The How’s, Whys, Where, Which, of Cruising for the First Timer!

WOODBRIDGE, Va. - Dec. 15, 2014 - PRLog -- For the first time cruiser, not knowing exactly what to expect may feel overwhelming and stressful. Although cruise lines have different layouts, they all have some common procedures in place. Learning about these before you go will help you prepare effectively for your upcoming vacation. But before getting into the process, I want to talk about things that can adversely impact your vacation.

1. First mistake many first time and some experience cruiser make; flying to the port of call on the same day as when your cruise is leaving town. We all know there are numerous circumstances that can make your flight late, canceled, luggage delayed or lost! Your first time on a cruise should be exciting and memorable; not a day where you feel exhausted and stress from dealing with the challenges involved in air travel. Take it from a guy who has been traveling and flying internationally for the past 10-15 years; shhhht happens! Always arrive at least 1 day before your cruise leaves. This gives you time to regroup and unwind. Also this allows you the opportunity to explore a new city that you might have never had the opportunity to visit. For example, if you arrived at a quaint village in France that you under normal circumstance would have never had the opportunity to visit; I personally would plan to spend 1 or 2 days exploring prior to boarding my cruise.

2. Second mistake first time cruisers make is forgetting your passport at home. When you are taking a cruise to another country, you are crossing an international border by sea. Therefore, a passport and sometimes visas are required to enter countries on your itinerary. Ensure you secured your passport and any visas you are required to have at least a month ahead of your departure.

3. For those who have babies and want to travel with them some cruise lines allow you to preorder your baby’s supplies (diapers, baby food, medicine, etc.) ahead of travel. This helps minimize the amount of stuff you have to travel with and hassle-free. Ladies, how many times have you had to justify to TSA officials at airports how much milk you are carry in bottles that are over 3 ounces for the baby when traveling?

4. If you have strict dietary requirements like gluten free, Halal, Kosher, etc. you should inform the cruise line in advance to ensure they have you covered.

For first time cruiser it is important to understand the process involved in embarkation. But, no worries with most cruises there are many employees at hand to help you through the process.

Whether you take a hotel shuttle transfer, private car, taxi, or bus transfer from the airport or a hotel and drive to the port, the first people you encounter at the terminal are baggage handlers. Typically they are not cruise line employees. I suggest tipping them a couple of dollars for the luggage handling. Make sure that your ship's luggage tags are securely fastened to your suitcases before you hand them over. Keep your carryon bags with you.

Next, you will have to pass through security with your carry-ons, somewhat like what happens at airports. Your checked luggage will be delivered to your stateroom. Once you are inside the terminal, you will encounter multiple check-in lines designed based on the status (loyalty programs you belong to) and or type of stateroom you booked with your travel agent. Actual boarding time is often scheduled for noon but some cruise lines will begin processing early arrivals and then direct them to a waiting area. During check-in, you will be asked to produce your documents, and any forms you were sent to complete ahead of time, passport, visas if applicable, and a credit card to pay for your onboard charges. Then you will be issued a boarding card that often also doubles as your stateroom door key and shipboard charge card. Boarding a cruise is by priority just like the airlines do it. Once boarding begins, you will inescapably have your first experience with the ship's photographer and be asked to pose for an embarkation picture. You are under no obligation to purchase any photos taken of you during the cruise. But go ahead have fun and pose, this give you the option to purchase the photo later if you like as a souvenir.

Depending on the cruise line you will be directed to your cabin or a steward will escort you. When you arrive at your cabin, check it out to ensure that everything is in order. You would find life jackets for muster drill, a copy of the ship's daily schedule, schedule of meal hours, and the schedule for various activities and entertainments available to you onboard. Delivery of your checked luggage typically occurs during the afternoon and Bon Voyage gifts sent by your friends usually arrive as well in the afternoon. While you wait don’t seat in your stateroom, explore the ship and get familiar with all the amenities available to you, if you are hungry go to one of the many restaurants available or go relax at a bar and have a drink. Your vacation has begun; relax and cheers to a great adventure!

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