Let me start with a *little known fact: I am a bit of a cruise addict. There, I said it. I feel much better now.
Before we took our first cruise back in 2005, I was certain that cruising was not for me. I would have put money on the fact that we would return to 100% land vacations and never look back. Um yeah, that was like eight cruises ago. Clearly I was wrong!
That said, we are about to embark on our next cruise vacation. YAY! And since I love planning trips, I thought I would take you all on a little timeline of my cruise preparations.
Oh and I almost forgot the details. This is a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. We depart from beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico, and head out to four of the southern Caribbean islands: St. Thomas, Curacao, Aruba, and St. Kitts.
My Cruise Prep Timeline:
18 months Ago: Completed our last cruise. Felt the cruise void start to settle in our hearts almost immediately. Sigh…
17 months Ago: Began trolling for the perfect next cruise. We started pretty early in hopes of getting all of our travel friends on board with the idea. Spoiler alert: it worked!
15 months Ago: Booked the cruise. Is this excessively early? Maybe, but we are picky about our room selection and prefer to book when the options are plentiful. Also, I know there can be good deals at different times, but I have found they rarely beat the early bird rates. Plus you can always call in and have your rate adjusted if there is a better deal down the road.
15 Months Ago: Initiated obsessive research of all of the ports, and worked on informational booklets for our traveling companions.
14 Months Ago: Organized a Pre-Cruise Party–any excuse for a party, right?--during which we began picking and choosing our activities/excursions for each port of call.
13 Months Ago: Ordered a Frommer’s Caribbean Ports book from Amazon even though a wealth of valuable travel info is readily available online. Why did I order it? Because I am cruise-crazy and had to do something to keep the planning buzz going strong 😛
12 Months Ago: Officially booked all of our planned excursions. Again, this is probably early to book, but there is just something so satisfying about knowing everything is done. Here are the activities as booked last June:
- St. Thomas: chartered a power catamaran through Aqua Blue VI for a day of boating and snorkeling. Planned to anchor near the Pizza Pi boat for lunch.
- Curacao: booked a 5-hour beach hopping tour with Irie Tours. After the tour we plan to do a walking tour in the port city of Willemstad.
- Aruba: no booking yet–planned to rent jeeps to see the island. Created a Google Map to show our planned destinations.
- St Kitts: No tour needed. Our travel companions were wanting a beach day and we knew just where to go: Cockleshell Beach. If you read my previous post about Cockleshell, you know I love it ❤
11 Months Ago: Completed Southern Caribbean Cruise Booklets and had a “Woo Hoo, Less than a Year Til Cruising” party–again, any reason for a party. 😉 Distributed the booklets with updated port plans, cruising tips, packing tips, etc. By the way, I know that making booklets is a little over the top, but I was feeling just a teensy bit excited about bringing semi-newbie cruisers along with us. 🙂
8 Months Ago: Found a great deal on shipboard internet, so pounced on it. We have never gotten ship internet before, but I have a feeling I will be wanting extra facetime and skyping with my kiddos.
6 Months Ago: Booked Airfare. We usually fly United to San Juan, but for some reason the prices were astronomical. So we will be flying the friendly skies with Jetblue this time around. There is free wifi in the plane–can’t complain about that!
4 Months Ago: A few of our friends had second thoughts about chartering a boat in St. Thomas. Apparently power boats and motion sickness do not make for a happy day. Who would’ve thought? 😛 Anyway, we canceled with Aqua Blue VI and put St. Thomas plans on hold. **By the way, I must say that Scotty, the proprietor of Aqua Blue VI, is so nice and accommodating. He was very gracious when we had to cancel. If you are ever headed to St. Thomas and are interested in a day on the water, look him up. 🙂
2 Months Ago: Started making an effort to get a tan by laying out for about 30 minutes on my days off. Not only will this help turn my legs a less frightening shade of white, but a base tan is a great way to avoid getting a sunburn on vacation. I like to eat bacon, but I do not like to sizzle like it 😉
1 Month Ago: Booked Two New Excursions for St. Thomas and Aruba. We decided on a private tour in St. Thomas. They will take us anywhere we like for the entire day and the price was not too bad. Now we just hope and pray they provide a good service. For Aruba, we decided against renting jeeps. Instead we booked a safari tour with ABC Tours. This will take us all over the island, including some pretty fun off-roading to the Natural Pool. Can’t wait!
Within the Last Month: I have been running around like a mad man trying to finalize all of the details. Here are a few snippets:
- Emailed all of the tour operators to ensure that our plans are still set. This was a must since we booked soooo long ago.
- Obsessively checked national hurricane center for updated 5-day forecasts. FYI as of this very moment, no tropical storms are forecasted for the next 5 days. Hooray!
- Bought a GoPro (lesson learned after a picture-less mud run) and have been trying to figure it out. Hopefully we will get some great pictures and videos on some of our island tours.
- Created a big, ugly packing pile in the corner of our room. Too soon to actually pack, but never too soon to throw everything in a heap 😉
- Set up care packages and notes for our kids. Each morning they will have a note to read and a little gift. Hopefully this gives them something to look forward to each morning, and they will know that we are thinking of them. ❤
- Double checked our wireless company’s international plans and calling to confirm that my phone will actually work on each island. One year when we went to Puerto Rico, my phone would not work and I just about had a meltdown. It seems wise to avoid a repeat scenario 😛
- Laundry, laundry, laundry! We usually cruise in the winter, so our Caribbean clothes have been unworn and are therefore ready to be packed. This time around, our cruise clothes are the same summer clothes we are wearing everyday. Thus the laundry, laundry, laundry.
- Got a pedicure. When you are wearing flip flops everyday, it is only right to spare your friends and family from seeing your crazy, unpolished toes. Do you see what I did there? Totally justified splurging on a pedicure!
T Minus 2 Days: I have miraculously completed our packing for the trip. We have decreased our luggage from previous years (for which my husband is doing handstands and back flips with joy). We used to bring 2 ginormous suitcases, a large rolling garment bag suitcase, and two carry-ons. This year we are down to one ginormous suitcase, one medium suitcase, and two carry-ons. Not too bad. I will be enthusiastically patting myself on the back… IF we actually make it out of the house with this amount.
T Minus 1 Day : I have to clean. Ugh. I do not have a cleaning bone in my body, but we don’t want to come home to a dirty house, so I guess I’ll be putting on my rubber gloves and getting to work. I will also be checking into the flight–much more fun than cleaning.
And then… VACATION!
**Full disclosure: I lied to you all. My love of cruising is not so much “little known”, but really kind of widely acknowledged. Sorry about that. I will attempt to be truthful from here on out. Maybe.
Tips and Lessons Learned:
- Book a cruise early. Prices are good and you are usually not locked in if you find a better price. Also, you can cancel a cruise without penalty for quite some time, so you still have flexibility. The only thing to watch out for is your deposit. Sometimes a deposit is refundable, but sometimes not.
- I did not mention this anywhere in the post, but Cruise Critic is like the Mecca of cruise information. I read the boards frequently when we are preparing for a cruise, and I always learn a lot. Just a heads up, you will come across some mean posters who strive to belittle others’ opinions, but they are the minority–most of the Cruise Critic community is helpful and supportive.
- When booking excursions for a cruise, pay close attention to their cancellation policies. It is important to know that they will not charge you if your ship does not come into port or if plans change for other reasons.
- Getting a base tan can help you avoid major sunburns on vacation. It’s definitely worthwhile if you are able.
- Enjoy the planning process. I have learned so much about each island from the time I have spent researching and planning.
- And most of all, enjoy your cruise! 🙂