Well, after nine or so excerpts from my past cruise diaries I think it may be time to stop looking backward and to look forward to my future cruises. In February of this year we were planning to go on the voyage of a lifetime and had booked onto a round the world cruise. We booked this cruise well in advance because it was one of our “bucket list” items. The insurance could not be booked at the time because we had to wait ’til we were within 12 months of our scheduled return date in May 2022. So, in early June, I phoned my usual insurance provider to get my cover, whereupon the nice young man on the phone told me that the computer said NO. I wasn’t unduly worried as he was going to contact the “Broker”, However the Broker, also refused.
Long story short, I phoned around and no-one at that time would cover me. Old age, current medical history, cruise too long, too many expensive areas (USA) and too long before departure were reasons given to me. So after an embarrassing phone call to the cruise line I cancelled and was able to reschedule onto a series of shorter cruises, in European waters, which my existing annual insurance covered.
Though obviously disappointed, on one level, I am quite excited by this turn of events, now instead of blowing all my kids’ inheritance in just one go, I get to do lots of other shorter cruises. If you are reading this in Feb 2023, then we have just got back from the Canaries and are looking forward to Italy and the Adriatic in May.I am still hopeful that, as the insurance companies recover from the Covid hit that they took, they will let me go on cruises further afield again, even if not a full round the world cruise. There is a cruise around Africa, taking in India, the Maldives and the Seychelles in the Autumn this year which looks very tempting. It is 95 days but omits the USA, so maybe that will be doable.
Because we cruise often, we have built up a cruising kit to make life simpler with the packing and to make sure we leave nothing behind. I have clothes which I only see at sea. Most of our cruising departs and returns to UK ports, which means that the amount of luggage is not an issue, most cruise lines allow unlimited cases, though the weight of each case should not be excessive. Staff do have to be able to pick up hundreds of cases without hurting themselves.
We have items that are only used for cruising but are vital for our way of life on-board.
Cruising kit list
- As we take our complete electronic life with us, a plug in multi socket charging point, complete with spare cables, is a must because we have 2 iPads, 2 phones, 2 kindles, 2 rechargeable cameras as well as the spare rechargeable power packs.
- Washing hanger. On every cruise liner there will be a laundry and a laundrette but some things, on a longer cruise, you may wish to do in the privacy of your bathroom. So a mini clothes dryer for the shower is a must.
- Magnetic hooks. Parts of your cabin will be made from steel so you can make up for the shortage of hanging space by taking your own magnetic hooks. I find them so useful for hanging things like my walking stick, key card lanyard and man bag from.
- Towel clips. Even if you do not plan to go to the sun-bed area just before dawn to reserve the best lounger, you will need the large pegs to hold your towel in place while you are slowly cooking in the beautiful sunshine you have paid for. (There have been zero Germans on board on my 40 cruises so far, yet the towels still appear overnight on the loungers.)
- My Man Bag. Why should you ladies have all the best hand bags? At home, pockets suffice, but on board, pockets cannot cope with passports, phone, camera, wallet, water bottle etc. A rucksack is too large but my man bag is just right.
- Sea sickness remedies. Some people swear by copper bracelets, green apples or ginger. Others use the tablets but I found that seven years in the Royal Navy worked wonders for getting my sea legs. Seriously though, I have found that – most of the time – most of the passengers are OK. Your Captain will not take you into rough seas if there is any way he can avoid it.
- A highlighter pen. Most cruise ships provide a daily programme sheet on which you can mark the items you wish to attend. So a highlighter helps avoid FOMO stress.
- A medical kit with all the basics, thermometer, plasters paracetamol etc. Always take lots of extra prescription drugs and a printed list of all the drugs you are on. (Not necessary for the recreational types). There will be a fully equipped medical centre on board, but you will not want to use it for basic remedies. The cost will be prohibitive.
- Christmas stuff. If you are going on a Christmas cruise – an experience I highly recommend – then take decorations to stick on your cabin door and mirror. My wife, Joyce, also packs a tiny folding tree. Little presents for the crew are really appreciated: chocolates, toiletries etc.
Other cruising tips
Pre-plan your ports, look up online to find out what is available to see and do in each of your ports. Be realistic about what you can achieve in one or two days. When booking a tour make sure you can actually do what they are offering. At the moment, because of my latest health issues, I cannot walk very far so if the tour includes two or three miles of walking over rough terrain, it is pointless booking it.
If it is your first time in a port, then a HoHo (Hop on Hop off) bus is usually a great way to get a taster of your new city. However if it is very busy you may want to stay on the bus all the way round to avoid the stress of trying to reboard the bus when there are large queues.
Some ports will be anchor ports, where guests are transferred ashore by tender. To avoid the crush of getting an early tender ashore, we usually book a ship’s tour for these ports as the shore tours will get priority use of the tender. Tendering can be fun. Even in a calm sea they bounce around making boarding and disembarking them “interesting”. Fun fact: in a life boat tender, each seat has a hole in it, in the middle. One elegant lady asked one of the crew what the hole was for. The crewman turned a bit red, but told her. She then turned red, and sat in silence for the rest of the trip.
If you want Wi-Fi, ashore but don’t want to pay for it, watch out for the crew going ashore and follow. They will lead you to the best free Wi-Fi in the area. All ships will have their own Wi-Fi. On some lines it is included in the package on others you will have to pay.
As soon as the ship sails, put your phone into Airplane Mode. If you connect to the Ship’s Maritime at Sea network and a phone call comes in you will regret it come the next bill.
Over the last couple of months, I have really enjoyed putting some of the information from my cruise diaries – they really do exist – into blog form. Re-reading and looking back through them, and reminiscing about the good times as well as the bad times has been quite therapeutic. I hope some of you have enjoyed reading them as well.
Roger will be back with a new series on growing up in the ’50s and ’60s in March – so keep an eye out for more of his work!