Short cruises are great for vacationers with tight time or budget constraints. They're more enjoyable and relaxing if you plan ahead, though. If you're thinking about taking a quick cruise getaway, here are a few tips to ensure you’ll get the most out of your short cruise experience:
1. Pick the right itinerary. Short cruise itineraries include a varying number of in-port and sea days, so choose one that best fits your preferences. Some people find “at sea” days boring, while others relish the chance to relax and unwind aboard their floating resort.
2. Choose flights wisely. Flight cancellations and delays are quite common these days. Government regulations require all cruise passengers to check in at least 90 minutes before departure or be denied boarding. Some cruise lines require arrival 2-3 hours before departure. With a short cruise, you have little time to spare if you miss the ship. To leave plenty of cushion room, avoid tight flight connections and plan to arrive at your departure port early in the day. Many cruise passengers arrive a day in advance and spend the night to avoid potential problems. In any case, strongly consider purchasing travel insurance.
3. Set a shipboard budget. Additional costs for shore excursions, sodas and drinks, spa treatments, arcade games and Internet charges can add up quickly - even on a short cruise. Determine what your budget will allow and let your family know. Take advantage of money saving programs, such as soda packages for kids and teens.
4. Make shore excursion reservations in advance. Sit down in advance of your cruise and decide what you want to do at each port of call. This will save time while onboard the ship and help avoid disappointment when shore excursions sell out. Shore excursions often can be purchased a few months before departure, so visit the cruise line’s website to check on options. Weigh these carefully along with independent shore excursion opportunities. Message boards at Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor can offer good insights and suggestions.
5. Get onboard early and unpack. Time is at a premium on short cruises. The last thing you want to be doing as the ship sails away is unpacking your clothes. Bring only carry-on luggage if possible and plan to come aboard for lunch. Once rooms are available, head straight to your cabin, unpack, and get ready to go.
6. Check the daily schedule. A copy of the ship’s daily schedule should be waiting for you in your cabin. Look it over to find out about the timing of the safety drill, as well as details on dining and entertainment. The daily program will also provide information on spa and fitness center tours, port and shopping talks, sailaway festivities, and other events. You might want to bring a copy along with you as you make your way around the ship.
7. Work out dining arrangements immediately. Check out the available restaurant options. If you did not receive the dining time, table size, or seating location of choice, visit the dining room as soon as you arrive onboard and find out if changes can be made. In addition, if you’d like to try out the alternative restaurants, make those reservations as soon as you arrive onboard the ship.
8. Explore the ship. Once you find your cabin and get settled, take some time to look around the ship and see what's available. Check out specific areas of interest, such as the spa and fitness centers. If you're interested in spa treatments, make appointments as soon as possible.
9. Sign up for youth programs as soon as possible. If your kids are planning to participate in the ship’s kids and teens programs, it’s important to get them comfortable and involved as soon as possible. Make sure to visit the appropriate age group areas, sign them up for the program, and strongly encourage them to participate in the first scheduled event. Friendships are often forged in the first evening and timely participation can make all the difference – especially on a short cruise. In addition, if your cruise line offers nursery programs and/or in-room babysitting and you’d like to take advantage of these, book your dates and times as soon as you get onboard.
10. Relax and get ready to set sail. Ease into the experience and get into the short cruise frame of mind. As the ship leaves the pier, join the gang at the sail away party and leave all your worries behind. When it comes to fun, budget-friendly short cruises are definitely in the money.