Tips and news from Hawaii
This month we are going to look at some tips and new things going on in Hawaii. As Hawaii travel becomes more popular there are some changes and new things happening in Hawaii.
First, as of Sept. The viewing platform at Pearl Harbor is now open. It was damaged early last summer and closed for repairs. It has now been reopened and is better than ever. Don't forget to book your Pearl Harbor tour. We can set that up for you when you book your hotel or resort. You need to book as early as possible as they restrict the number of people that can visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial each day and those spaces do sell out.
Second, Hawaii has passed a law that restricts the use of sunscreen that is not ocean and reef safe. Because of the number of people who visit Hawaii they want to make sure that the reefs around the islands are not being damaged by the sunscreen now used. In 2021 all sunscreen sold on the islands must conform to the standards set to make sure they are safe and will not damage the reef system. As of now a number of tours, especially snorkeling and diving tours, on the islands will not allow unsafe sun screen.
Now that Southwest is flying to Hawaii there are some low cost flights from certain California cities.
Just a reminder, there are no true All-Inclusive resorts in Hawaii. There are some that have breakfast packages but no true All-Incluisive Resorts that include all meals, snacks, drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, activities, or water sports. Don't forget the additional resort fees that are charged by the resorts at checkout. this is a daily fee per room that resorts charged for the use of the resort amenities. They can range from $25 a day to $45 a day.
Another change is the state of Hawaii has changed its rules for Air BNB. Because of these rule changes it has shut down about 60% of the Air BNB availability on the islands. The issue this causes is that now resorts and hotels fill up quickly so, make sure you make your reservation as soon as possible.
The islands are still one of the best places to visit. Contact us for more clarification on any changes and to use our experience and knowledge concerning the Hawaiian islands to make sure you get an island experience that will meet or exceed your expectations at the lowest cost available. Remember we charge no fees or additional costs and will price match any legitimate prices you see that appear to be lower than ours. Price matches must be for the same flights and hotels we are quoting.
Until then, safe travels
The Ultimate All-Inclusive Travel team
TIPS TO HELP YOU ENJOY YOUR CRUISE
Congratulations! You have joined millions of other vacationers who have discovered the all-inclusive pleasures of a cruise vacation. I hope the following suggestions I have put together for you will help you have the vacation of a lifetime.
What is included in the price of the cruise?
● Cabin accommodations with the service of a room steward to look after your every need while on board. Your cabin steward will find you soon after you come onboard to introduce himself/herself. The room steward will see that you have a clean cabin, fresh towels, ice, turn down service and help with anything else. Even if you forgot to pack an item such as a hair dryer or an iron, they will do everything they can to assist you. Upon your arrival, if your bedding is not configured to your liking, ask your cabin steward to convert the beds to the configuration of your choice (i.e., twin to king).
● All of your meals, including in-between snacks, 24-hour food service on the lido deck, and 24-hour room service (room service may be at a nominal service charge). Typically you will have the following dining choices daily:
Breakfast and lunch: Either at an assigned dining table at your specified dining time of Early Seating or Late Seating; My Time Dining where you may dine at any time of your choice between dining hours where a table is assigned upon arrival; or a buffet service. The buffets are usually served on a higher deck where you have the option to enjoy the food inside a casual dining room or outside on the open-air deck. The times for the buffets will usually be posted on your daily activity schedule.
Dinner: Fabulous dinners will be served nightly in your assigned dining room, at your assigned time. Your dinnertime will be the same each night with your own personal waiter and bus person that you will have throughout the length of the cruise, unless you choose My Time Dining.
Snacks: Items such as ice cream, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs or high tea will be available throughout the day and evening. Most are now available 24 hours.
Note: Alcoholic beverages are not typically included. Ask your waiter what beverages are included at no extra cost.
● Entertainment of the highest quality from DJ’s, live shows, TV monitors in cabins, musical reviews, most onboard activities such as exercise classes, dance classes, various contests, children's programs, etc. There will also be swimming pools, saunas, spas, gym facilities, possibly a lecture or a foreign language class as well as ice carving demonstrations.
