Tales of a First Time Cruiser
After looking at the ads for Seminars at Seas for years, I finally got myself booked on a cruise. But now what? So many questions. How will I manage to get the time off of work? What documents will I need? What should I pack? Luckily the Royal Caribbean website had a ton of information and many of my massage clients happen to be frequent cruisers and were more than happy to give me some good tips. Hope I can pass some info on to you!
First step: Stop making excuses. Decide to go!
I had been hemming and hawing for years as to whether I should go on one of these cruises. I always had an excuse.
The first reason not to go was that it was too hard for me to get off of work. But after a particularly busy season, I was really burnt out and I needed a break. If this sounds like you, just take the time off. Schedule yourself off the books. That’s it. It really is that easy. The opportunity to relax and have fun wrapped around taking my CE classes made me better when I came back to work. I learned some great techniques that my clients LOVE! My clients were happy for me that I got to go on a great education vacation. The money I lost from not working for a couple of days, I more than made back because of taking this trip.
My second excuse not to go was my family. It turns out my husband and son were beyond thrilled at the opportunity to go on a cruise. Cruises are extremely family friendly. There were plenty of activities to keep them occupied while I was in classes. My 9-year old son loved kids club so much that he didn’t want to leave. (If you are bringing a child, kids club is amazing!) My husband met up with one of the other husbands from our group for a couple of hours in the pub. I got to take some great classes, work with some truly exceptional therapists and go on a family vacation. Win-win!
And of course, the expense of the cruise held me back from booking. But really, when I added up how much it would have cost to take a continuing education workshop, plus the cost to drive somewhere and stay over in a hotel room for a couple of nights, food, gas, etc., the cost of the cruise was a bargain. It was also way more fun than taking a weekend workshop. All work, no play = no way!
My advice to you … stop making excuses. Just do it! You really won’t want to get your continuing education any other way!
Pick your cruise
Figure out which cruise you want to go on. LMT Success Group offers several different cruise choices. With so many great ports of call to choose from, it’s almost hard to decide which cruise to pick. Call Environ Travel at # 954-796-9006 to book your cabin. They are very friendly and informative there. I worked with Geri who took her time to explain to me the difference in the cabins and the group pricing. She was very patient and helpful.
Select your cabin
We stayed in an inside cabin. It was quite cozy. There were two single beds right next to each other and a bunk bed overhead for my son. The beds were very comfortable. The cabin had everything you need including a couch, a TV, a mini-fridge, there was even a steward and room service if you wanted it. The bathroom was small, but it had everything we needed. I did get to visit one of the balcony rooms. It was a little bigger and I must admit, I did enjoy sitting on the balcony and looking out into the horizon. I’m not sure if it would have been worth the upgrade since there were three of us, but I would definitely consider it in the future.
Choose your classes
To book my classes I called LMT Success Group at #800-201-2247. The classes offered on the cruise are the regular classes that I want to take anyway. There are different classes offered on different cruises but not hard to find classes that I wanted to take on the cruise I wanted to go on. I have taken other classes with LMT Success Group and have always been satisfied with the quality of education, so I felt confident about they would offer good classes, and they did.
On board I was able to take classes from a couple of different instructors. If I had taken the same classes on the regular schedule, it would have cost me almost as much to take the classes as I paid for myself for the entire cruise. That definitely appealed to the bargain hunter in me. Also, I learned techniques in the classes while I was on board that I am certain have helped my clients and helped me to become so busy, just with word of mouth recommendations, that I have to turn people away. I can honestly say that this trip paid for itself over a very short time!
LMT Success Group offered people who were driving to the port a cruise credit for bringing their tables. That was a pretty good deal. You can use the credit for excursions or shopping or a spa service or cocktails. Whatever you want. Plus, you have your table to work on in class. Just check with the porter when you arrive at the port. They will bring it to your room. It can stay set up in the classroom the entire time and a porter will bring it curbside when the cruise is over. Easy peasy.
