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Tips and Advice
Cruise tips and advice from an expert. Make sure you’ve taken the correct ID requirements. Yes, we've mentioned this before, but it is very important.  You need the following for your cruise:  passports (including one for each child), cruise documents, and (not required but important) travel insurance policy).  You will almost certainly be required to have a picture ID in addition to your issued ship's ID card to re-board in each port, so bring your driver's license along on the cruise. Taking your passport off the ship is not recommended.   While in transit to the cruise, keep your passport and ship’s ticket/documents on your person, readily available.  Also, put valuables and medicines in your carry-on bag.  Nearly all ships have a cabin safe, once on board.   Most cruise lines require you to “run a tab” by using the personal ship’s ID issued to you at embarkation.  You just sign for all purchases on board then settle by credit card, traveler’s checks or cash at the end of the cruise.  You will not be able to use personal checks on board for individual purchases.  Most shops in the Caribbean ports accept major credit cards, traveler’s checks or American dollars.   The ship’s daily program is your guide while you’re on the cruise.  It will have important information, such as announcements, daily activities, dining times and dress codes, etc.  The definitive time for the port calls will be listed on the daily schedule.  No matter what time your original itinerary may state, any last minute changes will be found in that daily schedule. It is usually delivered to your cabin each evening. (Your cabin steward can give you 2 per cabin, if you request it, or you can get another copy at the Information desk).  A highlighter pen is handy for selecting what you’d like to do each day. Carrying the schedule with you may also make it easier to keep track of the ship’s many events.   Don’t try to do it all.  There are so many activities on board most ships that it’s possible to return from your vacation exhausted, if you’re not careful.  Remember, you’re on a cruise.  Schedule some relaxation time.   Take a risk. Do at least one thing each day that you would not normally do.  Participate in the shipboard activities, trivia games, dance classes, craft making, galley or bridge tour, wine tasting, and perfume or skin care seminars.  Try something different.  When the Cruise Director asks for volunteers, put your hand up.  You might win a great memento of the cruise and have some fun.  In the dining room, try some unusual sounding food. You might find something you love.  In ports, explore a bit, go somewhere new.  If you’ve never snorkeled, you might take the beginners Snorkel excursion.  They’ll give you some good basic training, lend you the equipment and take you to a good spot to see fish and Coral Reefs.   Formal nights vary by ship and itinerary.  Many ships are not as formal as you may think.  There are usually 2 nights on 7-day cruises; 1 night on 3, 4, or 5-day cruises.  A dressy ”Sunday dress” or pantsuit for women and a dark suit or conservative sport jacket for men are appropriate.  On other evenings, sport shirts, pants, and casual dresses are fine.  Shorts are not allowed in the evenings in the dining room.  See the information section of the cruise brochure or the cruise line website for more information.  If you don’t wish to dress up, alternative dining is available on the Lido deck on most ships. And, of course, room service is complimentary.   Some handy things to bring on the cruise: small travel alarm, hair dryer (check to see if your ship supplies them), highlighter pen, small packets of detergent and dryer sheets for ships that have a passenger Laundromat on board, home refrigerator magnets will stick notes to the metal walls of the cabin. Also, a lightweight, fold-up tote bag and  some large and small Zip-Lock bags are very helpful. Liquor purchased on board and in port will be held by the ship until cruise end.   The tipping policy being used on many cruise ships is to add a daily tip charge to your shipboard account instead of handing out envelopes of cash.  Check with the Information Desk if you wish to lessen or raise the amount tipped or, if you want to give your tips directly to the parties involved, ask that they remove the charge entirely from your account (this will probably need to be done, mid-cruise).  The disadvantage of the latter is that a great number of faceless individuals who also work hard to make your cruise memorable will miss out.  We find it the best practice to take advantage of the automatic billing and simply supplement it with some additional cash for select crewmembers at cruise end.  Some people prefer to offer tips at the beginning of the cruise to help insure more attentive service.   Embarkation: Pickup your luggage at the airport baggage claim area.  If you purchased your air tickets or transfers from the cruise line, look for the Cruise Lines representative for your transfer to the ship. If not, look for taxis or limo service.  Make sure your cruise tags are on your bags securely.  It is a good idea not to attach them until AFTER claiming them from the airline.  Your heavy baggage will be checked curbside at the pier for transfer directly to your cabin.   Debarkation: The last night of your cruise you will be asked to put your luggage (except carry-on bags) outside your cabin so that they can be taken to the holding area of the ship and off loaded the next morning. Don’t pack the clothes you need to wear off the ship in the morning!  Also keep your passport/ID with you for Immigration processing and your declaration form handy for Customs.  You will claim your bags in the customs area ashore.  This will be explained again in detail on the ship.   Have collected receipts handy if large purchases put you over the duty free limit.   Liquor purchases are no longer allowed as a carry-on item aboard commercial aircraft, nor will the airline accept liquor in cartons as checked baggage.  Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise, especially a salesperson who is depending on your gullibility in order to make the sale.  You can pack as many bottles as you dare in your checked suitcase.    In addition to protecting your duty-free liquor, it can be used to ensure your primary bag remains under the weight limit.   DO declare all purchases.  Duties are so minimal now—little more than sales tax—it’s simply not worth the risk of under- declaring--$1000-$10,000 fine and a permanent home in the U.S. Custom’s “stop-and-search” data base.