You are about to embark on your onshore excursion. There are a few things to remember in addition to your sunscreen and sunglasses. Most of your preparation should have already taken place, but there are a few notes to consider, or items NOT to do to make the most of your fun day on shore. Here is our list of Things NOT To Do On Your Onshore Excursions to make your day the most enjoyable.

Don’t Dress Inappropriately

Do your research ahead of time to find out how to dress for the experience. Are you walking a lot, wear your sneakers. Limit your jewelry if you are going to be active to prevent damage or loss of precious keepsakes. Going to be wet, make sure that you pack a towel or change of clothes if needed to make the travel back more comfortable.

Don’t Forget The Necessities

Your day will be a full six to eight hours away from your stateroom, so make sure you bring the necessities. Sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, and insect repellent fit nicely into a backpack or shoulder bag. Depending on your activity, a small first aid kit might be a good idea as well.

Don’t Bring Your Passport

Unless required by your tour company, leave your passport in your stateroom safe. Be sure to bring a picture ID of some sort, but don’t risk losing your passport while on a zip line high above the tropics. One exception is if you want your passport stamped at your port of call. If you do choose to bring your passport, be sure it is kept safe and dry.

Don’t Bring Loads of Cash

We are not saying to not bring any cash at all, but don’t bring an excessive amount of cash. Having a minimal amount of cash and a credit card has proven to be the best option. Most vendors have the ability to run credit cards so if you find that “got to have” item that is more than the cash you have on hand, you can still bring back a piece of paradise home.

Don’t Go Onshore “Blind”

If you are booking your excursion through a private company, be sure to do your research before you go. Make sure you know what time you have to be back on board and communicate that with the tour operator. This is a great time to research the city, the culture, your surroundings, common language, and local food. If the locals do not speak your language, it is a good time to learn a few phrases to help you get around.

Don’t Shrug Off Safety Warnings

Each excursion guide is require to provide a safety briefing before your fun begins. Many excursions could result in injury if the rules are not followed; diving, ATV and horseback riding for example. By not paying attention to the safety warnings and rules could result in injury of yourself or others. So listen closely.

Don’t Be Late

Be considerate to others and be on time. If you lag behind on the excursion, that will make others late as well. Being late on a private excursion could hold up the entire ship from its departure. Be courteous to others if you are given a set time to be back at a meeting point. Remember that you would not want to wait for others, and they don’t want to wait for you either.

Don’t Over-Extend Yourself

Many excursions you will do things that are likely outside of your normal range of daily activities. It will be easy to over-exert yourself. Pushing yourself too hard can result in injury and ruin the rest of your cruise vacation.

Don’t Lose Track of Time

Nothing will ruin your vacation as much as being left at a port because you lost track of time and missed embarkation from your port of call. Keep a close eye on your watch, your alcohol intake, and the time it takes you to get back to the cruise ship. You don’t want to miss your ship, or you don’t want to be the last one onboard. If your port of call requires tender service, you will want to give yourself extra time to allow proper return to the ship.

Hurricane season starts June 1st and runs through November 30th. Although hurricanes are not likely to interrupt your cruise vacation plans, it is best to know what to do if tropical weather threatens your much needed vacation.

Here are frequently asked questions about cruise vacationing and being hurricane prepared.

Is there a way to avoid hurricanes when cruising in the Caribbean?

Sailing outside of hurricane season will greatly reduce the chance of your cruise vacation being effected by a tropical storm. If you are cruising within the six month Hurricane Season, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Mid-August to Mid-September are prime time for tropical activity in the Easter U.S. Coast and Easter Caribbean
  • Mid-August to Early November storms are more likely in the Western Caribbean

What if a storm develops while at sea? Will our ship sail into a storm?

Compared to islands and coastal areas, a cruise ship is mobile. If you find yourself on board ship as a storm develops, rest assured that the cruise line is using the sophisticated weather technology on board to steer you around the storm and out of harms way. This may mean missing a port of call or changing the destination of ports of call.

