Fifteen Tips for The Wise Cruiser

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1955, Jean-Marc Papineau is a reporter by training for thirty years. He has been editor-in-chief of some business, personal finances and technology magazines, all in his native language of French.

He has been cruising since 1985, his first cruise was on the Azur, a ship of the late French cruise line Les Croisières Paquet. He has traveled on ships ranging from 20,000 to 140,000 gross tons, from a dozen different cruise lines, mostly with his young daughter Océane.

French Canadian cruise journalist Jean-Marc Papineau, and his daughter, Océane, prepare to board the Disney Wonder

After advising friends and family on how to choose and manage a cruise, Jean-Marc Papineau decided recently to prepare a helpful, affordable and independent guide book: the author was not invited on any cruise by any line.

CRUISING 101 is written by a passenger for the first-time or experienced cruise traveler looking for the best deal, the cruise line that best suits his or her lifestyle and the nicest cruise ships at the lowest prices.

For more information on the book, go to

Jean-Marc has done more than twenty tourism reports on different countries on all continents, including Japanese ryokans, and lived for many months in French Polynesia, about ten years ago, to write a book, in French, about the lifestyle in this unique Pacific paradise.

Fifteen Tips for the Wise Cruiser
  1. Register online on the cruise line's website and fill out the immigration form at least 14 days before departure. This will greatly reduce your waiting time in the boarding process.
  2. If possible, choose an itinerary with a departure as late as possible on the first day and an arrival as soon as possible on the last day. You'll thus have more breathing room in case of any delays due to your plane. And you'll be less tight on your return time.
  3. If possible, choose a journey with stops of a long duration. The longest stays in ports of calls are in the three Bermudian ports, the ship arriving between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and leaving about 7:00 a.m. the next day. A stop of six hours only, for instance, does not leave you much time to discover the area, especially since you must wait up to 45 minutes after the ship is docked before leaving because the ship must be clear customs and you must be back on board 30 minutes before departure. Don't forget to calculate the transportation time if the ship is not docked close to the city. The best is obviously when you have just a short walk from where the ships docks to the cities of the ports of call.
  4. If possible, choose an itinerary with ports of call where the ship is docked. When the ship must anchor because the water in the port is not deep enough, you'll waste easily up to an hour using a tender between your ship and the port, and another hour for the return trip.
  5. Arrive as early as possible at the port. Often, the boarding starts about two hours before the official time indicated in your travel documents. You'll have the opportunity to discover the ship in peace.
  6. Some take advantage of the online reservation system to choose your cabin. Others, such as myself, prefer to let lady luck decide, choosing a guaranteed cabin, the guarantee being of having a cabin in the category you paid for, or better. It had the nice surprise of being granted a mini suite on the Norwegian Crown for the price of an inside cabin. Same story with my brother-in-law who booked an inside cabin and obtained a balcony on the Costa Mediterranea for only $399 (plus about $50 taxes).
  7. Is it worthwhile to pay more for a oceanview cabin? I don't think so, especially since the porthole can be very small in many ships. A cabin with balcony then? Certainly not on a seven-night cruise leaving from New York in winter! Out of six days, at least two feature cold, wind, rain or storm that will discourage you opening its door. However, when it is warm, it can be really nice to take your morning juice on the balcony, and very romantic to have a lovers' meal on the evening. It sometimes happen that the balconies are on sale at the same price as an oceanview cabin, and an oceanview cabin for an inside cabin, if not cheaper.
  8. Choose a cabin in the middle of the ship, even if you are never seasick, unless you like listening to the waves hitting the bow of the ship, or the occasional humming at the stern of the ship.
  9. Choose a balcony on the side of the ship, unless you want to taste the forces of nature in full. The drizzle and winds can be of a surprising strength in the bow of the ship.
  10. Do you prefer the intimacy of a table for two in the main restaurant? Request it when you book or board the ship, as there are more tables for four, six or eight persons.
  11. Bring at least two suits and ties and two evening dresses, unless you are sure not to attend the main restaurants in the evening and will go to the buffet instead where casual wear is allowed.
  12. Become a member of the former passengers' club of the cruise lines. In many cases, it's automatic, as for Princess Cruises. If not, you must fill out a form on board or on the website. There are many advantages, such as receiving magazines at home, discounts on certain cruises, reserving tables or priority treatment.
  13. Traveling with a group of friends or family members is nice business for the trip organizer, who can receive a free cabin. The number of cabins required for this bonus varies, but it is normally eight.
  14. Take advantage of the people you meet to build a small band of explorers, a cheaper alternative to organized shore excursions. You'll thus be able to negotiate with local taxi or minibus drivers a better price.
  15. Take a little time to account for your daily expenses every night, to avoid a surprising bill at the end!

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