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Cruise Guide: Life onboard – The first few hours

By Mike Coleman

Could the glossy cruise brochures depicting your dream vacation be true? Will life on the high seas really be as fun and as exhilarating as you expect?
¨This week, in part two of our three-part series exploring the best way to plan and make the most of your first – or 10th – cruise vacation, we’ll take a look at what to expect during your first few hours on board today’s mega-liners and their intimate counterparts.
The purser’s office

Upon arrival, you will likely be escorted to your cabin and your checked luggage will soon be brought to your door by a crew member. While the urge to explore your new home-away-from-home is understandable these, however, are valuable minutes to ensure that your cabin is what you expected. You’ll have plenty of time later to explore the ship. If you paid for a balcony suite but are standing in a cabin with no view, contact the purser’s office immediately, by in-cabin telephone or in person. Kindness goes a long way here so be patient and work calmly with the purser your new best friend to resolve the issue.

This is also the best time to book your coming week’s spa treatment, salon appointment, shore excursion or to reserve a table in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. While your cruise includes meals, usually at a set hour in the main dining room, it might be nice to step out of the norm later in the week and eat in a specialty restaurant. Spa and salon services, shore excursions and your specialty restaurant are additional expenses, not included in your cruise fare.

Didn’t have much time, before departure, to assess the shore excursion booklet provided by your cruise line? Not to worry. A great way to choose the shore excursions that are right for you is to review them on the airplane or have your spouse/kids read them while driving to the cruise terminal. Space is often limited, especially for the best shore excursions, so do your best to book as soon as you arrive. Note, some lines allow you to book shore excursions in advance on-line, so take advantage of the perk if you can.

If your voyage features a number of ports, it’s also nice to forgo a shore excursion on the day of your choice and spend it, virtually alone, on the ship. While family members and other passengers may be off on a day-long port visit, enjoy the decadent feeling of having the pools, fitness center, dining venues and other on-board amenities to yourself.
In-cabin safes

By now, while unpacking, you’ve probably noticed the in-cabin safe. When traveling you should keep your passport, travel documents, other important papers, cash and credit cards on you at all times but while on board it’s a convenient perk to have safe storage at your fingertips.

So, you’ve now made it to the ship, you’ve checked in and spent quality time making the necessary appointments for haircuts, facials, massages, port trips and specialty dining. What’s next? A mandatory lifeboat drill. As required by law, you and your family members, all passengers and crew must participate. You’ll learn where to go and what to do in case of an emergency.

By now you’re no doubt hungry. The ship is sailing toward your first port of call and dinner is around the corner. Once seated, you may be paired for the duration of your cruise with strangers. While this is often a benefit of cruising, meeting interesting people from all walks of life from around the world, prolonged, awkward banter with your new dinner mates may not be what the doctor ordered. Contact the maitre’ d your other best friend on board and politely ask to be assigned to a different table.

Chances are you’ll enjoy the new company, as you and your tablemates look forward to your first evening on board.

The real fun, like the week ahead, is just beginning.

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