I hope, over the past couple of days, you've had a chance to peruse my first two, slightly irreverent, cruise / travel suggestions meant to make your life simpler and more enjoyable. To be honest, I have hopes that these suggestions become global life changing actions for our planet but I'll be satisfied if one or two Baby Boomers follow my advice and, by doing so, acquire a little bit of personal satisfaction and maybe develop a tiny feeling of superiority over their fellow man.
That's not a lot to ask is it?
Just to recap, here's the first two "Crazy" travel tips:
Are you ready to take it up a notch in your cruise / travel activities? Are you ready to take action against the single most aggravating, time wasting and anger inducing aspect of cruise ship travel? Of course you are.
Top 10 Crazy Cruise Tips for Baby Boomers
3. Don't Get Stuck in Lines
Waiting in line is torture. Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line.
The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom and that nagging sensation that one's life is slipping away. The last thing we want to do with our dwindling leisure time is squander it standing still especially on a cruise ship or in an exotic port of call.
Nothing creates more aggravation and ruins a nice time faster than spending perfectly good vacation time standing in a line waiting to do something.
Trust me, if you decide to take a cruise you will constantly run into lines, lots of lines, tons of lines, lines that double back on themselves and reform new lines. Lines formed just to put you into another line.
It starts at the airport if you need to fly to your port destination.
Before you even get started you run face first into the "Starbucks line."
Then there's the "ticket line", the "check-in line", the "TSA security line", the "plane boarding line" and the "entering the plane line."
Once you are on the plane there is the "waiting to use the bathroom line."
I'm in that one a lot.
When the plane lands there is one of the worst lines: the "waiting for everyone ahead of you on the plane to collect their carry-on luggage and get off the plane line."
Are you feeling my angst?
The lines just build from there. It seems that cruise travelers have a strong psychological attraction to lines and they build them wherever they can, many times because they don't travel on the "right" side. LOL
So, you arrive at the port and look up excitedly at the beautiful cruise ship which is lying ready to take you (and 3000 other travelers) to exotic places and warm beaches with frosty,fruity adult beverages.
When your glance comes back down you see the huge "embarkation line" entering the terminal. Thousands of people with multiple pieces of luggage shuffling like pasty white tortoises toward the check in.
Some give up their luggage to the porters in the "luggage tagging line."
Others carry their luggage with them to the "TSA security line" to be checked.
At this point, everyone is still relatively happy and excited and very little bloodshed or hand to hand combat has developed.
Once past security we encounter the "check-in line" where you get your cabin assignment and the "set up your cruise charge card line."
Then there is one final line before paradise, the "boarding line."
That is, of course unless you are like me and you couldn't wait any longer for a tall, frosty adult beverage so you sneak out of line and head to the nearest ship bar to get a drink only to find a long line of equally thirsty passengers.
If you're lucky, you have only lost an hour of your life.
If you are unlucky, then you better keep reading.
Fantastic..............You made it on the ship.......but the lines don't disappear here.
In fact, they have a tendency to multiply and diversify to every part of your cruise experience.
Throughout your luxury ship travels you will frequently visit the customary "waiting for a drink at the bar lines" or the always present "waiting to use the bathroom lines."
But their are some unique and singularly aggravating lines you will only find on a cruise ship.
There's my favorite - The giant, "let's all stand in a cramped hallway with 500 other passengers between two elevator banks and four staircases waiting to enter the main dining room line."
This one will show up every night if you let it based on how many times you prefer to attend your assigned seating to eat in the main dining hall.
There are slightly smaller variations of this line that crop up in front of every theater, comedy or entertainment event that is scheduled on the ship.
There are also some smaller but no less interesting lines that develop during the day across the ship like the "buffet lines", "specialty food shop lines", the "coffee/tea/juice lines", the "guest services desk line", "the shore excursions sign-up desk line" or the"waiting to check out at the gift shop lines."
Like the lyrics of the 5 Man Electrical Band song says:
"Line, line, everywhere a line
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you beat the line?"
OK, maybe I mixed up the words but you get my point.
