What To Know Before Your Cruise According To Travel Expert Samantha Brown

Embarking on a cruise is the adventure of a lifetime. While it might cost more than expected, some might argue that a cruise is even better than your run-of-the-mill vacation. Entertainment and attractions are endless (perfect for parents and families). Furthermore, you are chauffeured to your destination or destinations of your choice in comfort. Someone who appreciates a good cruise is former Travel Channel star Samantha Brown. 

However, Brown does believe that there's a misconception when it comes to cruises. Per an article on her website, Samantha-Brown.com, she disagrees with the notion that there's less preparation involved in the planning process. In other words, there's plenty you can and should do prior to stepping foot on the cruise ship. This includes signing up for the cruise line's reward program for extra perks. 

Brown also states that travelers should have a plan if disaster (like bad weather) strikes. She wrote, "Do some research and jot down a few numbers just in case you find yourself in a port of call longer than expected. You need to have a file/notebook that has your travel agent's number, numbers of local hotels, etc. Pack a few extra days of medicine and food/snacks, just in case." Moreover, Brown has tips on how to save money at sea in the long run. 

Assess your budget

You might not realize it, but excursions on port days, certain activities, and more on a cruise come at an additional cost. Samantha Brown suggests thinking about what you do and don't want to spend money on in preparation for your cruise. If not, you risk blowing through more money than you thought. 

With that in mind, Brown explains that when you have port days, the ship will either be tenured or docked. With the former, passengers have to be shuttled to the shore, and the latter provides direct access to the port. Brown wrote that this detail makes a difference, explaining that spa services are cheaper on port days, so she often stays on the ship on tendered days to take advantage. 

Another thing to note: Wifi will be pricy, with some cruise lines charging up to $30 a day for internet access. Instead of paying up, consider staying off your phone until you can get free wifi onshore. In addition, ensure you have cash to provide gratuities for the ship's crew and luggage handlers. 

As Brown pointed out on her website, "Even if crew tips are automatically charged to your bill, you should bring a few hundred bucks for tipping. Crew members are some of the hardest workers I have ever seen. They still manage to make you feel like you're not one of 3,000 cruisers. They deserve your appreciation, especially if they've gone out of their way to help."

Properly pack for your cruise

Let's face it, packing for any vacation, cruise or not, can get messy. While cruise ships, compared to airlines, are far more lenient when it comes to their luggage restrictions, Brown says that you should, nonetheless, pack efficiently and mindfully.

Speaking with Travel + Leisure, she explained, "Don't pack everything in one checked suitcase! If your bag doesn't make it, it's really hard for your luggage to get to you since you are moving to a new port every day. That's a game of tag that no one wants to play. Either bring a separate carry-on with a few days' worth of clothes, or if you're traveling with someone, split your things between the two suitcases so if one doesn't make it, you still have the other (hopefully)."

For this exact reason, Brown recommends you keep a swimsuit, medication, travel documents, and anything else of importance on hand. As for what you should pack, Brown told Travel + Leisure that comfortable walking shoes are a must-bring for any cruise. In an article for Holland American Line, Brown encouraged packing weather-appropriate outfits and attire for formal dinners. Keep in mind that laundry service is available on cruise ships for a cost, of course.