Tips for a more enjoyable cruise

By Skip Carpenter
This item appears on page 12 of the October 2019 issue.

My wife, Bonnie, and I have taken a number of cruises, including going with Princess Cruises to Alaska in 1997 and to New England and Canada in 2008 and with Norwegian Cruise Line around Hawaii in 2005. We particularly enjoy Holland America Line and cruised with them on a 4-month, around-the-world cruise in 2012, for 68 days around South America in 2015, on a 48-day South Pacific cruise in 2016 and on a 28-day transatlantic cruise, including the Norwegian fjords, in 2017. In 2018, we did an 11-day cruise to Alaska with Oceania Cruises.

For anyone booking a cruise, here are a few things to keep in mind.

If you’re thinking of booking a veranda cabin, remember, the ship is making about 15 to 20 knots, and there usually is a 10- to 12-knot wind, so it can get rather breezy outside. Also, sometimes passengers in the neighboring verandah will be playing loud music. Smoke from smokers used to be an issue, but almost all cruise lines have now banned smoking on verandahs.

Beds are typically hard. If available, request a foam mattress early (perhaps even when booking), as they go fast.

Ships have long passageways with doors that all look the same. We find it convenient to hang a sign of some sort on the door to our cabin to make locating it easier.* Neighbors have told us it makes it easier for them to locate their staterooms as well.

We keep our valuables in the safe in our stateroom. There’s no need for a wallet, credit card or cash on board. Your room key is your ship’s credit card; it pays for everything. At night, though, we empty the safe and put everything into a “get out” bag, just in case of an emergency. (We do this even when staying in hotels ashore.)

We find that ships are generally kept on the cool side. Having a good, long-sleeved sweater is a must for attending lectures or classes on board.

Though there seems to be a tendency to take too many clothes on a cruise, each time we cruise, it seems we reduce our wardrobes.

At dinner, there are usually two seatings: circa 5:30 and 8 p.m. Over the years, we have found that instead of dining in the main dining room, we prefer to take dinner in the buffet/cafeteria, which is sit-wherever dining. The food is much the same, you get to eat when you want, and you meet more people than you would at an assigned table.

Lots of times, Bonnie and I are doing our own, separate things on board, and cell phones don’t work at sea, so, in order to communicate, we purchased walkie-talkies. We tried several, and we found that a walkie-talkie with a range of at least 2 miles is necessary for use on board. We bought ours (a Motorola model) at Best Buy.

Happy cruising!


Coronado, CA

*Citing “safety requirements,” Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed in August 2019 that it will no longer allow passengers to place decorations outside of their stateroom doors. Stewards have been instructed to remove any decorations and place them inside the cabins.