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Tag Archives: cruise travel

Set sail on Disney’s Fantasy — without kids

Matt Stroshane / Disney

Ooh La La on the Disney Fantasy is inspired by an elegant French boudoir adorned with velvet-tufted walls, Victorian furniture and Louis XIV-style chaise lounges. For adult guests only, the lounge is part of Europa, a nighttime entertainment district that celebrates European travel.

A Disney Cruise can trigger thoughts of in-your-face cartoon characters and a shipload of screaming kids.

Yes, Mickey Mouse and the gang are on hand to pose for photos and there is no shortage of children on these ships. But those seeking adult-focused fun and kid-free spaces will not be disappointed by a Disney Cruise. I recently sailed solo on a media preview sailing of the company’s new ship, Fantasy. Sailing sans children allowed me to explore the grown-up side of this family-focused cruise line.

Get pampered at Senses Spa Salon
While most passengers were whooping it up on the top deck during a sail-away party, I was soaking my tootsies in a tub of bubbling hot water and gabbing with other gals during my pedicure at Senses Spa Salon. With 17 private treatment rooms, salon, barber shop and fitness center, there are plenty of pampering options to choose from.

Davina Chojnowski of Boston found the spa to be a romantic place to spend time with her husband on their honeymoon. “I’m pretty sure we had a spa treatment every day,” she said. After side-by-side spa treatments, couples can nibble strawberries and sip some bubbly on a private verandah with a hot tub and double lounge chair in one of two spa villas.

Kent Phillips / Disney

The Disney Fantasy includes Satellite Falls, a circular splash pool with benches and a rain curtain, exclusively for adult guests.

Dive into calm pools
There are two splashy spots on Fantasy where adults can escape the boisterous family fun of the ship’s main pools. Grab a cocktail at the swim-up Cove Bar and cool off in one of three freshwater pools that make up the Quiet Cove Pool. Satellite Falls is a water-lover’s heaven with a circular splash pool and a cascading rain curtain.

Dine like royalty
In addition to three elaborately themed main dining restaurants and casual poolside fare provided in the price of a Disney Cruise, there are two adult-only restaurants aboard Fantasy. French-inspired Remy is the most lavish. Dinner starts with a Champagne cocktail made tableside, followed by up to nine small courses ($75) with optional wine pairings ($99).

In addition to dinner and brunch ($20), adults can enjoy a high tea ($15) at Palo, an upscale restaurant specializing in Northern Italian cuisine. Bring fancy garb and a big appetite to enjoy these swanky venues.

Drink and dance the night away
The ship’s nighttime district, Europa, provides a virtual journey through Europe with a lively Italian piazza, an Irish pub with plenty of TVs on which to watch the latest game, and a London dance club. The Skyline bar features changing scenes of European skylines, complete with miniature animated cars and people. As a Francophile, my favorite is Ooh La La, a femininely French bar inspired by a jewelry box with lush furniture and a Champagne-bubble chandelier.

Act like a kid again

Christine Hardenberger, owner of Magical Mouse Plans Travel, said that although Disney is widely known as a family-centric brand, about 30 percent of Disney vacations booked though her agency are for adults traveling without children.

Matt Stroshane / Disney

Those aboard the Disney Fantasy watch “Buccaneer Blast!” – a fireworks show choreographed to music featuring songs from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

Despite more than 70,000-square-feet of space on Fantasy dedicated to those 18 and older, many adults embark on a Disney Cruise because they want to experience the joy of reconnecting to their inner child. Vacationers want to chuck their to-do lists and business suits in favor of a spin down the AquaDuck waterslide or dancing at an all-ages pirate deck party complete with fireworks.

Explore the Caribbean
After sister ship Dream began its shorter, three- to five-day itineraries last year, Fantasy was designed to keep cruisers busy during weeklong sailings, said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Fantasy’s Caribbean itineraries alternate between an Eastern route (with visits to St. Maarten and St. Thomas) and a Western route (stopping at Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel). All include a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which features Serenity Bay, an adult-only slice of beach paradise.