BEFORE YOU GO
A passport is recommended and is always a good idea to have. If you do not have one it usually takes less than six weeks to process. I can assist you with information about obtaining a passport or you can call (202) 647-0518, the office of Passport Services for further information. If you do not have a passport and are a US citizen, then you will need the original or a notarized copy of your birth certificate or proof of citizenship (they need to see the raised seal) and a picture ID. For non-US citizens you will need to check the document requirements based on your country of citizenship.
Make two copies of your passport, driver’s license, and credit cards before leaving home. Leave one set of copies with a friend or family member at home and leave the second set in a safe place on your ship. Carry the passport copy ashore with you.
Complete the cruise check-in prior to arriving at the port. Generally, your travel agent will do this for you. This will speed up the boarding process and you can board quicker and begin your cruise experience.
Don’t forget your passport, picture identification and boarding pass. Have it handy upon arriving at the pier for quick boarding process.
Mail overflowing your mailbox is a neon sign to thieves that you aren’t home. You can request an “Authorization to Hold Mail” card from your letter carrier, by visiting your nearest post office, or online at www.usps.com. Mail that accumulated while you were gone can be delivered on a date you designate on the card or you can retrieve it yourself at the post office.
An endlessly ringing phone is a hint that you aren’t home. Before leaving the house, either turn off the telephone ringers or set the phone to answer at two rings. Leaving a radio on can also seem as though someone is at home.
Bring along some single dollar bills for the luggage handlers at the pier. Of course that is if you’re planning to see the luggage again. They are not cruise line employees, but members of the stevedores union.
WHAT TO PACK
Clothes - Depending on the length of the cruise and the destination this can vary somewhat, but typically you would bring clothes that you would normally wear at a resort. On shorter cruises there is usually at least one formal night where you will want to wear something a little dressier. This means a dark suit, a Tuxedo, or dress shirt and dress pants for men and cocktail dresses, gowns or dressy pant suits for women. During the day the ship is casual. The only restriction is no bathing suits in the dining room and no shorts in the dining room at dinner. Remember, the evenings out on the decks you can experience the cool evening ocean breezes, so remember to pack a sweater or light jacket. Many of the ships have laundry facilities and if not, your cabin steward can have clothes laundered or dry-cleaned at a nominal charge.
Carry-ons - When you first board the ship, your cabin may or may not be ready for you, and your luggage probably will not be there until later that afternoon or even later that evening. I suggest packing any medications, toiletries, and essentials that you may need in case your luggage doesn’t arrive, and perhaps a change of clothing. If you’d like to swim, just bring your suit in your carry-on. Dinner the first night is casual because some may not have access to their luggage.
Alarm Clock – Many cruise cabins do not include an alarm clock, so you’ll need your own if you want to know what time it is (though you can typically get a wake-up call through the cabin’s phone system).
Sun Protection – Remember to bring sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and aloe cream (for post-burn relief). Make certain to bring a cap/hat/bandanna to wear to protect your scalp. A hat comes in handy, at the end of the day when returning to your cabin, to toss small items in so not to lose them or waste time looking for them in the morning. Also SPF lip balm or chap stick is a must!
First-Aid Kit – Buying meds onboard can be expensive, and your favorite brands may not be available in port, so it’s always smart to bring a first-aid kit – just in case. Suggested items: band-aids, gauze pads, alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointment, cold pills, cough drops, and Alka Seltzer.
Extra Storage – A “pop-up” mesh clothes hamper packs flat in your suitcase and keeps your closet neat. Also, a collapsible hanging shoe organizer keeps your shoes off the floor. The pocket-type collapsible shoe organizer is great to hang over the bathroom door to put small items to keep at your fingertips (i.e., toiletries, receipts, cameras, etc.)
Carry-on items - Pack anything that can leak in zip-lock plastic storage bags. Pack toiletries, clothing, and other items in clear zip-lock bags for faster security examination of your carry-on at the airport and pier. This method makes it easier to repack if your bag is emptied and searched.
