Your First Royal Holiday Cruise: 50 Essential Things to Know

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2013 may very well be the year of the Royal Holiday cruise.

Royal Holiday Cruise

The Year of the Royal Holiday Cruise

If trends continue the way they’re going, we’ll see more Royal Holiday travelers than ever before boarding Cruise Ships, large and small.

They’re setting sail – many of them for the first time ever – to some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic locations. The Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and north to Alaska.

Whether you’re a Cruise Expert or a first-timer, these 50 pointers are designed to give you the leg up on the cruise vacation experience of a lifetime.

  1. Royal Holiday members can use Holiday Credits to book cruises on any cruise line, leaving from any port anywhere in the world
  2. Almost every cruise you can book will visit three or four or five fantastic locations – more than you could visit on your own – and you still only need to unpack once. That’s a lot of vacation travel for basically the same price.
  3. Royal Holiday Cruise

    Deck Six of the Disney Magic!

    Almost every year sees the launch of a new Cruise Ship. They’re among the most popular vacations in part because of the variety of luxury amenities and features on-board some of these ships.

  4. Cruises depart from ports all over the world, and from more than 30 ports in the USA and Canada, there are also ports all over Asia and Europe. Getting to any one of them is just the first leg of a journey that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
  5. The value for the money simply cannot be beat. You get a floating hotel, plenty of food and visits to all kinds of places, all for about what you’d pay for just one hotel in one place.
  6. Flights to Florida, where many cruises originate, or to your nearest cruise are almost always going to be more affordable than to other Holiday spots.
  7. There are few ways to travel with kids that are as convenient, exciting and fulfilling as boarding a big cruise ship.
  8. Cruises are easy to book. You can put a request for booking with the Royal Holiday Cruise team with the following information:
    1. Preferred departure dates
    2. Preferred departure city and Cruise Line or Ship Name (if known)
    3. Preferred Itinerary (if known) This could include, for example, the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Mexican Riviera, Northeast USA & Canada, Alaska or South America, etc. You can be as specific as you’d like to be.
    4. Number of Adults and Number of Children traveling
    5. Preferred Type of Cabin(s) (usually that means inner, outer or balcony)
  9. Based on the information above, Royal Holiday’s Cruise Team will send you a list of appropriate cruises based on criteria that you choose.
  10. If you already have the perfect cruise chosen, then we’ll do our best to get you onto that cruise.
  11. Because Royal Holiday members are free to use Holiday Credits on absolutely any cruise, departing any day, and from anywhere on Earth, there is really no limit.
  12. The cruises shown on the Royal Holiday website are those with the highest historical booking numbers. Thus, we consider them the most likely to appeal to the broadest number of Royal Holiday members.
  13. Every cruise ship is as different as the many beautiful islands, cities and ports that they visit. Likewise every Cruise Line is different.
  14. It’s always good to learn as much as you can about the cruise line, and if possible, about the specific itinerary of the ship you’ll be boarding.
  15. Some Royal Holiday travelers will find a favorite ship or cruise line and they’ll never – never – book with anyone else no matter where they’re going.
  16. Others will try a new cruise line or itinerary every time. While all cruise lines have different ships, itineraries and on-board features, and some will cater to an exclusive sailing crowd, others welcome everyone with open arms.
  17. All of these cruises – and any cruise at all – can be booked with your Holiday Credits.
  18. There are even cruises for particular lifestyles, kids, for adults only, and many feature dining options just for people special needs. Cruises for weight-loss and mental and physical health retreats are just some of those more recently trending.
  19. Upon booking: The Royal Holiday Cruise Team will ask for electronic scans of the Passports of everyone traveling as well as the completed passenger form. These need to be returned by email for the cruise to be considered booked.
  20. From that moment until your cruise departs, we recommend that you spend some time doing research on each of the places you’ll visit. We suspect it’ll be some of the most fun research you do this year. In particular, and depending on your experience traveling abroad, you should try to read up on excursions and conditions at the specific cruise ports where your ship will be docking.
  21. Pack light. As expensive as extra clothes may be on board, there are some real bargains to be had in many of the land-side excursions you may be making. At the same time, you don’t want a ton of heavy luggage in your already space-optimized cabin.
  22. Very few cruises will impose the strict dress codes you see in the movies, but most will  provide some guidelines for the number of evenings you might need (more) formal clothes. It’s usually fun to dress up a little, but unless you’re booking a very exclusive cruise, you won’t need the tuxedo.
  23. Most cruise lines won’t let you board with a regular clothes iron. A small travel steamer will do the same job and keep you looking sharp.
  24. Good, sure-footed, rubber-souled shoes and sandals are important. We’ve seen more than one cruise vacation ruined by an early mis-step.
  25. Don’t forget. It rains in the Caribbean. Sometimes it rains a lot. Pack light rain gear so that you don’t miss a shore outing at your favorite tropical island – just because of a downpour.
  26. Basics like shampoo and soap are provided, but for your own personal touch you’ll want to bring your favorites along.

