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By PAUL MOTTER
When preparing for a seagoing voyage, all experienced cruisers have a mental packing list of necessities. Naturally, passport/photo ID, air and cruise documents and credit cards lead everyone's list.
Over the years, I've heard of wonderful items some cruisers won't leave home without, including ear plugs, sleeping masks, powewr strips and even night lights (so you can see your way to the bathroom at night without turning on the light). Air freshener is another, since candles aren't allowed in those cabin bathrooms.
It's a sign of the times that some of us now take anti-bacterial gel. Even better, I have found a new antibacterial handwipe of the moist towelette variety called PAWS, which kills Norovirus, flu virus, hepatitis, and a host of other diseases you may pick up when traveling.
My wife's list of extras includes a magnifying make-up mirror with suction cup, and to help endure those endless airport lines, Game Boy. She never leaves home without a framed photo of her family, and I even know people who bring pics of their pets.
This week, we'd like to tap the collective cruising experience of our 200,000 subscribers to this newsletter. What special items do you take along to improve the enjoyment of your cruise? Click this link to our "Ask CruiseMates Staff" message board and add your tips to the message asking for cruise tips to share with other cruisers.When a Problem Occurs
During a recent cruise, the ship's hotel director said to me, "I wish they (the passengers) had told me about a problem during the cruise, so I wouldn't have to read it in a report later." I've heard similar comments from a number of these hard-working officers and crewmembers who are responsible for all food, service and entertainment areas.
When any problem occurs, you should go directly to the front desk and ask for assistance. For example, if you have a problem with food or service in the dining room, there's a good chance they can resolve it. The same is true if your cabin isn't sparkling clean each day, or if you encounter a bad attitude in the Lido buffet operation.
Keep in mind that the hotel staff is in the service business, and their first priority is ensuring you're so happy that you continue to sail with their cruise line.
The hardest thing to do is to try to lodge a complaint after you return home. I don't know where passengers' mail goes, but I suggest you shouldn't expect a response from a cruise line for several weeks. Aboard the ship, you have access to a member of the hotel staff who will hear your complaint and try hard to rectify a bad situation on the spot. I do know that people have often found their meals are much better during the rest of the voyage.
If you don't care for your table mates, speak to the maitre d' as well -- it's frequently possible to be moved. Or of there is a food item you adore, on many ships they will make it for you, specially, if you give them a day's notice.
The ship we are on now, Emerald Princess, offered to cook crab legs especially for us when we remarked we were going to miss the night they were on the dining room menu -- due to a reservation in Sabatini's, a specialty restaurant.Family Cruising
Speaking of the Emerald Princess, we are still oin our cruise and today we are in Athens, where it is over 110 degrees Fahrenheit! There are over 600 children aboard this cruise, and I hear there will be over 900 on the next one. Not that this is bothersome, in fact they are not a problem at all thanks to the oh-so diligent youth staff that seems to be on duty nearly 24 hours/day
Yes, you see the kids around the pool, and they show up on the shore excursions, but other than that they are rarely underfoot, at least in the parts of the ship we favor. They do seem to come out at night, however, and so I did a quick check of "Skywalkers" (the main dance nightclub) to see if they had taken over.
To the credit of Princess, I have never seen a more diligent youth staff. As late as 12:30 a.m. they were outside the nightclub checking ID, and I even saw one or two counselors sleuthing in the dark areas of the ship to make sure no one was doing anything he or she isn't old enough to do legally.
They have youth counselors that speak all of the European languages (there are many Europeans on this cruise), and they were really interacting with these kids, not just watching them. To say I was impressed is an understatement. It appeared the entire contingent, at least six youth counselors, were still on duty in the wee, wee hours of the morning.More on Emerald Princess
As I write this I am once again in the terrazzo of the newest ship in the Princess fleet. I have an espresso bar to my left, a stilt-walker is juggling is on the small stage to my right, across the room is a sommelier I consulted with yesterday on the subtleties of Italian red wines.
I am contemplating getting three scoops of gelato, more than enough for two people, from the piazza cafe behind me. With tempting flavors like stracciatella, nutella, torroncino or vaniglia, the price for three scoops is $1.50. There has been a long-standing joke with Princess, that you have to pay for the ice cream, but "It's Hagen Dazs!" Well, that has been changed to, "but, it's gelato."
The jugglers have the crowd in an uproar now, so I have to finished this newsletter so I can enjoy the show...