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A heavily-debated topic amongst cruisers, cruise wear is something of a grey area and one of those things that experience can teach you well.
A good place to start is by checking your cruise operator’s specific dress code. Websites and brochures contain this sort of information, and cruise-related discussion boards or community forums are great places to go to hear advice from those with experience.
For every dress code, there are always some who try and bend the rules to fit them. If a tux is required for dinner, someone will try and get away with just a suit, but there are cases of people being turned away from the dining rooms for not being dressed appropriately.
A remnant of a bygone cruising golden age, the requirement for formal wear at dinner is merely a tradition that is favoured amongst regular cruisers and it all adds to the experience. More modern budget lines are looking to cater for those who don’t own formalwear and still want to cruise, meaning that each cruise line has its own set of rules.
During the day, no matter what ship or cruise line you are on (varying only due to itinerary), you’ll find men dressed in t-shirts, polo shirts and shorts or khakis. Women are similarly dressed in casual day dresses, skirts, shorts, t-shirts and cardigans. It’s only the dining time that the ship’s crew ask passengers to dress up for. Shorts are generally a no-no, but a smart-casual dress will probably cover more possibilities if you’re not sure what to pack.
Luxury lines are more likely to ask you to ‘suit up’ for dinner, whereas the more mainstream lines will either have dedicated formal nights or dressing smart-casual will do.
If this is your first cruise, embarkation day can be a blur of queue after queue and trying to remember a lot of information all at once, which can be stressful especially when within a limited amount of time.
Make sure you arrive at the port with plenty of time to queue for check-in and boarding of the ship. Some people choose to fly to the port of departure the night before in order to sleep at a hotel and leave enough time for everything required to board, without the rush or panic of leaving from home. If you’re driving to the port, leave enough time to park, stop for food or toilet breaks and any other unexpected delays you might come across on the roads. Missing the ship’s initial departure means you miss out on a lot and it can cost a lot of money to ‘catch up’ with it at the next port.
Passengers with suites or members of exclusive cruise clubs or loyalty packages tend to get priority check-in, with special queues and lounges or faster embarkation. You can pay extra for this privilege when you book your tickets.
Be well-prepared for the queues to be huge. Bring water, and snacks if you’re bringing children.
Make sure you’ve got all the right required documentation and any prescriptions you may need before you turn up to check-in.
Cruise operators don’t allow their passengers to go straight to their accommodation upon boarding the ship until a certain amount of time has passed. This time is for the crew and staff of the ship, allowing them to get your luggage to your cabin safely. Most people head straight for the bar, buffet or pool if they’ve put their swimwear in their hand luggage. You can check out the shops or other amenities during this time, too.
There is a safety departure day ‘muster’ drill, which must be attended by all passengers as part of every ship’s safety regulations. This might put a downer on beginning your holiday but the knowledge involved in the drill is life-saving and should you find yourself in a situation, it’s better that you know it.
Memorise your cabin number as soon as you are issued with one. Cruise lines don’t publish them on cruise cards or tickets for security reasons, so memorise it before you board and you won’t find yourself lost or with no idea where to go without checking your ticket.
Embarkation day is a famous day amongst regular cruisers. You board the ship and get an embarkation ‘Bon Voyage’ drink specific to the cruise line. Often described as one of the most delicious drinks you’ll ever have, don’t be fooled into thinking this drink is complimentary – it isn’t, but it adds greatly to the atmosphere and is all part of the experience.
Cruises are filled with fun activities such as surf simulators, tennis courts, swimming pools, zip-wiring and not to mention the excursions you can book once your ship is in port. So when it comes to packing, it’s okay not to know where to start.
Planning ahead when it comes to luggage is essential, especially if you’re taking a flight to board your cruise at a foreign port. Battling with bulging bags can mean you incur excess charges when it comes to checking the bags in, so pack lightly to benefit!
Flying before your cruise also means keeping an eye on your hand luggage. Pack it wisely and include a change of clothes, essential documentation, medication and chargers should your luggage not arrive on time