What do I need to expect? What is it going to be like? Oh my I feel overwhelmed! HELP!!!!
First of all, calm down today is going to busy and fun! First of all, make sure that you have all of your documentation together. I carry a pouch around my neck with everything because it streamlines everything for you...it's all where you need it.
Now, if you are driving to the pier it will be NUTS! There are about 2000 other guests trying to get on this ship, so expect it. I have only driven to 2 ports, one was very easy and smooth and the other was the exact opposite. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Parking is high so get ready to pay for it. Expect about what you would at an airport. Most places will have you pull up and they will take your luggage (I hope you remembered to attach your tags before you left home). If they do this make sure you keep anything you may need. As I stated before, you may not get these bags until after dinner! I keep the same kind of stuff that you would if you were flying....include a change of clothes and maybe a swimsuit. After you get the car parked you will make your way to the terminal. In some ports the lines are terrible again expect the worst. I would not keep too much with you carry on wise because if there are long lines, you get to carry it all the whole time...whoo hoo. At our last port we stood in line for over 2 hours...that was extreme, and I had too much stuff because I had never waited that long before...next time I will not carry so much just in case.
If you are flying to the port, I recommend that you arrange your transfers from airport to pier prior to leaving home. Read the airport website on cruise terminals transfers. They may say "taxis are waiting outside" and if that is the case find out where you will find them at the airport, you might can arrange to have one ready if that makes you feel better, but I usually just grab one. Now, if your pier is a long way away from your plane, I would prebook these arrangements. One instance is Ft Lauderdale and Miami...lets say the ship is in Miami ok? Well, these two cities are close, but not close enough to get a cab. I would prebook via the cruiseline, unless you are very familiar with the other companies, but the cruise line will make sure the ship does not leave without you if you book with them. They will not wait for you if you book on your own. Also, if you use the cruiseline they will take your luggage off the bus and to the ship and you don't have to touch it again until it is delivered to your stateroom. Tip your porters!!!
You will still have to wait in the embarkation line if you book transfers with the cruise lines, just an fyi.
If you are not using a passport, have your id and birth certificate ready. Hopefully, you prearranged your credit card for your onboard ship account, if you have not this is one last chance to do it before you get on the ship. Really, do it from home, then you can prebook shore excursions and you don't have to think about it. Doing it here only slows you down...it is that much longer until you are on the ship. The clerk will give you your room key, which doubles as your onboard ship account card. Hang onto this!!!
Next is the photo opt...I bypass this because I have done this so many times, but if this is your first cruise or you think you might buy it have your photo taken.
Getting excited aren't you? You are minutes away from the ship. This is the area where some lines have a table where you can sign your kids up for the kids clubs. If not you may go right into the identification area. Here you will give an attendant your card and they will put it into a machine and then take your photo. Quite like Sam's only your photo won't be on the card. When you finish this you are boarding the ship. You using board midship, so if you have studied your map before you may know which way to go to get to your room. If you have not or have just gotten your room assignment, someone will be there to direct you. Some lines will give you champagne or orange juice as you board, others will just give you a warm welcome. Look around, these folks are using the ones that will be your entertainment staff, you might spend lots of time together during your stay.
As you get to your room marvel at how small it is! Carnival seems to have the largest rooms afloat and they are tiny folks. But they have learned how to cram all kinds of great things into this little cube. You might get lucky and the suitcases are outside the door, but don't count on it. If they are not there, refresh yourself a tad and head to look around. Me? I head for the food. There is always a nice lunch. There should be many choices, usually there is a burger/fry line, maybe a deli sandwich type place/pizza/salad bar/oriental....there is simply no telling. TRY the desserts! YUMMY! Especially if you are on Carnival or Norwegian. Carnival, if there are eclairs or truffles snatch them up. Remember you can eat as much as you want!
Then walk around and burn the calories you just consumed. Look at the shops, chapel, casino, library, pools, hot tubs (maybe put on your suit and get in them), spa, gym, lounges, etc...this is where I begin to scout out that spot that will be mine for the duration of the voyage. I like to find a bar that is vacant during the day or an area where no ones goes...here I draw, write, scrapbook, read, paint, listen to the Beatles...it's lovely!
Approximately 30 minutes before sailing you will HAVE to do a lifeboat drill. Only once in all my cruises have we been allowed to do this without wearing those vests, so expect that you will have to and tell me if you did not. You will have to go to your muster station and learn how to use the vest, how to board the vessels, and how you will know you need to evacuate. It does take about 20-30 minutes.
Then head to the top of the ship (grab a jacket)...it is time to go. Folks on land will wave to you, and everyone on board is excited...Bon Voyage! The port of Miami is my favorite to leave from, go there and you will see why! Seattle is my second favorite. Take lots of photos!
After this thrill, go back to the room and check, you may be very please that the luggage is there and chances are good that you need to go to dinner (early sittings). If you have not done your onboard account, you HAVE to go stand in line and do it now. You may not buy ANYTHING until you do! Everyone has to have an account because your tips will come out of this account on the last night, and you will buy something.
Walk around and explore if you want, go to dinner, scout out what will be served at dinner, read your daily newspaper. This will be your friend...it will tell you what things the ship has planed to entertain you. Some ships announce what is coming up, and others do not, so if you see something you want to do, don't rely on an announcement to remind you of it. I bring a highlighter so I can highlight the things that I want to do and then carry the schedule part in my pocket. Remember that you do not have to do these things...do what you like, it is your vacation!
Dinner will be casual this evening because most folks won't have their luggage. Wear your jeans if you want...keep in mind if you are going to the dining room shorts are frowned upon unless it is lunch time. Now remember these dining rooms feature 3-5 course meals so they expect a little more upscaleness out of you. You will not get kicked out if you wear shorts but you will be talked about!
You can eat dinner through the buffet line, they generally serve some of the same items, but I find that it is not usually as fresh here as in the dining rooms, and sometimes it is hard finding a table. In the dining rooms you have a table for you. Exceptions are the freestlye crusing, where you do not have assigned dining times. I don't really like this because you have to go from restaurant to restaurant trying to get in. On Norwegian we mainly eat upstairs.
There are also some restaurants that have upcharges. While I have found great meals in here, keep in mind the additional charge will be on your acct at the end of the week. The meals that are included with your cruise ticket include things like lobster tails, beef wellington, all types of seafood, Chateaubriand, fancy desserts....I am telling you, if you are budgeting DON'T go to the fancy up charged restaurants. Save your money for something else.
After dinner there may be a show, check it out the shows are usually good. Norwegian had amazing shows, they had artists do the silks everynight! It was like a cirque de so lei everyday. Try to figure out how these dancers/acrobats keep their balance on this moving ship.
Around dinner time the shops, casino, maybe library will be open and the bars will start hopping soon after. There always seems to be a bar where there is really no one but there is loud music so if you like that scout it out. And you walk by some and they are bursting at the seems. Most likely there will be a teen club, stay out if you are an adult, those kids want to be away from you! If you are a drinker (either coke or alcohol) they are expensive. If you have to have a coke everyday consider getting a soda card. We sometimes do this it will save you a lot of money. You can purchase one at any of the bars or from the staff person walking around selling drinks can direct you where to go. There will be a 15% tip charged on every drink that you buy, another reason the soda card is worth it.
When you return to your room you might have a towel animal on your bed, your bed will be turned down and probably you will have chocolates too. Enjoy your first great night! I sleep so wonderfully on the first night.