1. Find a ruler. Now hold this ruler perpendicular to your body, maybe about chest level, and slowly move it around your personal circumference. Mentally deduct two to three inches from the ruler's length and this will give you a rough approximation of how much space you will have in your stateroom shower. In preparation for showering in this space may I recommend some sort of juice cleanse or fast, to shrink your body and add precious room to move in your Shower Closet (TM Lisa).
2. Also, if you were to prepare with a juice cleanse or cabbage soup diet or some other suspicious crash diet, the 20 pounds you gain on a cruise could possibly just be a net gain of 10 pounds. Something to think about.
3. Also in the shower! (A lot of my tips are shower-related.) There is just a plain fabric drop cloth hanging between you and an absolutely soaked bathroom. Try to position your showerhead so that you don't totally soak your Shower Closet, but more importantly, stuff the edge of your curtain into the little metal ridge running along the wall so that the shower curtain itself doesn't submit to the laws of physics or gravity or thermodynamics or WHATEVER IT IS and attempt to smother you while showering. That is the GROSSEST FEELING, is it not? The Wet And Used-By-Others Shower Curtain Saran-Wrap-Attack? UGH.
4. Bring a lot of cash. Lots and lots of cash. This is not for shopping in the glorified duty free stores on board the ship or for purchasing any drinks that are not water, coffee, or Unidentifiable "Juice" Drink (these are easily charged to your Sea Pass ID card!) no no no this cash is for TIPPING. Keep it in your suitcase until the very last day when you will spend hours partioning it out into little envelopes for the dozens of waitstaff who prevented your children from erupting into horrid twerpy brats the dining room, thereby enabling your SURVIVAL AT SEA.
5. Sea bands. OMG SEA BANDS. Curses on all those people who said, "Oh, cruise ships are so BIG! You won't feel it rocking at ALL!" These people are big fat humongous liars. Even people less sensitive than your trusty blogger felt the ship rocking at times, and you know what keeps you from barfing over the edge on a regular basis? SEA BANDS. They are some sort of Weird Alternative Medicine contraption that appear to make no sense, but they 1) won't put you to sleep like Dramamine 2) aren't prescription like that patch you can put behind your ear, but are 3) just ugly. But would you rather wear sweatbands with your formal dress or spend that evening throwing up in your Shower Closet? I'm just saying.
6. The cruise ship will make a big stinking deal about their award-winning children's programs, but YOUR children, who love nothing more than Structured Guided Playtimes, will mope their way out of the first Adventure Ocean session mumbling about "boring". AND THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? At your first stop in Juneau you take the Courtesy Shuttle to WalMart and buy packs of cards and board games. And then:
7. Find a Nice Quiet Place. There are dozens upon dozens of places to hang out on a cruise ship. This is because your stateroom is the size of your college dorm room (only with a king sized bed AND two bunks AND a Shower Closet) and no one in her right mind will choose to hang out in her stateroom WITH HER CHILDREN. HA HA HA. Plus, if you hang out in your stateroom, how will you hand over your Sea Pass card willy nilly to all the crewmembers happy to charge it for you? HOWEVER. You are sharing this cruise ship with TWO THOUSAND STRANGERS and they, too, are looking for a Nice Quiet Place. (Unless they are childless white folks in their late 40s to early 60s, and then they are Wild and Crazy, hogging the hot tubs and all the beer.) What I'm saying is: you need to find The Place where you and the kids can camp out for a few hours with games and books and iPads, where snacks are readily available. Don't wait until Day 3 or 4 to realize you need this place, Future Cruisers, DO IT IMMEDIATELY. The sooner you find Your Place, the sooner you will begin to ENJOY your cruise rather than wondering what in the HELL you have gotten yourself into for an entire WEEK.
8. We have now come to the How To Manage Mealtimes section of Cruise Ship Tips. ARE YOU READY? Okay, so for breakfast? (And lunch and dinner.) Your sit down meal will take, on average, two hours. TWOOOOOO HOURRRRRSSSSSSS. Now! Your trustly blogger is the type who thinks civilized people eat their evening meal at 8pm, that it SHOULD be a loungey easygoing time with plenty of wine and dessert. However! CHILDREN WILL NOT AGREE WITH YOU. Thank God you signed up for the First Seating (5:30ish mealtime) because you won't ACTUALLY eat dinner until 6:45. Bring your crayons! The kids' menus from the previous night and the night before! BRING THE IPAD, NO ONE WILL CARE. What is a lovely luxurious Nice Restaurant Dinner experience (every night!) for the adults is near torture for the kids. Even if they are delightful and well behaved kids. Two hours in a restaurant shoved up to a table full of food you don't want to eat is hard for one night let alone SEVEN.
