Cruise Tip Tuesday | Check Food Availability Hours

2008-10-30 23-23-18264
Crown Princess Buffet
photo credit: tsuacctnt

Cruise ships have a variety of restaurant choices. The daily program guide that arrives in your room each evening at turn-down will list the hours and restaurant options for the next day. Hours can change based on what time the ship is in port.

There will always be a buffet option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For breakfast and lunch, usually only one of the typical two main dining rooms will be open as most passengers will eat at the buffet for those meals.  There might be additional meal options such as a barbeque on the pool deck that might not be offered each day or a hamburger grill spot.  The buffet is typically crowded at peak lunch times, and alternate dining choices might be a better option.

Many ships have an afternoon tea time with snacks, cookies, and other desserts.  Ice cream might be available from a soft serve machine or an ice cream counter at certain hours in the afternoon as well.  Most cruises will have at least one late night dessert buffet or snacks in the casino once the main buffet is closed.  Some ships will even have food available almost 24 hours a day at one location.

Children can be hungry at odd times especially if they are used to having snacks available anytime at home.  Knowing what is available is key to keeping your children happy with plenty of energy to play.  We usually eat breakfast at the buffet, one or two lunches in the dining room with the rest at the buffet, and most if not all dinners in the dining room. We will sometimes feed the children at the buffet before our dining room meal time and then drop them off at the children’s play room so that we can have a more peaceful dinner and they get more time to play.  My kids will usually get ice cream in the afternoon, cookies at tea time, and something before bed after their evening play time.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Boarding Procedures

Seguridad

photo credit: Daquella manera

At the home port, you will go through several security steps before you can board the ship.  You and your carry-on luggage will first go through security screening.  You usually need to have your boarding documents and passports ready in order to enter the security lines.  The security screening is typically like that of airport screening (without the body scanners!), where you will put your coats and carry-on luggage onto a belt and it will be x-rayed.  You will also have to walk through a metal detector.

Knowing this, it is good to be prepared so as to not hold up the line or get embarrassed by “beeping”.  Avoid metal belt buckles and hair clips.  Remove all change from your pockets and any jewelry that could set off the machines.

If you bring a stroller it will need to be folded and x-rayed. Consider bringing something smaller than a typical double stroller.  It will probably not even fit through the x-ray machines nor will it fit well in the narrow hallways of the ship.

Liquids such as water bottles or cups for kids are not really an issue, but alcohol will be. Each cruise line has a policy on how they handle alcohol being brought onto the ship. Many will simply hold it until the end of the cruise and never let you have it while on the ship.  Others will charge a corking fee.  If you want to try to carry on alcohol or even put it in your “checked” luggage, make sure you know the cruise line’s policy before doing so.

After security you will usually get in another line to check-in and get your room keys which also act as your ID.  Your picture will be taken and linked to your room key for security purposes when leaving and re-boarding the ship in port.  Your passports will also be scanned, and you will need to set up your account to pay for tips, excursions, alcoholic beverages and other purchases made while on board.

Once you have all of your room cards and are cleared to board, you will then get your family picture taken for the first time of many by the ship’s photographers.  There is no obligation to get your picture taken, but it might be hard to avoid.  The photo will be put up in the photo gallery on board, where you can decide if you would like to purchase it or not.

After the photos you will be ready to board the ship.  Depending on the cruise line there might be crew members ready to take you to your room or you might be on your own to find it yourself.  If you arrive before the rooms are ready, you will be asked to go to a public area.  Head to the buffet for lunch or to the open dining room.  Explore the main public areas of the ship and learn your way around.  If you do arrive fairly early, try to bring as little carry-on luggage as possible or it will be a hassle lugging it around the ship.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Planning Port Shopping

Colon - Free Trade Zone and Shops

Colon – Free Trade Zone and Shops
photo credit: roger4336

I try to research the ports before going on a cruise, but I realize not everyone takes the time to do so.  Even if you book an excursion with the cruise line you will probably have extra time to explore (i.e. shop) the port.  How do you know which areas are safe to roam with your family and where to go?

