No trip is all-inclusive
That ‘all-inclusive’ rate typically doesn’t include alcohol, tips, shore excursions, internet, dining outside the dining room, and what you spend on casino or bingo play. And please, do come play: Your odds are often even worse than on land.
Choose your room carefully
Always look at the ship’s deck plan before you choose your cabin. Don’t pick one directly under the gym, the pool deck, the disco, or any late-night venue. Know that if you book a cabin at the front of the ship, you’re going to feel some up-and-down motion.
Come prepared to charge
If your ship permits it, pack a charging station or a power board. Many cruise ships still have only one or two outlets per cabin – and that’s not going to cut it in 2019.
Don’t buy excursion packages from us
Shhh… here’s a secret: You can book many of the same land excursions we offer for a fraction of the cost by arranging them privately with tour companies beforehand.
Above all, wash your hands
There were 11 disease outbreaks on cruise ships in the first six months of 2016, almost as many as in all of 2015. Most were norovirus, a highly contagious bug that causes stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Cruise or no cruise, make sure you’re not doing these five things when you have a cold.
Wait until you reach land to go online
Our wi-fi prices can be crazy high for sub-part performance. So save your surfing for port days, and ask the crew for the nearest free hot spot. (Since they can’t afford ship wi-fi either, crew members flock to internet cafés when they disembark.)
We make our own water
Ever wonder where we get all that fresh water? We make it. That’s right – giant onboard desalination systems remove salt and impurities from ocean water so it’s safe to drink.
The earlier you book, the cheaper
Sorry, procrastinators: Most cruise lines now favour early booking promotions over last-minute deals, and the least expensive rooms sell out first. For the lowest price, book right when we announce an itinerary, often about 18 months out.
Mistakes can easily happen when booking online. Be on the look out for these common travel booking mistakes.
Got robbed? Not our problem
We’re not required to report thefts of less than $10,000, so no one knows how much petty crime really happens on board. But it’s a lot: Leave your valuables at home.
Theft on airplanes is also not as rare as you might think. Learn the top seven tips to keep your personal items and valuables safe.
We can protect you from pirates
We really do train for pirate attacks (even though they’re extremely rare). We can’t share many details, but let’s just say that our ship’s fire hoses are good for more than fighting fires.
Find out which are the safest countries in the world to visit.
Leave your car off-site
If you’re arriving by car, do not park in the cruise terminal, as they invariably charge a small fortune. Off-site car parks typically cost half as much, offer shuttle service to port, and have your car waiting with the AC on at trip’s end.
Check out these four highlights of modern cruising holidays.
The threat of sexual assault is real
You’re twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise as you are on land, a 2011 study found, and two thirds of assailants are crew members. Yet cases are hard to prosecute, with alcohol often involved and police often not on board. Stay safe by sticking with a friend.
We offer more than shuffleboard and bingo
As cruise lines compete to offer the coolest attractions, you can now find zip-lines, bumper cars, ropes courses, rock walls and hair-raising water slides on board. Walk a ‘plank’ on the Norwegian Getaway that hovers 180 feet above the ocean. Or try simulated surfing or skydiving on a Royal Caribbean ship.
Chances are there’s even a music-themed cruise to suit you.
Keep an eye on your kid in the swimming pool
There have been more than a dozen drownings or near-drownings on cruise ships in recent years, and most ships don’t have lifeguards. Disney is a notable exception; it began hiring guards in late 2013 after a four-year-old nearly drowned on the Disney Fantasy.
For any travel with kids, there’s a lot you can plan beforehand to take the hassle out and make sure it’s fun for everyone.
The ship will leave without you
We may stick around for an extra hour for a busload of tourists. But if we’re missing one or two people, we are gone. And if you miss us, it’s on you to find – and pay for – a way to get to our next stop.
You may not get your luggage right after check-in
Pack a carry-on with your swimming costume, a change of clothes, medication, and anything else you’ll need to enjoy those first few hours on board.
By the way, make sure you pack for all occasions with our handy how-to.
There’s a hidden bar with cheap drinks just for the crew
Crew members say they do a lot of drinking, partying and sleeping together to blow off steam. But if you’re thinking of joining them, forget it – fraternising with guests is the fastest way to get thrown off the ship.
You can bring your own booze
Most cruise lines allow you to bring one or two bottles of wine on board, though you will probably have to pay a corkage fee. If you are buying wine on board, it’s most economical to buy a full bottle, even if you only want one glass. Your waiter can mark it with your name and save it for the next night.
Yes, people do occasionally fall over the rails
About 20 people a year fall off the ship, according to a website that tracks media reports of passengers overboard. Many of them are either incredibly drunk or they intentionally jump to commit suicide.
Order however much food you want
Can’t decide between two entrees? Have you always wanted to try escargot? Many passengers don’t know that it’s OK to order more than one appetiser or entree. You can also request seconds or thirds. We’ve had people ask for seven or eight lobster tails on formal nights.
Wealthy passengers get perks
On Norwegian, luxury travellers can stay in a hidden, keycard-protected area called The Haven that includes a concierge, 24-hour butler service and a pool and restaurant away from the crowds. On other lines, affluent guests get special seats at shows, personalised shore excursions, and a promise that they will never have to wait in line for anything.
For the ultimate indulgent experience, step aboard a luxury cruise ship.
Before you book, see if you qualify for any discounts
You’ll get lots of extra perks if you’ve travelled with us before. Also ask for a price adjustment or upgrade if the price of your room drops after you book. Then set a ‘price alert’ at cruiseline.com to get notified if the cost of your cruise drops below the level that you paid.
Bring strong magnetic hooks
They’ll stick to the metal walls of your cabin, giving you a handy place to hang your jacket, wet swimmers and other items to save space.
Don’t wait to book your next trip
If you love cruising, consider booking your next cruise while you’re onboard your current one. You can get a great deal, and many of us let you change your ship or cruise date – or even cancel – with no penalty as long as you do it by a certain time.
Sources: Sherry Kennedy, founder of cruisemaven.com; Jim Walker, a maritime attorney who specialises in cruise line law; Brian David Bruns, former crew member on six cruise lines and author of Cruise Confidential, a former cruise crew member from Thailand and three current cruise line employees who asked to remain anonymous.
This article first appeared on RD.com