Contributed by Andrea Scahill, STI Operations Coordinator & Part Time Concierge
I just returned from my first Singles Travel International cruise! I’m the gal who organizes all of the details for STI vacations, so I sit at my desk on the back end of STI, and never experience the fun… until now! I met so many amazing people, had a blast and learned a lot about cruising which will help me make your trips with STI even better. Experienced STI cruisers gave me tips, I now have a few pages full of notes and I’m so excited to bring some extra spice back to the office. For all of you 1st time cruises, I’d like to share 6 tips that I learned during our 4th of July Party Cruise. If you’re an experienced STI cruiser, the following stories may ring a few bells and memories.
1. Meeting new people is nerve racking… being silly makes is easy!
One of my favorite things about STI is that there are themes nights on every cruise. It’s such a great way to let your hair down with new friends. Since we were on the 4th of July Party Cruise, we had a patriotic themed Welcome Party on the first night. I bought a long jet blue wing from Party City, wore one of my favorite red dresses and topped it off with lacey white gloves. Meeting new people is always a little nerve racking. When everyone’s wearing something silly and fun, it’s so much easier to break the ice. You joke about the costumes, take pictures and laugh over cocktails. The cruise was having a disco dance party in the center of the ship after our Welcome Party. A group of us ran over and dove in head first! That blue wig gave me a whole new level of confidence. I was movin’ and groovin’… shakin’ and bakin’ … and having an absolute blast! If you are a new STI cruiser, I HIGHLY recommend packing for themed parties. STI will send out documents as you near your trip with a list of themes. Read about the fun. Then, wear the fun!
2. If your tummy’s feeling green, take the NON-DROWSY Dramamine.
I started feeling a little queasy on our second night. (I just have a weak stomach. All moving transportation, some amusement park rides and tire swings don’t see eye-to-eye with my belly.) Every sailing has a formal Captain’s Night. We all dressed up and were served free drinks in a beautiful theater. The ship’s captain greeted everyone as they walked in, and the crew introduced themselves on stage. As I was talking to a few other first timer cruisers, our first thought was, “Who’s steering the ship?!” Don’t worry about this during your formal night because there are other officers on duty who make sure everyone is safety sailing. There is no “auto-pilot” button on ships. Then, about 20 minutes through the presentation and complimentary cocktails, I starting feeling a little green (I only had 1 drink, so it wasn’t the booze). I headed for my cabin, took 2 Dramamine and met our STI group at dinner. WOW-I felt like someone slipped a ruffie in my water! My head slumped during dinner, and I passed out in my cabin missing the late night pool party buffet. If you have a weak stomach like I do… pack the NON-DROWSY Dramamine.
3. Penny pinching while on vacation may cost you.
Since I was on a budget, I decided not to book any of the Shore-Trips. June, our Concierge even recommended a few excursions I would enjoy. I was stubborn, and figured I’d stroll off the ship in Nassau and walk along the beach. You actually cannot get to the beach in Nassau without booking an adventure, so I ended up just walking around the city and never dipping my toes in the water. This killed me because the water is an unbelievably crystal clear blue in the Bahamas. (This was completely my fault. I even write the documents listing all of the STI excursions!) Luckily, our Concierge Team organized a meet-up at Senior Frogs, and I was able to have fun with everyone before boarding the ship. Friends on the ship were raving about their Shore-Trips. They swam with dolphins, snorkeled and explored the island on a guided tour. My advice to all your first-timers: Book your Shore-Trips before you leave. You’re on vacation and should make the most of every moment. STI gives you many opportunities and advice along the way so that you have a stress-free and memorable experience.
4. If you like it, swipe it!
I’ve heard of cashless cruising, and this was my first time experiencing it. I entered my credit card information while checking in online before my trip. Then, when I arrived at the port in Miami, Royal Caribbean gave me a Sign & Sail Card. It did not have my cabin number which is great because I’m very clumsy. I felt reassured that no one could enter my cabin if I dropped my card while dancing at one of the clubs in the evening. All of my meals on the ship were included, but of course I wanted to buy a few drinks for new STI friends. When we arrived in Coco Cay, we were greeted with ice cold adult beverages. I couldn’t believe I forgot my cash! The island man said, “No worries!” and swiped my Sign & Sail Card. Thumbs up for cashless cruising!
5. Don’t lose sleep from things that go bump in the night.
I’ll never forget when I woke up at 6 a.m., sat up straight in my bed with eyes wide open and thought we were sinking. I heard noises from the ship during my first sleep in a cabin. It was just the ship’s anchor… PHEW! When I told friends during our next get-together, we all shared a few laughs. Don’t let the sound give you a heart attack during your first cruise. The ship is just “parking” so you may have an adventure at your first exotic destination.
6. Don’t be shy… Order exactly what you want!
Have you never been to a really nice restaurant and thought, “Wow, it all sounds amazing!” Then when the waiter asks for your order you really wish you could say, “I’ll try one of everything, please!” Well, that was every night during our group dinners. I figured I would try a different dish each night. However, I learned that the chef creates a new menu every evening. Shoot! Now what do I do? The STI friends who were experienced cruisers at my table were great with giving me advice. They told me you could actually order anything you wanted-literally anything! If you want 4 appetizers, 3 main courses, 2 desserts and something that’s not even on the menu… the waiter just waves his magic pen, jots is all down and PRESTO! The best part is that your huge delicious meal is all included, so keep that cashless cruising card in your purse or pocket.
There you go. You just read my 6 Tips for 1st Time STI Cruisers. I hope this advice will be helpful on your first adventure cruise with STI. If you are an experienced cruiser, maybe you had a few chuckles. As I was posting pictures on Facebook, 2 words kept popping in my head. FUN and FRIENDS. The most important thing I have taken away from my first trip is that having fun and meeting new friends are what STI is all about. Well, I guess I can’t say I “learned” that because I knew this just by looking at the website when I decided to apply. I have “experienced” the FUN and FRIENDS on an STI cruise, and it makes me feel like I am part of something special. I want to thank everyone on the 4th of July Party Cruise for hanging out with me, sharing their experiences with STI and giving me even more enthusiasm while I plan your adventures. I’m so excited to meet more of the STI family on future trips. My next trip is the Epcot® Food & Wine Festival. I hope I see many of you in Orlando, FL!