Search site


1401 Riverplace Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207



Cruising Advice-Part two

27/12/2010 22:11




 All ships use similar versions of a cashless system, where you are issued a shipboard account accessed by a "Sign and Sail card".  At embarkation they will electronically scan your credit card, or have you deposit an amount of cash, to back up the Sign and Sail card that they issue.  The Sign and Sail card looks like a credit card and is used for any purchases made aboard the ship (such as: spa services, beauty salon, ship sponsored shore excursions, gift shop purchases, photo purchases, non-included beverages, etc.) Those charges are then applied to your credit card at the end of the cruise in one lump sum.On most ships, this sign and sail card also serves as your room key, and your boarding pass, and therefore is required for you to get on and off the ship. You will have an identification photo taken during check-in. This photo will be electronically embedded in the card. When inserted in the card reader, every time you get on or off the ship, your photo is then visible to the security guard at the gangway.Beware of using a debit card for opening your shipboard account. When you use a debit card to activate your sign and sail card, they may put a "hold" of as much as several hundred dollars on your account. The actual amount varies.  You may only intend to spend 100 dollars but they will likely hold significantly more. If this comprises most of the balance in your account, it could interfere with checks coming in to be cashed at your bank, and end with them being bounced, and costing you money.Take plenty of cash in singles and fives for tipping taxi drivers, sky caps, bell hops at hotel, luggage handlers at pier, porters at airport and in the debarkation terminal, for room service, and for excursion drivers and guides.Standard tip for anyone who handles your baggage is one dollar per bag. (More if you’ve packed a set of barbells in there.)Standard tip for anyone who handles your baggage is one dollar per bag. (More if you’ve packed a set of barbells in there.) Today’s economy is fast pushing that amount upward from there.If intending to tip shipboard staff in person, or if your cruise line does not yet do auto-tipping, pre-plan your tip money. Take enough bills in proper sizes to cover the standard recommended tips, and set this aside in your cabin safe. You can increase or decrease the amounts later to reflect the quality of the service you received. Having the money set aside guarantees that you don’t spend it, and avoids your having to hunt up proper size bills on the last night. The ships usually provide envelopes. 

How much should I tip shipboard staff?

 Most cruise lines have now adopted the custom of automatically charging your account approximately $10 per person, per day for crew tips. On most ships you may have this removed from your account if you feel the service did not warrant the tips, or if you prefer to tip in person. This is a breakdown of the recommended tipping amounts:


·        Room steward - $3.50 per person, per day.

·        Waiter - $3.50 per person, per day.

·        Assistant waiter - $1.50 to $2 pp, per day.

·        Head waiter - $5.00 per person for the weeK.

In person tipping, should you choose to do this, is usually  

done on the last evening of the cruise. The room stewards will makethemselves much more visible in the halls outside your room on that evening, about the time you go to dinner. (For most of the rest of the cruise they will be nearly anvisible.)  For the waiters and assistant waiters, in person tipping is usually done as you leave the table on that last evening of the cruise.If your cabin steward went beyond your expectations, then a little extra tip may be in order.

What items on the ship will cost extra?

·         Alcoholic and soft drinks and some specialty coffees

·         Specialty restaurants

·         Casino gambling

·         Laundry

·         Photographs

·         Shore excursions

·         Spa treatments

·         Ship to shore phone calls

·         Internet

·         Baby sitting

·         Medical services

·         Gift shop purchases

·         Bingo

·         Tips

·         Some fitness center classes (i.e.: yoga, spinning)

Will I need to take a lot of cash on my cruise?

 If you use your credit card to set up your sign and sail card, the only possible uses for actual cash, on the ship, are gambling (casino and bingo), in person tipping, the laundramat, and to pay off your shipboard account, should you choose to do so, at the end of the cruise. Everything else will go on your sign and sail card. 

Where WILL I need cash? 

Pre-cruise taxi to airport, tip and fare

Sky Cap tip at airport

Airline luggage fees

Pre-cruise airport food

Pre-cruise taxi from airport to the hotel

Bell boy tip at hotel, arriving and leaving

Pre-cruise hotel / restaurant food

Pre-cruise activities in your embarkation city (sight seeing, etc)

Doorman tip, especially if he flags down the taxis for you.

Taxi to the terminal, tip and fare (or transfer shuttle tips)

Tips for luggage handlers at the cruise terminal

Onboard gambling, i.e.: bingo and casino

Port of call taxis, tips and fares.

