You’ve done your research, and you’ve picked the perfect cruise. You have your heart set on seven days in the Caribbean sunshine, sailing from port to port, and swimming with dolphins. So, now what?
If you’ve never been on a cruise before, it may seem a little overwhelming. How do I get to the ship? What do I need if I’m stopping in five different countries? Is there anything special I need because my vacation is on a boat?
Don’t worry, we have all your answers here, so you can get ready to book that dream vacation.
Passports, Papers and Preparation
The first thing you will need before you book your cruise is likely a passport. Almost every cruise will sail to at least one foreign port, and you will need a passport to prove your citizenship. The rules differ depending on where you live, so check with the cruise line or a travel agent about what you will need for this exact cruise. Don’t forget to check what you’ll need for any children traveling with you.
If you don’t have a passport now, you can still make your cruise reservations, but the cruise line will warn you that you will need a passport before you board. Get the process started soon, because it can be lengthy. While the best proof of citizenship is always a passport, there are some cases where U.S. citizens can get by with just a birth certificate and a state-issued picture ID, such as a driver’s license.
The next thing to consider is how you are getting to the boat. Cruise lines will offer you the option of buying pre-paid transfers from the airport to the ship. If you book these through the cruise line, a representative will meet you at the airport baggage claim and guide you to the bus that will take you to the port.
You can also just grab a cab at the airport, which can be cheaper than a pre-paid transfer. You may also want to arrange your travel to arrive a day earlier, either to tour the port city on your own, or because you’re concerned about airport delays, especially if it’s winter, and you’re traveling from a city that gets a lot of snow.
Once you have booked everything, your cruise tickets will be delivered to you, or to your travel agent, by mail. They will come with a booklet containing your tickets, a brochure of shore excursion possibilities, ship descriptions, any pre-paid airport transfer tickets and luggage tags.
The last thing to do is make a checklist of all the documentation you will need, and double check it before you leave for your cruise. Keep all your travel documents together and in a safe place, and make sure you pack it in your carry-on. It’s a good idea to make copies, and leave an extra copy with someone back home in case of emergency. On the ship, lock your documents and your passports in your cabin safe.
It may seem complicated if it’s your first time thinking about a cruise vacation, but a little organization will make sure the process of booking your first cruise goes smoothly. If you’re at all concerned, a travel agent who specializes in cruising or the cruise line can help make sure you’ve got exactly what you need to enjoy that perfect vacation in the sun.