Get the Disney Experience
Ozer Balli, Disney’s vice president of hotel operations, believes adult cruisers sailing without children choose Disney Cruise Line because “the brand offers a trust factor and a quality level that never disappoints.”

Kimberly Button, a former Disney Cruise Line employee and author of the Disney Activity Guide app, is planning a Disney Cruise vacation this year. “There’s just something special,” she says, “something that you really cannot even explain or put your finger on but you know that it’s there, that you find on Disney and no other cruise line.”

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Cruisers can now find cheaper shore excursions

Viator

Cruise lovers who hate being stuck with the expensive shore excursions offered by their cruise line can now find better value alternatives, thanks to a website launching today: Viator Shore Excursions.

The site, run by activity booking engine Viator, pledges discounts of up to 60 percent off the price of more than 500 comparable ship-arranged excursions.

Until now, cruise lines have had a near monopoly on the sale of shore excursions, which make up about 25 percent of a typical cruise line’s profits. Viator’s service amps up the price competition. There are other sources for deals out there worth trying, too, especially ShoreTrips.com and ShoreExcursionsGroup.com.

Searching for a shore excursion is straightforward. Enter your cruise ship name and sailing dates, and check the types of activities you prefer, such as jungle safari, privately led shopping tour, or a photography class. The site then shows you tours that sync up with your ship’s itinerary. It works at more than 80 ports for all of the major cruise lines, such as CarnivalHolland America,Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)Princess, and Royal Caribbean.

For instance, the site is touting a Hilo, Hawaii, shore excursion to Volcanoes National Park to see active volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kilauea as well as the gorgeous Rainbow Falls, from $59 a person. The comparable tour on NCL is currently $89 a person.

Viator’s new site guarantees an on-time return to your ship or else it will pay the full costs of transporting you to the next port in time to catch up with your ship. In another perk, the company pledges that if you find a lower price for the tour elsewhere, it will refund the difference.

Tours are typically available to book up to a day in advance of arrival in port. In many cases there are no penalties if an excursion is canceled days ahead, though travelers should read the fine print on any offer before booking. In comparison, most cruise-arranged excursions can be canceled for a refund up to 36 hours in advance. Through April 30, 2012, bookings on Viator Shore Excursions that use the code SHOREX10 receive a 10 percent discount.

We hope the launch of the new site leads to a price war on shore excursions, which would be good news for anyone who likes to cruise affordably.

More from Budget Travel

The best cruise ships for kids

The Animator’s Palate is one of the main restaurants on the Disney Dream.

 

It’s no secret that cruises pack in extra value for families — most of the larger ships offer free kids’ activities, lavish playrooms with computer games and toys galore, and family-friendly diversions like waterslides, miniature golf courses, and rock-climbing walls.

But with dozens of cruises to choose from, how do you know which ship is best for your family?

Read more: See other ships in the right shape for families

These ships all have a few things in common: drop-off age-specific programming and well-stocked playrooms, plus after-hours group babysitting (usually starts at 10 p.m.) or private babysitting (usually $6-$8 per hour per child).

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream
Minimum Age for Drop-off Programming: 3 months
Private In-cabin Babysitting: No

Much to the delight of even the youngest Disney fans, characters from “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and Tinker Bell’s fairy forest make appearances in the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab children’s activity centers. Outside is Goofy’s Sports Deck, with a miniature golf course, a full basketball court that can be used for soccer or volleyball, and a pair of digital sport simulators to play soccer, tennis, and other sports.

Though kids will enjoy splashing around the “Finding Nemo”-themed water play area, more daring passengers will ride the Aqua Duck, a 765-foot-long, four-deck-high flume ride. Sit in two-person inflatable rafts, zip around the edge of the ship’s top deck, and zoom 13 feet out over the ocean inside a transparent tube.

Got a picky eater? The Animator’s Palate restaurant has video wall displays in which a turtle named Crush (of “Finding Nemo” fame) actually interacts with passengers and calls kids by name. Other eating venues are popular for their kid-friendly burgers, fries, hot dogs, chicken tenders, and pizza.