Flashlight - Pack a small flashlight to find your way around in the dark or in an emergency.
Walkie-Talkies - Walkie-Talkies (such as Motorola’s Talkabouts) are a great way to keep everyone connected without cell phone roaming charges. Set the volume down so you don’t disturb your fellow passengers.
Nightlight – A nightlight is handy, especially for passengers in inside cabins.
Post-it Notes - Pack a pad of post-it notes to leave messages for your cabin steward, family, and shipboard friends.
Binoculars - Binoculars are as useful indoors as they are outside. Typically you might think they are only for bringing far off wildlife and sights within view, but take them into the museums, cathedrals, and other buildings to examine the details of artwork, sculptures, and architectural elements. On deck, they may be useful when spotting dolphins or whales.
Cabin I.D. - For a quick way to identify your cabin down the long hallway of cabins, blow up a balloon and tape it to your cabin door.
Duct Tape - That’s right, Duct Tape. This is one of a cruise traveler’s handiest “necessities.” Yes, this is NOT your father’s duct tape and it no longer belongs in the garage. Use it for luggage repair or even security. Baggage handlers won’t tamper with Duct Tape, it’s too much trouble. Wrapped in Duct Tape, your luggage is easy to spot in terminals as well. Use it on your cruise for such things as taping the drapes together, if you are a late sleeper, to keep the sun out; last minute unraveling of a hem; to secure bottle lids; silence rattling drawers, and much more.
Fragrance Beads - A safe alternative to candles or incense, these pack neatly in a sealed container. Once you open the lid, the fragrance wafts through the whole room.
Electronic Aids - Take along a power strip to provide additional outlets. If you are bringing along a laptop or notebook, also bring along an Ethernet cable, as many ships have wired internet access in the cabins. If bringing a laptop, you may be asked to “boot it up” at security—both at the airport and at the pier check-in.
Cell Service - Prior to boarding, check with your cell provider to learn about the roaming charges you’ll be responsible for. Your plan may already include calls and emails throughout the U.S., Caribbean, and even farther.
Onboard Internet - Outsmart onboard internet and limit your use – rates can run from $.35 to $1.00 per minute, so type emails to friends and family on your laptop in advance. When you are ready to send them, log on and simply paste in the completed text. Another option would be to purchase the ship’s internet package prior to sailing.
Always keep prescription medicine and eyeglasses with you in case of lost luggage.
Here you go…
Approximately two weeks after final payment your cruise documentation will be provided to you. If you booked at the last minute, your docs will be at the dock.
If a transfer service has been arranged to take you from the airport to the ship they will meet you in baggage claim, unless otherwise stated. They will shuttle you to the ship. The transfer service will be responsible for getting your luggage to your cabin. You will have received baggage tags from the cruise line in your documents. It is important to have these on your luggage with your cabin number.
If you are arriving at the pier on your own, parking is generally available near the dock, but please check for current costs. From the parking lot, head toward the terminal entrance with your luggage. If you are being dropped off, pull up to designated areas and head toward the terminal entrance with your luggage.
Note: The process of loading and delivering a ship full of luggage can sometime take quite a while. Sometimes the luggage will be delivered piece by piece. Make sure you count the number of pieces before you get on the plane and have clear identification tags on everything, including carry-ons. A lot of suitcases look alike. I recommend tying a bright colored ribbon on each piece to help you locate your luggage in baggage claim.
EMBARKATION (Process of getting on the ship)
Keep in mind that your embarkation day cannot officially begin until the ship is clear of departing guests and their luggage. The debarkation process can be as drawn-out as a divorce. While the previous weeks’ passengers make their way reluctantly down the gangway, the staff and crew are busy readying the ship for the next sailing. By the time the last straggler departs, trucks are already arriving at the dock with provisions and a lot of heavy work is going on behind the scenes. Staterooms and public lounges are thoroughly cleaned and readied and a steady stream of supplies and luggage are brought aboard. There can even be an exchange of crew members, with some leaving and others arriving.
