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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pre-Cruise Prep—What Line Does it Best?

Not that you need any help getting pumped up for your upcoming trip, but the cruise lines do vary quite a bit in what they tell you once you’ve put that deposit down.
And of the lines we’ve sailed with most recently—Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity—my first prize for pre-cruise promo goes to Princess.
Communication from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean was spotty and all about driving revenue with drink packages and excursions. Celebrity, however, gets kudos for being the only one of the three lines to still offer to send you color adhesive luggage tags. (For RCI and Princess, you have to print up your own and staple or tape them to your bags.)
While Princess does its share of tempting you with ways to spend extra dough, it also works hard to inform and excite. Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect before you sail:
Princess’ patter begins early. The cruise line begins its email chats with you even before you’ve paid for the whole trip. The captain welcomes you onboard, tells you a bit about himself, and a column appearing in every email going forward gives an update of what you’ve left to do before the trip. Like submit final payment. Make sure your passport is up to date. And check in online.
Read, see and hear. About once a month and then sooner as you get closer to the trip, you get a message from a different senior officer. There are links to videos of your ship and the bridge web cam. Overviews of available excursions, which you can filter by price range and activity level. Descriptions of dining options with links to videos about the restaurants.
Let them entertain you. One especially useful email spotlights the entertainment—including what movie is actually being shown on your trip for Movies Under the Stars, the featured entertainers and song-and-dance production shows. There’s even a sample issue of Princess Patter, the onboard newsletter.
With all the hours we spend these days our eyes glued to a screen, I have to hand it to Princess for making what we spend online with the cruise line more than worth our time. And for giving us yet another reason to feel our vacation dollars are well spent.
Musing’s Top Tip: Family or friends curious about cruising but afraid to take the plunge? Consider Princess’ “Bon Voyage Experience.” You can bring your guests onboard on embarkation day and for $30 a person, they’ll get four hours of lunch plus wine, guided tour of the ship and souvenir photo. It might be a great way to get them to “yes” if you want to bring them along the next time you cruise. Reservations for this program are required, so see Princess’ website for more.