The extravagant production shows in the Walt Disney Theatre feature impressive stage props and favorite Disney characters in Broadway-style shows with original story lines. Even Castaway Cay — Disney’s private island in the Bahamas — is a dream for kids, with a water park both offshore and on.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 2 years
Private In-Cabin Babysitting: No

Norwegian Epic has everything from Wii games and PlayStation 3 to one of the best waterslides at sea: a three-part slide that requires sitting in a giant inner tube before zipping down a giant shoot and into a large open-top bowl to do a few fast spins before splashing down to the end. For younger kids who don’t want to feel left out, the Epic has a splash pool with mini slides and spray fountains.

Recreational sports activities include a 33-foot climbing wall with five routes, a trampoline (complete with harness and cables for doing flips), and a 24-foot-tall climbing cage called the “spider web” that’s laced with giant rubber bands to climb through. Kids also appreciate the basketball court (that doubles as a mini soccer pitch), batting cage, and the two-deck-high video screen in the atrium that sometimes features special sporting events.

NCL also features Nickelodeon characters at a special breakfast for kids. Another perk: children under two sail free if sharing a cabin with two adults.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 6 months
Private In-Cabin Babysitting: Yes

The two largest ships at sea each have pretty much everything you need to entertain the kids: a sprawling H2O Zone water park, a pair of rock-climbing walls, a miniature golf course, two surfing simulators, a basketball court, an ice-skating rink, and a hand-carved wooden carousel.

Ten play areas, which are connected to a main boulevard, include a big open gym for romping, rooms for arts and crafts, kiddy theater productions, and even a space for simple science experiments.

Super kid-friendly eating outlets include a donut shop and a pizzeria, both of which are free. At à la carte pricing, there’s an ice-cream parlor, a cupcake shop, and a Johnny Rockets diner for burgers, fries, and milkshakes. There are kid-centric shops, too: one selling vat candy by the pound and another selling stuffed animals you can create and dress.

Fleetwide, you can pre-order baby gear (Gerber baby food, Huggies diapers, and more) in the Shop Gifts and Gear section of www.royalcaribbean.com, and the stuff will be waiting for you in your cabin. There is a drop-off nursery for ages 6 months to 3 years ($8 per hour).

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom, Liberty and Independence of the Seas 
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 3 years
Private in-cabin babysitting: Yes

Aside from a huge playroom and video arcade aboard the Freedom-class ships, kids can’t enough of the H2O water park, rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink, surfing simulator, mini golf course, and basketball court. Kids of all ages love the Ben Jerry’s ice-cream parlor and the Johnny Rockets diner on board for burgers, fries and milkshakes (both venues at an extra charge).

Daily mom-and-baby 45-minute play dates — offered for ages 6 months to 3 years old — focus on music, storytelling, and Fisher-Price toys. Starting later in 2011, these Freedom-class ships are also expected to offer a nursery for ages 6 months to 3 years. The fancy cupcake shop introduced on Oasis and Allure of the Seas will also be added.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 2 years
Private In-Cabin Babysitting: No

Carnival’s newest megaships have impressive water features, including a pair of twin 80-foot-long racing slides and a 104-foot-long enclosed spiral slide called the DrainPipe. There’s also the massive 303-foot-long, four-deck-high Twister enclosed corkscrew waterslide. This pair of ships also has a mini golf course and a basketball court.

Aboard Carnival Magic (slated to debut May 2011), there’s a great space called Sports Square, which features the first ropes course at sea (suspended above deck); the line’s first two-level nine-hole mini golf course; and a court for basketball, volleyball, and soccer.

On the mornings of port days and after hours, children as young as 6 months can be dropped off for $6 per hour. To lighten your load, a handful of strollers, bouncy seats, travel swings, and Game Boys are available for rent on board. But if you absolutely need a stroller, don’t take a chance and be sure to bring your own.

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 3 years
Private In-Cabin Babysitting: Yes

Each of these Millennium-class ships has a kiddy pool and a ball pit, as well as an outdoor play area with a climbing maze geared to young kids.

