Club Traveler

What to Know Before You Cruise

Worries have a way of melting away on vacation, especially when your trip begins by saying bon voyage to the mainland—and all its traffic—and hello to the open sea. However, sometimes that moment of serenity happens only after a few stress-filled days of packing and planning.

Whether you’re new to cruising or getting ready to embark on your latest water adventure, eliminate your pre-vacation anxiety with these cruise-specific travel planning and packing tips.

Luggage Restrictions and Considerations: When determining the size of your suitcase, you should factor in not only the items you’ll need while at sea but also the size of your stateroom. You may decide it’s worth it to forgo that extra suitcase to gain additional in-room space during your voyage. Most cruise lines advise packing no more than two suitcases, even for cruises of six days or more.

On embarkation day, some travelers schedule early arrivals, check their bags and explore the port city before it’s time to board. If this is your plan, be aware that some cruise lines enforce checked luggage restrictions. For example, Carnival’s policy states: “Each checked suitcase and carry-on suitcase should not weigh more than 50 pounds, and when lying flat, bags must not exceed 16 inches high by 24 inches wide.” Restrictions vary, but it’s best to know ahead of time so you’re not stuck lugging heavy bags for hours.

Tipping Policies: To tip or not to tip? Double-check your cruise line’s policies. Many cruise lines automate gratuities, which means you may not need to worry about doing the math every time you open a bar tab or remembering to tip multiple crew members at the end of your journey. Although some lines include gratuities up font in the cruise fare, others automatically deduct gratuities daily. These fees are then divided and distributed to crew personnel.

Note: Even if you see a daily gratuity charge on your bill, this may still be adjusted depending on your cruise line’s policies. For example, Celebrity Cruises adds a suggested daily gratuity amount to passengers’ bills each day, but travelers can adjust this amount with the ship’s guest relations department.

Dress Code: First things first, determine if your cruise ship has one. Most do—at least in the broadest interpretation of what “dress code” means. From a clean T-shirt for dinner to full evening attire like tuxedos and cocktail dresses, the rules of what to wear and when can drastically differ at sea.

Check with your cruise provider for the specifics before you start packing.

Get to Know Your Ship and Ports: Plan to spend some time getting to know your vessel after you embark. This will be your vacation home for the next several days or weeks, so plan a ship tour for your first day. This will help you discover where all the best lookout points, eateries and shops are on board.

On a related note: Research your ports of call before your cruise to determine whether you want to order special tickets for an excursion in advance, pack water shoes, withdraw extra cash one day and so forth.

A little research can go a long way in saving you time and money.

Get Cruising

Not sure where to go? Consider one of two ClubPartner Perk Grand Adventures slated for 2018! Enjoy Members-only pricing while discovering amazing destinations. Learn more about the Unforgettable Independence Day Getaway, which will make stops in the Northeast U.S., New England and Canada during its 11-night voyage beginning June 27, and the Extraordinary Panama Canal Experience cruise that will venture to Panama, the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Jamaica and Costa Rica during its 10-night journey.

Looking for something a little different? Through ClubPartner CruisesOnly, Members can select voyages on all major cruise lines—Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and others—at a best-price guarantee.

*Photo by Ross Helen / Getty Images.