Between Booking And Boarding: Make Cruise Travel Even More Enjoyable
Experienced travelers develop skills to get the most out of their very customizable cruise vacation. Sail just a few times and we know what to do, where to go and what to expect on just about any cruise line. After all, core elements of the cruise travel experience are rather similar, regardless of the line chosen. Sail a few more times and a ritualistic sequence of events happens, as diverse in number as there are passengers on the ship. Our first stop might be a bar on deck for that first umbrella drink. We might choose to first visit the shore excursion desk to plan our off ship activities. Early in the day, a stop by the dining room to see where we will be seated for dinner might be in order. Between booking and boarding there are new ways to make cruise travel even more enjoyable.
The Experience Begins At Home
A lot can be said for being prepared and planning ahead. Taking advantage of pre-cruise information provided by the cruise line is obviously a good idea. When travelers ask how to complete online registration with the cruise line a few days before sailing, it worries me. Is this really the first time they visited the cruise line website? Are they just now considering the information available to them there? In the past, online registration on the cruise line website was quite optional. Even today, travelers can still show up at the ship armed with only their booking number, passport and some form of payment for onboard purchases and they will get on the ship. But they will walk on the ship without the benefit of information that can make or break the travel experience. Depending on the cruise line, registering as the next step after booking often brings:
- A series of emails sent from the cruise line introducing travelers to ship features, elements of the cruise experience that are customizable based on personal interest and more.
- The opportunity to correct critical errors in the spelling of names or the date of birth on file with the cruise line that can slow down or prevent boarding.
- A countdown to your cruise that is updated every time we visit the cruise line website
- The ability to book and pay for shore excursions, spa treatments, beverage packages and more.
Making It Through Security Checkpoints
After all the planning is done, we need to get to the ship. Many cruise travelers need flights to do that and must pass through security checkpoints in airports. Frequent flyers might choose to enroll in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry program, TSA Precheck and/or the even more expedited CLEAR program. But what about those who travel once, maybe twice a year? The new Mobile Passport app, authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, allows travelers to submit their passport control and customs declaration information via their iPhone or iPad and bypass the regular line to enter the United States.
This app effectively replaces the traditional blue-and-white paper declaration form required of all travelers entering the U.S. by air or sea. It’s free and easy to use, in five simple steps:
- Complete your profile with basic passport information.
- Answer CBP’s questions about your trip.
- Submit your information UPON YOUR ARRIVAL and get a receipt from CBP.
- Follow the signs to the dedicated Mobile Passport Control lane.
- Scan your receipt and show your passport to the CBP officer.
Mobile Passport service is currently available at a number of airports as well as Florida’s Port Everglades with many more airports and cruise ports to follow
Travel Apps Are Not So Optional Anymore
Increasingly, cruise lines offer smartphone apps that add to the experience and do not take any cellular data to operate once on the ship. Now there is no excuse not to have them on your phone and bring them along during travel. In advance of sailing, the My Viking Journey app from Viking Cruises enables us to look at current bookings, select preferred times for the included tours at each port, learn more about those ports and more.
Once on the ships of Viking, the onboard internal network takes over and brings the ship’s daily newsletter we might have folded up and kept in our pocket before. We can watch live television and films too, also using the fast internal network of the ship. Similar systems exist on other cruise lines as well, all available and easy to use with absolutely no roaming, phone set on airplane mode.
When Pam and Gerry were notified that embarkation on Caribbean Princess would be delayed it might have had a negative influence on the beginning of their cruise. Experienced cruise travelers, they planned flights to arrive at a good time for transfer right from the airport to the ship. But embarkation had been delayed by several hours due to extra cleaning required on the ship. What to do? They could go to the port anyway and stand in line for hours waiting to get on board. They could wait at the airport. It was not enough time to really do a lot in the embarkation city.
Rather than choosing any of those possible options, they found a Tiki Bar close to the port and settled in. We assume they made it to the ship and applaud the decision to take a situation that might have started other travelers off on the wrong foot and turned it into what could very well become a great way to get started in the future.