In reality, there is not much you can do to avoid or lessen the amount of time you spend in these types of smaller lines. I recommend extreme vigilance and perfection of what I call "Quick Moves" timing.
Scout these lines out before you get to them. Look at the people in the lines. Avoid the lines with large families, children and old folks.
Look for signs that one line is moving faster than another: less luggage at an airport check in, less items to buy at a store check out or even a more intelligent looking, more efficient employee working the line.
If there are two lines or more there is no time to be bashful. Bounce between the lines that are moving faster to get ahead quicker. The people behind you may grumble but hey, they aren't moving and you are right?
All's fair in love and vacations.
But there are a couple of lines that merit their own discussions based on their uniqueness to a cruise ship experience.
#1 Unique Cruise Ship Line:
"Formal Dinner night getting pictures at the dozen or more background setups along the main deck lines"
If you have never been on a cruise here is what happens:
A couple of times during your cruise week the ship will schedule "Formal Dinner" night or the "Captain's Dinner" where everyone is expected to dress up in suits, tuxedos and dresses.
Formal nights ... dreaded by some, anxiously awaited by many. I love them. Either way, the majority of the passengers feel formal nights are a highlight of the cruise.
It's a chance to dress up and feel your best. It's a nice touch especially since everyone who you have been fighting with in lines over the past couple of days looks so civilized.
Well, to build ship revenue,they set up photo stations with beautiful canvas backdrops (staircases, sunsets, tropical beaches, historic buildings, etc.) along the main decks and station professional photographers at them to take pictures of you in your Sunday best.
Everybody gets into this so obviously trying to navigate these decks during these nights is a skill in itself.
Most times the crowds are the worst around the Casino and Bar areas.
Here's my advice if you really want to get a lot of pictures taken in the shortest amount of time:
Walk the gauntlet at least once to choose which backdrops you will choose to have pictures taken at.
Then head to the shortest lines first. If there are more than a few couples waiting move on to the next.
Instead of waiting in line at one of your favorites, jump over to another less desirable station, get your shots and then head back to your first picks.
Odds on they have become less crowded.
It is also wise to show up early or show up late.
If you are early, most people are still getting ready for dinner and if you show up late most are already at the shows or in the casino.
Any way you attack these lines, it's still fun getting your pictures taken and you only have to buy the ones you like.
In my case (due to a terminal affliction I have always had called the "Deer in the Headlights" look) the more pictures we have taken the better chances I have in finding one where I don't look like a complete doofus in a $500 Brooks Brothers suit.
#2 Unique Cruise Ship Line:
"Disembarkation Lines" to get on & off the ship. These come in 2 forms:
A. Shore Excursion Lines
B. Final Disembarkation Lines
Let's take a look at these two tricky lines.
A. Shore Excursion Lines
On most cruises you make stops at "exotic" locations.
On the Exotic Eastern Caribbean" cruise the ship stopped at Nassau in the Bahamas, St. Thomas in the British Virgin Islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico and the island of Grand Turk.
There are scheduled times that cruise passengers are allowed off the boat and must return by. Remember, almost everyone waits until the last second.
The disembarkation usually takes place on Deck 0 and there is usually only one exit door.
Let's say 7:00 AM is the time scheduled for the cruise stop and the exit ramp is in the middle of the ship.
The majority of the passengers will wait (most are still filling their purses and backpacks with foods from the breakfast buffets) until just before 7:00 AM before they head toward the exit ramp. They take the elevators down to Deck 1 (That's the last floor of cabins) then walk down to Deck 0.
This means major backups at the elevators on every floor in the middle of the ship and on the staircases in the middle of the ship leading from Deck 1 to Deck 0. Then what happens is the crowds build up the staircase from Deck 0 and begin filling up the long corridors of Deck 1. With the exit ramp in the middle of the ship there are 4 long, long corridors that can fill up.
Be smart and check out each one before making your move on which one to choose. There is always one that is smaller and quicker than the others.
Also, you might think about getting on the elevators at the end of the ship and shoot down to Decks 2 or 3 and walk the rest of the way down the stairs. This way you bypass a good section of the crowd.
Don't be bashful.....time lost in the corridors is less time at the tropical beach cabana sipping Pina Coladas.
