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Avital Andrews, SmarterTravel.com | October 6, 2015
A cruise can be a great way to vacation. If you aren’t smart, though, a cruise can quickly turn from dream vacation to nightmare. Here are 9 ways to ruin your cruise from the experts at . Avoid these cruise mistakes to ensure an enjoyable cruising experience.
1. Booking a same-day flight
If you fly the same day your cruise departs, issues such as flight delays, lost luggage or other common airport mishaps could result in missing your vacation altogether. Our travel advice is to arrive at least one day early to avoid problems, and as a bonus, you get an extra day of vacation. Small islands with few roads can experience major traffic delays, especially during rush hour. Allow plenty of time to get to the boat before departure to ensure you don’t miss it.
Nancy Porter, a travel manager for Global Connections, reminds travelers, “the ship sails if you’re on board or not.”
2. Overpacking or underpacking
Overpacking can be a huge headache. Your bag’s too heavy to carry, it’s a hassle to find anything inside of it and you have no room for souvenirs. Underpacking, especially on a cruise, can be just as much of a headache though.
To help avoid this cruise mistake, be sure to pack a passport in case you have to fly home, prescription medicine, sea bands or other seasickness medicine and toiletries, as shampoo and soap may be all that is provided.
3. Not pre-booking shore excursions
Cruise lines offer shore excursions, but they often fill up fast. Check out what your ship offers and do some research to determine what interests you in each port. Look outside the ship, too. Cruise offered excursions could often be crowded and expensive. Creator of The Travel Diet, Dena Roche suggests, “do some research and find private guides so that you can do exactly what you want to do.” Utilize message boards to get travel advice from fellow cruisers with similar interests and plan your own small group tours. This will cut costs and provide a more unique, authentic experience.
4. Choosing the wrong cruise
Cruises are not one size fits all. Itinerary is important, but so is the cruise’s demographic. Avoid this cruise mistake by determining the type of cruise you want before you book.
For example, children typically make up one-third of cruise passengers during summer and holiday cruises, while three-night cruises to Mexico and the Caribbean are mostly full of partiers in their twenties. If you’re looking for a relaxing, couple’s vacation, a shorter cruise to Europe or Asia is a better choice. Do some research before you book a cruise you may regret.
5. Choosing price over weather
If cruise fares seem low during a particular season, it’s generally because it’s not a good time to visit that region. Cruising to the Caribbean between September and early December, for example, is fairly inexpensive compared to other months. Why? It’s hurricane season in the Caribbean so rain showers may ruin your tropical vacation. Similarly, European cruises during the winter are cheaper because of the cold weather and rough seas. If you choose the less expensive Alaska cruise during May or September, expect snow, mud and strong rain throughout your voyage.
Bottom line: weather can ruin your cruise. If a little extra money means an enjoyable climate, it’s worth it.
6. Poor dining choices
Cruises are known for illnesses such as the norovirus and gastroenteritis. One major cause is the buffet because the food is often left out too long or touched by too many people. Prevent foodborne illness by avoiding the buffet and any food that looks or tastes weird. Always drink plenty of water and only drink alcohol in moderation. No cruise mistake is worse than being sick at sea.
7. Budgeting incorrectly
Because a lot of people think the cost of a cruise in all-inclusive, they spend their entire vacation budget on the initial booking. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. Passengers can expect added expenses in the form of shore excursions, onboard activities, Internet, alcohol, drinks in their cabin, including bottled water and more. Our travel advice is to leave room in your budget for both onboard and onshore expenses, such as souvenirs and excursions.
8. Not purchasing travel insurance
Travel insurance can protect you in cases of cancellation, missed connections, lost or delayed baggage and dental or legal problems in some cases. For those prone to chronic illness or health issues, medical travel insurance is a smart purchase. The policy can help you locate a quality doctor or hospital and even cover emergency care.
Cruises often offer insurance for purchase, but research independent options too, as cruise plans tend to cover a lot less than expected. For example, a lot of plans are limited to the cruise itself and don’t include airfare or onshore accommodations.
9. Bringing work with you is a major cruise mistake
Work ruins vacations. You’re paying for this precious time away, use it to unplug and relax. Bringing work onboard lessens the value of the cruise for both you and your travel companions. Leave your laptop and briefcase at home and enjoy yourself. This also allows you to save money on the hefty Wi-Fi fee.