Cruise Planning Part V: Shore to Ship
Once you walk across that gangway you are on vacation. What you do from here on is up to you. Most people head to the cabin to drop off their things and then go have lunch. If you don't get a sheet when you check in telling you where lunch is being served, feel free to ask a crew member or you can also look at the activity sheet in your stateroom; you will receive a new one every evening for the following day.
If you want to book a spa appointment or shore excursion and are unable to do so in advance, you'll want to get there soon after you board. You also can take this time to see where your table is in the dining room. If you want to change your seating time from early to late (or vice versa), you can do that now, too.
You can also take the kids to their clubs so they can get checked in. Each program operates in their own way, but most likely your child will get an ID bracelet that has information about them as well as their muster (lifeboat) station. Several ships have a paging system, so you can be notified if you son or daughter is going somewhere, wants to be picked up or if there is a problem.
In your cabin you will find several things, including very limited closet space (aren't you glad you packed the way you did?) You'll meet your cabin steward (the crew member who cleans your room, takes care of you for the duration of your vacation and turns your towels into animals). In your room will also be tickets for your shore excursion (if you booked it in advance), as well as flyers about art auctions and other on board activities. If there is food or water in the room, check the price before you dig in, remember: things cost more on water.
The Muster Drill
OK. This is the ONE thing you HAVE to do on your cruise. Not because it is exciting, but because maritime law requires it. You'll head to your stateroom and get your lifejackets on. Your canin should have lifejackets for the kids, if it doesn't, inform your cabin steward. When you get into the cabin for the first time, your TV will be tuned to a safety briefing about what will happen during the drill. You'll then go to your muster station, which is indicated on the back of your door, as well as on the lifevest itself. Sometimes your station might be inside. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes. In the event of a real emergency, and your kids are not with you, the staff will get them into lifejackets and get them to you as soon as possible at your station.
Enjoy your dinner, and don't be afraid to speak up if you'd like something done a little differently. Your wait staff wants you to be happy, and after a few days, they'll know all about your likes and dislikes. They'll know your daughter wants macaroni and cheese at every meal or that your son is allergic to broccoli or that you have a huge sweet tooth (some waiters have been known to bring out every dessert every night. Many ships even offer healthier alternatives for every meal. As for drinks, check the cruise Web site. Some ships include soft drinks for dinner, others consider it a bar item and charge for it. And don't be afraid to try something new. If you don't like it, your waiter will bring you a different dish.
Welcome to Your Vacation
That's it. NOW you can really enjoy your family cruise. If you haven't explored the ship, do so. Go swimming if you'd like. Watch the ship pullout of the port and have fun at the deck party. Take in a show or a sunset while your kids are making new friends. Check out the shops. Dance the night away. Eventually unpack. It's your vacation. You worked hard to get here and now there is only one thing left to say: Bon Voyage!
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