For kids who plan on being in the playroom most evenings for the group babysitting program, the V.I.P. Party Pass covers all group babysitting during the cruise at a 40 percent discount (it’s normally $6 an hour per child between 10 pm and 1 am). Kids also get perks like behind-the-scenes tours and can attend one big-screen movie with free popcorn and drinks. Toddlers under age 2 can use the playroom if accompanied by a parent.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 1 year
Private In-Cabin Babysitting: No

There are no stiff upper lips here; the Queens cater to little kids big-time. Certified British nannies are part of the staff in charge of the playroom, which includes a room with baby cribs. An outdoor play area next to the playroom has a climbing frame, a wading pool, and sprinklers.

The King’s Court buffet restaurant has an area reserved for kids and “high tea” is served daily for them at dinnertime, offering favorites like pasta and chicken nuggets.

Princess Cruises’ Caribbean, Star, Crown, Emerald and Ruby Princess
Minimum Age for Drop-Off Programming: 3 years
Private In-Cabin Babysitting: No

For bigger kids, each of these ships have basketball courts and mini golf courses. For toddlers, the Fun Zone kids’ center has a large fenced-in outdoor play area next to the playroom. With tricycles and a mini-basketball set-up, this outdoor area is the best place for energetic tykes to run around while Mom and Dad sit on the sidelines and relax.

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Controlling your kids at sea

Picture kids armed with squirt guns, overrun pools, ice-cream cones upended and dripping down railings, card games in hallways, stampedes of kids running on deck — these are just a few of the tales we’ve heard on our message boards about unruly kids at sea.

These stories, like many kids-run-amok incidents at sea, can’t be blamed on the cruise line. While cruise lines can set and should enforce policies, it’s a parent’s responsibility to ensure his or her children are aware of — and abide by — the rules. We’re not saying that all kids misbehave onboard; many will be well-behaved without additional parental intervention. But now that more than 1.5 million kids (ages 18 and younger) are sailing each year, the potential exists for a great many happy or unhappy children and adults.

How can you control your brood for smooth sailing? Here’s some advice based on what we’ve learned — sometimes the hard way — during our years of family sailing.

Pick the right ship and itinerary for your family
Most mainstream cruise lines have nonstop activities for children, morning ’til night, yet all programs are not created equal. They run the gamut from small, personalized programs to those with rowdy teen discos. Some vessels offer evening entertainment you can attend as a family, and others sequester kids in late-night events while parents party about the ship. To help you find the ship that best matches your family’s interests and kids’ ages — and, therefore, increase your chances for a fun time for all — read our stories on Family Cruising Basics and Best Cruises for Teens.

Keep in mind that luxury lines may only operate youth programs on select sailings. In addition, off-peak sailings on lines like Princess, Holland America and Celebrity may not have a large enough number of children onboard to entice your young cruisers to hang out in the youth lounges (although some kids love the attention a small group brings). A lack of kids’ programming or activities can lead to boredom and bad behavior, as can an itinerary with too many sea days, when teens prowl around looking for action. Consider itineraries packed with family-friendly ports of call, as well as those that offer teens-only shore excursions. Also, have your kids help pick the tours so they’re invested in the choices and, hopefully, more well-behaved on them.

Lay down the law
Tell your kids what is expected of them. Yes, it’s a family vacation, and there will be fun: curfews stretched, unlimited slices of pizza daily and other we-never-do-this-at-home occurrences. But insist that basic good behavior still applies. No running, pushing, shoving or cursing in public areas. Say please and thank you. No cutting in lines, shouting in the halls or throwing food in the dining rooms.

Then, create consequences. If you or anyone else catches your progeny misbehaving, let them know what will happen. After family travel expert Candyce Stapen’s teenage son missed a midnight curfew by two hours, she “grounded” him the following evening, insisting he stay in the cabin after dinner with no friends visiting. For the rest of the voyage, she reports, he came in on time (though not one minute too soon). Personally, I’ve found locking a beloved D.S. or other electronic gadget in the safe can also go a long way in making a point about expected behavior, especially with younger children.

