Classic Cruise Tips

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Consider bringing your bike on a cruise. We decided to bring our own bikes on our last Caribbean cruise. It was a little crowded in the cabin, so we asked the steward if we could store them down the hall with the wheelchairs. We were last off the ship when we docked in Bermuda, but in less than five minutes we'd left our fellow passengers in the dust. And in less than 15 minutes, we were far away from the busy port, enjoying a beautiful, deserted snorkeling beach. --Wayne Matchett, Chesapeake, Va.

Enjoy your coffee anywhere on the cruise ship. Bring a travel mug for early-morning coffee fill-ups at the buffet. Your coffee stays warm, and travels well around the ship--the mug is specifically designed to stop spillage--and you don't have to linger in the restaurant after you've finished eating breakfast. You can return to your room or to your favorite deck chair with a fresh cup. --Lucy G. Moore, Blairs, Va.

Pack a power strip and extension cord for your next cruise. Many cruise-ship cabins have only one outlet, but you'll definitely need more if you want to power up your laptop, iPod, cell phone, electric razor, hairdryer, or any other gadgets you bring on board. --Jay Van Vechten, Boca Raton Fla.

For sales on cruise mementos, pick the last sailing in a particular region. We like to buy shipboard souvenirs, so we try to choose a ship that's completing its run of an area--that's when merchandise is generally put on sale. Last year, for example, on a sailing in South America, all of the T-shirts, glassware, and rian jackets were 75 percent off. --Carol Callahan, Mechanicsville,Va.

Pack a bungee cord the next time you go on a cruise. If you've reserved and outside cabin, you can use it to tie back the balcony door, leaving the cabin open to ocean breezes. --Leonard Vavra, Mountain Home, Ark.

Don't waste time waiting for your luggage on the first day of a cruise. Instead of packing your swimsuit away with the rest of your clothes, put it a small bag and carry it with you. This way, once you board the ship, you'll be able to enjoy the pool long before your suitcases are delivered to your cabin.

We attach the cruise line--supplied luggage tags (they have our cabin number on them) to the items we carry around the ship--binoculars, knitting bag, etc. This way, if we forget something by the pool or in the dining room, it can easily be returned by a crew member.

The couple of hangers provided on cruise ships aren't enough for weeklong trips. So I save wire hangers from the dry cleaner and slip a few into our suitcases while packing. I then leave them behind for the next passenger.

Want to enjoy the great buffet spreads on your cruise without gaining weight? Stop riding the elevator--always use the stairs instead. Take an early morning and an evening stroll on the top deck. Cruisers are their own worst enemies.

A shoe organizer hung over the bathroom door is my solution for hotel-room clutter. The compartments are perfect for stashing everything from room keys and travel documents to toiletries and, of course, shoes. The extra storage space came in especially handy on a recent cruise, when we needed all the room we could get in our tiny cabin.

Cruise lines offer packaged side trips at their ports of call. If you go online and look for these expeditions ahead of time, you can book directly with the tour companies and save money.

Some cruise lines offer discounts on a future sailing if you book it while on a current cruise. Back home, you can transfer the booking to your travel agent and work with them to try to lower the price even further. You can always cancel your booking at no cost if you follow the cruise line's cancellation schedule. This is a great way to get some of your onboard expenses paid for in advance!

Public libraries in the ports of Alaska are a tremendous money-saver. Who wants to pay $5 a minute for Internet use from a cruise ship? During a port stop on a recent Alaska cruise, we found a city library that offered free Internet use for 15 to 30 minutes. Our only cost was a short wait in line for our turn.

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