First cruise is exciting but also a bit stressful. You’ll enjoy the first day of your cruise better if you know in advance what to expect. Here are a few insider tips to put your mind at ease.
Each ship is docked at it’s own terminal. The port in Fort Lauderdale is huge. You’ll often see 5 or 6 or even 7 ships waiting for their passenger to board.
As soon as you arrive at the terminal, porters will grab your suitcase to stack it on luggage carriers with all the others. It will be delivered to your cabin later on.
If you arrive early, the doors might not be open yet, you’ll be waiting in line outside. If you arrive later, then you’ll be going right into the terminal. Just like at an airport, you’ll have your bags x-rayed and walk through a metal detector, except you don’t have to take off your shoes, belt, etc. You will then register and the agent will give you your key card which also serves as your identification to get off and on the ship.
If the ship is ready, you’ll be boarding, if not, you’ll be directed to a waiting area where you can sit until they start the boarding.
They will be everywhere throughout the cruise, in the dining room, as you get off the ship in port and on formal nights, they will be set up in different spots. As you board, they will want to take your picture. You don’t have to. The photos taken by the photographers are NOT free. They will be displayed on a wall in a designated area and the prices will be advertised.
When you get to your cabin, your luggage probably won’t have been delivered yet. Remember there are thousands of passengers with at least one suitcase each, it might take a while. I unpack my carry-on right away so that I have more room to navigate when my suitcase arrives.
Unless you have a suite, your cabin will be smaller than a regular hotel room. But the ship designers have cleverly created nooks to store your stuff.
Store your carry-on and suitcase under the bed to get them out of the way.
On Princess, the ships have an open closet, with hangers. There is a shelve above where you’ll find the life jackets and the beach towels, but there is still room to add more. We usually put our snorkeling stuff there.
Look for the shelves and drawers and take advantage of all of them. I have even hidden something between the drapes and the patio door.
In the bathroom, you’ll also find shelvings above and below the small counter, and a clothe line across the top of the shower.
To make more space, you can buy one of these clear plastic shoe hanger that goes over the door. Some cruisers swears by them. I never needed to use one yet, but will definitely try it on my next cruise.
A few word about a bathroom on a cruise ship 🙂 – they are small. The shower is also small…like don’t drop your soap, you’ll have to get out to bend down to retrieve it. Beware of the toilet. It works the same way as the ones on a plane. Make sure you close the lid before hitting the flush button.
Discover your ship
There will already be in your cabin the planner (each cruise line has a different name for these) to let you know what is going on all over the ship and the restaurants/dining rooms/buffet hours. You’ll also find a small map of the ship, so go eat and/or explore your home away from home.
If you have assigned seating in the dining room, go visit and find your table. If you need to make a reservation for the many restaurants, try to make it now. But you might have to stand in line. We always wait for the next day of embarkation when it’s not so busy and call to make our reservations.
Go visit the theatre, the atrium, the promenade deck, the top decks and you’ll be going WOW a few times, guaranteed.
NOTE: the ship boutiques and the casino will not be open until the ship is way out at sea in the International Waters. And they won’t be open as well when the ship is in port.
The Drill – always on the first day of your cruise
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires that all passenger cruise ships hold a safety drill which is done just before sailing away. It is mandatory that you attend this drill. In your cabin, you will see a map on the back of the door telling you where your ‘muster station’ is and how to get there. A muster station is a designated area where you need to get to in case of emergency. You will need to bring your life jacket for this.
Get ready to be outside for the sail away, either on your balcony or find a spot on one of the top decks where there’s always a ‘sail away party’ going on with live music. It’s a fun way to start your vacation.
Hope you have a great cruise!