Talk about sex, drugs and alcohol
Think of a cruise ship as a weeklong party for teens. Now think of what you warn your kids about before going to a land-based bash: sex, drugs and alcohol. On a Caribbean sailing when we asked a mother of two lively 13- and 16-year-old daughters why her girls weren’t participating much in the teen program, she told me the boys only want one thing “and my girls aren’t interested.” On another Caribbean cruise, an outgoing and popular teen was busted mid-voyage for selling marijuana. He and his family were not forced off the ship, but he was booted from the teen program and shunned by his peers — for getting caught, we think, not necessarily for selling. So don’t be naive.

Read the cruise rules to the gang
Before you go, make sure you and your family have read your cruise line’s code of conduct. Princess posts a short and clear statement asking that parents or guardians supervise children and teens not participating in the youth programs, restrain children in public areas from running or engaging in loud or disruptive behavior, and accompany children in elevators at all times. Norwegian Cruise Line adds a teen discipline policy, noting that an unruly adolescent will be warned, then given a time-out with his parents notified. If the problem persists, the unrepentant faces suspension from the activities program for 24 hours. After he is allowed back in, the first instance of bad behavior gets him expelled from the teen scene’s organized activities.

According to a Disney Cruise Line spokesperson, youth club counselors review expected behavior and safety rules with participants during orientation. The cruise line’s code of conduct specifies that “responsible adults” will be charged for failure to “adequately supervise, control or care for minor children” if there are damages to shipboard property.

Royal Caribbean offers the most comprehensive code of conduct, spelling out rules for all passengers, adults as well as children. The code appears on the Safety and Security section of their Web site, as well as in all staterooms. In addition, Royal Caribbean’s Code of Conduct even lists the consequences, which can include: removal of certain onboard privileges like admission to Adventure Ocean, removal from the pool area while parents are contacted, confinement to stateroom and even removal from the ship at the next port of call.

Check the minimum age
Minimum ages for fitness centers, solarium use, casinos, nightclubs and alcohol consumption vary by cruise line so don’t assume what was true on one cruise line will apply to another.

On Carnival the minimum drinking age is 21. Princess also has a drinking age of 21, yet permits young adults (18+) in the nightclubs. Royal Caribbean’s minimum drinking age is 21 from U.S. homeports and 18 pretty much everywhere else; passengers ages 18 and older are permitted in nightclubs. Norwegian Cruise Line has exceptions to its alcohol consumption policy, allowing passengers 18 and older to consume alcohol while onboard (except for Alaska and Hawaii itineraries) with the consent of an accompanying parent and a completed Young Adult Alcoholic Beverage Waiver form, which can be obtained at the Guest Services Desk. The form is not needed, however, on roundtrip European voyages.

On Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the minimum age to gamble in the casino is 18 (except in Alaska). Carnival passengers younger than 12 years of age are not permitted in Spa Carnival or the fitness center; passengers between the ages of 12 and 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Royal Caribbean passengers 16 and older can use the fitness centers and whirlpools and attend the theater without parental supervision; those between the ages of 13 and 15 are allowed in the fitness centers with a parent or guardian at certain times. Norwegian Cruise Line’s policy does not permit anyone younger than 18 to use the spa facilities (even if the facilities are complimentary for the category booked).

Table manners
On mainstream cruise lines (except Disney), many passengers book the later seating thinking there will be fewer kids, so behavior expectations are high. If your children are still unpredictable in restaurants, book the earlier seating, where there are at least more children in attendance, or hit the buffet instead. Another option is to ask if children’s program staff pick up children from dinner and escort them to the various kids’ club activities. Disney and Royal Caribbean both offer this service, which allows parents to have dessert and cappuccino in peace and kids an opportunity to scoot out of a long meal. Whatever the length of dinner, my family of preteen boys has found that a paper and pen go a long way in wait-for-your-meal entertainment. We’ve played everything from hangman to name every NFL (or NBA or NHL) team (we give geographic clues). I’ve even allowed an extra Shirley Temple for the kid who can name at least fifteen former “Dancing with the Stars” contestants. Have fun with it.

