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HELPFUL TIPS AND INFOMATION

They say that half the fun of going on a vacation is anticipating and planning it. Preparing your wardrobe and packing for the cruise are part of that fun! The bottom line: Don't get carried away! (Typically, first-time cruisers pack at least twice as many clothes as they need). One or two bathing suits, a couple of shorts and shirts, a few sets of nice casual wear, and a couple of more dressy outfits should work out just fine. Don't overpack! Think in terms of essentials. Save room for the stuff you'll be buying (inevitably) on your trip!

Once you finalize your list of things to take, stick to it. Too often people develop a superb list, only to ignore it during the actual packing. Caught up in the heat of the moment, they start tossing things into the suitcase with abandon. Usually these items are never used on the vacation.

Bring an attractive cover-up that will carry you elegantly from pool to cabin. Pack workout gear if you plan to take advantage of the health-club facilities onboard. On most cruise ships, the formal dress code for men requires a suit or tuxedo. Don't go through the expense of buying a tuxedo if you don't have one a suit works just as well.

People often get carried away when it comes to shoes, which take up a lot of luggage space. Try to bring just one pair of walking shoes, one pair of versatile casual shoes, and one pair of dressy shoes.

Pack some moisturized wipes. They will always come in handy, especially when cruising with children and while on shore excursions.

Because of the variety of food offered onboard the ship, you may be tempted to try different types of spicy foods for the first time. Pack an antacid, just in case!

On a cruise, women can get a lot of use out of leggings. Not only can they be dressed up or down very easily, but they can also be hand-washed.

Bring a night light to place in the bathroom or a small flashlight for use in the middle of the night. This will be especially useful for passengers with inside cabins.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses or take prescription medicine, pack extras, along with the prescriptions.

Pack clothing with elastic waistbands. You will feel more comfortable at the end of the cruise, when it is likely you have gained a kilo or two or five!

Don't bring more than a couple of T-shirts. You will probably buy some in the ports of call or in the shops onboard the ship.

Surely don't forget to bring sunblock or sunscreen and sunglasses!

Men will find nylon swim shorts with pockets to be very versatile. They can be used as walking shorts, and they dry quickly.

Pack some toiletries and a change of clothing in one of your carry-on bags. In the event your check-in luggage is lost or stolen and does not arrive at the ship, you will have some essentials to keep you fresh for a couple of days.

Pack wrinkle-free clothing in the event the ship does not have a self service laundrette. Otherwise, you can give your clothing to your cabin steward to send to the laundry onboard the ship (but there is a cost for this service). If all else fails, hang your clothes in the bathroom, turn the shower to hot, and close the door. The steam will help eliminate the wrinkles.

EXTRA TIPS WHEN PACKING

Tie a closed identification tag with your name, cruise line and ship, and address and phone number to the handle of each piece of luggage, including your carry-on bags. As an additional means of identification, tape the above information inside of each piece of luggage in case the outside luggage tag gets torn off.

In most cases, you will be taken directly to your cabin when you embark on the ship. Your luggage may not arrive for two or three hours. Don't panic. The crew members on the ship have nearly 3,000 pieces to sort and distribute it takes time. If the ship is ready to sail and you have not yet received your bags, contact the purser's desk or the housekeeping department to ask for assistance.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

Never pack cash, traveler's checks, travel documents, prescription medicine, or other valuable items in your check-in luggage. Keep these with you in a secure carry-on bag.

EMBARKATION

Embarkation is a very busy time for the staff and crew members. When checking in at the cruise-ship terminal, have all of your cruise documents filled out and ready to hand to the staff. This will help to speed up the embarkation process immensely.

After your cruise documents have been checked, you will be told where to go to walk onto the ship. There is usually a photographer standing at the entrance of the ship, ready to snap a picture of you with your windblown hair, faded makeup, wrinkled clothing, and exhausted smile. Don't worry, you can use that photograph as your "before" cruise picture!

If the ship's crew members escort you to your cabin, it is always nice to tip them, but it is not a requirement. Just like hotel employees, these ladies and gentlemen are accustomed to receiving a couple of dollars for their service.

Once you have unpacked your clothing, get a small map of the ship and start exploring!

As soon as you get onboard, your cruise experience begins in a most welcome way: You will be offered a light meal or sometimes large buffet lunch in one of the restaurants.

