoy the incredible facilities that have resulted from heavy investment by the industry.
Staggered boarding times and the benefit of advance boarding options
Many cruise lines now try their best to spread out crowds by staggering boarding times. Just like boarding a plane, it's chaos to have everyone embarking at the same time. It behooves the masses to have different boarding times for different stateroom categories or decks.
This is typically done with the methods selected by the individual cruise line, but there are loyalty tiers that may allow frequent cruisers the option to arrive earlier in the day.
However, there are sometimes options to make an advance boarding purchase. This can prioritize your earlier boarding to escape the crowd or secure a seat by the pool while you wait for your room to be cleaned and prepared for your possession.
That means you might want to pack a couple of items in your carry on, such as a swimsuit!
Faster way to get in the lounge
Some ships are equipped with exclusive lounges for use by those staying in the luxury or suite class staterooms or those (again) with loyalty status.
One way to maximize the practical use of your loyalty status is to consider an offer from an up-and-coming or market-entering cruise line.
For example, MSC Cruises continues to offer their Loyalty Status Match Program, which aims to provide a clear path to equivalent loyalty and rewards status for those new to MSC but not to cruising. A fine way to achieve your early embarkation on two cruise lines, perhaps!
I like to explore / sometimes feel lost on the first day
For security purposes, you'll often not receive a printed boarding document with both your name and room number on it, so you might care to make a note of it prior to leaving home.
Better yet, and again owing to technology, most cruise lines offer their own App now, containing a world of suggestions, videos, and ideas about what to do or see, alongside the ever-useful map.
What are you going to do on board during the next week?
For whatever reason you didn't have the opportunity to schedule your on board activities or sign the kids up for theirs (and your free time!).
Consider heading to the appropriate desk and get yourself signed up for some of the great on board activities - comedy shows in particular tend to get filled up rather quickly, it might make sense to commit to one now and eliminate the risk for disappointment.
What are you going to do off ship during the next week?
It is with near 100% success that my clients achieve the things they wanted to do on holiday when they booked those most important items in advance.
The outliers being safaris and such, where the guest of honour might not make an appearance - part of the excitement of looking for wildlife, also some of the frustration!
It is with near 100% rate of disappointment for those clients who decide against booking their most anticipated tours and experiences, I often hear about the pursuit of a perceived better price or their wishes to just go with the flow or relax and not worry about planning.
Having an itinerary filled with spontaneity is a great way to travel, it's part of the adventure! But if you are really looking forward to a particular activity, there's a chance others are too and that can mean no space left for you to join in.
The unforeseen practicality
More frustratingly, some unforeseen matter of practicality can pop up that makes it virtually impossible to partake.
For example, I've had several instances during the last 12 months or so in which clients had expressed their desire to see a part of their island destination which was a bit further away from their place of arrival.
Visiting these famous landmarks required a journey by car and, much to their disappointment, it was the lack of available transport that denied them their opportunity to enjoy the one thing they had been most looking forward to on their holiday.
Again, if you really want to do something, chances are someone else does too! If you've not already booked this particular something, take advantage of everyone else's embarkation confusion and head right to the tours desk to secure your tour!
Don't forget about your dinners and treatments!
The same applies for any other items you might wish to use during the next few days, such as a cabana or a dinner reservation you forgot to make. The spa tends to get busy quickly too!
No sense in stressing yourself out, running all over the ship to book things. However if you are able to prioritize a couple of items you've not already secured, spend your first day securing them instead of your valuable activity and relaxation time later in the week, stressing about availability.
Ideally, you'll have planned out most of your items before you get to port. That doesn't mean micromanaging your future self from behind your keyboard now, it just means that you may want to cover a few administrative items before you get to security.
Or, better yet, have your expert travel planner do it for you!
Want more out of your next cruise vacation? Time to give us a call or request your custom cruise quote - we're here to make your trip easier and to find more value.
Ask about family and large group travel, let's see if we can't get you some bonus perks, added amenities, or even a free stateroom!