The first people you encounter at the terminal are baggage handlers. They are not cruise line employees and they do expect a tip – a couple dollars per suitcase is sufficient. Be sure your ship’s luggage tags are securely fastened to your suitcases before you hand them over.
Cruise line shore side staff are milling about to point you in the right direction – they are easily recognizable in official looking attire with nametags and, often, a clipboard. At some point, usually before you enter the check-in area, you and your hand luggage will have to pass through a security procedure, somewhat like that at airports. Most cruise ships allow you to bring one bottle per person per cruise of wine or champagne for consumption in your cabin. There is a corkage fee if consumed in the dining room. All other liquor will be confiscated at this time.
CHECK-IN AT THE PORT
Boarding times are scheduled prior to your arrival to the port. If you arrive prior to your designated boarding time, they will turn you away and tell you to return at your designated time. If you arrive after your designated time, they will try to accommodate you as soon as possible. During check-in, you will be asked to produce your citizenship documents and any forms you completed ahead of time, plus a photo I.D., and a credit/debit card or cash (for your onboard charges). You are issued a boarding card that also doubles as your stateroom “key” and shipboard charge card and directed to the gangway.
Avoid midnight lock-outs or losing your card – once aboard, have the gift shop make a hole in your plastic room key-card (where it won’t interfere with the magnetic strip) and wear it on a lanyard around your neck. You won’t have to waste time waiting in line for a new card if you lose it.
The ship's photographer will probably take your picture getting on the ship. There is no obligation to buy any of the photographs taken during the cruise. However, they will be displayed in the photo shop, and generally they are very reasonable and quite good. The evening of the Captain's dinner there will be an opportunity for a formal portrait. Check your daily notice for time and location.
Congratulations! Your cruise has finally begun! Procedures vary somewhat once you are greeted by staff members lined up just inside the ship’s hull; however, you’ll usually have to produce your boarding card for the security officer. Depending on the cruise line, you will be directed to your cabin, or if the cabins are not ready, you’ll be directed to the buffet where lunch is being served on the Lido Deck. Once you are able to locate your cabin, check it out to make sure that everything is in order. You should find life jackets (ready for the muster drill later if they are required) and a copy of the ship’s daily schedule. Take a moment to look over the schedule—you’ll want to know what time the muster drill takes place (a placard on the back of your cabin door will indicate directions to your emergency station), as well as meal hours and the schedule for various activities and entertainment.
Take the daily schedule with you to peruse while you eat. If you have assigned dining, your assigned table is noted on your card. You will be going to this same table for every meal you have in the dining room. This is also the time to make sure you have the correct dining times requested. If there are any problems, see the headwaiter and he will try to accommodate you.
If you want to experience a wonderful spa or beauty treatment while at sea, make sure to book your appointments early since space is limited. I recommend making the appointments when you first get on the ship. Ask the purser's office or staff where to make appointments. All spa and beauty services such as massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and hair styling will be available. Take a look at your cruise itinerary and book your appointments during days at sea. Be aware that spa and beauty appointments book very quickly for formal nights.
Usually the shore excursion desk, where you arrange optional land tours, is near by the purser’s desk. As with any spa or beauty appointments, I recommend that you book your shore excursions as soon as you get on board. You don't want to be disappointed if the tour you want is sold out.
While making your way around the ship, no doubt you’ll notice bar waiters offering trays of colorful and exotic “Bon Voyage” drinks, often in souvenir glasses that you can keep. Beware, they are not complimentary!
For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening you may find other introductory activities such as tours of the spa and fitness center, port and shopping talks, and casino gaming lessons available. Of course, there will be the compulsory muster drill, followed by sail away festivities on the pool deck.
A highlight of embarkation day is that first dinner in the main restaurant where you’ll meet your wait staff and table mates. Order whatever you like from the menu of appetizers, salads, soups, and entrees, but save room for dessert! Other than iced tea, coffee, hot tea, and water, beverages in the dining room are not complimentary.
After dinner the ship comes to life with a Welcome Aboard show in the main theater, casino, shops and lounges open and live bands playing in various lounges and on deck.