YOUR MONEY

Your onboard "cruise card" is like a charge card (as well as your identification when you leave and board the ship). Don't forget  as with any charge card, this bill has to be paid at the end of the cruise! If you are on a budget, check your balance daily to monitor how much you are spending.

Personal checks are rarely accepted onboard a ship, so be sure you have enough traveler's checks and credit on your personal credit card to pay for your onboard purchases. Some cruise lines now have ATM machines onboard in the event you need extra cash, but don't depend on this, because some don't.

At the end of your cruise, you will receive an itemized statement for all of your onboard purchases. After checking it over to make sure everything is correct, you can use your credit card to pay your account. If you give the purser's staff an imprint of your card the first day of the cruise, they will automatically transfer your charges, and you will not have to wait in a long line the final night to pay your bill.

If you disagree with anything on your bill, discuss it with the purser's staff on the final night or the final morning.

TELEPHONE CALLS

Most cruise ships have telephones and voice mail in each cabin. Those without individual phones will have message centers, so you can be reached in case of an emergency. Remember to leave the Emergency Contact Information (which will come with your tickets) for your relatives, etc.

Before making telephone calls from the ship, find out how much it will cost. Sometimes a call may cost up to $15.00 per minute! Thus, if you need to reach someone at home, wait until the ship docks in port and call from a pay telephone. If you do not have a calling card, in many cases there will be a calling booth nearby where you can buy one.

On some ships you can make calls from your own mobile phone. If it's important for you to be easily accessible by phone, ask your local mobile carrier for details about mobile phones with a "roam" feature.

When using a calling card at a pay phone that has a push-button system and you want to make more than one call, don't hang up the telephone when you have completed your call. If you press the # key after the other party has hung up the telephone, you will get another dial tone and won't be charged an additional connection fee.

THE STAFF AND CREW

The cruise staff are the fun people onboard the ship, or they should be. Whenever they are involved in an activity or event, you can expect a good time. If they ask for a volunteer to help them out, do it! You'll be glad you did and will have a lot of fun!

Get to know the staff early in the cruise. They can give you some wonderful inside information regarding the ports of call, excursions, activities, and so on.

At the end of the cruise, you will be asked to fill out a comment card. If you received particularly good service from any staff members, be sure to note their names. This is how many employees on cruise ships get their promotions and raises.

If you are going to criticize something or someone on the comment card, suggest how the problem might be solved. Cruise lines are more receptive to complaints if they are accompanied by a solution.

TIPPING GUIDELINES

Some cruise lines include tipping in the price of the cruise fare; others do not. If gratuities are not included in the fare, give what is recommended by the cruise line directly to the people who are supposed to receive the tip.

The majority of the cruise lines recommend the following gratuities: Cabin Steward - $3.00 per guest per day; Waiter - $3.00 per person per day; Busboy - $1.50 per guest per day. For your convenience, a 15% gratuity will be automatically added to your bar bill each time you order a drink! Tipping your Maitre D' and Head Waiter is at your discretion, not mandatory.

CRUISE ETIQUETTE

Use the right nautical terminology. The ship is called a ship - not a boat. And the port side of the ship is on the left and the starboard side is on the right. (It is easy to remember this because port and left both have four letters.) The front of the ship, or pointy end, is called the bow; the blunt end the aft.

To mail postcards and letters from the ship, take them to the reception desk. The receptionist will have them posted in the next port of call. In most cases, of course, you will have to pay the postage.

There should be complimentary stationery and postcards in your cabin. If you do not find any, contact the information/reception desk.

BON APPETIT!

Since meals are included in the cost, a cruise ship is a good place to try different kinds of foods. Be adventurous - you might fall in love with an entirely new kind of cuisine.

By all means indulge in the midnight buffet, but take small plates. You'll be able to sample everything, but in smaller portions. You'll sleep better for it!

Very often, table mates in the dining room start the cruise as strangers and finish as good, life-long friends. But if you sense a personality clash early on, don't hesitate - be pleasant during the meal, and later on discreetly arrange with the head waiter or the maitre d' to be moved to another table.

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Make your hair and beauty appointments early in the cruise. Even if the ship is large, the days at sea are extremely busy in this department. Massages are especially popular on cruise ships, so make an appointment early.

When you get a haircut or other beauty treatment from one of the salon attendants, proper etiquette is to tip at the end of that service, as is standard practice on land.

If you are interested in keeping your daily workouts going, consult with the sports instructor onboard the ship to develop a program to follow during the cruise.