Every so often you might get lucky by pushing Deck 0 on the elevator to see if it will take you all the way down but most times they have that floor locked out.
Hey, if you are in no big hurry, then I recommend sleeping in, grabbing a leisurely breakfast and waiting for 30 to 45 minutes after arrival time to head down since most all of the cruise "lemmings" have already hit the dock and are scattered to their chosen excursions.
You can always lean over the deck railings to get a view of how the crowds on the dock are doing.
By following my tips, you will never had to wait more than 5 minutes to disembark the ship and it's easier to sneak booze and snacks off and on.
B. Final Disembarkation Lines
Your final disembarkation is just like the port stops but on steroids.
Everyone must be off the boat in less than 3.5 hours with their luggage and all of their belongings inspected by the Port Authority.
Sounds intimidating doesn't it?
The process actually begins the day before.
Each part of the ship is assigned a group number based on where your cabin is.
Each of these groups are then assigned a particular time the next morning that they are scheduled to head down to Deck 3 to disembark.
The day before you will find disembarkation information, declaration forms and snifty plastic group tags for your luggage with your number on them in your cabin.
You can choose to carry off your own luggage or have the ship porters pick it up the night before.
If you have more than 1 or 2 pieces of big luggage, I would have the ship porters do all of the heavy lifting. I recommend this process since it is simple and easier on your back.
You put the group tags on your luggage and place them in the hall outside your cabin door by 11:00PM (starting at 9:00PM) the night before. The staff miraculously picks them up without you knowing it and stores them overnight in a secret part of the ship.
The ship asks that you vacate your cabin by 9:00AM the final morning so you can party all night, wake up to another leisurely breakfast and hang out on the pool deck and you only have to worry about the small bags you want to keep with yourself.
Since we chose Deck 1 accommodations (the lowest possible deck and closest to the middle of the ship to lessen the effects of the ship's movement) our group (31 of 35) was scheduled to be one of the last off the ship.
We actually lounged around in our cabin until 9:30 and no one seemed to care.
The disembarkation process began at 6:00 AM for our ship and they regularly announce 2 or 3 groups by number to begin heading off the boat beginning with 1 and so forth.
We figured our disembarkation time would be around 10:30 or so but we decided to see what would happen if we went down early.
It was definitely the right move.
We waited about 10 minutes after they announced the current set of group numbers to make sure the crowd had lessened and went down to Deck 3 and just walked off the boat and into the terminal like everyone else.
Easy Peasy Japanesy.
Since it appeared that the crowds came in waves from the ship we waited a few minutes before getting into the "Port Authority line." There were two lines and we bounced between them and through the inspection in less than 10 minutes.
Inside the terminal there were two massive rooms with the luggage spinning gracefully around on the conveyor belts. We found signs posted with our group numbers on them and waited in that room for our luggage.
It appears that all of the luggage pretty much comes down from the ship to the port at the same time.
Upon a quick inspection of the conveyor lines I found group tags from 1 through 29 already waiting for their owners. We hung out for about 30 minutes before our luggage appeared.
It was peaceful and almost fun to watch the hectic tourists racing around trying to find their luggage. Even better was watching the poor souls battling with their overstuffed bags that thought they would get off the boat quicker by carrying their own luggage.
I surmised that the luggage came off the ship in the reverse order that it was stored the night before. That means that you should wait until close to 11:00 PM the night before to put your luggage outside your cabin door.
I'll make sure to confirm this for you on my next trip.
So, from ship to shore it was less than 45 minutes and at least an hour faster than if we had followed the ship's protocol.
Well, do you feel confident that long lines are no longer a dark spot on your vacation horizon?
Like I said earlier, don't be bashful..........nobody else is.
Move quick, be alert and don't worry about being too rude.
There are so many people on the ship that virtually nobody will recognize you again if you annoyed them in a line.
Besides, every time you see someone on the ship you are in a new and different set of clothes.
Tomorrow, my 4th cruise tip will talk about how to get the most out of your shore excursions when when you reach a wonderfully exotic port of call.
Thanks for joining me.......................................