Back in your cabin for the night, you’ll find that your steward has straightened things up during your absence, filled the ice bucket, provided fresh linens in the bathroom, turned down your bed, and left the next day’s schedule of activities. If you need anything, just ask your cabin steward.
MANDATORY LIFEBOAT DRILL
Sometime after embarkation everyone on board the ship will be required to attend a mandatory lifeboat drill. You need to do so and listen carefully. You will have life vests in your cabin with instructions and location and directions to your station. When they make the announcement to go to your station you must put on your life vest and go to your designated station. Pay attention to the weather and dress accordingly since your station may be outside on one of the decks. Once at your station, emergency procedures will be explained and your name will be called to make sure you are in attendance. If you have any questions or need directions ask any available staff.
All ships are now cashless. When boarding the ship part of the check-in process was giving the cruise line a credit card or cash up front, for onboard charges. You will be given some form of a charge card that you can use for anything onboard, including shore excursions, gifts in the shops, drinks at the bar, wine at dinner, spa treatments, beauty salon, etc. A 15% gratuity will be automatically added to the beverage service bill. All accounts will be settled at the end of the cruise.
ON WITH THE FUN
This is your cruise and hard-earned vacation. Make sure everything is to your satisfaction. Try to enjoy all of the activities that are offered to you. Some of the most entertaining times are watching some of the other passengers participating in different games like the newlywed and not-so-newlywed game. There is as much to do as you like or just enjoy the cruise and relax. The whole key to taking full advantage of everything the cruise line has put together for you is to really go over the daily agenda that will be delivered to your cabin everyday. All activities including TV schedules, bingo times, casino hours, shop hours, photo studio hours and dining times will be listed. Some of the best live entertainment I have ever seen has been aboard a cruise ship. There will be lounges, discos, libraries and so much more for you to enjoy.
The ship will have a Shore Excursion Desk where you can pre-arrange shore excursions, tours and port activities for each destination stop. Usually the Shore Excursion Desk is close by the Purser's Desk (hotel lobby). If you are not sure about what activities to choose I would suggest going to the Shore Excursion talk. The ship staff will talk about each destination and give details about what is available to you. The talk normally takes place the day or evening prior to reaching the next port (destination/stop). Again, check your daily agenda for times and location of the Shore Excursion Talk.
Before anyone can leave the ship, local immigration officials must give their approval – or clear the passengers to debark. An announcement will be made over the ships P.A. System when the ship has “cleared”.
Be sure to carry your boarding card, as you will need it to depart the ship in port and to board the ship.
IMPORTANT: PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE DEPARTURE TIME OF THE SHIP FROM EACH PORT. MOST SHIPS DO NOT TAKE ROLL OF PASSENGERS COMING AND GOING FROM THE PORTS. WHEN THE SHIP SAYS IT IS LEAVING AT (example) 4:30PM…. IT WILL LEAVE AT 4:30PM. GIVE YOURSELF AT LEAST A HALF HOUR BEFORE IT’S SCHEDULED TO SAIL. I HAVE SEEN PASSENGERS RUNNING TO GET ON THE SHIP AND THE SHIP KEEPS ON SAILING….THE SHIP WILL NOT WAIT FOR PASSENGERS. IF YOU SHOULD MISS THE SHIP'S DEPARTURE IT WILL BE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO GET TO THE NEXT PORT.
FUN DAY AT SEA
All days at sea aren’t identical, but they do have a lot in common. Most ships schedule activities, port talks, lectures, games, and fitness programs on a non-stop basis. This is the time to personalize your cruise experience—you can participate in any or all the activities scheduled or do nothing more strenuous than lift an umbrella drink while reading a book pool side.
You will notice the shops and casino are closed when you board your ship. Local regulations preclude them from opening while in port; however, once at sea, all the ship’s facilities are available during set hours.
The library and card rooms are available for quiet pursuits, as are many of the ship’s lounges. The swimming pool is a popular spot on board during sunny sea days. Towels are provided, but please don’t “save” deck chairs unless you are occupying them! You’ll often hear lively music poolside, or find entertainment being broadcast on a large movie-style screen overhead, and the pool bar is a great spot to meet and greet new acquaintances. Even if you aren’t a sun worshipper, you can enjoy the festivities from a shaded chair.
