Want to take your vacation from good to great? The nice thing about cruising is that it’s like ice cream — even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
But there are some things that passengers who sail regularly know can make a big difference in the enjoyment of your trip. These moves can take an already good experience on the ship and elevate it to something that’s unforgettable.
Sail on a Bigger Ship
There are some people that say they don’t like the trend toward the bigger mega-ships. Certainly some people may have a better cruise on a smaller vessel, as it simply fits their style better. For most passengers, however, bigger ships are going to mean a greater cruise.
With larger ships, there is simply the ability for the cruise line to put more aboard for passengers. That means more restaurants, more bars, entertainment options, and more space. There’s simply more to see, do, and experience.
For instance, Royal Caribbean puts an actual park in the middle of their largest ships, along with an Aqua Theater at the back with a spectacular water show, including divers plunging more than 50 feet down to the pool below.
Having more — and more unique — options at your fingertips can help to create unforgettable memories and turn a good trip great.
Take at Least One Shore Excursion
We will be the first to admit that there is some sticker shock when it comes to shore excursions. It’s not unusual to see prices of $100 or $150 per person. That’s why unless money is no object, it’s unlikely you’ll pick a paid shore excursion for every port of call. The price can add up quickly.
However, smart passengers know that shore excursions can take your vacation to another level. Sure, you can explore on your own or find a beach to lounge. But shore excursions can offer access to activities and things to see that you just can’t experience back home.
Explore ancient Mayan ruins, see Alaskan glaciers, explore underground rivers, visit beaches that are inaccessible except by boat. There’s no shortage of once-in-a-lifetime things that you can do on a shore excursion. And while the price may be expensive in our opinion, years later you won’t remember the money, but you’ll remember the experience.
Meet Other Passengers
When you sail, you’re likely going as a couple or a family. And while there are thousands of other people on the ship, making friends isn’t normally a high priority for most people. But it can take your vacation from good to great.
People are in a good mood on a cruise (it’s vacation, after all) and the shared experience of the cruise gives plenty to talk about to break the ice. What you’ll find is that usually people are happy to chat, and you can even make some friends for the week. It’s always interesting to meet new people, and you never know when you’ll find someone that you share a lot in common with.
From there, you can have a friend to have a drink with at a bar, have dinner with, or enjoy the shows. It adds another dynamic to the cruise that many people don’t think about but that can add a lot of enjoyment to the trip.
Try a Different Cruise Line
Maybe you’ve taken a cruise before and didn’t quite see what the fuss was about. Or maybe you are loyal to a certain cruise line and sail it every time you head to sea… to the point to where it almost feels routine.
What you might not realize is that while there are lots of similarities among cruise lines, they are not all the same. In fact, the experience aboard a cruise can vary from ship to ship, much less from cruise line to cruise line. That’s why if you want to up your experience, then don’t be afraid to try a different line.
The newness of a different line can lead to a much more memorable trip for those that traditionally sail the same line over and over. Or if you’ve sailed before and weren’t impressed, then it may be that the cruise line just wasn’t the right fit for you. Either way, a different line can make all the difference.
Splurge on an Upgrade/Service
On a cruise there is no shortage of places to spend your money… or chances to upgrade and spend even more of your money. Whether it’s spending to eat at a specialty restaurant instead of an included spot, or springing for a higher-end cabin, or booking a service in the spa, you have plenty of options to splurge.
Spending a little extra dough can elevate your cruise experience. There’s something about having a little more space to come back to in the cabin or having a great meal with your partner in a more intimate setting that’s definitely worth the extra money.
Similar to the shore excursion, forking out for every single upgrade may prove to be too much for your budget. However, deciding to spend a little extra here and there can absolutely make a difference in how much you enjoy your cruise.
Tack On an Extra Day Before Your Cruise
Of course, the cruise is the vacation. But if you want to elevate your trip, then it’s a smart idea to not forget about the day before you sail. Staying in the port city the night before can be a big plus.