Once you are on the ships manifest and enrolled in classes:
Royal Caribbean Dashboard
After we booked our cabins, we were assigned a Royal Caribbean Reservation Number and received an email with a link to a site with all of the cruise details. This portal was a goldmine of information. It will answer all of your FAQ’s about the cruise itself and amenities available while on board. It also provides information about the ports. You can pre-book spa services and excursions here and you can opt in to premium dining, a premium drink package and/or a high-speed internet package. (Cruise tip: Look for an email from Royal Caribbean or ask the travel agent about discounts for booking any extras prior to setting sail.)
Documentation needed to sail
When and where we went, we did NOT need passports for the trip. We did each need an original copy of our birth certificate (not a photocopy or a hospital record, an actual birth certificate) and a valid picture id. If you do want to get a passport, here is information to do so: How to Apply for a Passport. Probably not a bad idea to have one.
When you check in, every passenger receives a Sea Pass card. This is acts as a room key but also could be used to make purchases while on board. This is also your id when you leave and return to the ship. It is important not to lose these cards. (We won lanyards in a scavenger hunt. Definitely a must have! Bring an extra one with you if you have it or you can buy one on board.)
Also, important for families, all children receive a wrist band with identifying information. It was an appreciated little extra layer of security to make sure the children were taken care of and could be easily reconnected with the parents if separated.
We were able to check in online through the Royal Caribbean Dashboard which helped to speed up the boarding process at the port. They tell you to get there at least an hour before departure but you can board several hours early if you are taking a departure day class. ( I took the Tax Workshop which was great. The teacher, Paul, made taxes seem almost fun, as far as taxes go, anyway.) We were not able to check into our room that early but we left our carry on bags in the classroom and my husband and son had a snack at the Wind Jammer Cafe and explored the ship.
LMT Cocktail Party
The first night, we were treated to a cocktail party. This was a good orientation and we received our name tags and class packets. We got to meet all of the teachers, the other students and their guests. It was nice because some of the people that we met that night, we ran into and hung out with later in the cruise. We were seated at the same dinner table with some of the people from our group, and even just recognizing other LMT’s and waving hello made it feel very comfortable and friendly.
On the last night of the cruise, we all got together as a group for the final time for a little graduation ceremony. Everyone received their certificates and said their good byes and exchanged email and Facebook addresses. It was like the cherry on top.
On the Ship:
You will definitely not go hungry on one of these cruises. Royal Caribbean offers prime meal plans at specialty restaurants while onboard which are in addition to the regular dining options. There were some people from our group who added this prime dining option and were quite pleased, but with so many really good meal options that were included, we never got tired of the food. If you really love upscale dining, the price seems pretty reasonable for the extra that you get. Formal dining is included. You can dress up a little bit (cruise chic) and enjoy a sit down full course meal every morning and night if you want to. There is also the Wind Jammer Café which is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Yes, there are healthy meals available, including a special buffet for vegan and gluten free. There were many vegetarian options. Of course, there were also many not as healthy selections available as well. Dessert bar anyone? In addition, there were several smaller restaurants that you could stop by and have a snack or a meal at any hour. Getting enough to eat will not be a problem on a cruise.
Drink Package (Mommy Juice)
Did you know that you can bring two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom with you on the cruise? Only on embarkation day and you must carry it on. Of course you must be of legal drinking age. No beer, no liquor, not even extra water bottles. But wine is fine. You can ask for wine glasses and have the bottle opened for you while on board. Not a problem.
Soft drinks such as water, tea, and some sodas are included with the cost of the cruise. If you want more than that, you can use your Sea Pass to order what you want or purchase a premium drink packages that includes fountain sodas, premium coffees and teas, bottled water, sparkling water, fresh squeezed juices, wine, beer, cocktails and liqueurs. The drink packages on the cruise are a little on the pricey side, if you are not a big drinker (and since you will be spending a fair amount of time taking continuing education classes and it is expected that you will be sober for them) it might not be worth it for you to purchase a package. On the other hand, if you just can’t do without your several cup a day Starbucks fix, enjoy poolside pina coladas and want a cocktail with karaoke, then this plan might work for you.