Port of call excursions, if not purchased through the cruise line

Tips for excursion guides / drivers

Port of call food purchases

Souvenir purchases

Extra tips for crew, if you felt they gave truly exceptional service

Post cruise taxi to airport, tip and fare

Post cruise airline luggage fees

Post cruise airport food

            Post cruise taxi- airport to home

 A few of those items (like some taxis, food) can be put on a card, but in general, those tend to be cash items.Most ships have ATM machines onboard should you run low on cash, but beware the fees can be hefty.  To obtain cash and still avoid those ATM cash advance fees, try going to the casino instead. You can charge chips to your onboard account, (with no added fee) and then later just cash them in to get the cash you need.The generally accepted thought among cruisers is that however much money you think you need, take twice that amount. 

(Look for further money saving hints in the Life Onboard section.) 


 Well the cruise must eventually come to an end. During the very last night onboard, sometime after all the bars close, they will slide a copy of your final bill under your door, for you to review. If all is well, and you are paying by credit card, you need do nothing, and the balance will show up on your credit card at home. For any problems you will need to join the queue at the purser’s deck to correct the errors.

I highly recommend that you check the balance of your on-board account a few times throughout the cruise. You can usually access it through the interactive TV in your cabin, or stop by the purser’s deck and ask for a copy of your account. Have any errors corrected ASAP.  Postpone this until the last evening, or the morning of debarkation, and you are likely to find yourself waiting a very long line.  


 The procedures vary only slightly from cruise line to cruise line. But here's the usual scenario. On one of the last days of the cruise your cabin steward will leave a custom's declaration form, and color coded luggage tags in your cabin. You fill out the tags and attach them to your suitcases. If you bring along some return address labels, you can use these to make filling out the tags easier.

On the last evening of the cruise you will put your packed and tagged suitcases outside your cabin door; being careful to keep with you, clothing for the morning.On the last night of the cruise you will put your packed and tagged suitcases outside your cabin door before midnight, when the cabin stewards will pick them up and take them to a holding area till morning. After the ship docks, the suitcases will be transferred to the large terminal building there.While packing you need to be very careful to keep in the room with you, the filled out customs form, a carry-on and any clothing or other items that you will need in the morning.  All of this, you will carry off the ship yourself. On many ships, passengers are asked to be out of their cabins at a specified, somewhat early hour in the morning of disembarkation. In this case, you find a comfy spot in one of the public areas and wait.After the ship has cleared customs, and after everyone on board has taken care of their accounts, they will then start calling the color codes, or deck numbers, on the intercom. (Usually the staff will have asked for your home going flight info at embarkation, or during your on-line registration, so that passengers with early flights will be given luggage tags indicating an early call. People driving, or staying in port for a post-cruise hotel stay, are usually given the latest codes.)

 When your color is called, you leave the ship via the designated gangway. From there you will exit directly into the terminal where thousands of items of luggage are arranged according to the color codes. You go to the group of suitcases matching your color and find your bags. Attaching brightly colored pompoms, ribbons or tape to your bags, can be a big help, as you search through that sea of luggage.There will be baggage handlers available there, to help you gather your bags and take them out to the shuttle buses or taxi pick up area. Be prepared to tip.As you leave, you will have a brief pause with the customs people to answer a question or two, and to turn in your custom's declaration form.  This takes only a few moments, provided you haven’t purchased any really “special” souvenirs.One more hint: Most lines now offer you the option of carrying all your bags off yourself, thus allowing you to leave with the earliest call. This is a very popular choice for those with early flights. Should you choose this option, and are certain you can handle all your bags without assistance, just keep them in your cabin for that last night. 

 Either way, you need to have your customs declaration form and passports/or ID in hand as you leave.


 There are a few last things to do after the cruise:

 The air in most tropical climates is humid enough to penetrate the cloth of soft sided bags, so once you’re home be sure to air them out for a day or so, before closing and storing them again. And before you zip them closed, put a few fabric softener sheets in each bag, to keep them smelling fresh until the next trip.And as for those utility packing kits, if you travel more than a few times a year, it saves time to just keep those full. It’s no great cost to keep an extra toothbrush and razor always packed.  When you get home from your cruise, simply refill or replace the shampoo and conditioner bottles, Q-tip pack, toothpaste, etc.  You’ll be ready to go on your next trip, at a moment‘s notice.“Your next trip.” Ahh; those are the key words to keep in mind now that you’ve returned home. It’s the only truly bad part about any cruise, the fact that they make you go home when it’s all over. After days of being treated like kings and queens, reality hits hard and the PCD (Post Cruise Depression) can be severe. Here’s the best advice I can offer:  It’s what all experienced cruisers know, that the only real cure for PCD is to book another cruise.