Monitor your kids
Now that my oldest son is 14, we allow him to come and go from the teen program, basketball court and pool, as long as he checks in with us and lets us know where he’ll be. We tell him to leave a note in our cabin or find us at the gym or cafe at a certain time, and we do the same. This enables us to touch base and make plans for things like family mini-golf or dinner later that night. Better still are Disney’s new wave phones, which look like cordless phones and function like walkie-talkies, eliminating the need for cabin notes. There are typically two per stateroom, making it easy for kids to call you on the other most anywhere on the ship or in the stateroom. Phone or not, go to where your child is hanging out, and observe from time to time.

Reminders
Kids need reminders. They’re excited, like an adult might be when let loose in a Vegas hotel. So, remind them while you’re sitting poolside not to do that cannonball and splash people sunbathing nearby, to use indoor voices on balconies even though, yes, they are technically outside, and to look over their shoulders when going through a door in case they can hold it open for the next person.

Adults need reminders, too. It can be tempting to allow your kids in an adults-only area you want to enjoy, as I discovered on a recent cruise when I left a note saying: “Bring your brother up to the cafe when you’re awake and ready for breakfast.” My husband and I slipped out to the adults-only cafe to indulge in quiet time with coffee and books. About an hour later, our 14-year-old slinked in. “We’re near the Ping-Pong tables,” he said. “Where’s your brother?” I asked. “He’s on the other side. Mom, it says no kids in here.” He was right, and I’m sure the other adults in the cafe appreciated that the two of them hadn’t come barreling in.

Be realistic
Nobody’s kids are perfect, and neither are some adult passengers. But clearly stated rules and expectations, as well as frank talks, go a long way toward creating the type of family vacation you want to remember for the right reasons.

Finally, it’s okay to want time without children — yours or anyone else’s — especially if you came aboard for a romantic interlude or a girlfriends’ getaway. Here are our tips for planning a kid-free vacation.

More from Cruise Critic:

How to stay healthy on a cruise

Staying clean and smart can boost the odds of having a healthy cruise.

Most cruise travelers sail happily and healthily, but anytime you step out of your daily routine, you let your physical guard down and become susceptible to all sorts of troubles. From norovirus to swine flu, seasickness to dehydration and hangovers to jet lag, cruise ship passengers can easily succumb to a number of ailments.

Have we made you nervous? Don’t be. It’s relatively easy to stay healthy on a cruise ship if you take a few simple precautions. All you really need is a mental checklist and a few minutes a day. (Note to self: Pack the hand sanitizer, refill that water bottle, and apply sunscreen.)

While we can’t guarantee you won’t get sick — for all you know, your germy coworkers may have already infected you before you embark on your trip — here are 10 tips for staying healthy and minimizing your chances of getting sick on your next sailing.

Wash your hands
The No. 1 way to avoid getting norovirus or other illnesses on a cruise is to thoroughly wash your hands — more than you ordinarily would — before and after you eat, after you use the restroom, when returning to the cruise ship after a day in port and every time you touch a stranger or an oft-touched item like a stairway railing or a slot machine. In this way, you’ll kill germs before they can infect you. In addition to ramping up hand-washing, also take advantage of the hand sanitizers strategically placed around cruise ships in the dining areas, by the gangway and even in various lounges and public spaces. But note that using a hand sanitizer is not a replacement for basic hand-washing.

Drink the water
Staying hydrated is a great way to stay healthy, whether it’s during a hot day at the beach or in the stale air of an airplane on the way to your port of embarkation. Bring a reusable water bottle, and fill it up in the ship’s buffet restaurant, or buy beverages ashore. If you’re especially prone to dehydration in hot weather, try a sports drink like Gatorade, which contains electrolytes. Alcohol can also dehydrate you, so if you plan to spend plenty of time in the onboard bars, make sure you swap your beer or cocktail for a glass of water every so often. 

Don’t drink the water
I know we just told you to drink a lot of water, but in some destinations — like Mexico or Egypt — it’s not necessarily safe to drink local water. Check the U.S. State Department‘s website (or the equivalent in your country of residence) for country-specific travel warnings; the section on “Medical Facilities and Health Information” will mention any restrictions on drinking water. In these destinations, you will want to drink only beverages in sealed bottles. Also, avoid ice and fruit where you’d eat the skin, as well as uncooked vegetables. Bring your own drinks and snacks from the cruise ship to be safe — though do be careful about breaking local laws in port that prohibit bringing meats and cheese ashore — and when in doubt, ask whether items have been made or washed with local water.