In addition to being able to steer,  your cruise ship is pretty fast. Most modern cruise sips can hit speeds of 20+ knots. Most storms move between 5 to 10 knots. That does not mean that there may be rough seas if you are caught running from a hurricane while at sea. This is why seasickness/motion sickness medication are a vital part of any cruise vacation prep list.

The cruise line may also cut your vacation short or extend your cruise depending on the position and severity of an approaching hurricane. Most cruise lines will provide compensation for shortened cruises and will provide meals at no additional charge if your cruise extended. Please note that all circumstances are different and cruise lines operated independently due to each situation.

During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the storm shut the port of Galveston down and cruise ships were unable to return to port. The typical one week cruise was extended to just under two weeks when the port reopened. Passengers were given the choice to disembark in New Orleans and find ground transportation on their own.

Are seas higher during hurricane season, even if there is not a storm in sight?

Typically seas are affected by wind or storm elements. The later in the summer the more calm the water is generally how the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico behaves. When a storm, any storm not just hurricanes move over water, the sea can be rough. The closer you are to the center of the storm activity, the more rough the seas will be.

Do cruise lines have to issue refunds when my cruise is affected by a hurricane or bad weather?

The general answer is no. Some travel company’s or cruise lines offer vacation insurance and only apply if purchased for an additional charge. However, many cruise lines will offer some kind of compensation when inclement weather affects a cruise vacation itinerary. This may be a variety of different methods: discounts on future sailings, onboard credit for current or future cruises, refunds, or special offers. Again, this is always determined on a case by case basis by the cruise line.

If there is a hurricane, can I cancel my cruise?

Cancelling is generally not an option without a penalty. The option to reschedule is often an option. Most cruise lines will do whatever possible to still accommodate the sailing date of the cruise.

On a recent 5 day cruise out of Galveston, fog delayed the cruise line from reentering the port of Galveston. The delay was 36 hours. Cruisers were given the option to still go on the cruise with a shortened length and receive an onboard credit or reschedule.

Does travel insurance cover hurricanes for cruise vacations?

Please note that each policy is different, and it is best to read the fine print. But any travel insurance plan that is worth anything will cover trip delays, cancellation or interruption due to hurricane and stormy weather. Look at the details of your insurance plan to see how airfare is covered. If traveling to Galveston via plane, you will want to make sure that you are covered if your plane is delayed and you miss disembarkation of your cruise.

Cruise travel insurance must be purchased in advance in most cases. If the storm develops and you are 2 days away from your sailing date, chances are you cannot purchase travel insurance.

If I booked an excursion privately and the cruise is affected by a storm, can I get a refund?

Again, this will depend. Each vendor will have different cancellation policies due to weather. It is best to read up on their policy prior to booking to see what would happen due to weather delays. Larger tour providers will most likely refund your excursion, but it is always best to confirm their policy before booking.

What if there is a delay in leaving our port due to a hurricane?

The port that you are leaving from can close due to weather conditions. Most likely there is a cruise ship of passengers waiting to disembark on that cruise ship. So tensions on both side of the situation can be elevated. If the port is closed, it is by good reason. The port will be reopened when it is deemed safe for travel. A closure of this type can create havoc. It is best to communicate with the cruise line for information and not rely on other passengers or port officials.

If my return from my cruise, how can I make travel arrangements/change flights/extend car rentals?

Be sure to have all travel companies involved toll free number with you during your cruise vacation. In the event of a delay getting back to your disembarkation point of origin, most cruise lines will make internet and phone services open or at a reduce rate in order for you to make travel arrangements.

If my car is damaged by a hurricane in port, who is responsible?

If you car has storm damage while you are at sea, it is not up to the cruise line or parking facility to make repairs. Most parking lots policies are provided at the time of reservation or when you check-in.

Are there special discounts for hurricane season?

