Regardless of the number of days, we want our cruise vacations to be fun. We may book at the last minute or plan years in advance. We might have qualified for a great deal, paid more than we anticipated or been someone else’s guest, paying nothing. To get there might have been a drive to the port or flying in to the embarkation city from far away. All that aside, once on the ship, we want it to be enjoyable. Here are some ways to add more quality time on board.
Book The Same Ship Again
There is a whole lot to be said for being on familiar turf; knowing your way around any travel destination. A cruise ship, especially big ones, are a destination of sorts and knowing our way around a ship or the general layout that seems to be common for a particular cruise line is helpful. There are no rules that say we must try different lines, ships or itineraries. We sailed Carnival Victory three times early in our cruise history, just because we liked the layout of the ship and the itinerary she sailed. If we saw familiar faces in the crewmembers, all the better, but don’t count on that; crew are contract employees and may be back home or on another ship when you return.
Memorize The Deck Plans
This is especially good advice for those sailing on mega-ships that take days just to explore, but also good advice for sailing even the smallest of ships. More important: the location of major venues in relation to other major venues. Once on the ship, things will look different, depending on what deck and which side of the ship we initially enter on. Still, if we know that the showroom is at the front of the ship on deck six, the same deck as the casino; two decks down from our cabin location, etc, we will find places much easier, increasing the quality time we have on board. The very first sentence out of my mouth on boarding any ship, to whoever is greeting us: What deck and what side of the ship am I on?
Choose A Flexible Dining Option
Having to cut short time ashore to come back to the ship and get ready for dinner can end one great experience and put unnecessary pressure on the next to be better than it might be. Traditional cruise ship dining locked in to early or late seating forces us to plan our evenings on board around that time. Choosing a flexible, open seating dining option allows more quality time with us calling the shots on when to eat and with whom. Might as well get used to this too, open seating and even the elimination of a main dining room one-size-fits-all experience seems to be the way cruise lines are heading.
Choose Traveling Companions Carefully
Who will be sitting across the table from you at dinner is important. If given a choice, I would rather sail alone than with someone who would be high-maintenance, requiring a lot of my attention. Hey, it’s my vacation too so why should I have to burn up my vacation insuring that others are having a good time. We see this on nearly every sailing of every ship we have ever been on: someone who should not be on the ship because they were not suited to enjoy it for any number of reasons.
Go Easy On The Packing Skills
Simply put, no formal wear is required on almost any cruise line. No one will check your luggage to insure that you have ballroom attire before allowing you on the ship. The same can be said for packing multiple items of the same clothing; shorts, jeans, t-shirts, swimwear as well as travel gear. In the past, we had a period of time set aside for “unpacking” where we set up house in our cruise ship stateroom, bringing nearly all the comforts of home along for the ride. At the end of the voyage, packing back up to go home took a similar amount of time. Reducing the amount of “stuff” we bring along adds quality time onboard, on both ends of the voyage.
Have A Plan For Off-Ship Activities
If choosing shore excursions in advance, treat them like dining. If in traditional fixed time dining, that assigned time dictates how the rest of the evening will go. If choosing a shore excursion, make sure its worth defining your day by the time it takes. Even if planning to simply walk off the ship at any given port of call for a day at the beach, some shopping or lunch, write that down and have a day by day plan to get the most out of your cruise vacation.
Don’t Lock In Too Much
Probably one of the most important parts of planning to allow more quality time on board: Don’t be afraid to alter the plan and stray off into unknown territory if it looks attractive once there. If having a good time at the pre-dinner drink place, don’t hesitate to skip dinner and stay right there. Ashore, if you find a nice place for lunch and want to make that the event of the day, do that. Every cruise director on every ship will tell you: It’s YOUR vacation and encourage you to do what YOU want to do. That’s probably the secret to making every sailing a winner, but a plan and some thought along the way is a good idea too