Don't sit in the Jacuzzi more than twenty or thirty minutes at a time, especially during the day. Doing so will make you mopey. In the evening, under the stars, is ideal!

CASINO

Budget your gambling money carefully each day, unless you want to find yourself washing dishes at the end of the cruise! Take only the amount of money you are willing to lose.

Casino chips can be charged to your onboard credit account but, of course, at the end of the cruise, you do have to pay for them!

ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT

Carry a copy of the daily program with you so that you know what time the activities are and where they are located.

Many cruise ships offer vegetable-carving and ice-carving demonstrations. People who like to cook especially enjoy these.

Sea air makes many people especially hungry and sleepy. Take a power nap in the afternoon so that you have reserves of energy to enjoy all the wonderful things available to do on the cruise in the evenings!

Most activities are free, but a few are not. Be sure to ask the staff in advance if you will have to pay to participate. Wine tasting, and some craft activities may require a nominal fee. Of course, Bingo and the Horse Races also cost money, so budget accordingly!

Some cruise ships offer art auctions. If you collect art and even if you don't stop by to see what is available. Many times the prices of these pieces are a fraction of gallery prices. (If they serve complimentary champagne at these auctions, be careful how much you drink. You may end up buying something you later will wish you hadn't!)

If you love the entertainment, reward the performers with a standing ovation. It's not easy to sing and dance on a ship that is moving about!

If you would like to sit close to the stage during the evening shows, skip dessert to arrive earlier and nab the choice seats. You can always satisfy that sweet tooth at the midnight buffet!

Most engine rooms are off limits to passengers, but you can sign up for the galley and bridge tours. These will give you a good look at the behind-the-scenes-operations of a cruise ship.

When performers ask for volunteers to come up on the stage and participate in the show, do it. You may feel silly at first, but it will be the first thing you talk about when you get home!

ONBOARD SHOPPING

Most cruise lines provide duty-free specialty shops onboard their ships. (Duty-free means there is no tax on the item.) Daily sales often sprout up, so stop in and see what is discounted each day.

Compare the prices of the merchandise sold onboard the ship with the same items sold in the ports of call. In some cases, you will find better prices onboard the ship.

PHOTOGRAPHERS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

There is no obligation to purchase any of the photographs taken by the photographers onboard the ship. Give them a smile wherever they may be!

PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS

Reserve shore excursion tickets early in the cruise. The most popular tours often sell out on the first couple of days.

Find out as many details about the shore excursions as you can. If the staff doesn't have the answers, ask them to find out for you. This will help prevent unpleasant surprises, such as going on an excursion that involves a half-mile hike up a waterfall when you twisted your ankle two days before!

Use the rest room before leaving the ship. You never know when Mother Nature will call or how long it will be before you find a facility in port or what shape it will be in!

Before going into port, check the time that you must be back onboard. (Usually it is thirty minutes before sailing time.) If you miss the ship, you will be responsible for getting yourself to the next port of call to rejoin the cruise a very expensive mistake!

Ask the shore excursion staff about the tipping policy in the ports you will be visiting. For example, in many places, tips for waiters are included in the restaurant check. If you have a bus driver and tour guide on your excursion, proper etiquette is to tip each person a couple of dollars when the tour is complete.

When riding on a tour bus, try to sit in the front section so you can see more easily and have a smoother ride.

Carry a small bottle of water with you in case you become thirsty. But don't drink too much, unless there is a rest room nearby!

Collect a postcard from each port of call and make notes on the back, recalling your experience there.

Be aware that people may ask you for handouts as you walk around some ports and tourist spots. If this would bother you excessively, you will be probably be happier taking a guided bus or taxi tour of the port of call.

If you decide to hire your own taxi for sightseeing or to go into town, make sure you agree on the price with the driver before you get in. The cruise director will advise you during the talks on the different ports as to what the going price is, so it is important to attend any of these talks for the ports you will be doing on your own!

It is very exciting to be outside when the ship is approaching or leaving any port of call. Walk around and take in the view.

SHOPPING

If the cruise line provides one, use the recommended shopping map. Not only will you be getting some good deals, but if anything should break or stop working when you get home, you'll have the guarantee from the cruise line that it will replace it. In addition, the recommended shops have your "lucky cabin number" posted in their shop, which would give you a complimentary gift.

Some of the ports are terrible tourist traps. Ask the port lecturer or shore excursion staff where the bargain places are in town.