The summer is a high demand time for cruise vacationers. Most cruise lines do not offer specific discounts for cruising during hurricane season. Later in the year there seems to be a drop in price but that reflects the drop in demand as school begins.

What is the best way to communicate with your Dolphin Parking regarding news about weather, weather delays, and the conditions of Galveston?

Information regarding weather conditions are posted to the Dolphin Parking Facebook Page. During Hurricane Harvey, Ike, and other tropical storms, we did our best to post as much information as possible as quickly as possible about weather conditions in Galveston. We posted pictures and videos of the parking lot to show the conditions of vehicles. This is your best communication method about cruise ship delays.

Packing for a cruise is always stressful. You have all the necessities covered: swimsuits, shorts, dinner attire and your toothbrush. It is that one item that you remember…just as your embarkation port is out of distance. Not to worry! We have the 10 items that you need to pack to enjoy all the comforts of home your cruise vacation.

A Bungee Tie Strap

This is a crucial item for those with a balcony. Your door to your balcony has self closing hinge, a safety feature onboard the ship. Packing a tie strap will can allow you to keep the door open to enjoy the ocean breeze. In addition, it is a great way to bundle luggage together.

 

A Surge Protector

There are never enough outlets in  your stateroom. With all of the electronics chargers, hair dryers, and accessories, you need more outlet space. A surge protector is a great item to pack that does not take much space and can be a lifesaving time saver.

Antibacterial Towelettes

Cleanliness is crucial to stay healthy on a cruise ship. Although cruise ships are clean, you come in contact with surfaces that thousands of others come in contact with on a daily basis. Packing individual packs of antibacterial wipes can be the difference in getting sick on your trip and staying healthy.

First Aid Kit

Sunburn, cut from coral, seasickness, upset stomach are common ailments while on board a cruise ship. Packing a small first aid kit with aloe vera gel, a small back of bandages, anti-diarrheal and motion sickness medication can be a lifesaver. Pharmacies on board your ship can be expensive, so we recommend that you pack a small first aid kit just in case it is needed.

Clothes Hangers

Each stateroom comes equipped with clothes hangers, but they are limited in number. Packing a few extra can create additional closet space, act as bathing suit clothes dryers, and keep clothes wrinkle free. So plan on packing a few extra clothes hangers on your next cruise vacation.

Over The Door Organizer

Most cruise ship staterooms are quite cozy. And when I say “cozy” I mean small. Over the door shoe organizers are a great way to store shoes, bathing suits, toiletries, and items that you want to keep off the limited counter space.

Ear Plugs

You never know who you will be neighboring next to on your cruise vacation. Snoring, loud kids, loud parties, music are just a few of the noises that make keep you awake at night. Packing a set of ear plugs can provide that much needed rest.

Starch or Wrinkle Remover Spray

Limited space makes ironing difficult, however dressing to impress for formal night is a must. Packing a clothing wrinkle remover can save you from having to iron all together. If you have to break out the iron, make sure you pack a travel size starch to get the wrinkles out.

Wine & Champagne

Most people do not know that they can bring wine or champagne on board free of charge. Some allow a bottle per person, others allow one per stateroom, while others allow unlimited with a cork fee. We strongly encourage you to check with your cruise line to know their policy and corkage fees. *Please Note: Check the wine list of restaurants on board for their price per bottle and compare that to the corkage fee. You may find that it is not worth the hassle. You may end up paying more buying your own bottle and paying the cork fee versus the cost of a bottle at a restaurant on board.

Bottled Water & Soda

You will need to check with your cruise line for their policies. Some cruise lines allow you to bring your own bottled water and soda, some water only, and some none at all. This can be a big money saver while on board and on your excursions.

With exception to a family road trip, a cruise vacation maybe the greatest American vacation you can take with your family. You prepay to have fun in the sun eat as much gourmet food as you want, and see exotic places….what could be better than that. What more could you ask for? Although it can be tough to mess up a cruise vacation, planning ahead can make your cruise that much more enjoyable. Here are common mistakes that you can avoid to make your next cruise vacation a fantastic experience.

