Top 10 Cruise Tips from experts in the industry

MIAMI — Officers in charge of hotel operations on cruise ships have seen it all: the first-time cruisers who come onboard wide-eyed; repeat cruisers arriving with plans to see everything; and the overall joyful buzz as everyone begins a cruise vacation of a lifetime.

Whether your clients are newbies or a frequent guest on the high seas, here are 10 tips from the pros on how to be a better cruiser.

Experience a sunrise and sunset. Getting up at dawn in a destination such as Alaska is not only impressively peaceful but brings your best opportunity to spot whales and other wildlife, says Adam Gorst, Princess Cruises hotel general manager on Emerald Princess.

Ask lots of questions. The crew has your best interests at heart and no question is too big or too small, says Jasper Wolthuis, hotel general manager on Coral Princess.

Read the daily newsletter. The newsletter delivered to your cabin each evening has a full listing of activities and entertainment happenings for the next day. You’ll find information on festivities, contests, lectures, dress codes, dining times, sales at the shipboard shops and more.

Advise the ship on special needs. It’s always advisable to alert the cruise line well in advance of your sailing. This applies to any mobility restrictions, health issues, allergies and dietary needs and requests.

Plan to try new things. On your cruise vacation you’ll be exposed to new places, dining choices and activities. Plan to make the most of what’s available, says Henk J. Mensink, hotel director on Holland America Line’s ms Amsterdam.

Map out port days. Whether you are booking shore excursions or planning to explore independently, you’d be wise to do advance research on your ship’s ports of call.

Don’t miss the ship. You may have heard horror stories of people heading off on their own in ports and then missing the ship. Such incidents are extremely rare, says Diane Belshaw, hotel operations & retail manager on P&O Cruises’ Oceana, but it’s important to listed to the shipboard announcements.

Consider pre-cruise overnights. If you have the time, most embarkation cities are great places to visit. Especially when traveling a long distance, you might consider arriving a day or two before your ship sails. Cees Tesselaar, Holland America, says you’ll enjoy the city more and arrive on the ship refreshed.

Pre-book everything you can. You may be able to book shore excursions and make reservations for spa treatments and specialty dining well before you set foot onboard your ship. You are wise to use this option when available, advises Freddy Esquivel, hotel director on the Carnival Sunshine.

Take time to explore your ship. It pays to become familiar with your ship’s layout and amenities, advises Holland America Line’s Schumann. That’s what she did when she and her husband (who happens to be executive chef on the Noordam) vacationed on German brand AIDA.

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