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Seven vital pre-cruise items to check before your next cruise.
Whether you are a first timer, or a cruise veteran, excitement always builds as your sailing date approaches, and that excitement makes it easy to forget some of the most vital things you should be certain to double check that you are fully prepared. Here are the things I have learned to check at least a week before every cruise.
1. Passports - If your cruise is anything other than a closed loop cruise (departing and returning to the same U.S. port) a passport will be required, so make sure you, and everyone traveling with you has your passports. Even more important, be sure to check the expiration dates of those passports. To be valid for your cruise that date must be no less than six months beyond the last day of your cruise. The official reason is to be sure you have plenty of extra time on your passport if some kind of emergency or contingency prevents you from returning to the U.S. at the end of your cruise.
2. Cruise Tickets and Documents - The vast majority of cruise lines now require you to complete the entire registration process online, supplying all pertinent information, and once done, your final cruise documents will be created electronically in a web-based form. These include "e-documents" for cruise passage and luggage tags, which passengers are expected to print out on their own and bring with you for presentation when you to board the ship.
3. Required Medication - Whatever the length of your planned cruise, make certain to take more of any required prescription medicines than you'll need.
While incidents are very rare, there are times a ship may be unable to return to port as scheduled. Or, it's even possible, that you may get stuck in a foreign country for a particular reason. In those cases it is imperative you have enough quantity of your required medications with you to make the situation manageable.
You want to keep this medication and your important personal documents with you at all times, so that means they should remain in your carry-on luggage. By law, prescriptions should be in their original bottles or containers with your name and dosage on it.
4. Credit Cards - Ensure you have spare credit available on any credit card you plan to use during your cruise; for both on board and on land expenses, as well as any emergency spending that may be required. A credit limit of at least $1000 is just a start.
When boarding a ship you will be required to offer a credit card, debit card, or cash to cover all of your on board spending on the ship, including any excursions you may choose, gratuities, etc.
It's important to note that if you try to use a Debit Card at the beginning of your cruise to cover on board purchases, the cruise lines will put a hold of about $400 or more on the account the first day of the cruise as a sufficient estimate of your on board expenses. Although they later charge the specific amount you owe at the end of the cruise, this pre-cruise hold will stop you from spending the money in your bank account until the actual accounting is resolved at the end of the cruise.
Therefore I recommend always using a regular credit card up front to cover your onboard charges, and never using a debit card.
5. Travel Insurance - Many people forego purchasing travel insurance for their cruises; either because they decide that is an area where they can save money, or because they mistakenly believe the insurance they have at home will cover them while abroad.
In the vast majority of cases, even with the best very best medical insurance coverage you have at home, that insurance will not cover your insurance needs outside of the country. And emergency situations can arrive for both young and old, and whether you are perfectly healthy, or not.
These emergency situations can be incredibly difficult and stressful enough, without having to face the possibility of financial disaster as well, because you do not have appropriate insurance to cover the situation.
So, I highly recommend that you investigate travel insurance and BUY IT BEFORE YOU GO! Especially if you must cover a pre-existing condition. In that case, the rules say you must buy the policy within a short time span of making your final deposit on the cruise. There are many rules with travel insurance, so we highly recommend consulting a travel insurance agency to help you find the best policy for you.
If you do not purchase travel insurance you are accepting responsibility for any financial losses if an emergency arises. Are you really wealthy enough to cover all the possible expenses of an emergency incident? Some of the most expensive contingencies can include a "med-evac" from the cruise ship by helicopter and then back to the United States by special jets. It can add up to well over $100,000.
6. Flying - when you book your flight to/from your embarkation port cities be sure to sign up for advance notification of flight changes. It is very common for airlines to change their scheduled flight times these days. Of course, you want to be notified if any changes are going to affect your plans.
Some airlines are better than others with their advance notification systems, but you are going to know as soon as possible if case you have to adjust any of your travel plans to accommodate the flight changes.
7. Your Carry-On Luggage - Be sure to keep all documents, passports, credit cards, medications, and devices mentioned above in your carry-on luggage which you should keep in your personal possession at all times!
Your checked baggage may leave you, and never find its way back to you, or may arrive too late. While we all hope it will never happen to us, only put things in your checked baggage that you can live without, at least temporarily.