For many, they choose to head to the cruise ship the day the ship sails. If driving into the port, it’s common to leave for the ship the morning of departure. Some even risk flying into port the morning of sailing.
However, it is much more relaxing and enjoyable to arrive at the port city the day before. Not only does this give you more time in case an issue arises in getting to the port — such as a delayed flight — but it also lets you have one more night of vacation that’s a bit different than the rest of the trip.
Port cities like Miami, New Orleans, New York, and more are destinations themselves, not just a place to get on the ship. Taking a little time to enjoy them and a night on the town before heading to the ship is a great idea.
Why not wait until after the cruise to explore the port? By that point many people are simply eager to get back home.
Find “Your” Spot on the Ship
During your cruise, one way to make things more enjoyable is to figure out where your spot is on the ship. We’re not talking about where your cabin is onboard. Instead, what many people find is that they have a spot on the ship that after a couple of days they keep gravitating toward.
Maybe it’s a cozy bar where they like the bartender. Or it’s a corner of the pool deck where there’s plenty of sun without the crowds. Or maybe it’s in the middle of the main promenade where you can people watch as seemingly everyone on the ship passes by. One of our favorites? Having a quiet breakfast in Central Park on Oasis-class ships.
No matter where it is, finding your little home away from home on the ship is like finding your own little oasis. It can make the trip all the more special.
Be Prepared For Hurdles
Chances are that absolutely nothing goes awry on your cruise. But sometimes things do happen. Maybe it’s as simple as getting too much sun, giving you a nasty burn. Or a headache, or a toothache.
Or maybe it’s something more serious like losing a piece of luggage or spraining an ankle on the stairs.
No matter, if you aren’t prepared for small issues, then they can suck a lot of enjoyment out of your vacation. That’s why being prepared with things like travel insurance are important so small issues don’t cause as much stress.
It’s also a good idea to bring a grab bag of medicines for everything from sunburn to upset stomach. Having these items on hand can be the difference between feeling crummy in your room and back out enjoying yourself on the ship. Above all, just know that a little preparedness can go a long way.
Change Restaurants for More Variety
We talked about splurging sometimes to get more out of your cruise. And while we mentioned specialty restaurants as one suggestion, even if you eat at other included spots on the ship, it’s a good idea to change where you dine some nights during your cruise.
The most popular spot to eat dinner each night is the main dining room. But no matter how good a restaurant is, eating at the same spot every day for a week can get old.
That’s exactly why cruise ships have so many different spots to eat, and smart passengers take advantage. With all the options, there is no reason to eat the same style meal each night, even if you order something different off the menu. Exploring the different restaurants on the ship — even if it costs a little extra — is one way to make your cruise even better.
Take That “Bucket List” Cruise
Think of cruising and most people imagine a trip that takes from the sunny port to port with beaches, blue water, and tropical drinks. And millions of people each year take these sorts of trips and have the time of their lives.
But cruising is much more diverse in offerings. There are trips to Alaska. Sailings through the Panama Canal. Cruises around Europe and Scandinavia are also popular. There are even trips to the Galapagos or to Antarctica.
There’s nothing wrong with a classic Caribbean cruise. They are loved by millions. But if you’re looking for something that’s even more memorable, crossing off one of those “bucket list” type of cruises should take your trip from good to great.
Don’t Be Shy With the Room Steward
Your room steward is there to make sure the room is neat and tidy and that you have anything you might need for your vacation. Typically they come twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. If you need anything, the room steward is there to help.
But for many people, they don’t need twice daily cabin service. In fact, if you find yourself running back to the room regularly, it can be awkward trying to access your room when the steward is cleaning it. Trying to schedule your day around when the attendant comes doesn’t have to happen, though. When you meet him or her on the first day, you can just let them know you only need service once a day or even every other day.
On the flipside, if you need more attention for the cabin like a regular bucket of ice, more towels, or anything else — even down to separating or joining the beds — don’t hesitate to ask.
If you want to make your vacation even better, then smart passengers know not to be shy with their requests to make their cabin more comfortable.