Some Do's/Don'ts for Your First Day Onboard Ship
Most of us long-time cruisers have an embarkation day routine. Some head straight for the atrium or the Lido poolside bar, while most other’s head to the buffet. Some like to explore the ship with their deck plan maps, posting photos on Facebook and Twitter. Others get settled in their cabins by unpacking their belongings and getting organized.
If you're a first-timer; or even a second-timer who hasn't settled into a familiar cruise routine, here are some do's and don’ts for your first day on the ship that we think you will appreciate based on our many years cruising.
DO begin by having a tropical drink but if you get it in a colorful glass with umbrellas don’t assume the drink or the glass are free. ASK! And, don't assume that drinks offered and handed out by a staff-waiter are free – again ask! By opting for a non-souvenir glass over the colorful pretty one you can get it cheaper.
DO find your cabin – even if it is not ready for you yet, tour the ship, get your bearings, and identify which bars, shops and eateries you want to hit first. We highly recommend starting at the top and working your way down...unless you want to get in a workout by climbing all the stairs.
DON'T head straight to the buffet. I know you are hungry as it is lunchtime but it's one of the most crowded places onboard on embarkation day. Instead, check out your dining options like the Lido deck as they sometimes have their eateries open for a first-day lunch, and they aren't such madhouses. Ask a staff-member if you need help finding other options.
DO take LOTS of photos. Snap that first ‘Cheers! We are on the ship’ pic’; or the cabin you are staying in before it looks like a ‘bomb’ went off in it or capture special places on the ship with a view like the atrium, the pool, the BIG porthole windows where you can sit in the warmth of an air conditioned bar. Post them all online so your friends, and family can follow you on your journey. Make sure you have lots of memory cards to hold all the special memories because if you have to buy more [either on the ship or in your ports] they will be more expensive…if you can find them.
DON'T take the elevator if you don't need to. The lifts are super-slow on embark day and crowded with passengers hauling their luggage and carry-ons between decks. Take the stairs. In fact, if possible try to walk the stairs every time wherever you go throughout the ship because, trust us, you will be packing on the [lbs] pounds with the enticement of all the delicious foods/desserts that are available to you. They do not let you go hungry on the ship!!
DO check into making a spa and/or salon appointment as soon as you can because all the most popular treatment time’s book up quickly. Not sure what you want? Ask when there is a spa tour and take it. You might get to sample a massage or win a free treatment in the first-day raffle.
DON'T spend any more time than you have to in your travel clothes. In your carry-on, be sure to pack a change of clothes so you don't have to wait for your luggage to put on those sandals, shorts or swimsuits.
DO take a dip in the pool or hot tub. They're often uncrowded on the first day because many people haven't followed the advice above and brought a change of clothes. But why wait to begin your vacation? The pool is open!
DO make specialty dining reservations, if you haven't done so, online before your trip. Choice dining times can sell out. You may even be able to do spa reservations online also.
DON'T forget to check out the kid’s club and sign your little ones up for onboard camp activities. There's often an introductory session for kids and parents to meet the counselors and get acquainted with the facilities. Better to sign up on the first day, even if you're not sure your kids will want to go; there's no requirement to attend.
DO buy a soda card or alcohol package to get the most use out of them on your cruise. Just do the math beforehand to make sure the packages will actually save you money. It is even better to purchase this online before your cruise as you may be able to get a discount that is not offered after you board.
DON'T settle for the assigned dinner seating arrangements. The maître d' is – for the most part - available on embark day and may be able to make changes to suit you. Make an early visit to the dining room a top priority. It's also recommended that you check in with the maître d' if you have dietary restrictions.
DO reserve space on any ‘fee-extra’ sun decks (such as Princess' Sanctuary) or cabanas, especially if you want to book them for an ‘At Sea Day’. Space is limited and can sell out fast.
DO make your last phone calls, texts and tweets while your phone can access land-based cell towers and you're not paying sky-high satellite Internet and roaming fees. Once you leave the pier and enter the open waters service is spotty at best. Put your phone on airplane mode, shut it off and store it in the cabin safe.
DO check out your cabin and make sure it is pristine and in working order. Test out the TV, the toilet and the lights; check for bed bugs, worn and/or torn sheets; sanitize anything you need to with Lysol or alcohol such as the remote and door handles. Set your room safe with your own code and store important items and documents. Contact your room steward if you need assistance. Then go and enjoy your vacation.
DO unpack your suitcases and get that out of the way early. Store your luggage under the bed if possible. If the ship lets you go ahead and decorate your cabin and/or door.
DO meet your cabin steward and make any requests you have. Some travelers like to tip their cabin stewards on the first day to ensure good service throughout the cruise (but this isn't necessary). Make your wishes are known to them such as wanting your ice bucket filled 2 times/day or need a corkscrew to open up your wine or if you need an extension cord and etc.
DON'T skip the muster drill. It will provide important information in case of an emergency. Plus, it's mandatory, even if you have cruised before…and, the staff does check the cabins, restrooms and other places for hiding bodies.
DO take a nap or lounge on your balcony (even if the view is just of an ugly port building). It's your vacation; you can be as active or as laid-back as you want.
DO go up onto the Lido or rear deck for Sail-Away parties. It's festive, with live music, dancing and flowing drinks, and what a way to kick off your cruise. WooHoo!
DON'T automatically think you have to eat dinner in the main dining room on embark day. It does tend to be crowded and loud. Instead you can opt to dine in a specialty restaurant, order room service or locate another venue that’s open. These other options often are less crowded and quieter.
DO find a railing to lend on and watch the sunset over the ocean [unless you have a balcony that can view it; then that’s where you should be], go to the welcome show in the theatre, try your skills in the casino which is now open because it is now in International waters, go shopping in the ships stores, sing karaoke or listen to a band in a bar and/or get those dancin’ shoes on and hit the disco floor into the early morning as your cruise has now begun!