Here's what to take care of during the days just before your schedule departure. Part 2 in a guide to planning your cruise vacation


In our first installment on pre-cruise planning, we discussed all
the preparations you ought to take care of from the time you book until
about two weeks before departure -- getting your passport and air
tickets in order, pre-booking shore excursions and spa appointments,
arranging for child and pet care, and so on. Now that you've done all
that, here's a continuation of our to-do list -- this time covering all
those details that need to be looked after in the days just before you

One Week Out

Communication Plans:
At least a week before departure, tell your friends and relatives how to get in touch with you. Your cruise document package likely includes information about how to reach you on the ship by phone or fax.

Just remember to tell your loved ones that if they call you, it can
be expensive. You might end up with phone charges of up to $11.95 per
minute on both ends, a rude awakening for people who like to chat.

So designate one person as the prime point of contact. That person
should know your ship, room number, booking number, ship phone, ship
fax number and the best times to reach you (take time zone changes into
account). Tell the rest of your friends and family to use this person
as the point of contact in any emergency.

For non-emergencies, use e-mail. Internet cafes are readily
available on today's ships. You can use your own email address, or the
lines will assign you a free email if you don't have one. You'll still
pay for usage charges. Often the Internet is a better and less
expensive communications tool than a telephone.

That said, many ships have recently added cell phone service at sea. Ask your travel agent or cruise line.
Roaming charges apply, but it can be less pricey than calling from your
room. In port, many cell phones will work just fine; call your carrier
a week before departure to see if your phone is international in nature
and whether you can send and receive calls from specific ports.

Keys and Other Tasks:
Don't forget to give a key to your
home or business to a trusted neighbor or friend. Ask them to put it in
a locked or secure place - not just in open sight where anyone who
enters their home might have access to it.

Arrange for that person to stop by your home to check on things,
water your plants, or see that all is well with your pets (if they're
being cared for by a pet-sitting service). If this is an ?off-site?
friend, not a neighbor, tell your neighbors whom to call in case they
need to talk to someone about an issue with your property or home.

Also, make arrangements with your security alarm company to
designate a temporary ?call person? in case your alarm goes off.
Someone should also know the code to shut off the alarm in your
absence. (Just remember to change the code when you return).

Finalize Your Suitcase:
Now it's time to finalize your packing. You've been looking at your suitcase
for several weeks, so again re-consider all clothing and shoes. Pare
the piles down. Match colors and accessories. Eliminate one-time use
items. Take things away one at a time. Visualize yourself hauling the
bag through terminals (in case no skycap or porter is available) and in
and out of any parking garage. That may give you an incentive to pack

Do not pack cruise documents, airline tickets,
film, cameras, jewelry, medication or valuables in checked luggage.
(Ever try to get a bag back from an airline after it's checked? The
same problems occur with cruise lines.) If you accidentally check the
bag and then remember your camera or medication is in it, you likely
won't see it for several hours after embarkation. Worse yet, the luggage could be lost.

Stock Up on Video, Film or Digital Media:
Buy tape, film
or digital cards for your camera or other electronic equipment before
you leave. Photographic supplies are widely available at cruise
destinations, but they can be exorbitantly expensive. Last fall on a
port call to Charleston, S.C., I bought a new digital card in the
downtown tourist area because I couldn't offload my digital images to a
computer. It cost $89.99. The same card sold for $39 at stores in my
area, but I neglected to buy it before I went.

Also in warm weather destinations, some vendors might not take
proper care with film they sell. Often it's displayed in a sunny spot,
causing damage to the film. Buy what you think you need and then add 50
percent more.

Pack all film, videotape, batteries and digital cards in your carry
on. Never put these in checked bags as security screening machinery may
damage them. If you have high-speed film (800 ASA or more) or if you
are going to pass the film through multiple X-ray machines, ask for a
hand inspection at the security checkpoint. To assist in this regard,
take film out of boxes and canisters. Put in a see-through plastic bag
to make any hand inspection easy.

Take plenty of batteries for your camera or video equipment as well. And don't forget to pack the battery charger!

The Day before Departure

Finalize Your Luggage:
Attach cruise line luggage tags to
your bags. Have proper identification inside and out,and include a copy
of your itinerary inside all bags.

The night before departure, close up your suitcases and finalize
your carry-on bag. Place passports, cruise documents, air tickets or
e-ticket confirmations, medication, camera and film supplies, and any
other important information like medical records in your carry-on.

Take Enough Cash:
Always take cash (especially small
bills for tips to porters, skycaps, motorcoach drivers and tour
guides). Never rely solely on travelers' checks or credit cards.

Many places won't take travelers' checks, and if you arrive on a
weekend or a bank holiday in your port of call, you may have no options
for cashing them. Banks often won't cash travelers' checks without a
passport, and some cruise lines hold your passport until the end of the
cruise, complicating things. Besides, you might not have time while on
a tour to go to a bank and cash travelers' checks.

Cruise lines won't cash personal checks in most cases. ATMs are not
yet on all ships, and at times, they're out of cash. Yes, ATMs at ports
of call are usually easy to find. But if you've booked a tour that
picks you up at the pier, you might not have access to one.

So take enough cash. I recently took a Peter Deilmann cruise through
an off-the-beaten path region of Germany. Stores in many ports did not
accept credit cards. One wealthy guest on my cruise had lots of money
but no cash; his wife was upset they couldn't charge local art or
jewelry purchases. I had several hundred dollars in cash but by the
last day I was down to my last 30 euros, barely enough for the tip to
the private limo driver en route to the airport.

Get Your House in Order: Run your dishwasher. Set your automatic
thermostat to the most advantageous, energy-saving temperature. Set
indoor light timers. Water your plants. Make sure pets - even if a pet
sitter is coming in daily - have plenty of water or food. Do any last
minute laundry. Pay any last-minute bills or mail payments. Dispose of
refrigerator food that might spoil while you're gone.

Reconfirm Arrangements: Reconfirm any limo arrangements, pet care or
child care services or assistance you've secured from friends and
neighbors. It never hurts to remind people what you previously
discussed. Reconfirm airline flight times (schedules do change).

Day of Departure

House Tasks:
Pull shades or drapes so no one can look in
your home and see that no one is home. Turn off the water if it's
winter and there is any danger of frozen pipes. Put keys in your
carry-on luggage. Be sure doors and windows are locked. Set your
security alarm.

Check and Check Again:
Be a stickler for perfection. It
can save a lot of heartbreak later. Just before you enter your car or
limo, put down the carry-on bag and check yet again whether you have
tickets, cruise docs, photo ID, passports and credit cards. It's too
easy to checking these items the night before, only to leave them on a
counter or coffee table.

Time it Right:
Leave enough time to arrive at the airport at least three hours prior to departure for international flights,
at least two hours for domestic flights. Add in time for any potential
traffic jams. Add in more time to compensate for lines at the airline's
check-in facilities or at security checkpoints.

Then sit back, relax and enjoy your cruise!