Continuing last week's tips on cruising vacations: You've done your due diligence so far as the line, the ship and your cabin location; now it's time for more pressing chores as you count off the days.
- Don't overpack. With a hefty bag comes extra expense, too many clothes and possibly an unnecessary interaction with TSA or the cruise line itself. Always adhere to the DOT mandate about those three-ounce liquid containers, for example. If you think you can slip a bottle of expensive perfume you purchased in duty-free onboard the aircraft, you have another think coming. The fragrance likely will end up in an airport disposal along with half-filled water bottles and other outcasts. With today's terrorist threats, TSA officers take no chances with screenings of carry-on baggage — or bodies.
- Check liquid restrictions. While unopened bottles of wine or liquor are acceptable in checked bags on a plane, don't expect a ship to allow the same consideration. Most cruise lines impose strict rules on outside alcohol, the one exception being one or two bottles of wine. (Check in advance, as some lines allow none whatsoever.)
They're also harsh about water bottles, too. On our Princess vacation, I bought a water/soft drink package to avoid paying for individual Cokes. Imagine my annoyance before departure to discover this "package" only included glasses of water. The only bottles I could buy were the big ones that cost an arm and a leg found in the cabin's little fridge. Obviously, I didn't intend to go on shore excursions or stroll the decks with a 64-ouncer hanging from both hands. I promptly visited the purser and demanded a credit for the "package."
- Most electronic devices and chargers are forbidden. Surge protectors usually aren't allowed as they can create a fire risk. (Nonsurge-protecting power strips and plug adapters usually are okay.) Heating devices, such as travel irons, are banned. Most cabins come with hair dryers. Read the line's packing rules online for details, and don't forget that ship employees are authorized to search baggage.
- Book shore excursions early. The most popular excursions in each port, as well as onboard spa treatments and specialty restaurants, often fill up quickly. Generally, you can cancel without penalty but, as always, read the cruise line's fine print.
- Arrive on time. Once, our reserved taxi was late at the airport. By the time the driver finally arrived and pressed the pedal to the medal for the 40-minute drive to the ship, two of the crew were standing by the road waving and hollering to hurry, hurry. We were the last passengers to check in before the ship, filled with more than 2,000 other eager vacationers, left the dock.
Once, when going from Chattanooga to Atlanta to catch a connecting flight to our destination port, our plane never arrived. Remember, just one glitch can wreck a long-awaited vacation. Don't wait until the day of — play it safe and arrive at the port the day before. Hey, you may even have enough time to enjoy a bit of sightseeing before boarding.
Contact Ellen Phillips at email@example.com.