    Royal Holiday Cruise

    Carnival Destiny

  27. If you’re a real toiletries packer, consider a pocketed shoe bag, but not for your shoes. Throw one over the door of that teeny tiny bathroom for things like hair dryers, lotions and all those bottles that start cluttering up your limited space.
  28. Sunscreen – it’s not a good thing to ever forget and it will be more expensive once you’re onboard. Pack all of your medications in your carry-on just in case there is a delay in getting your luggage to your cabin. Things like painkillers, seasick pills and a small first aid kit are also going to be good to have on hand, even though there will be a doctor’s office on board.
  29. A simple plastic over-the-door coat hanger can make up for a tiny closet and a lack of chairs.
  30. Likewise, clear plastic bags, as big as you can get them, have about 1,000 uses, among them storing wet clothes and providing for extra instant rain-gear. Why clear? It’s a lot less likely you’ll mistake your stuff for garbage, though you can use them for that, too.
  31. Your ship’s country of origin often determines the type of power connections on board. Most offer ONE U.S.-standard, 110-volt electrical outlet per stateroom and a few have two round-prong (European-style) 220-volt outlets. If you’re bringing electronic devices a power adapter and a powerstrip is recommended if you’re really gadget dependent.
  32. Don’t forget a small backpack or tote to carry on your excursions for whatever extras you might want to carry with you.
  33. Important: A casual change of clothes for dinner – in your carry-on – can be a big relief if your luggage is delayed in reaching your room. It will happen from time to time.
  34. At the cruise terminal: tipping the cruise terminal porters a dollar or so per bag is standard practice.
  35. All other tipping depends on the cruise line, and most of them are very upfront about their policies. Some will give you an online debit card, and some will charge you extra from your on-board account. Check your cruise line’s website
  36. The boarding and embarking process usually starts with either an x-ray machine or a metal detector, and sometimes both. Depending on how early you get there, you may also need to wait in a lounge until boarding begins.
  37. Get all of your cruise documents ready before the check-in desk. Hand those along with your ID to the rep behind the desk. They’ll also expect a credit card. Along with a welcome and plenty of info on the ship, you’ll then receive a “shipboard charge card” to serve as ID, and as a charge card for on-board purchases. Depending on your ship and the cruise line, it may also serve as a cabin key.
  38. Important: Anyone who asks you for that on-board charge card is going to be charging you for something, even if they only ask for it after they give you a drink, or snap your photo.
  39. Better cruise lines will accompany you to your cabin and assist with your carry-ons, but remember, you’re not towing your bags, so some Cruise Lines will indicate your cabin on a map – and send you on your way.
  40. Cruise cabins are generally much smaller than hotel rooms. Don’t be surprised. They’re part of the fun. They’re normally thoughtfully designed and surprisingly capable of accommodating you and your belongings.
  41. Muster Drill: The lifeboat drill usually takes place before leaving dock the first time. You should read the notice on the back of your cabin door as regards the life jacket locations and the location of the nearest muster station.
  42. Pick up the ship’s newsletter and whatever literature is available before you leave your cabin again.
  43. Some type of newsletter should arrive every day. Not only will it detail activities for the following day, but often it will include information on the next day’s port of call and disembarkation instructions.
  44. Your cabin steward should stop by to introduce him or her self at right about this time. If you didn’t meet the steward on the deck outside, you’ll want to get information about who to call for any kind of help, for housekeeping, and cabin service.
  45. This one is changing, but some cruise lines (especially the older ones) will still assign you to a dining schedule. It is normally indicated either on your “shipboard charge card” or printed on a card in your cabin. You can always check out what the all-inclusive dining and other dining options are from the cruise line’s web site.
  46. The first day of your cruise the main dining room and other venues probably won’t open until dinner time. Norwegian and Princess cruise lines generally do open for lunch (hooray). But there is often a pre-launch buffet on larger ships, but you may have to ask to find it, and you may find it mobbed.
  47. Get to know as much of the ship as you can – early. You may still get a little lost, but bring your map and try to learn as much as you can. You’ll notice almost immediately how those sturdy shoes are going to help.
  48. Larger groups or families will sometimes use 2-way radios while on board. It can make for much easier and cheaper communication.
  49. There is always something fun to do! A lot of it is free, too. There are spa-treatments and demonstrations and massages. There are classes in theatrics and languages and crafts, movies, lectures and tastings, exhibitions, yoga, exercise and ballet. Contests and tournaments go into the evening with pub crawls and casino events.
  50. Most cruise lines will unload passengers – early – on that last morning. It’s sad, and you may find yourself simply turned out of your cabin if the ship has not docked yet. Don’t fret. There is always another cruise waiting.

Is there something we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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