Fight jet lag
You don’t want to miss out on the first half of your cruise because you’re so jet lagged that you’re not sleeping well or sleeping at all the wrong hours. While everyone’s body handles jet lag differently, one recommendation is to arrive at a far-away cruise port a day or two in advance. You can spend those early days in port getting acclimated to the time change so you don’t collapse on your first day onboard. Other tricks include not taking a nap on your first day and staying up until a reasonable bedtime; spending a lot of time outside to take in as much natural light as possible; and choosing a medical remedy, such as melatonin, which helps your body’s circadian rhythms adjust to a new time zone. (Just check with your doctor to make sure this option is right for you).

Wear sunscreen
You can just as easily get burned walking the streets of Europe in the summer, kayaking or scenic cruising in Alaska, and doing just about anything in the strong sun of Australia as you can by sun-lounging poolside. While it can be a nuisance to apply and re-apply your SPF 30, you will be in greater pain if you burn — which can also prevent you from enjoying the next few days of your cruise.

Pace yourself at the buffet
It’s very easy to eat yourself sick on a cruise ship, and night after night of rich, multi-course meals can take its toll on your tummy. You’re less likely to feel queasy, bloated or sluggish if you eat wisely onboard. Plus, you won’t come home weighing 10 pounds more than you did before vacation. We’re not saying to skip the bacon or the tiramisu, but do consider limiting yourself to one full plate at the buffet, skipping one course at dinner (or eating half of every dish) or having a light lunch so you can indulge more at night. Also, if you eat at a slower pace, you will more thoroughly enjoy your food. Just make sure to stop eating when you’re full. Remember, you’re on a cruise ship. There will always be more goodies to savor whenever you get hungry again. 

Chew ginger candies
Or eat green apples, wear acupressure wristbands, head outside for fresh air, look at the horizon, or book a low-deck, mid-ship cabin. Why? All of these tricks are ways to beat seasickness. You can also take over-the-counter meds like Dramamine, or ask your doctor about the Transderm patch. Alternately, book a port-intensive itinerary (try Oceania or Azamara) in order to spend as few days at sea as possible. River cruising on Europe’s normally placid waters is also a good bet for those worried about seasickness. And, Alaska’s Inside Passage voyages are typically calm. 

Take the stairs
It’s quite tempting to become a daiquiri-guzzling, lounge chair-hogging, late-sleeping, food-demolishing couch potato on a cruise — especially on warm-weather itineraries with lots of sea days. And, while you shouldn’t have to spend precious vacation hours sweating it out in the gym, it’s not a bad idea to slot a little bit of movement into your lazy, crazy days of cruising. One easy way to do this is to take the stairs. Not only will you use your muscles a bit every day, but you won’t have to stand around waiting for an elevator. Another option is to take advantage of the promenade deck or outdoor jogging track to take a brisk walk. 

Go easy on the alcohol
Yes, I’ve drunk my fill of mango mojitos and sung Billy Joel songs at piano bars until the wee hours of the morning — and I’ve loved every minute of it. But, if you’re looking to stay healthy onboard, excessive drinking is not the way to do it. Try to avoid boozing it up until you’re sick or so drunk that you can’t get back to your cabin. A hangover is the least of your worries — excessive drinking can put you at risk of getting into a fight, becoming sexually compromised or even falling overboard. If you do plan to party, designate one of your travel companions as the sober one who can watch over the group and keep everyone safe. 

Tell the truth
Our last tip is more about keeping everyone else healthy. Many cruise-ship illnesses come onboard on embarkation day with each new crop of passengers. These days, most lines ask guests to fill out forms indicating whether they’ve experienced certain symptoms in the past week. If you’ve been feeling under the weather, please answer these questions honestly. You will then meet with someone from the ship’s medical team to determine the best course of action. It does not mean that you are automatically kicked off the cruise. While contagious cruisers may find themselves quarantined in their cabin for the first day, you are doing a great service to the rest of the passengers and crew by not spreading your virus around the ship and causing more travelers to become ill.

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