Dos and don’ts for first-time cruisers headed for idyllic isles

ENTERTAINMENT crew on board cruise ships field no-brainer questions from passengers which tax even their fixed smiles.

As we waited to disembark from the MSC Melody (no longer sailing from Durban into East African waters), our entertainment staff kept us laughing as they recounted some of the more naive passengers’ queries.

Recycling of water and the ship’s energy source came in for much heated discussion, said the staff, who at times were confounded.

Among the best were:

“Where does the swimming pool water go?”

“Is there fresh or sea water in the toilets?”

“Are we getting our electricity from Durban?”

So how do you answer such without losing your cool completely or asking said passengers whether they are having you on?

For those of you who may be planning a cruise and are wondering about the same things, here’s the buzz:

Each evening the water is drained from the swimming pools. They are then refilled the next day. Where does the water go? Why back in the sea, of course.

If you want to do a taste test of the ablutions, go for it. We would love to know.

The ship generates its own electricity. And no, we are not thousands of nautical miles out to sea on an extension cord from our point of departure.

Our 11- day cruise took us from Durban to Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius. And as first-time cruisers we learned some valuable dos and don’ts:

Don’t forget sea-sick medication: There were passengers on board our cruise who were prostrate and missed out all the fun. The on-board doctor can give you a jab, but it will cost you $60 (R520).

Fly in the day before: If you’re flying to your embarkation port, arriving a day early makes the whole trip less stressful.

Budget for on-board purchases: Cruise fares are not inclusive. When boarding you will be given a cruise credit card in which you have to deposit a certain amount. In our case it was $800 (R7000).

Additional charges you may incur are for tips, drinks, internet use, photos, speciality restaurants, and shore excursions.

Don’t overpack: The sea days can be spent in swimsuits (don’t forget a cover-up so you don’t have to change before heading to the lunch buffet).

As for the rest of your travel wardrobe, if you pack lots of neutrals (black and white work well), you can mix and match your pieces and cut down on the shoes you need to bring.

Bring a carry-on bag on board: Pack it with anything you need access to before your luggage is delivered to your stateroom. Medication, camera and a swimsuit immediately come to mind.

Take along a large beach bag or basket: On the ship it’s great for carrying around your book, camera, sunscreen and cruise pass card.

Shut off that cellphone: It won’t work soon after you leave port. Use the ship’s internet – $20 (R170) for 10 minutes – if you need to contact someone.

There is a satellite phone for emergencies, but it will cost you.

Don’t worry about formal nights: These evenings are not what they used to be. There’s no need to pack an evening gown and tux … unless you want to (and what’s better than seeing your man in a tux).

But anything from black- tie to Sunday best is fine. And if you’d rather stay in shorts or jeans, the buffet is always casual.

Use sunscreen liberally: Nothing ruins a vacation faster than bad sunburn. Sometimes the breeze on deck makes it very comfortable to lounge by the pool all day, since it doesn’t feel hot. Don’t be fooled. That sun is frying you. Protect yourself.

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