When we think of a cruise, we perhaps think of a week-long sojourn at sea, where time stands still, and the only thing we have to think about is what swimsuit we'll put on or what we'll have for lunch.
The 70's band Chicago got it right when they sang "Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?..." In all actuality, without a working watch or other accurate timekeeper, we could be in for a rude awakening. There are specific occasions on a cruise when watching the clock and careful planning is necessary to avoid unpleasantness later. Here are five of the most important instances when times does matter:
Flying to the ship. If you're booking the cruise-line's air, they will offer you flight times that coincide with your itinerary. However, if you're booking your own flights, you'll need to pay close attention to the flight times. While it doesn't matter much if you're flying in a day ahead of your cruise, it certainly will kill your cruise plans on embarkation day if you don't schedule your flight to the ship in a way that will have you arriving to the port on time. Generally, you'll need to arrive for check-in no later than one hour before sail-away. It's always wise to fly in a day in advance, but if that's not possible, try for the first non-stop flight of the day. If you must change planes, pay careful attention to the connection times. If your layover is super short and the first leg of the flight is delayed, you'll wind up on a later connection, increasing the possibility of missing the ship. A guideline of air arrival and departure times will be included with your itinerary. Be sure to read them so you can plan accordingly.
Fixed Seating Dinner. If you've chosen traditional dining, please arrive on time - especially if it's the first seating. Not only is it rude to wander in late, keeping everyone waiting, but it also disrupts the waitstaff who must get dinner served and cleared in time for the later sating. If you're tired from a long day of touring or you've chosen the evening to dine in a specialty restaurant, call the dining room ahead and let them know.
Independent Excursions. Are you meeting an independent tour first thing in the morning? Be sure to allow yourself ample time to meet them on shore, especially if you must tender in. I speak from experience. On a Carnival cruise many years ago, we were unable to get tickets on the first tender to port and missed our snorkel boat tour. If you are unsure whether you'll be able to meet up on time or if it's a tour requiring complicated or long travel, book a ship excursion. Or stay on board and enjoy the peace and serenity of an empty ship!
Returning to the Ship. How many times have we stood at the ship's rail and seen the latecomers running frantically for the ship at the last minute? Even more pitiful are the poor people left standing on shore as we wave a sorry goodbye. It's rare, but it does happen. First, it's important to pay attention to the stated time to be back on board - not the sailing time. Next, make sure everyone in your group is synchronized and that your watches or phones are set to the current time for whatever time zone you're in. Lastly, keep tabs on the time while you're out and about on your own. It's easy to lose track of time when you're having fun.
The Flight Home. If you are booking flights with the cruise line, they will offer you flights that will allow you plenty of time to get to the airport. If you are planning your own air, you will have to make sure you plan the flight home for the appropriate time that will give you a leisurely transfer to the airport. No one wants to end their cruise rushing and scrambling to get off the ship. That cheap 8:30 am flight may look attractive, but if the ship docks at 7:00 am and only begins letting passengers off at 7:30, sorry - you won't make it. Pay close attention to the time it will take to travel from the ship to the airport and the recommended minimum time to make it through airport security. Your cruise itinerary will state the earliest time you can book a flight home. Follow those guidelines, and you'll arrive to the airport with time to spare and in a peaceful state of mind.
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By Janice Neves, CruiseCrazies Contributor
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