Last week’s post was all the philosophical wisdom one gains from a grand trans-Atlantic crossing. This week: the practical stuff, ie, Handy Tips for Younger Passengers, or What the Savvy Traveler (but Non-Cruiser) Needs to Know.
1) Book early. We booked in early summer for the first week in September, and at that time the cheapest fare (about $1,100 per person) applied to the three lowest room categories, which includes the rooms with balconies cut into the hull.
These balconies are supposedly not as nice as the proper-balcony rooms on higher decks, but I could sit outside and not stare at the sea and contemplate how terrifyingly far from land we were, which was a bonus in my book.
2) Board late. The older-skewing demographic means there’s a big easily worried, early-arriving camp. We got to Red Hook Cruise Terminal at 3:10pm for a 4pm sailing, and didn’t have to wait in line at all. One woman even said, “You got here at the perfect time!”
3) They’re not kidding about formalwear. I just assumed everyone would half-ass this. Lordy, no! I’d also misread the materials, and thought there was only one truly formal night. Actually, no to that point too. Five out of seven nights are formal. I honestly have no idea how you really pack for that, unless you also have a coolie to tote your steamer trunks.
[Public apologies to Heather, who helped me pick my formalwear at the Salvation Army. I promised her a photo of the ridiculous red polyester with red glitter dots, but failed utterly.]
But as I said in my last post, you can opt out and eat at the buffet restaurant, which actually feels better for your health anyway, as you can eat as much salad as you want.
4) The Todd English restaurant is worth it. You can pay $35 per person extra and eat here. Do it once, at least. It’s what the main dining room is trying to be, but is automatically better because they’re only doing 40 covers a night, not 800.
I kind of scoffed before our dinner there: “Humph–Todd English! He has a restaurant at La Guardia!” But even the prosciutto-and-fig pizza tastes better on a ship than in the main terminal at LGA.
5) Be sure to go to the buffet restaurant the night it’s in Lotus, the Asian zone. Because that’s when they might have the Filipino pork belly with adobo. Hot damn, that was good. They need to let more of their Asian staff cook.
6) The library is great. The real pro cruisers were all in there in a mob the first day, snapping up the John Grisham books, I guess. The library didn’t have a copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, but they did have The Pale King, which I should’ve read instead of Freedom. (Sorry, thought I got over that–I think I’m done grumbling now.)
7) Feeling seasick? Go to the pool. We bought a three-day sauna pass, and the first day we went was the “real ocean weather” day. It was a little icky sitting in the steam room, in the dark, and in fact a guy who was in there when I was went from cheerful to miserable in a matter of a minute. But floating in the pool, even though it was crashing around dramatically, was instantly relaxing–call it the aqua-gyroscopic effect, I guess.
8 ) If you’re young, introduce yourself to other youngish people. We should’ve done this more. There weren’t very many of them, but I imagine they were all feeling as out of place as we were. Or…they might’ve looked at us and thought, Why are these old people talking to us?
9) Going solo is fine. Think of all the reading you could get done! You can order room service, and the Caesar salad is pretty good. But, yeah, it is pretty solidly couples all over the ship.
10) Don’t plan on doing anything important in the first four days off the ship. Just when your inner ear gets all groovy with being on the water, you’re dumped off on dry land. And everything seems to tilt way this waaaaay, and then way that waaaaay. Exercise and walking helps, but sitting still is difficult.
Also, the time change going east is surprisingly a drag–they set the clocks back an hour on every night but the first and the last. These shorter days, plus the world tilting, makes you feel jet-lagged even though you’re not exactly, and you can’t cop that excuse.
Any other questions? Ask in the comments.