Breakfast and lunch during sea days are casual and often adhere to open-seating in the dining room (meaning you can go at any time during specified hours). Shorts are acceptable, but no bathing suits, please! If you don’t want to change from swimming pool attire, toss on a cover-up and shoes before heading for the lido buffet. Some ships feature a grill near the pool and sunbathers can grab a quick bite without sacrificing any tanning time.
Sea days, particularly if they are the second and next-to-the last days of the cruise, are usually capped by formal or dress-up evenings. During one of the formal nights, the Captain usually hosts a reception for all passengers. Upon arrival, you are greeted by the ship’s Captain (another photo opportunity). Complimentary beverages and hors d’oeuvres are often served and the Captain takes the stage to introduce his officers and staff.
THE LAST NIGHT
The last night of the cruise is full of business. Sometime during the day your cabin steward delivers special luggage tags to your stateroom, along with Customs forms and instructions. You will be asked to pack everything and put your luggage (with special luggage tags attached) outside of your cabin door before you go to sleep. Remove all the old tags from your suitcases, except for personal identification. Then attach the new debarkation tags (they are color- or number-coded according to post-cruise flight schedules). You will be instructed to leave the ship by the color or number on the tag. Do not forget….keep your medications, passport, airline tickets, and a set of clothing to wear the morning you leave the ship in your hand luggage.
STATEMENT OF CHARGES
A statement itemizing your on-board charges are delivered before you arise on debarkation morning. Plan to get up early enough to check it over for accuracy, finish packing your personal belongings, and vacate your stateroom by the appointed hour. Any discrepancies in your on-board account should be taken care of before leaving the ship, usually at the Reception Desk. You can avoid the check-out bottleneck by asking for a printout of your bill early, the day before disembarking.
Tipping is no longer provided by you at the end of the cruise with cash. In fact, cruises are now cashless with no money transferring between staff and passenger. You may pre-pay your gratuities for the entire trip when you make your cruise booking. If you do not pre-pay them, they will be automatically added to your onboard account and it will be up to you to request they be taken off. You can do this by visiting the purser’s desk as soon as you board the ship.
DISEMBARKATION (Getting off the ship)
Debarkation procedures can sometimes be drawn out by passengers who are unprepared. This is no time to abandon your patience or sense of humor. Room service is not available on most ships on this day; however, breakfast is served in the main restaurant as well as the buffet. After breakfast there isn’t much to do but wait comfortably in a lounge or on deck for your tag color or number to be called. You will be asked to go to breakfast and not return to your cabin (they need to get ready for the next passengers) by 9:00 a.m. I suggest having a leisurely breakfast and if
more time is needed to take a book or deck of cards to a nice lounge area and wait till they clear you. Your luggage will have been delivered to the dock and will be colored coded according to the color of your ship baggage tags.
Once in the terminal, luggage is sorted by color or number. Locate yours and, if desired, flag down a porter for assistance. Hint: Porters can often speed you through the process and deserve a nice tip. Then, either proceed to your bus, taxi, or retrieve your vehicle from the parking lot.
Your cruise is complete and you are officially a “veteran” sailor!
Hint: One way to lessen the pain of leaving your ship is to book another cruise while you are on board and mention your travel agent.
A FEW HELPFUL NAUTICAL TERMS:
BOW The front of the ship.
AFT The rear of the ship.
PORT The left side of the ship when facing toward the bow.
STARBOARD The right side of the ship when facing toward the bow.
BERTH Can mean either the dock, pier or beds within a cabin.
TENDER A small vessel sometimes used to move passengers to port when ship is anchored.
GANGWAY The open ramp by which passengers embark and disembark.
EMBARK The process of getting on the ship.
DISEMBARK The process of getting off the ship.
FROM THE TRAVEL TIPSTER: An easy way to remember whether Aft and Port are right or left. PORT and LEFT both have 4 letters.