Emily Lund: Travels with Emily, Series 4: On a Cruise Ship (Next Time…At a Bed and Breakfast)

1) Request a private table – As someone who doesn’t generally pray before dinner, I was shocked to have my hand grabbed and to hear a request to bow my head before embarking on dinner (all from a complete stranger at my dinner table).  If you have a large enough group on your cruise, you will all be seated together and you won’t have to worry about this.  However, if you are a single or a two person team, they will seat you with other singles and couples.  If you aren’t the type who 1) is looking for love during dinner on the open seas 2) is looking for a new  BFF couple from Iowa to spend all of your time with during your cruise or 3) likes eating with perfect strangers, you can request a private table for dinner when you book your cruise.  If they are trying to sell you upgrades or excursions when you are booking over the phone, ask them to lock in the private table at that time.  They will usually agree when they think it will encourage you to buy something else from them.

2) Move over in the hot tub – The hot tubs on the ship are not your personal hot tubs.  Others may want to partake in boiling themselves in recycled water mixed with chlorine too.  Don’t spread your legs out or sit sideways on the bench.  Don’t extend your arms out around the edge of the hot tub for as far as they will reach.  It’s rude.  The hot tubs are for everyone, which also means don’t have sex in them.

3) Pace your eating – Something in the mind makes you feel like you have to eat as much food as possible while on a cruise.  Maybe it’s the fact that there are no prices on anything and there is food available 24 hours a day.  Nothing is actually stopping you from ordering one of everything off the menu. You’ve already paid for the cruise, which includes food, so you feel like you have to get your money’s worth.  You’ll also gain 10 lbs. and not be able to scuba dive because you won’t fit in your scuba gear.

4) Do the excursions not affiliated with the cruise line – The internets are a beautiful thing and they can direct you to local gigs for all sorts of things.  They will undoubtedly cost you less than going through the cruise line and in my experience the excursions from local vendors seem to be less cheesy.

5) Sneak in your own alcohol – The biggest rip off on cruise ships is the alcohol.  Every cruise ship charges way too much for drinks, even soda.  For the most part, drinks are not included in the price of the cruise and if you think you’ll be drinking a lot, they encourage you to buy extra overly expensive drink packages.  Cruise ships will not allow you to bring any of your own liquids on the boat except “unopened” bottles of water.  So, if you empty out some liter bottles of water, you can fill them with gin, vodka, or rum…of any clear liquor.  Make sure they look unopened.  They dumped out two of our vodka sneaks because the bottles didn’t look full.  Once on the ship, you can mix your liquor with lemonade, ice tea or fruit juice at no additional cost.

6) Don’t buy the crap on the boat – I haven’t calculated the inflation rate for cruise ship jewelry, souvenirs, or bathing suits but I have a hunch it is pretty high and the quality is low.  The shops directly located on the docks in port seem to have a similar conglomeration of crap.  Consult the internets again and see what the locals say.  Go with their recommendations.  If you are looking for high-end jewelry, make sure the vendors you choose are reputable and that they provide certification of their products.

7) Pay attention during the safety demo – As we have recently learned in Italy and off the shores of Alabama, cruise ships are not always unsinkable nor do they always have electricity and running water.  Lest we forget about Titanic, please attend the safety demo, pay attention to where the life vests and life boats are and make note of the fastest and easiest route to get to the lifeboat.  You can also practice trampling others at the buffet line if you are so inclined.

8) Join In! I know that the shows and the conga line are little cheesy and you might groan a few times at the ship comedian, but just go with it.  Join in the pool limbo competition or the ship trivia contest.  It’s silly; it’s lame, but it will make you laugh and you might win a really bad prize you can bring home to your kids.

9) Get off the boat whilst in port – You are travelling by boat to far off and exotic places.  Some of them are islands or mysterious countries or terrains.  Don’t stay on the boat the whole time standing in the buffet line.  Go out into the world and experience the world.  You have plenty of time to spend on the boat whilst at sea.  Don’t waste port time on the boat.

10) For God’s sake, tip! The vast majority of the cruise ship workers are from foreign countries around the world.   They are gone from their homes and families for long lengths of time and they have to sleep in the steerage section of the ship.  If they are doing a good job of serving your food, making your bed, forming your towels into elephants, please please please tip them accordingly.  Just like servers in restaurants, they make a very small wage and are dependent on tips for their livelihood.

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