Before you start to buy things in the first shop you see, look around and find out what the prices are in some of the other shops. You'll be very upset if you find out the bag you paid $70 for was only $50 at the store down the street!

In many parts of the world, bargaining is a form of shopping etiquette, especially in street markets. In these situations, never accept the first price offered. Make a counter-offer of less than half what the vendors ask, and go from there to the price you are willing to pay.

Have fun while you are bargaining. This isn't life or death! The haggling should remain a friendly exchange. If the vendor (or you) gets too pushy or heated, it's time to leave!

If you want to buy several items in one store, ask the manager to make a deal, such as 10 percent off everything.

RENTING A CAR

Get a map from the rental agency and ask for clear directions to the places you want to visit and, more important, the way back to the agency. You don't want to spend all of your time driving around in circles!

Some countries may require you to pay a fee, as much as $25, for a nonresident driver's license (typically valid for several months). Remember, this expense when deciding whether renting a car is a good way to get around.

Inspect every inch of your rental car before driving it away. If you see any dents or marks, make sure they are documented in your contract; otherwise, you will be charged a very hefty sum when you return it!

Check with your credit-card company before you rent a car your rental insurance may be covered by the company, which will save you a lot of money.

Before you drive away, make sure you have the name and telephone number of the rental agent in the event you need to call for any reason.

Ask the agent if there are any areas in town that you should avoid because of construction or crime.

PLAYING IT SAFE IN PORT

Drink only bottled water and other beverages, and avoid salads and other fresh vegetables.

If you go swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving, look for posted signs that may caution you about a strong current or undertow. The excursion office onboard the ship can also advise you on safe areas to explore the underwater world.

Never leave valuables like a camera, watch, or Walkman unattended while you are swimming in the ocean. Ask a friend or someone you can trust to watch it for you until you return.

Don't get stranded! If you are taking a taxi to a beach on the other side of the island, make a deal with the taxi driver to come back at a certain time and bring you back to the ship. To guarantee you get picked up, agree to pay him for the entire trip (both ways) when he returns!

Crowded marketplaces are a haven for pickpockets and thieves. Secure your purse, wallet, and jewelry.

Never carry a wallet in your rear trouser pocket. It is too easy for pickpockets to steal. Keep it in a front pocket of your pants or in an interior pocket of your jacket. Carry your identification card from the ship at all times!

SHIP SAFETY

The captain will not risk the lives of any passengers or crew members. Should threatening weather or political conditions crop us in a particular port or region, the itinerary of the cruise may be changed. If this happens, go with the flow. Don't grumble such shifts in plans are made for your safety.

Check the life jackets in your cabin. Are they properly maintained, with a whistle, proper ties, and a light (when the jacket hits salt water, the emergency light attached to the jacket automatically goes on)? Sometimes these items are missing. If this is the case, ask your cabin steward to solve the problem.

After participating in the lifeboat drill on the first day of the cruise, look down the hallway near your cabin and locate the closest fire extinguisher and emergency call buttons.

Many doorways and thresholds on the ship have elevated ledges to cross over. Be extra careful when walking through them.

Should there be an emergency, you will be told where to go. Do not push or shove other passengers, and follow the instructions given by the crew members in charge of the muster station (the place where you gather).

SECURITY

Lock the door each time you leave your cabin. (If you happen to lock yourself out, the purser's desk will arrange to have someone come by and open the door, or you can ask the nearest cabin steward for a hand.)

If there is a safe in your cabin, use it to secure your valuables, including your travel documents. If your cabin does not have a safe, ask at the purser's desk to use a safe-deposit box. These boxes are usually available at no extra cost.

MEDICAL CARE

If you use the doctor's services or the hospital facility onboard the ship, you will be charged. Your medical insurance should cover this but be sure to check with your insurance company before leaving on the cruise. Get everything in writing!

PREVENTING SEASICKNESS

Avoid looking out the window of your cabin or of one of the lounges. The up-and-down motion can make you nauseous.

Take an anti-seasick pill at least two hours before sailing time and throughout the cruise, if needed. If the directions on the medicine says it can cause drowsiness, take half a dose. This will allow you to enjoy the activities and entertainment without being too sleepy.

Some people wear a medicated patch behind their ears to prevent seasickness. Ask your doctor about this option.

When the seas are rough, don't read a book, write postcards, or do anything else that focuses your attention downward. This may cause you to get seasick.