During your cruise, the crew will offer informational meetings for each port you will be visiting.  If you have not researched the ports before your cruise, I would suggest attending the port information meetings which are usually scheduled on sea days and held in lounges or the main theater.  I should warn you, though that these meetings are basically shopping sales pitches.  They will hand out maps, brochures, and coupons from the shops in port.  Some major “sponsors” for Caribbean ports are jewelry stores such as Diamonds International.  You might also have a chance to win products from a sponsor during the meeting.

Sometimes maps and shopping information are in the Daily schedule that arrives in your room the night before your stop, so going to a meeting might not be necessary.  If you want freebies, coupons, and maybe some tips, then plan on attending a meeting.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Post Cruise Excursions

05-21-07 Road Trip 042 French Quarter

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
photo credit:
mnchilemom

I am back…for now!  I have no idea at this point as to how often I will post, but hopefully more than I have been.  I have gotten a lot more traffic to this blog lately without even posting.  So thank you to all the recent visitors!  I hope some of my tips have been helpful to you.

So here is a quick tip:  Book a post cruise excursion with the cruise line to ensure easy transportation back to the airport.

Our last cruise was out of New Orleans, and we booked Norwegian’s post cruise New Orleans excursion.  After meeting in the theatre at a specified time, we were basically led off the boat as a group and did not have to wait in any long lines to disembark.  We picked up our luggage, and it was placed under the bus.  We learned a little bit about the city and history and were then dropped off right at the airport.  Since we have young children, I always worry about taking taxis without car seats and actually fitting in a taxi.  With the excursions, you are usually taken via charter bus and there is no need or worry about car seats for children.  If you have any interest in the city of disembarkation, it might be worth the cost and ease of booking the post cruise excursion offered by your cruise line.

As a bonus, kids are usually charged a discounted rate, and oftentimes infants and toddlers are free.

One thing you must ensure is that your flight leaves the day the cruise ends AND that it is late enough in the day to actually have time for an excursion.  A return flight departure of 1pm or later is usually safe, but I would consider 2pm to be better.  It really depends on the length of the excursion and distance to the main airport.  For example, if you were to cruise out of Port Canaveral, FL, you might want to consider a later flight since you would probably be flying out of Orlando International Airport which is approximately an hour away.  You will usually see information in the description of the excursion that tells you how late your flight needs to be to go on the excursion.

As an alternative, you could contact the cruise line and buy just transfers from the port to the airport, but the price might not be much less than buying the excursion with the tour.

As a reference, the 2.5hr tour that Norwegian Cruise Line sells from New Orleans as a post cruise excursion is $49 for adults and $29 for children.  I am almost positive that children under 2 are free.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Combining Disneyworld With a Cruise

Photo0004FourBySix
photo credit: cdorobek

Wow I can not believe it has been over a month since I have posted.  I have been busy planning a Disneyworld vacation!  Last year we went to Disneyworld during Homeschool Days, and we loved it as the ticket prices are so reasonable.  It was our first time staying on site – All Star Sports – and it was a lot of fun with the 3 kids.  So, we are going back again this year, and I have been busy planning away.  This time we are staying at Pop Century for 9 nights. 

So what does this have to do with cruising as a family?  Well for us, nothing directly, but I just wanted to send a suggestion out there to consider combining a Disneyworld trip or even Sea World or Universal Studios for that matter with a cruise.  There are several cruise ships that depart out of Port Canaveral, Florida.  The best and most direct airport to fly into for these cruises is Orlando International.  There are many transportation companies that offer transfers from Orlando International to Port Canaveral including the cruise lines themselves. 

What cruise lines and ships depart from Port Canaveral? 

Disney Dream

Disney Magic

Disney Fantasy

Carnival Sensation

Carnival Ecstasy

Carnival Dream

Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas

Norwegian Sun

Many of these cruises are only 3-5 days in length, so you could combine a few days at the parks with a short cruise and have a great family vacation.  Also, many of these ships have non-suite cabins that hold families of 5.

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