Get the most out of your cruise
by planning ahead
Planning A Cruise
There is a saying; you can't teach an old dog new tricks. There is also another expression; you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. So? Put the two together and you get this: you can teach a old dog new tricks, but there has to be a sweet treat involved.
Think of me as that old dog - or that young dog, either way you'll get the idea. Here is the trick you need to learn - to plan as much of your cruise in advance as possible, because the more decisions you make in advance the more you will be able to experience and the more you will enjoy the cruise. Enjoying your cruise more is the "sweet treat."
Lesson #1 - Decide how much discretionary money you will spend during your cruise in addition to your cruise fare.
Every other decision you make depends on this decision first. Of course, there are some lucky people who do not have to worry about this, but even so, the more you plan ahead to more value and enjoyment you will get for the money you spend, and that is something everyone can appreciate.
Lesson #2 - Plan and Book your Shore Excursions as Early as Possible
Have you ever wanted a shore excursion that you were told was cancelled due to a lack of interest? Have you ever wondered how many people they had to tell the same thing? What if it was enough to make that shore excursion happen? If all of those people had planned ahead you would be on that tour instead of wondering what else you were going to do with your day.
The important thing about shore excursions is that they are only available once during the cruise - meaning you can't go cave tubing in Belize any given day of the cruise. The earlier you book that cruise the more likely you are to get a spot before it sells out. You will also get the preferred time, leaving you extra time for a "port-day special" in the spa that afternoon.
Pre-planning your shore excursions makes it easier to manage your budget. Shore excursions are expensive but if you plan ahead you will have a much better idea of what you can afford. What if you decide to spend $250 apiece on a deep sea fishing charter early in the cruise, and then later on you see a chance to have dinner in a royal palace - but it is also expensive? Do you really want to be telling yourself "I wish I hadn't gone fishing, because now I can't afford that dinner?"
Another advantage to pre-planning your shore excursions is in knowing how much energy you will have for other cruise events. For example, if you plan to hike for eight hours on a given day, that is not the night to make a reservation for a specialty restaurant. You may fall asleep before you were scheduled to be seated.
Lesson #3 - Plan your Special Dining Next
After your shore excursions, plan your specialty dining. Do you know what nights are most popular for specialty restaurants? Not the first or last days at sea, because those are the nights when they serve the best food in the main dining room; lobster with baked Alaska, for example. Experienced cruisers know this, so they tend to book special restaurants for less active days in port.
I have personally missed out on dining in certain specialty restaurants I wanted to try solely because I didn't make a reservation at least three days before the cruise ended. All of the time slots were filled by the time I realized I hadn't eaten there yet.
Other times I was able to get a reservation on the last day at sea, but guess what, that is the same night they serve the best meal in the main dining room. Guess who ends up missing the lobster and baked Alaska - the people who couldn't get reservations for the specialty restaurant on the days when the main dining room menu was not so special.
The sooner you decide which nights you want to dine in the special restaurants the better your dining experience for the whole cruise will be.
Lesson #4 - Book your Spa Appointments Next
Here is one simple fact of cruising; there are many things the cruise line has to do that depend on you making an early decision. The sooner they know what you want to do the easier it is for them to accommodate you. The sooner they can accommodate you, the better equipped you are to plan the rest of your cruise. A last-minute change in plans can cause you to miss out on important things. Therefore, planning ahead gives more time to adjust when you don't get what you want.
Especially if you want something specific, you are more likely to get it by being the first to ask. If you want a haircut just before dinner on formal night you had better book that at the earliest possible moment, because if you don't someone else will.
A really good massage should leave you in the mood for a nap, but what if you schedule a massage after lunch and you don't realize until you lay down that you have just eaten too much to enjoy the massage? The fact is that restaurants fill up and spas fill up. The more you can plan each day ahead of time the better off you will be.
At home there is always another day. But you are paying the same price for a cruise as everyone else, but you can get far more out of the cruise by making sure you get everything that is available to you when you want it.
On your next cruise plan ahead as much as possible. You just might be surprised at how much more you enjoy your experience.
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