Taking a cruise to a new destination is one of the highlights of any cruise vacation. With all the hustle and bustle that comes with a busy day in port, sailors have plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.
In this article we will list some of the biggest mistakes we see travelers making at this long awaited port.
From the decisions we make while on board to the lighting on land, we’ll cover the most important ‘port day’ topics to make your cruise as memorable as possible.
1. Failure to research the call center in advance
FOMO, fear of missing, is a real thing, but so is ROMO, sorrow of missing. I’ve seen it many times on a cruise when a family comes back on board and tells stories of an amazing adventure or event that their listeners didn’t know existed in port.
Doing a lot of research ahead of time on each port is an important part of planning a cruise. You should know the main attractions at each port, even if you won’t visit them all.
You don’t have to be an expert on every port of call, but having a good knowledge of what’s in each port will help you plan for the things you’re most interested in. And you too can avoid grief. After all, this may be your only chance to see another port of call. Use more.
Related: 10 rules of cruise booking
2. Excursion overload
This is another part of the cost of not doing enough port research. Some travelers just want to do it all. But remember, a cruise vacation is more like a sampler than a full course when it comes to exploring new places. You have limited time to visit the port and the surrounding area. This can be anywhere from 6 to 8 hours.
Trying to do more will not only warm you up; it will force you to rush to every stop along the way instead of enjoying the experience.
Many new drivers are not realistic with their timing and try to pack too much into a small port day window. Avoid this mistake by prioritizing the things you MUST do at the port and adding a list of things that would be nice if you had the time.
If you book a cruise, you will see how long each cruise will take.
Related: 10 Most Expensive Cruises
3. Not bringing enough money
I always recommend bringing cash with you when in port. Sure, a cruise ship is a group without money, but from the ship it’s a whole other story. You can use a credit card but for several reasons mentioned below you must have cash on you as well. You can read a recent article I wrote about why it’s good to have money on a cruise and how much you should have here.
Having cash with you at the port of call will help you get on public transport, including local taxis, and will help you leave tips along the way.
Cash will also be a ‘safe’ way to buy souvenirs and goods if you visit a call center known for credit card fraud.
Some local restaurants in foreign ports will not have credit card processors so cash is required.
Related: Cruise costs: how much to bring
4. Broken by a negative exchange rate
The worst places to get bargains are often the rich tourist spots like airports, hotels, and popular attractions. They often have high fees, commissions, or low conversion rates for foreign-oriented money transfer services. Remote or less developed areas may also have limited options and unaffordable prices.
To get the best rates, it’s best to avoid these places and consider using reputable banks, authorized currency exchange offices, or ATMs to withdraw local currency. I’ve been using ATMs in foreign ports quite often and it’s one of the best ways to get local currency even if it’s not dangerous. I compromised my account information while using an ATM in Cozumel, Mexico while on a cruise in the past.
5. Don’t leave enough time to get back to the ship
On any trip, don’t just think about the time it will take to get back on the plane, but also the actual ‘train’ time that the pilot uses for “all passengers”.
Cruisers make this mistake when in port quite often. There is a reason why passengers on the lido used to watch ‘pier-runners’ trying to get back to the ship on time. It happens often.
Beware of trips that are an hour or more from the train. Any delay in your journey only increases your pressure to return to the ship. If your trip is booked on a cruise the ship will wait for you even if you are late, so one reservation warning 3.rd party trips, even if you get more. The cost of meeting your ship later will not be attractive.
If you want to shop near the port I recommend doing this after you have finished your planned activities so that you are close to the ship when it is time to return.
Read more: How to avoid missing your cruise ship and being left behind
6. Misunderstanding the climate of the place
This goes hand in hand with the planning part of your trip. Don’t make the mistake of completely ignoring the climate of a particular area. I remember going to Iceland on a cruise and being unprepared for how cold it was. I knew it was going to be cold, but the wind was another thing I hadn’t planned on.
Some areas are known to receive more rain during a certain part of the year. Pack ponchos or make sure you have a plan B in case it rains during your trip.
Knowing the weather will also help you plan what to pack and wear when stopping at each port of call, so it goes back to planning and knowing each stop on your journey.
Related: 21 things to do if your cruise ship misses a port due to weather
7. Leaving important things in the cabin
Getting off a cruise ship can be difficult, so you don’t want to have to do it twice because you forgot something at the cabin. Make sure you have everything you need on the day, so you don’t make a mistake.
Some ports only require your cruise card to get back on the ship, but I still like to bring ID on top of that. Having a passport won’t hurt either in these situations, but you should know if anyone in your group needs their passports when they disembark. If you miss your train or are stranded for some reason you will want to have them on you.
You’ll also want to bring good walking shoes (you’ll be walking a lot more than you think), sunscreen, towels, and some bug repellant. The latter is important in some places because bed bugs can ruin a vacation if you are not prepared.
I also like to bring water, which you are allowed to get off the boat.
Related: What things should you pack when you board the train?
8. Trying to remove food from the vessel
This is a big no-no for certain types of foods. Of course, you have fast food on board and you may be tempted to grab a few meals along the way. But trying to remove fruit or vegetables from the ship will get you a big fine if you get caught.
Meals that you can take out of the train usually include snacks and foods in their bags such as granola, chips, and pretzels.
Food such as meat, sandwiches, and even other cooked items are left on board. This is a mistake you don’t want to make.
Related: The biggest dining room mistakes travelers make
9. Waiting too long to get off the train (or not long enough)
You should try to be one of the first to get off the train or just wait until the crowd clears. There is usually a lot of time for passengers trying to get off the train at the same time. This is usually from 9:00am to 10:00am but can vary depending on your itinerary.
You will only waste more time if you go during these busy times. I know some surfers who like to wait for the crowds to clear before heading down the gangway. This also allows them to enjoy the empty pool and buffet.
Waiting too long to get off the train can mean dealing with crowds and waiting longer.
If you have a very long journey, you can still get off the train early and do some shopping near the port until your journey starts if you want to avoid any hassles.
Related: How to Avoid Crowds on a Cruise Ship (12 Best Tips)
10. Living in a ship
As mentioned before, when your ship arrives at the public calling station, it may be your only chance to see where you are going. Even if it’s a port I’ve been to a few times, I still love getting off the ship and discovering something new. There is always a new place to visit, a new place to eat, or a new place I haven’t tried before.
Recently, more and more ports have been expanding their ports and adding more. So even if you think you know everything about port, chances are you’ll be surprised. Sure, you can have an empty ship to yourself if you stay. But I suggest I get off the train for an hour or so and find something unexpected.
Below are some additional details
A few common mistakes travelers make include not knowing the local rules at a foreign port. Wearing camouflage in some Caribbean ports will land you in hot water with the authorities. Also, don’t be afraid to try local transportation if you want an inexpensive way to see the area around the port. I used to use the local buses to get to Bermuda, and it allowed me to chat with the locals and ask questions about their amazing home.
The main thing is to roll with the punches on your port day. Things will not go exactly according to plan. You will make mistakes along the way, but learn from them and follow the guidelines we recommend in this article.
Read more: Top 12 mistakes sailors make on cruise days