The atmosphere onboard a cruise ship is almost always easy and breezy, but getting to the departure port can be the only blip in an otherwise stress-free holiday. Travel rules around the globe are constantly changing due to various safety concerns and political machinations, so it’s a good idea to stay updated - especially if you are one of those cruise connoisseurs not lucky enough to live in Sydney or one of Australia’s other cruise hubs.
Whether you are flying domestic or venturing further afield to another cruising ground such as the Caribbean or Mediterranean, it’s important to prepare not only for the cruise but for the travel required to get to the wharf. Here are a few new developments in the travelsphere - and if you keep these in mind, you will have nothing to worry about when it comes to your next cruise adventure.
Cuba travel ban
You may have heard of the recent restrictions that Donald Trump has placed upon Americans’ travel to Cuba, reversing the effort by the previous administration to establish friendlier relations with the country which allowed some cruise lines to operate there. Travel between the US and Cuba will be reduced to strictly enforced exemptions from the ban, making it difficult to get there for many people.
Recently, several lines had begun cruising to Cuba: Holland America, with departures from Havana itself, and Fathom which is a Carnival Corp line, departing from Florida with a mission of “social impact travel.” What’s more, Carnival Cruise Line had announced an intention to begin regular cruises to Cuba from June 2017, departing Tampa. The line was granted permission for these in compliance with the travel restrictions.
Carnival Corporation made a statement last week that the changes to the Cuba policy by the current president will allow them to continue to travel to Cuba - that includes Fathom, Holland America and Carnival ships. This is great news for the cruise community, as the colourful and vibrant Caribbean country is a new and exciting place to explore.
If you are booked on or considering a cruise to Cuba, you can breathe a sigh of relief as all voyages should go ahead for the foreseeable future. However, cruisers should be aware of the situation, particularly if American or travelling from an American port, and take into account any restrictions. For example, US citizens may not spend in any way which profits the Cuban military, and they do control many travel and tourism outlets.
Laptop and tablet ban
In March this year, both the UK and US banned passengers inbound from various Middle Eastern countries - Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia for the UK, and Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey for the US - from bringing laptops or tablets as part of their carry-on luggage. These look to be just the beginning of further restrictions - the US in particular toying with the possibility of extending the ban to all of Europe and other regions.
Of course, if you are travelling to the US or UK for a cruise adventure, this could affect you. Many flights from Australia pass through the UAE in particular - and any rumored extensions increase the likelihood that your flight will be included in the ban on those electronic devices. It is a safety measure, and in response to the always-present fear of terrorism. While many find such rules to be a major annoyance, others appreciate the extra safeguards and are happy to give up their devices for a short time. The ban does not include small electronics such as cellphones.
What does this mean for jetsetting cruisers? Simply that you must pack any tablets or laptop computers into checked luggage rather than taking them in the cabin. To avoid breakages or tampering, it is recommended that laptops and tablets in luggage are switched off, have passwords set, and preferably are stored in a padded or otherwise protective case or bag that can be locked. If you don’t need a laptop or tablet and can get along with just your phone for internet access, we’d suggest you leave them behind - a cruise is, after all, a time to disconnect and unwind, and the fewer things you have to keep track of, the better!
General travel rules: a recap
If you have flown in the last decade, you will likely be au fait with the rules for flying and long-haul travel, however if you are heading out for your first cruise from a faraway port you may need to do a little preparation and brush up on what’s needed. Here are a few important things to remember when getting ready to escape - besides, of course, everything you need for the perfect cruise.
- Liquids and gels are heavily restricted when it comes to carry-on luggage. For the majority of airlines and airports, you can have them in containers holding up to 100ml each, and only enough of these to fit in a quart-sized clear plastic (i.e ziploc) bag.
- Passengers must also omit anything that could be considered a weapon from carry on luggage, so check for stray nail scissors and pocket knives before you head to the airport.
- When in the airport, or in fact in a train station, terminal or any kind of public area, do not leave any baggage unattended. It may be treated as a possible bomb. It will also risk being stolen!
- Keep your passport and travel documents close. There is no leeway at passport control for misplaced passports, and losing important documents can cause major travel disasters. It’s a good idea to have copies too, which won’t solve all the problems but can help to alleviate them.
- Travel insurance is not a requirement but always a very good thing to have.
Of course, it’s not just flying to which travel rules apply. Keep in mind that if you are visiting foreign ports, you are travelling internationally and will need to make sure your documents are in order - including visas if they are necessary. The liquids and gels rules are not in place for those boarding a ship, but each cruise line will have rules around whether you can/cannot take alcohol, drinks and food onboard. Read up on the allowances for your line before you depart.
Have you had any mishaps or interesting moments during your travels to exotic cruise ports? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!