Get the Most Out of Your Ship
Written by: Paul Motter
I just came back from a cruise on a luxury ship where we had a butler who had the facility to serve us complete dinners in our stateroom. he would bring us the evening’s menus from the dining room and take our orders. Soon he would arrive with trays full of linens, cutlery and covered plates of delicious food. He would serve each course one at a time – or we would just say “please just leave them all, we’re HUNGRY!” One night he set up a table for us on our terrace and we dined with the sound of the ocean below. At the end of the meal he brought the dessert menues and even surprised us with fancy chocolates and a dinner cordial.
Let me tell you, in rough seas or just when you are exhausted and don’t feel like getting dressed in your formal gear there is nothing better than a good movie on your in-cabin TV and a great dinner directly from the kitchen served to you in your jammies.
We met other people on the same ship who also had the same butler, and they said they had never asked him for anything the entire cruise! How sad is that?
I hear such things from less experienced cruisers all the time – they never even tried room service, or that they couldn’t bring themselves to order a second entree in the dining room. I say “take advantage of every reasonable option they give you on a ship!” If they are willing to serve you dinner in your cabin you should take advantage of it, at least once.
This is not to say you should do unacceptable things, like go to BOTH dinner seatings, for example. There really is no need for that. They will give you all the food you want at just one.
There are a lot of things about shipboard dining, and other aspects of cruising, that you will figure out after enough cruises and that you should not miss.
Breakfast in bed is another thing you MUST have. Personally, it takes me about three cups of coffee and an hour of staring at my computer every morning before I am ready to face the world. I love “breakfast cards” and if my wife would let me use them I would be printing them up at Kinkos right now. The cards let you select what you want for breakfast the next day and they deliver it to you at a pre-assigned time. Not only do you get a wake-up call, but you also get your coffee first thing in the morning as well. Yes, you do have to decide what time you want to wake up, a little tricky on sea days but perfect for port days, but the upside is you avoid the waiting that comes with calling in your order.
I see people who gets up first thing in the morning, put themselves in the shower, blow-dry their hair and brush their teeth, and then go to the buffet and get coffee and breakfast. Oops, they also put on their clothes, first. But I say NO, NO, NO. Always do the breakfast card, it is one of the sweetest things about cruising.
Room service in general on cruise ships is great. Try a cheese tray before dinner, cookies with your in-room movie, chamomille tea and ice-cream at bedtime. On mainstream cruises it is a good idea to give your server a tip. Be sure to bring several dollar bills and give one for a small order and two or more for bigger orders.
Here is another thing you MUST take advantage of on cruise ships. Laundry service, if you find you did not pack enough shirts, or you have gained five pounds and that extra pair of slacks does not fit. You can get pants or a shirt fully cleaned, pressed and folded for just a few dollars apiece. Get it done, it is so worth not having to wear something you don’t like.
Internet access. I don’t know about you, but if you are reading this I think you need your Internet access as badly as I do. Therefore, I just buy the biggest package they have the day I get onboard. Usually for about $75 you can get as much Internet time as you need for the cruise.
Bite the bullet and pay for it upfront and know you can use it far more freely throughout the cruise. Then during the cruise use your Internet access instead of wandering into the casino. You will find that you will lose less money in the casino and you will feel better for having had a good dose of Internet.
Do bring the allowed amount of wine onboard. Some cruise lines (most of the Carnival Corp. family and Celebrity) will allow you to bring a bottle of wine or two to your cabin. Do so and drink it in your cabin during the cruise. You will have your wine and save a significant amount of money. There is no corkage fee if you consume it in your room.
We are NOT saying to sneak alcohol onboard. Many people who do that end up drinking more during the cruise than they really need to. The truth is you should drink less on ships because most of the fun happens during the day. Too much wine with dinner can give you a bad headache the next day and you really should try to get the most out of the ports that you can.
Do drink plenty of water. The best water on a cruise ship is the melted ice from an ice bucket. We have brought water testers onboard ships and we have found that the melted ice is often as clean as distilled water. Even tap water on ships is fully potable (drinkable) according to our tests, and it is as clean as bottled water. But the ice cubes are made from filtered water and actually it is some of the best water I have ever had.
The hot sun takes water and minerals out of you – so try to drink as much water as you can. Most people do not drink enough of it on ships.
Do take shore excursions. You will remember a cruise where you have experiences far more than a cruise where you do not experience the ports. You don’t have to spend a lot to have fun. In the Caribbean snorkeling is a fantastic thing to do, and a snorkeling shore tour usually one of the least expensive tours on a ship. You paid a lot of money to get to that port, don’t skimp at the last minute and miss having fun.
Do have a massage – but time it correctly. Yes massages are less expensive on port days, but pick a port you don’t particularly want to see. The best massages are “deep tissue” and they should leave you ready for a nap. So you know, most massages on ships are considered a “Swedish massage,” which is NOT a deep tissue massage. Ask for a “deep tissue” when you book and ask who is the best at giving such a massage. But as I said, a truly good massage should make you so tired you have to nap. Keep the timing in mind so you can ENJOY that nap when you book a massage.
Do work out every day if you can. The gyms on cruise ships have the best workout equipment made. Many treadmills and ellipticals have built-in TV screens. Bring your headsets. A workout goes much faster when you can distract yourself from the boredom.
Many spas feature something called “the thermal suite.” This is a set of steam rooms infused with essential oils, hot saunas, a hot tub therapy pool and hot ceramic beds. You can purchase access to these facilities on many ships for anywhere for $10 to $25 per person per day. These suites will relax and refresh you. And they are far more private than the hot tubs by the pool.
Dining. Always try to eat dinner in the dining room on formal nights. That is when they will have lobster, King Crab, filet mignon and other special treats that make cruise dining so spectacular. Should be shy about ordering “surf and turf?” – which means the steak AND the lobster at the same time? Not if you really want it. They are ready for you, believe me. You aren’t the first person to make that request. Chances are you will get it on one plate although it is technically two different entrees.
Yes, you certainly can order more than one entree for dinner, just try to do it in a manner where you are not being gluttonous or taking up too much time. Order one entree at a time unless you are sure you will eat both. Do not order two main course entrees at the beginning of the meal lest you find you have eaten more than you thought. Memorize the one you want and order it when the entrees are being served.
One last thing – do not spoil your dinner, especially if you have reservations for a special dining spot. Eating scones, finger sandwiches and chocolate cake at 4:00 “teatime” is a surefire way to spoil your appetite for a dinner a few hours later. The specialty restaurants are worth the extra money, but you also want to get the most out of them that you can. Always go with a very healthy appetite.
That’s ii. Experienced cruisers already know this drill, but for you newcomers make a note that these are the little things that make cruising such a satisfying vacation. Spend a little money and get tons more out of your cruise. Happy sails!
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