There are some truly amazing shore excursions that you can book in advance, sometimes for a discount. Some of the most popular ones sell out so it’s not a bad idea to book ahead if you have your heart set on a particular trip. You are not required to book through the cruise line, but it gives you a little extra assurance that in the event that the tour returns late, the ship will not leave you. (Royal Caribbean will not wait for you if you are late.)
For the bargain hunter, you can get a break on some of the excursions at the port when you get there. Check out TripAdvisor in advance and book directly. Some of the ports are very easy to just get off the ship and walk around and you don’t even need to book an excursion to explore the local area.
Some frequent cruisers say they like to stay on the ship while in port and enjoy the place to themselves. The ship has activities to enjoy while on board if you aren’t into exploring.
Of course, as a massage therapist, whenever I get a chance, I always ask for a spa tour. I don’t always book a service, but I like to see how others in the industry are doing it. We need to check out the competition, right?
Fitness and Activities
Well, I did bring my sneakers with me with good intentions of working out. That is about as far as that went. There was a nice locker room with steam and sauna and indoor whirlpool. Both free and pay per class group fitness classes were offered. There were so many activities that (even as a fitness person) I just didn’t get much of a chance to utilize the fitness facilities more than checking them out.
There were plenty of other activities including mini-golf, ping pong, basketball, surf boarding, rock climbing, ice skating, swimming and let’s not forget, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Oh and of course, the CE classes. (Let’s not forget the reason I was there in the first place.)
There were also plenty of activities and events in the evenings. Every night there were plenty of choices of things to do. There were bands, shows, comedians, sing-a-longs, dancing, parties, contests and more. You could go shopping or check out an art auction. You could listen to live music or watch a movie on deck. There were plenty of quiet spaces where you could curl up and read a book or meditate. You definitely won’t be bored.
High Speed Internet Packages
For the smart phone addicted, this is going to be a must. Or, you could take the opportunity to enforce a Facebook fast and go on a digital media diet. It really helps you to relax when you are able to disconnect for a couple of days.
Gratuities are added.
We paid $13.50 per person, per day. This was automatically charged to each of our Sea Passes. This gratuity goes to dining services staff, room attendants and housekeeping. A gratuity is also automatically added in to the price of any bar drinks and spa services. You are welcome to leave more for people who particularly help you. You also have the option to go to front desk and have the charge removed (but karma…)
What to pack:
The Royal Caribbean Dashboard has suggestions on how to pack based on the cruise ports you are visiting. That is a great resource. Keep in mind that you may want to dress up a little in the evenings. You don’t really ever have to be formal unless you want to. When you are out at sea, the wind may make it a little cooler when you are outside, even in the warmer months, so you might be happy to have a jacket. Since you are reading this particular blog post, I imagine that you will be taking massage continuing education classes while on board, so pack an outfit or two that you feel comfortable working in. Yoga pants, sweats, shorts. Pack smart. What can you wear twice? Can your leggings go from day to night with a change of shirt and a scarf? You will definitely want a bathing suit or two and a cover up. Shorts, slacks and tops that are casual are a must. Wrinkle resistant clothing is a plus. Pack sandals or flip flops and comfortable shoes that you can walk in. You will need appropriate clothing for any excursions you plan on going on. Long pants and socks are required for ice skating. I believe closed toe shoes are required for rock climbing. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a good book, a camera. The regular vacation stuff. If you forget something there are stores on board and in the ports so you won’t have to do without for long.
So, that’s about it. Book your cruise and maybe I’ll see you on board one of these years! The world needs massage therapists who are high-skilled, thrilled and chilled!