Here are some general tips and information about the cruising that you might find helpful. (Written for the 2020 South Australian Hatter cruise)
Boarding the ship
Make sure you have brought your boarding pass and your drivers license or passport as proof of identity. You’ll drop off your suitcase at the front gate and take any carry-on luggage with you to the terminal. You’ll need to pass through a screening process much like going through an airport. Once onboard the ship you can find your cabin, although it may not be ready (may still being cleaned). If it’s not ready yet, come back a few minutes later.
Your Cabin (Stateroom)
Expect the cabin to be much smaller than hotel room. Your cabin will have a wardrobe with coathangers and a narrow tall cabinet with shelves. Each bed also has a bedside table. Narrow suitcases may fit under the bed. There is a small safe in each cabin to store valuables.
If you need extra pillows, an ice bucket or anything else – ask your room steward. If they have done a good job and been lovely during the cruise, make sure you fill out a feedback card and give them praise (by name)
Inside cabins don’t have natural light at all, but if you turn the TV to bridge cam station you’ll have instant nightlight and be able to see when the sun is up.
Cabin doors and walls are magnetic! – so bring magnetic hooks to hang items like hats and decorations. Hang your cruise card lanyard on a magnetic hook on or beside the door so you’ll never forget it as you leave.
The power points will be US plug, so bring an adaptor – best are ones with built in USB ports so you can charge multiple things at once. Powerboards with surge protectors are banned, so you may need to purchase a non-surge-protected one.
Bring a battery powered candle or light as a night light, or a torch – and leave it on the shelf above the wardrobe to provide a little light to make night time toilet trips easier.
Sometimes the bedside table drawers can slide open in rough seas, you can bring masking tape or prop an unused pillow in front of it to keep it closed.
Bring air freshener for the bathroom! Bathroom space is pretty limited, so if you have lots of lotions and potions bring an over the door organiser to hang on the bathroom door. Simply make ribbon loops through the grommets and use the loops to hang the organiser from the hooks on the bathroom door.
The cruise ship includes beach/pool towels, soap, shampoo and conditioner. But if you prefer your own shampoo and conditioner bring your own.
If you’re lost looking for your cabin, check the carpet. Red = port side (even number cabins), blue = starboard (odd number cabins). The elevators (except the glass Atrium elevators) face forward. So if your stateroom is even numbered you always turn left getting out of the elevator. If your stateroom is odd, always turn right. The entrance way to the cabin corridors from the lifts has a side view of the ship and lists which cabin numbers are on that side. You will receive a foldup map of the ship with your cruise card when you check-in.
Phones, Internet & messaging at sea
Your normal phone coverage will work while in port, and may work while sailing close enough to shore to get the land-based signal. It will definitely not work while at sea. Make sure you have data roaming turned off, because while at sea the ship will have its own mobile phone coverage switched on which will be considered international rates by your carrier. Check which coverage your mobile is using, before you make any calls – if it’s your normal provider then you should be using your normal domestic coverage. If in doubt, switch off and have a holiday from your mobile phone!
The ship does not have free wifi to access the internet. You can purchase internet packages for use onboard but they are very expensive. However the ship does have a free intranet (internal internet only for the ship) that you can use to access the Princess@Sea messenger, view the daily activities, check your onboard account and other services.
There is a free onboard messaging system through Princess@Sea that allows you to send text messages to people onboard. However you can only send a message to someone who is on your contacts list within the app. So to exchange messages you need to logon to the Princess @Sea app and get your unique passenger ID code, give that to whoever you’d like to contact, get their ID and add it to your contacts list – this will allow you to send messages to each other.
To help us communicate while on the ship, we will meet up each morning before breakfast to discuss/plan anything needed for the day (for example which activities people are doing in case we want to do them in groups). Important notices will be posted on clipboards on a few of our cabin doors for those who don’t come to the morning meet up, or if something comes up through the day. We can also use the cabin phones and the Princess@Sea messenger to pass messages around. Everyone will receive a little booklet with our itinerary, important information and cabin numbers (in case you need to call anyone).
While you may not think it’s necessary to have, it is important for a cruise to be covered for medical expenses. Cruise ship medical staff aren’t covered by medicare as they are registered overseas. So if you need medical assistance while on the cruise ship (even for something like seasickness medication), you will be out of pocket if you don’t have travel insurance that covers medical expenses. You should also have travel insurance to protect against any damage or loss to items (especially things like mobile phones), any delays or cancellations of the service etc. Make sure you check your insurance policy covers you for a cruise. Most insurers will require you to have international coverage (eg coverage for New Zealand) for a domestic Australian cruise if they don’t have a specific cruise insurance plan. For Australia Post online travel insurance (which is “covermore” insurance) – where you enter the country you will be going to, type in “domestic cruise”, then select cruise coverage on the next screen.
