If you are a first time cruiser, you might be anxious about what you will find aboard the vessel. Will there be fitness facilities? What activities are there for the children? Who do I turn to if I have a problem with one of the personnel? Although cruise lines vary, they have certain things in common.
As you arrive on board, someone, usually the chief purser or cruise director, is there to direct you to your cabin. Your cabin attendant may have left a small greeting card in your cabin, telling you his/her name. Your attendant (also known as the room steward) will appear shortly to introduce himself and offer his services. Your steward is your link to the rest of the ship, providing information about meal times, laundry, ice, extra glasses for parties. The steward also cleans your cabin and can arrange for breakfast in bed, and small services upon request. Any problems with any personnel should be discussed with the chief purser.
Aboard ship, activities can be found for just about anyone. There is music, square dancing, cooking demonstrations, art auctions, lectures, or lounging by the pool with a good book from the ship's library. Religious services are performed as well. The cruise director can help you find the activities for you while the deck steward or pool attendants help you set up a chaise or get a proper towel for swimming. (Although most vessels have fitness facilities for those who don't want to break up their normal exercise routine, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas have 12,000 square feet of fitness and spa facilities!)
Making Time For You
Make your appointments for the beauty and barber shops, massage or sauna early. The operations have excellent reputations and charge less than at home. Pedicure and manicure treatments are usually available. Remember the price of such pampering is not included in the cruise fare.
Games of Chance
For the gamblers, there is everything from just slot machines to full casinos, complete with "bunny club" type croupiers. You can play roulette and blackjack, and the casinos are open twelve to fourteen hours a day. Some ships use films in one of the lounges for horse race betting.
The children are well attended from breakfast to dinner. They have their own games; are supervised while swimming; eat junk food -- hamburgers, hot dogs, sodas, french fries -- for lunch; watch movies geared for their age group; and even have tea parties. The children have their own video arcade. Some ships have separate children's playrooms and have added youth counselors to the ship's personnel roster during summer months and school vacations. The children eat with their parents at dinner, and arrangements can be made with the purser and cabin stewards for evening babysitting (for a fee).
Formal Night(s)During a seven-day voyage, the one formal night will be the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail and Dinner Gala. The farewell dinner is less formal. More formal nights occur on longer cruises. At the Gala, the cruise director introduces you to the captain and purser. The Captain -- "master of the vessel" -- has the four wide gold bars whereas the Chief Purser -- who handles the day-to-day running of the cruises -- has three gold (sometimes silver) bars and a clover-like insignia. Photographs will be taken of you with these two by the ship's photographer; you can purchase them later. You will drink and enjoy appetizers while the Captain introduces his staff: the Chief Engineer (four stripes and a propeller) makes everything work properly, the Chief Radio Operator (three stripes and a radio signal), the Chief Electrician (three stripes and an electrical current), and the Doctor (three stripes with red or three stripes and a caduceus).
If the service was good, please leave a generous tip at the end of the cruise, and don't forget those dining room personnel such as the maitre d' who selected your table, the sommelier who helped you pick out the "perfect" wine to go with dinner, and the bartender who remembered what you drink and how you drink it. The cruise lines will give you guidelines (and they are only guidelines) on the size of tips, and usually even envelopes to put them in on the last night of the cruise.
Now that you know what to expect, taking a cruise shouldn't seem intimidating at all!. What are you waiting for?
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please