8.5 This is where you find out your dinner waiter is made of solid gold and deserves his weight in tips.
9. BREAKFAST. We did sit down breakfast once. Because the cafeteria/buffet-style option is SO VERY CROWDED. However! Again! Your kids just want to eat cereal! (Or pancakes loaded with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and chocolate chips - hey, you're on a cruise ship) and both of these options are readily and quickly available in the cafe. DO THIS, even though it's crowded, because you are traveling with a whole bunch of other people and it's been agreed that Sit Down Dinner is your one big gathering time. Save your Sit Downs for Dinner! DO IT! Dinner is where you get your made-of-gold waiter, the one you think is super cute and sweet and kind and charming and friendly and helpful and MAYBE he is the best part of the cruise. Do not waste your sit downs on BREAKFAST!
10. Lunch! SKIP LUNCH. OMG, people, the eating eating eating. Phillip described the cruise the other day as, "Oh, and then I look at my watch, and it's already time to eat again!" YES. THIS. The last two or three days of the cruise we realized that a big pancakey breakfast, a light snacky lunch from one of the snack bar type food acquiring areas, and a Sit Down Dinner was the way to go for us. One day we did the Sit Down for each meal, most days we did the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the Sit Down for dinner - our best days were the days we more or less skipped lunch.
11. If your kid wears diapers they are not allowed in cruise ship pools. My experience hauling an indignant, confused, and CRUSHINGLY SAD Emma out of the pool - because a crewmember noticed she was wearing a diaper (A SWIM DIAPER) and people who are not potty trained are not allowed in cruise pools - soured at LEAST an entire day of our vacation, maybe more. The rule makes sense to me, but I DID NOT KNOW IT EXISTED and I felt TERRIBLE for HOURS. This was our first afternoon on the ship and I had no idea what to do with us or where to go or WHAT and it was TERRIBLE and I BLAME YOU, ROYAL CARRIBBEAN. (Maybe I should read up on vacations before I take them.)
12. Don't waste half an hour wondering where the pull down beds in your stateroom are, and fretting over having to ask for a different room - your stateroom attendant, whose entire world revolves around your hallway of rooms, will blithely enter the room and pull the beds down from the CEILING and say, "No worries!" And you will feel stupid!
13. Speaking of your stateroom attendant: a large chunk of that cash I recommended you bring will go to him. I am not sure what kind of creature the stateroom attendant is. Nocturnal? WIthout need for sunshine? Every single time we left our room we returned to find it in pristine condition - linens straightened, towel animal amusingly propped, our pajamas folded, our toiletries lined up, our things moved to more sensible storage spaces. If you care very much about privacy may I recommend not getting your period on the first day of your cruise? Pro Tip.
14. Shore Excursions. I have no tips for these because we did not do them. Ha! Maybe that IS my tip, since I will guarantee we spent less money than those people. I did throw some money down so my middle child could pan for gold in Skagway, Alaska (for three minutes) (with a pre-filled pan) and she enjoyed this, but we found this opportunity without the middle management of the cruise ship and I was with my Bargaining Is Always An Option! SIL so we paid, like, half price.
15. I assumed that part of the draw of cruising is the tropical weather... which you don't really get on an ALASKA CRUISE. Those you take for the scenery, yes?! Try to go on your cruise when the scenery is not shrouded in clouds! Pro Tip!
16. All right, all right, I am a giant pain in the ass about weather and scenery and blah blah NATURE, but the Tracy Arm Fjord? With the glacier that comes down right to the water? I quickly forgave the ship captain for waking me up on my stateroom loudspeaker at 7am, imploring me to "Get up! And enjoy the beautiful view!" I mean.
17. The Cruise Ship Thing the Cheungs As A Whole enjoyed the most was the live music and dancing. The Cheung brothers are a musical pair and their children like to boogie. Quite possibly the best moment of the cruise was watching all the grandkids own the dance floor in their "formal" wear while the nightly easy-listening band crooned Killing Me Softly and Oye Como Va.
I suppose those are my thougths on Cruise Ships In General. Tomorrow I may have some Alaska-Specific Tips. And maybe some Grown Up Specific Tips. Like how the dude at the pool bar will pour you a glass of wine TWICE the size of what you get in the restaurants. Pro Tip!