Whether you've sailed hundreds of times before or you’re new to cruising, mistakes are all too easy to make. There is a myriad of decisions to make when planning a cruise and just as many factors to consider while onboard -- and if you make the wrong call, it could cost you.
From practical planning to ensuring you don't lose track of time in port or spend unnecessarily onboard, take note of our advice to avoid these costly cruise mistakes.
If you're based in Michigan and your cruise vacation starts in Miami, it could end up being a huge mistake to fly into Florida on the date of your embarkation. The same goes for any journey that requires a flight or long-distance travel to reach your embarkation port.
There are several things that could go wrong, including flight delays and cancelations, and while your airline will do whatever they can to get you on the next available flight, there is no guarantee that flight will get you to the ship on time -- or even depart that day. And that is going to cost you your cruise.
These days, air travel can turn into utter chaos as full planes and understaffed airports create a perfect storm of travel misery. Plan smart, fly into your embarkation port a day or two early, relax and kickback with a cocktail as you anticipate the start of your cruise adventure.
If you're required to have a valid passport to cruise -- and almost all cruise lines do require this (with the exception of some closed-loop cruises) -- whatever you do, don't turn up to the airport or cruise terminal with an expired or imminently-about-to-expire passport.
Check your passport's expiry date before booking a cruise vacation. You should also crosscheck how long you're required to have remaining on your passport for the country/countries you plan on traveling to.
Certain destinations require passengers to have at least six months remaining on a passport from the date of returning home. If you're required to apply for your first passport or a renewal, allow several weeks for the Passport Office to turnaround a new passport. Especially during busy periods when processing times are typically longer.
If something goes wrong on vacation, you're going to want travel insurance, otherwise it could cost you thousands of dollars. This means selecting a policy that covers the type of trip you're taking (a cruise voyage in this instance) and the destination you're traveling to.
Make sure the cover you opt for includes health-related risks, too, such as travel interruptions and medical assistance. You will also need to declare any pre-existing medical conditions, from hip replacements to heart conditions and high blood pressure, to ensure your potential medical needs are fully covered.
There are many great reasons to take off independently when in port, including saving money and exploring a destination at your own pace. But if you ignore the ship's port departure time and return late, you will be making a costly blunder.
Typically, cruise lines require passengers back onboard at least one hour before departure. The return-to-ship time given by your cruise line is not a guide, it's a strict instruction. If you ignore it, you could delay the ship's departure -- and that would be highly embarrassing and downright rude -- or you could end up watching your cruise ship sail off into the sunset from land.
Using a cell phone at sea can be costly, especially if you haven't pre-purchased your at-home cellular provider’s cruise plan or paid extra for a cruise line package. T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T all offer plans that cover data usage, calls and texts. Cruise line packages vary but do check what deals are available if you plan on streaming, using social media or making calls back home while at sea.
To avoid running up an eye-watering bill, switch your phone to Airplane Mode and look out for free Wi-Fi when in port.
Your cruise program, either the paper version, the onboard app or both, is your best friend -- providing daily listings of social events, activities and venue operating hours -- helping you to maximize your cruise vacation. Specialty dining deals, cocktail offers and spa packages are also typically listed in the ship's daily cruise program. If you plan on splurging on any of these extras during your cruise vacation, scan the cruise program each day to make sure you're clued up on the daily deals.
We've been there; making new friends while imbibing on a range of alcoholic drinks and ordering rounds into the wee hours is a lot of fun. We've also missed a culture-packed day in Athens because we overslept and felt too, umm, dehydrated, following a late night that finally wound down in the early hours.
Pace yourself. Especially if you have an active day in port planned the following day, consider taking it easy the night before so you don't miss out on pre-booked (and paid for) excursions and memory-making moments.
It should not take a pandemic to encourage cruise passengers to thoroughly wash hands after using the bathroom and before dining. Pack a travel-size hand sanitizer and make use of the dispensers placed outside of all dining venues to reduce the risk of spreading viruses such as COVID-19 and norovirus -- this goes for time spent on land, at airports, cruise terminals, too, since they spread just as easily ashore as they do at sea.