Preparing for a cruise, at least for this family, is not as simple as booking a trip and just going with the flow. Although we have met some “professional cruisers” like Mac and Donna from Canada, who keep their cruise luggage packed and ready to go if a great last minute deal comes up. Preparation is part of the pleasure for Barbara as she does veritable tons of research (Google is now a member of the family). Our kitchen dining area (where her computer resides) at times resembles the planning department of a Navy Task Force Commander! We have never done “spur-of-the-moment” cruising.
Once our booking is made, and they have our money, we head for what we consider as a our primary source of reliable information, cruisecritic.com. Gathered here are the experiences of thousands of travelers who love to talk about where they have been or where they are planning to go. Now, some people feel that the title of “Cruise Critic” is misleading, especially to the “un-educated”. It is in fact a very positive source of information. On this site there are Message Boards pertaining to just about every aspect of travel, and all registered users are “encouraged” to share their thoughts and experiences. We immediately search for a “board” that is cruise specific, entitled “Roll Call”. For this cruise ours is Prinsendam 7/23/10 Top of The World and Baltic Explorer and was inaugurated on May 7th of 2009 some 14 months before we sail. Currently it has been “viewed” 12,926 times and contains 781 posts of information about the ports we will be visiting. It almost takes on the air of members of a family preparing for an extended family reunion. What makes it all the more interesting is the majority are complete strangers to each other. Everyone has a “screen name or logon” other than their real name, which gives rise to speculation as to it’s real meaning, not too different than trying to figure out a vanity license plate on a car.
Once, the “thread” as it is sometime is referred to, has some age to it, the subject will come up about what to do and how to meet once everyone arrives on the ship. Holland America has been very generous in the past by providing meeting spaces for these roll call groups to “Meet and Greet”. The first day at sea is usually selected, with the staff providing refreshments. If time and duties permit the Cruise Director or Beverage Manager will arrange for someone from “ships company” to greet and mingle with the guests. Additionally subsequent meetings might be held, where extended discussions can take place and friendships can be further developed. During our 64 day cruise in 2007 our group bonded so well and we had so many meetings that we all posed for a group picture, as a memento of this fabulous experience. We still keep in touch with several members of that wonderful “family”.
One or two members of the group will take on the responsibility of keeping the group in touch and arranging meeting spaces with the onboard Beverage Manager. Usually one or both hosts will moderate each meeting to give all who want to share, that opportunity. In the past when I accepted that responsibility, I liked to hand each participant a mini-directory containing the names and stateroom numbers of members of the group. This fostered additional get-to-gathers for such things as luncheons, shore tours, and planning sessions. I will be a co-host for this cruise as well.
There have been times when someone outside the group hears there is a “Cruise Critic” meeting, and shows up to air all their grievances usually about everything. These folks are gently referred to the Front Office.
Both HAL and our travel agent, Alan, offer excursions in most every port, so those offerings must be thoroughly researched to be certain that each excursion offers what we are interested in seeing. The costs for these “sheltered” tours can be significant. Let me explain what I mean by “sheltered”. In some ports where the length of stay is weather dependant, you don’t want to be too far afield, as the ship might be unable to remain in port for your return and depart early . If this happens and you are on a HAL tour – they will take on the responsibility of getting you to your next port. IF you are touring independently – you are “on your own”, however the ships front office always makes sure you have the phone number and address of the company contact in each port before you go ashore. Alan is well respected by HAL and he makes sure his tour operators have the means of keeping in contact with the ship while on tour.
Next: Preparation – Part II – Packing
2 thoughts on “It’s all in the preparation, plus a little cash”
interested to read of Barbara’s preparations. Carol does the same for us, though I do the Google maps bit. Look forward to meeting you on the 23rd.
Let’s just say she is very focused. I think she plans to bring some of her research, but because we are flying, it will be limited.