They say anticipation is the greater part of pleasure; that expectations are at least half the fun; anticipation is the very soul of enjoyment. ‘They,’ of course, are wrong. At least when it comes to cruising. Hopelessly, ridiculously, laughably wrong.
Anticipating a cruise is certainly wonderful. It means that you have it all booked and paid for, and the only thing left to do is sit back and enjoy that warm glow of expectancy.
But the reality of being aboard your peripatetic maritime ‘home’ for a week or more is far, far superior to any pre-voyage eagerness for the actual sailing.
Yes, we do admit to that frisson of excitement when we put down the phone from talking to our favourite local travel agent, having just heard the words “You’re all booked.” It’s a call that usually takes an hour (or more) as we dissect all the possibilities and permutations for our ocean-going soiree.
Like, should we have that balcony cabin fore or aft? Do we want to be close to nose-bag territory, or further away (to encourage more walking before we stuff ourselves silly)? Or is it better just to take the cheapest cabin and enjoy spending the difference while on board?
Memo to selves: NEVER take the cheapest option, as that often involves not having a balcony, and that simply will not do these days, darlings. Having our own private deck space is simply an essential indulgence.
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, anticipation. Having put down the phone to clinch the deal (and not heard the inevitable follow-up to “You’re booked,” which is almost certainly “Thank god that’s over”), our very next action is to draw up our pre-cruise checklist, which is both necessary and a key part of the anticipatory process.
Now, you can call us sticklers (“You’re sticklers,” – Ed.), but we firmly believe in a logical and ordered process to getting organised for our maritime excursion. It’s taken years of perfecting, but we feel we now have the ideal pre-cruise routine, and we thought it worth passing on, as we know it remains one of the pitfalls (some might even say pratfalls) of those who tend to leave things to the last minute and end up with their passport on the mantelpiece while they are at the check-in counter.
So here’s the patent Treadwell & Tenny Pre-Cruise Checklist, in chronological order, counting down from an assumed three-month period BC (Before Cruise):
1) Does your voyage have any ports of call that require a special entry visa or other requirement?
Your loyal travel agent should have clued you up on any prerequisites at the time of booking, but it’s always best to take nothing for granted. For example, you can go ashore in St Petersburg, Russia, as part of a ship’s excursion group, but, if you want to visit on your tod, you’ll need a visa. Check, and double-check.
2) How are you getting to your port of embarkation?
This may sound silly, but we’ve definitely heard horror stories of people arriving in places like Rome, and saying “How do I get to the port?” For those who are geographically challenged, Rome is actually 50 miles inland of its nominal ‘port,’ Civitavecchia. It’s a bit like landing at Heathrow and saying, “Can I get a cab to Tilbury?” Well, yes you can, but it’ll cost you various limbs and you’ll look a right silly sod trying to get a London cabbie to go that far. As we always say, know before you go.
3) Is your passport valid beyond the end of the cruise?
This one’s a real trap for the unwary, as it’s easy to look at the expiry date and check that it’s okay for your DEPARTURE date, but overlook the fact it expires while you’re at sea. Nothing is guaranteed to wipe that anticipatory sea-going smile from your face like hearing the words “Your passport isn’t valid” at check-in. It can take at least three weeks to renew a passport these days, so check the expiry date well in advance.
4) Have you purchased travel insurance?
We recently heard that one in five Brits travel uninsured. We have just one word for that: “Fools.” According to ABTA, 27% of holidaymakers who DO buy insurance risk invalidating it by not declaring pre-existing conditions. To which we respond with two words: “Damn fools.” Others take part in activities (ziplining, white-water rafting, etc) without checking if they are covered for it. Our response? Unprintable. Here’s the simple, inescapable, essential logic. You can’t voyage anywhere these days, especially by ship (where medical treatment is fiendishly expensive), without having valid, fully covered travel insurance. Buy it. Early.
5) Can you book shore excursions and speciality dining in advance?
The answer to this is “Yes,” and the proper response is, “Okay, then, we’ll get online, weigh up all the possibilities, and make sure we’re not the hapless buggers at the Shore Excursion Desk asking ‘Have you got any availability left?’” (Even if you’re cruising with a line which includes shore excursions, such as Regent Seven Seas, don’t just assume you can just turn up – you’ll still need to pre-book!)
6) Anything else we should pre-book?
Yes, the same goes for beverage packages, spa treatments and if you want to rent a car at any port.
7) How am I getting home?
No, we’re not being smart-arses here, this is simply another matter of double-checking the basics. Is there transport laid on to get you from your final port of call to the airport? Be sure before you even leave home.
8) Can I use my credit cards and/or phone abroad?
Most banks will want to know in advance, as a matter of security, if you’re going to be in Istanbul or Agadir. Or you might find there is suddenly a mysterious block on your plastic friend. Similar for mobiles – check with the phone company to enable its use in Italy, Ecuador or Alaska.
9) Is there anything to fill out online before we leave home?
Almost certainly. Most lines these days provide a full online check-in system so you can input your essential info, print it out and have it ready for the check-in process. Don’t be ‘That Couple’ having to fill in reams of paperwork at the desk.
10) What else should we do before leaving home?
Oh come on, do we really need to hold your hand through all this? Okay, let’s review – attach your luggage tags; cancel the papers and/or milk; charge your phone and/or iPad; and have copies of your passports packed separately. Oh yes, for those who really aren’t paying attention – don’t forget to pack, and know the weather in advance. It may say ‘Alaska’ on your ticket, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need parkas and thermal underwear.
Have a nice cruise, now…!
Treadwell & Tenny
What is YOUR essential pre-cruise checklist before you head off? Let us know in the Comments section below.