8 essential things to remember when going on a cruise
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There’s no shortage of cruise packing lists online. Having a list of what to pack for a cruise can be very handy, particularly if it’s your first cruise or your first time travelling with a baby or child. However, in this article, rather than listing hundreds of items (do you really need someone to tell you to pack shoes?), I’m going to focus on the eight things which you really MUST NOT forget to arrange and take with you on your cruise.
The number one essential is, of course, a passport. And yes, I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten mine before! The feeling of arriving at the airport at 5 am, opening your bag and seeing a space where your passport should be, is one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. (Except maybe those people who arrange to buy stuff off you on Facebook and then don’t turn up.) Luckily, I managed to get my passport delivered to the airport by a taxi driver, just in time to make the flight.
When you book your cruise, it’s vital that you make sure that your passport has enough time left on it, as some countries require six months validity on your passport. For advice on each particular country, see the UK government’s Foreign Travel Advice website.
If you realise that your passport is due to expire, make sure you apply for a new one. It can take three weeks for a British passport renewal. If you need your new passport sooner, there’s a fast-track service which takes one week or a same-day service which requires making an appointment at one of the six passport offices in the UK. The one-day service is only available for adult passports, not children.
Depending on where you’re cruising to and your nationality, you may also need a visa. Without the necessary visas, you’re likely to be refused boarding on the cruise ship. Staying on-board and not disembarking at the port of call in question is not usually an option for anyone who has forgotten to apply for a visa.
Applying for a visa can be a lengthy process. For example, it can take up to four months to get a visa for India, making last-minute cruises to this country not an option unless you already have a visa in place. For other countries, the application can be much quicker, but this is still something that you don’t want to leave until the last minute.
3. Children’s birth certificates
If you have a different surname to your children, you’ll need to take their birth certificate with you when you leave the country. It’s also a good idea to also get written permission from the other parent if they aren’t travelling with you.
If your name on your child’s birth certificate doesn’t match your name on your passport, because of marriage, divorce or changing your name, then you’ll also need to bring additional documentation, such as a marriage certificate, to verify this.
Taking a child abroad without parental consent is illegal, so it’s important to have everything you need to prove your case should you be stopped.
4. Travel insurance
Another vital document to take on your cruise is your travel insurance policy. Travel insurance is essential for a cruise as it covers everything from cancellation due to weather and illness to lost and stolen luggage. Of course, it also covers medical treatment, which can be very expensive at sea, particularly if you have to be air-lifted to the hospital!
You don’t need to take all the bulky insurance documentation, but at the least, you should take a paper copy of your insurance company name, policy number and contact details.
When purchasing a travel insurance policy for a cruise, it’s very important that you make sure that your policy includes cruise cover. Some policies charge extra for this. If you already have an annual policy in place, check that it has cruise cover, and if not, upgrade it.
The vaccinations needed to travel depend on your destination, how long you intend to stay there, what you’ll be doing there, and your general health. It’s not always straight forward to know what vaccinations your family will need for a cruise, so it’s a good idea to check with your GP at least six weeks before you travel. Don’t leave it any later than that, as some immunisations require more than one treatment spread over time to be effective.
As well as travel vaccinations, it’s also important to make sure that your children are up to date with all their normal immunisations and boosters for life in the UK. This is because diseases which are relatively rare in this country may be more widespread abroad.
6. Booking details
Whilst you’ll likely have booking confirmations for your cruise, hotels, flights and transfers saved electronically on your phone, it’s also a good idea to print them out. If your phone runs out of battery, loses signal or you smash it on the floor, you’ll be very grateful for your paper copies rather than a delay when checking in.
You can’t spend cash on a cruise ship. Instead, everything is charged to your cruise card, which also acts as your ID and your room key on-board. You can link a credit or debit card to your onboard account, either before you cruise via your cruise line’s mobile app, or when you check-in at the port.
It is possible to settle your on-board account with cash: you may be asked to deposit a certain amount of cash when you check-in if you want to do this. Check with your cruise line for their exact policy as they vary.
Whilst it’s possible to enjoy your whole cruise holiday without spending a penny of cash, it’s worth taking some small notes in case these are needed in port. Check which currencies are accepted in the countries you plan to visit and exchange money in advance for the best rates.
8. Car seat
If you’re planning on taking taxis or Ubers abroad, you may need a car seat for your children, depending on the country. Each country has different laws, and in some countries, you might find that taxi drivers follow these more strictly than others.
When we got off a cruise ship in Hamburg, we had no problems getting a taxi from the cruise port to the city centre with our baby and toddler on our laps. However, after a day of sightseeing, when we tried to get a taxi back to the ship, nobody would take us. The drivers explained that it was illegal to travel without a car seat in a taxi in Germany. We’d travelled with the kids before to Greece and Turkey but had no idea that Germany was different. We’d left it too late to get the bus, but luckily we managed to bribe a taxi driver with a large tip and he agreed to take us back to the ship with minutes to spare.
If you’re cruising with children, your options are:
- Take a car seat. We use the inflatable Bubble Bum car seat
- Plan your route to use a train or bus instead of a taxi
It’s also worth noting that just because it’s legal to travel in a taxi without a car seat, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe.
If you’re flying to join your cruise, you should arrange airport transfers in advance. Choose a company such as HolidayTaxis.com who can provide car seats for you on request.
Now relax and enjoy your cruise!
Once you’ve arranged these essential elements of your cruise holiday, you can relax knowing that you have all the most important things taken care of. Anything else that you forget can be replaced, or you can do without.
Oh, here’s number 9!
I knew there’d be one more! I’m lucky enough that this one doesn’t apply to me, but please don’t forget any medications that you need. Cruise ships’ medical centres are generally well-stocked with most things, so you can probably pick up anything essential, but the chances are you’ll have to pay for it. So it’s definitely worth double-checking that you’ve packed all your tablets.