Old-fashion cures that sailors have sworn by: If you do begin to feel sick, go outside, look at the horizon, and stay in the middle section of the ship. Also, eat some dry crackers or bread sticks, and stay away from liquids. On the other hand when you book you cruise, book a cabin [ oceanview or balcony stateroom ] on a lower deck and closer to the middle of the ship called [ midships ].

PREVENTING SUNBURN

The sun is very deceiving on a ship. Because the breezes are blowing, keeping you cool, passengers tend to think they are not getting blasted by ultraviolet rays. Always use plenty of sunscreen or sunblock.

In the first couple of days, use a sunblock with a SPF of 30 or higher for the Australian sun, and do not lie in the sun longer than an hour. You'll get a base of color, but you likely won't be scorched!

Passengers have been known to get serious third-degree burns on days when the sky is cloudy. Don't let the overcast sky fool you wear protection.

Apply sunscreen or sunblock after each dip in the pool or ocean. (Consider getting a spray for quicker application.)

Don't forget to apply sunblock on your lips, ears, and feet!

The beach or poolside are not the only places you have to be concerned about getting a sunburn. Put on plenty of sunblock when on a shore excursion, shopping, or strolling onboard.

If you go snorkeling or scuba diving, put extra sunblock on your neck, back, arms, and legs. The sun's rays can go directly through the water, so wear a T-Shirt to protect your back. Believe me, you'll be grateful you did!

Use aloe vera gel or cream to relieve sunburn pain. Products with aloe vera are also good moisturizers.

PACKING UP

Don't forget to gather all of your personal items from your cabin safe or from the safety deposit box at the purser's desk. If you forget something on the ship, contact the cruise line's corporate office. (Unfortunately, not all items are turned into the lost and found, so remember to check everywhere before you leave.)

You will be asked to place your luggage outside your cabin door the night before disembarkation; the ship's staff will take it to a central area for distribution. Make sure you have kept a change of clothing for the following day you don't want to walk down the gangway wrapped in a shower curtain!

Pack all valuables in your carry-on bags and carry these off the ship yourself. Or you may want to carry all your bags off the ship by your self.

DISEMBARKATION

A day or so before you leave the ship, the cruise director will hold a briefing, explaining all of the procedures to follow regarding disembarkation. At least one person from each family should attend this talk, as the information will provide a smooth transition for you to leave the ship. This briefing will also give you an opportunity to ask questions. Bring a paper and pen and note the most important points.

You can realistically count on two to three hours of waiting around before the actual disembarkation from the ship begins. Keep a crossword puzzle, cards, or a book handy to amuse yourself during this time.

If you are on the air/sea package, you will be transferred to the airport by the cruise line representatives. The earlier your flight, the sooner you will disembark from the ship and be transferred.

On the morning of disembarkation, breakfast hours will be moved forward one hour. This will be your last opportunity to eat before leaving the ship, so if you want breakfast, plan on getting up early!

Passengers are not allowed to disembark from the ship until all of the luggage has been taken off the vessel and arranged in the terminal building, usually according to a number or colored tag that you placed on your bags the night before. This procedure can take a good couple of hours. Be patient! Getting irritated won't speed it along.

Porters will be available in the luggage terminal to help you transfer your bags. Room service and bar service are discontinued on the morning of disembarkation.

When the captain receives clearance from the port authorities, disembarkation can begin. In some cases, not only will you have to wait for this clearance, but you will also have to pass through customs.

If there is a "lucky comment-card drawing" at the end of your cruise, make sure you enter. Sometimes cruise lines give away a discount on a future cruise. Also, be as honest as you can with your comments -- the cruise lines will appreciate any advice you can give to better their product.

AFTER YOUR CRUISE

When your cruise is finished, you arrive home and begin your re-entry into real life. Slowly, you will begin to get into your daily routine again -- whether or not you want to! But something will feel different. You'll find that you are craving something unlike anything you've ever hungered for before. It isn't a sick feeling, but an overpowering sense of want, desire, and obsession. It is a condition called cruise-itis (The technical name is "frequent floaters disease!) The symptoms? You can't stop talking about your cruise. You thrive on other people's cruise stories, and you even look for ways to top them.

The best cure is to call Travel Counsellors Rydalmere on 0409002964 to start looking at cruise brochures again, and begin planning your next cruise for next week, month, or year!

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