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You can request free bottles of distilled water in your cruise personaliser (fill in the details on the website – or call the travel agent to add it for you). There should be a power outlet under the bed that normally powers the bedside lamp that can be used for your machine, but you might like to bring a non-surge protected powerboard or small extension cord just in case you need to power it from another socket.
Cruise ships are large and heavy, so many people who normally get travel sick are fine on cruise ships as the movement in them is less than smaller boats. However it does affect some people and you don’t want it spoiling your cruise. There are a few ways you may be able to avoid or lessen seasickness, and the effectiveness seems to vary from person to person. Often once you start feeling seasick it can take a while for the treatments to take effect, so it is recommended to try to avoid getting seasick by using preventatives.
Medication such as “travelcalm” and “kwells” work on helping seasickness when you have it, whereas other prescription/over the counter medications like avomine (which has recently been discontinued) and Dramamine are a preventative that aims to stop you feeling seasick in the first place. Generally you’d want to take the preventatives each evening so that the drowsiness effects help you sleep and don’t hinder your daytime enjoyment. If you know you get seasickness or aren’t sure, talk to your Dr and see what they recommend for you. Some people swear by using the ginger travelcalm tablets that can be purchased from pharmacies and taken as needed. If you need seasick medication, they may be bought in the gift shop, but asking at the passenger services desk might get you some for free.
“Seabands” are an elastic wristband with a bead that presses against a pressurepoint in your wrist and is a natural remedy some people swear by. Ginger and green apples are also said to be effective (green apples can be found onboard).
Swimming apparently helps with seasickness as the cool water and motion of the water help. The other thing that should help is to keep your mind occupied – thinking about being seasick will make you feel worse. Standing on deck where you can see the ocean moving should also help.
An unfortunate reality of cruise ships is that there will be norovirus (in layman’s terms “gastro”) on all ships all the time. Sick passengers (who don’t want to cancel their cruise) bring it onboard and poor hygiene of people onboard helps it to spread, especially with thousands of people all living close together on the ship. You can’t control the hygiene of other passengers, but you can take extra care of your own, to help you avoid getting sick.
The key points to remember (these tips have been gathered from cruise related articles and are not medical advice):
- Norovirus is generally spread when an infected person doesn’t wash their hands properly and leaves their germs over surfaces that get touched by someone else, who then transfers those germs to their mouth via food or their hands touching their mouth. Limiting exposure to potentially germy surfaces and limiting contact with your mouth can help reduce the chance of catching it.
- Avoid using public toilets. While there are public toilets all around the ship, your own toilet is safer/cleaner. If you do use public toilets, wash your hands with soap and water extremely well (at least 30seconds). If there is a paper towel dispenser by the outer door, use a piece of paper towel to open the doorhandle then dispose of the paper in the bin. If there is not, then use your elbow to open the door.
- Avoid touching surfaces where possible. Things like handrails, table tops, elevator buttons and other such places. Where possible use your knuckle to press elevator buttons, your forearm to lean on railings etc. parts of your body that shouldn’t later come into contact with food or your mouth.
- Avoid touching your mouth or food with your hands. Foods you’d normally eat with your hands (cupcakes, chips, pizza, bread, chicken wings etc.), consider avoiding or consider using a knife and fork.
- Wash your hands with soap and water where possible – for at least 30 seconds! There is a hand washing station before you enter the buffet.
- Alcohol based hand sanitisers (the ones you rub on and don’t wash off) are not effective against norovirus, certainly not as effective as soap and water – however are possibly better than nothing. Choose ones with at least 60% alcohol and use a very generous portion – about a 5c piece size blob. Rub it all over your hands, including between your fingers. You should need to keep rubbing your hands together for about 30 seconds for the liquid to evaporate off. There are hand sanitiser stations are located around the ship, you can carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you in your purse/pocket as well.
- The buffet is a potential risk due to the number of people serving themselves. Try to choose foods at the back of the serving station where they are less likely to have been breathed on by other passengers. Given that you’ll handle the utensil handles at the buffet after washing your hands they should be clean, but that relies on everyone following proper handwashing procedures – so you might like to avoid touching your food before eating it.
Princess Cruises departing from Australia and New Zealand do not have automatic tips/gratuities added on (cruises departing from other countries have a daily tipping fee automatically added to your bill). Passengers may choose to give cash tips to staff, however it appears that the policy for cash tips is that the staff member who received the tip must surrender it to a tipping pool to be spread among all employees. A 15% gratuity is included on all drink purchases from bars, dining rooms and the lotus spa.