Avoid Booking Your Excursions Through The Cruise Line

Your cruise line will provide some great port excursions. However, they can be very pricey and may not be convenient to your schedule. Do your research ahead of time to find things to do in your ports of call. Compare prices of local vendors to that of the cruise line. Many times local vendors provide more amenities and a more unique experience.

**Please Note: If using a vendor outside of the cruise line, be sure that they know the time that you need to be back aboard ship. Being late can leave you stranded at a port of call.

Don’t Lose Track of How Much You Are Spending on Alcohol

You can charge just about everything to your room while on a cruise ship. So when you are just “billing it to your account” and not seeing a running tally, it makes for a shocking reality when you get your checkout bill. All of those pool side beers that you didn’t realize that were $7 have added up to quite the tab.

Don’t Attempt To Overcrowd a Stateroom

Cruise ship rooms can be quite small. Close living quarters can make for uncomfortable times while sleeping and getting ready to venture out for the evening. Although you can save money by bunking up in tight quarters, having a place to rest and retreat too after a busy day enjoying the cruise life can make for a much more enjoyable time. Sharing bathrooms, and showering can be difficult when every extra space is covered with clothes, baggage, and toiletries.

Always Explore The Ports of Call

Although most cruise terminal debarkation facilities are packed full of vendors selling souvenirs, excursions and a taste local culture, there is much more to explore past the crowded market areas. Do your research before you set sail to find out what adventures interest you in your ports of call. Many times you can stumble across a gem that will make an experience of a lifetime.

Subscriber Testimonial:

On our honeymoon, one of our ports of call was Cozumel. My new wife and I had been there several times before and wanted to find something that we both had not done before that also provided some time that we could enjoy just being together. I researched online and found that Chankanaab National Park was about a 10 minute cab ride from the cruise terminal. We decided to check it out and do some snorkeling on our own, have lunch at the park restaurant, and enjoy a relaxing day away from the crowds of the cruise ship. WOW! What a pleasant experience! The cab ride cost about $8, and the park entrance fee was $16 per adult. They had a marine life show and cabanas right on the beach that we enjoyed for free. We had a great lunch that was very reasonable. We enjoyed about 6 hours of snorkeling and the only other divers we saw were some locals that guided us to some spectacular coral formations and buried statues. Total cost for the day was around $80 including lunch, but the memories made were priceless!

Pay Attention to Your Booking Dates

If you are looking for a relaxing, kid free cruise vacation…don’t book during summer vacation, or around the holidays. Spring break dates are going to be packed full of college kids ready to blow off steam from their academic pressures. So be mindful of your goal, the group you are traveling with, and plan accordingly.

Don’t Fly In To Your Departure City The Same Day Your Cruise Embarks

Airlines can run late, delays happen, luggage can be delayed, and weather is unpredictable. Airline personnel are not overly concerned that your flight was delayed 2 hours, that you are an hour away from the cruise terminal, and you have 45 minutes to get there. We always recommend leaving yourself a day’s cushion so you don’t risk missing your cruise departure. In addition, you may get to enjoy an additional port of call that you may not have a chance to visit again.

Plan Ahead For Cellular Service While On Your Cruise Vacation

Be sure to check roaming charges and coverage areas prior to leaving home. You will encounter roaming areas quickly as you leave the shore depending on your cellular service provider. Many companies charge steep roaming fees if you use your phone outside of the coverage area. International cellular service can be pricey, so check your provider and see if you want coverage while on vacation. Don’t let your latest selfie with a dolphin end up costing your $30 because you did not check your coverage limits.

Wi-Fi is Not Always Readily Available

Most cruise ships charge by the hour for in-room internet service. Sometimes it can be as high as $25 per hour or more. In addition, the service is subpar to that you will receive at home or at an internet cafe. We strongly recommend checking with the cruise line what their wifi situation will be on board when booking. It may be a welcomed “vacation” to unplug and save the money.