Most cruise ships offer lots of fun-filled activities such as Bingo, shuffleboard and trivia. Granted, these are things you can do at your local senior center for free. But on a cruise you can win prizes. And nothing says “I’m a better person than the rest of you old farts” like going home with a suitcase full of plastic “ship-on-a-stick” trophies valued at twenty cents apiece.
But if you’re too busy establishing your intellectual superiority over your fellow passengers by taking first place in “TV Theme Song Trivia,” you might miss out on some more satisfying cruising experiences (such as “Movie Theme Song Trivia”). So here are some tips for getting the most out of your next cruise:
1. Attend the shopping talk.
The Shopping Talk is a brief (six to eight hours) seminar given by your shipboard shopping specialist “Chet,” who will provide you with valuable pointers for shopping in your ports of call. Pointers such as:
- Only shop in an “approved” store so you’ll get the best deal possible—and Chet will get a commission, a bonus, and a hot oil massage with a happy ending.
- Never shop in an “unapproved” store because you’ll be kidnapped by Somali pirates and/or ISIS.
2. Choose the buffet over the dining room.
You can’t go wrong eating in one of your ship’s fancy dining rooms, where you can feast on steak, lobster, fine wine and exotic deserts; however, the high-quality food and superior service may cause you to relax and enjoy yourself (even though you’ll be expected to wear shoes). And since finding things to complain about makes cruising much more enjoyable, you’ll be better off heading up to Lido Deck where you can fight your way through the gluttonous throng in your bare feet. Besides, later on, when you’re down at the front desk complaining about the long lines and limited selection in the buffet restaurant, not to mention the fact that you paid good money for this cruise yet nobody from the Miami offices ever called and advised you to pack footwear for formal night, the Guest Services associate on the business end of your vitriol will be more likely to offer you financial compensation if you have chili-dog breath.
3. Camp out in the casino.
Screw Las Vegas; spend as much time and money in the ship’s casino as possible. Cruise-ship slot machines are looser than a biker chick with a meth habit. Especially on my cruise line. In fact, you’re going to need a duffle bag to haul all those shiny silver dollars back to your cabin. And I’m not just saying that because the more money my cruise line makes off of delusional chain-smoking gambling addicts like you, the better chance I have of getting a raise.
4. Luxuriate in the all-ages hot tubs.
What better way to relax on a luxury cruise liner overrun by unsupervised eight-year-olds than with a nice hot urine bath?!
5. Book an interior stateroom.
Sure, you can spend the extra money for a balcony or at least a porthole if you want, but cruising is so much more adventurous and exciting when you cram your entire family into a tiny windowless cabin the size of your kitchen pantry at home. You’ll never know what time of day it is when you wake up, and the lack of fresh air with five people in the room will keep things interesting. And, better yet, you’ll be that much more excited about reaching the Bahamas.
6. Rent a mobility scooter.
Why should old folks with bad knees have all the fun? Rent a scooter for your cruise and skip to the front of every line. Crew members will take pity on you and wave you past the long parade of upright losers waiting to be seated for dinner or a production show, without so much as a second glance. Thankfully, it will never occur to them that the last person who needs to be advanced to the front of a line is someone who is—wait for it… SITTING ON A MOVING CHAIR!
What does it matter if Grandma has to wait a few extra minutes to sit down for dinner or a show if she’s already sitting down?! Allowing someone to cut in front of you because they have a scooter is like trading your seats behind home plate with somebody in the bleachers because he has binoculars hanging around his neck (or something like that only funnier).
So rent a scooter. You’ll get special treatment and you can zip around the ship drunk, running into stuff and knocking over people with actual mobility problems.
7. Use your cell phone as much as possible.
If there’s someone in your family whom you couldn’t afford to bring along on your cruise, be sure to call them every day that you’re at sea. The amount you’ll rack up in roaming charges will make it seem like you paid their way.
8. Book a cruise with one or more “tender ports.”
When a port lacks a pier big enough to accommodate cruise ships, it’s what we call a tender port. A tender is a boat that takes you from the ship to the island in the time it would take you to swim. Tendering is lots of fun because you get to wake up early, report to one of the ship’s lounges with hundreds of other tired and impatient guests, and wait for hours on end watching CNN on the big screen with the sound off (so you can hear all the screeching babies and screaming toddlers sprawled out around you) until you decide to jump overboard and swim ashore.
Once on the island, you’ll be free to slouch around in the scorching heat for ten minutes trying to find a discount T-shirt shop with functioning air conditioning until you finally realize that you’re in a third-world country that doesn’t really have all that much to see or do so you might as well get in line for a tender back to the ship, where you can be laughed at by all the experienced cruisers who stayed on board.
9. Purchase a shore excursion from a local vendor not in any way associated or affiliated with your cruise line so that you can either miss your non-refundable tour due to the ship arriving late or miss the ship after your tour ends because the bus carrying you back to the pier is ambushed by guerrilla fighters.
10. Complain. Complain. Complain.
If you really want to have fun on your cruise, don’t spend your days laying out by the pool or relaxing at the bar. Instead, make frequent trips down to Guest Services and complain about anything that comes to mind. If your complaints are inventive enough, the ship’s Guest Services associates will often offer you financial compensation just to shut you up. If you’re unlucky enough to cruise on an awesome ship like mine, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many legitimate issues to complain about. In that case, here are a half dozen doozies to get you started:
- “The sound of the ocean keeps me up at night. Can you turn it off?”
- “My cabin doesn’t look the same as the photo on your website. That cabin had blue carpet; mine has red. Can you please make the switch while I'm upstairs in the ship's gift shop complaining about merchandise I bought on land?"
- “It’s too hot on the open decks. Can you ask the Captain to turn on the air conditioning outside?”
- “It’s too long of a walk between decks. Can you shorten your stairs?”
- “The midnight buffet is too late at night. Can you reschedule it for noon?”
- “I hate discos and disco music. Yet every time I go into the disco all I hear is disco music. Can I have a free cruise?”
So there you go. Use my tips and your next cruise is guaranteed to be your best vacation ever.
If not, you can always walk the plank. Make a big enough splash and you just might win a prize.