International cruise travel took a back seat to safety for a while after terror-related incidents took a toll on bookings. Moving along with increased security and lower air prices, the issue seems to be addressed, with more cruise travelers booking sailings at places around the world. That brings reason to revisit the topic of international cruise travel from A to Z, beginning with some general considerations on the topic.
- Book as far in advance as possible and with as few stops as possible– Doing so just makes the long travel day a bit shorter. At the same time the booking is made, find out any special documentation you might need to board the ship. In our case, a valid passport is all we need. We have those so this is an easy item to check off the list. Still, on other itineraries one might be required to satisfy special entry requirements. Best source to figure that part out: The U.S Department of State’s Safe Traveler Program which offers all the information needed to enter and experience any given country international cruise travel might take us to.
- Start focusing on getting plenty of rest and eating right several days before the flight. Sure, maybe we can’t “bank” sleep but starting a long flight with a full tank of rest is always a good idea. If international cruise travel takes you six time zones into the future, pushing bedtime somewhat into the future can help take the sting off that adjustment.
- Finish packing (at least preliminarily) a week in advance– that offers the opportunity to be sure critical items are packed and allows time to get source those items if they were not packed first time around. International cruise travel may take you to place where picking up items left behind can be difficult if not impossible.
- Consider your one personal carry-on item your “flight bag” and have everything that might be needed during the flight in it. More on that later but unless we’re flying first class, space to move around will be limited. Having everything needed right at hand, under the seat in front of you, is huge and a must-do for all international flights.
- If arriving the day of sailing, make no solid plans for the first day or two. Have some plans in place but have the flexibility to spend the first day overseas adjusting to the time difference and getting used to new surroundings. If everything goes well, you may be able to hit the ground running. If a few parts of your travel plan don’t come off as anticipated, all is not lost, just a bit behind schedule
- Enjoy the experience that international flights can offer in and of themselves. Flight attendants or other passengers have wonderful stories to tell when they have some time that can add a richness to our travels.
More specific to the world of international cruise travel, some elements of the experience to focus on
- Make Copies of your passport, drivers license, cruise documents and pretty much any other documentation you have with you. Make two copies. One copy exchange with someone else you are traveling with, another put in your carry-on luggage. That way, you and your friend will both have to be robbed and those robbers will have to take your carry-on luggage to leave you with nothing. Still concerned? Make one more copy and leave it with a friend who has no life and is always available no matter what, someone you can call who has the ability to scan and email or fax documentation someplace you might need it. Have a smartphone or laptop along with you? Hide that information on there someplace where only you can find it.
- Being Fashionable Is Not In Fashion. That designer luggage begs criminals to take it. This is not the image you need to project. Go to a garage sale and buy someone’s old beat up luggage that still has a few miles left on it. Maybe get some extra straps to wrap around the outside or carry along some duct tape if you think you will need it. You could have a suitcase full of diamonds and no one would know.
- Dress For Failure. Like the designer luggage, your fancy clothing and accessories need to be tucked away to impress the people you will probably never see again on formal night in the dining room. That Rolex (real or fake) does not make you look like a well-traveled explorer. It makes you look like a stupid person that can probably be robbed pretty easy.
- In Your Stateroom it would be nice to believe that the friendly crew member really does love you as much as they seem to. They don’t. They will not watch out for you and your stuff. If you leave your iPad sitting around on the balcony it will mysteriously disappear. One might think that is just common sense to lock up valuables. No, common sense seems to wait for us on the shore and will be there when we get back. Lock up valuables in your cabin safe. In the olden days, guests might ask for their valuables to be locked in the ship’s safe. Nobody does that now so forget it.
- Have A Plan For Drinking Alcohol. Would get intoxicated and walk about aimlessly in a strange city on land, all alone, and expect a good outcome? Probably not but that is exactly what a cruise ship is: a floating city full of strangers and they are not all nice people. On land we commonly have a designated driver, someone who does not drink. It’s not a bad idea to do that on the cruise ship as well, depending on the size of ship being sailed. The larger the ship, the more like a strange city it is and the more important it is to be careful around those strangers. Throw in that international cruise travel brings a more diverse mix of traveler onboard for bonus reason to be concerned about this.
- Beware Ashore.If you are going to be a crime victim while on a cruise, it is most likely to occur when you are ashore. Most crimes committed against cruise passengers are those of opportunity. I remember going to a county fair as a boy with my father. He said to put my wallet in my front pocket to keep from it being stolen. I always thought that was a dumb idea as it made me look like an idiot who didn’t know which pocket to put his wallet in. Still, the concern is valid. Keep your eyes open if you can. Some people can’t. Some people are oblivious to their surroundings. You may have traveled with people like this. If they must come ashore, don’t have them holding the money or important stuff. Let them carry the towels. That cruise ships sailing from places other than North America will naturally have a more international mix of passengers is just something to get over and enjoy.
- When Leaving The Ship The Last Time at the end of the cruise be sure you have everything with you. Once you step out and shut that door, anything left inside disappears. You can walk down the hallway, remember you forgot your camera, go back 60 seconds later and “poof”; no camera. Remembering you left something on the ship when you get home gets worse results. Most cruise lines have a dedicated department that handles lost and found items left on the ship. If that cruise ended on another continent, getting back your forgotten items becomes especially difficult and can be quite costly.