Some tips for the first time cruisers

  1. How to book – Search and book via a travel agent like Expedia.com or cruisecompete.com. If you have to ask something then these travel agents usually provide way better customer service than the ones employed by the cruise company.
  2. Deck – The cruise floors are called decks. Larger the number, higher the deck. Most outdoor activities (including pool, spa, nightclubs) are usually located happen on the higher decks. The lower decks are usually about indoor activities and restaurants.
  3. Bidding – If your cruise line permits, always bid for a better room within your budget.
  4. Formal Dress – Carry at least one formal dress, it can turn out to be useful for some formal events on the cruise.
  5. Diet – Popular dietary restrictions like vegetarian or vegan are not hard for them to meet most of the time. But if you have a more special requirement (like halal diet or kosher), let the cruise ship know in advance.
  6. Meals – Usually all cruise ships have a buffet restaurant and multiple dine-in restaurants. Former is quick and contains prepared food. Latter is fancier but takes its own sweet time. The buffet restaurant is usually on the higher deck and is included as a part of the cruise. Some Dine-in restaurants (high brow term: “Speciality restaurants”) are complementary, some are not. An advance reservation is good to have (but not required) for the latter.
  7. Beverages – While the standard food is free on the ship. Standard addictions like Soda (soft-drinks), carbonated water, and alcohol (hard-drinks) are not free. If you really need them, buy them in advance, buy them onboard (expensive), buy and consume them whenever ship stops at a new destination or look for a promotional package which includes them for free.
  8. Water – Carry a few empty water bottles to refill or even better a hydration pack. A hydration pack is really useful for the day trips at the intermediate stops (fancily called, “port of call”).
  9. Shore Excursions – Shore Excursions at the port of call can be booked via cruise ship or on your own. The cruise ship ones are expensive but are a safer bet. If you are adventurous then book them on your own. If you are not, just go with the cruise bookings.
  10. Guest service – If you need something from the guest service, catch them early in the morning or late at night. Every other time, I have seen a queue. I wonder if they give out some raffle tickets but I digress.

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Two days at Zion National Park

Day 1

We did Zion Narrows on the first day. The hike consists of walking in the flowing water, which is ankle to knee-deep. Therefore, getting wetsuits and water shoes is highly recommended. The views are marvelous, and since one has to return along the same route, one can decide how far one wants to go. Total hike length is 9.4 miles, starting at the visitor center.

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Rim-2-Rimember: Day hiking through Grand Canyon

I did the 23.4 miles rim to rim day hike through Grand Canyon during the last week of November (Thanksgiving weekend) 2017. Unlike most hikes like Mt. Whitney, the hard part (ascent) comes later, and therefore, it is easy to get trapped. Be confident of your fitness level before you try this.

A view from the north rim

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4 days in Mexico City and Valle De Bravo

Day 1

We started our journey with Templo Mayor, a 700-year-old Aztec temple, and took a guided tour of it. The ticket to the temple costs MXN 70 per person, and the guided tour in English was for MXN 300. It takes about 3-4 hours to explore the archeological remains and the museum. I would recommend this museum over other archeological museums in the Mexico city since this one had descriptions written in English.

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Big Island (Hawaii) in 5 days

The Island of Hawai’i, popularly known as the Big Island, is the biggest island in Hawai’i. Unlike other islands, this one is too big for driving around with mopeds. The island has two cities at the two corners, Kona and Hilo. If you are a coffee lover then you would note that Kona indeed is the source of Kona coffee.

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Detroit in 2 days

Detroit used to symbolize the prowess of American manufacturing. Foreign delegates would drive or fly to Detroit to see this iconic city. San Francisco Bay area (Silicon Valley) was once called the Detroit of the west, and at that time, it meant admiration. The city has a tumultuous racial history. It’s the only city in the US to be taken over by the Federal army thrice to control riots. Before my visit, I had read the book “Detroit: An American Autopsy“, it’s a bit long but gives a thorough understanding of this once iconic city.

The city neighborhood looks in the state of somewhat despair, even though the suburbs like Dearborn, where Henry Ford was born, are in much better shape. The motor city is spread out, so don’t leave the airport without renting a car. Another thing that stands out is the sheer number of Arabs and the Arabic language as the second or the third language on the signboards.

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Death Valley in 3 days

We made this trip over three days in December; even then, Death Valley National Park was warm during the day and cold at night. Therefore, I would warn against going there in summer, where it could be unbearably hot.

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Oahu (Hawaii) in 5 days

The island of Oahu, which contains the capital city of Honolulu, is a fantastic combination of urban amenities, nature hikes, and beautiful beaches. If you are doing only one island out of the four major islands Of Hawai’i, then this is the one I would recommend. I did it during Thanksgiving, which is the last week of November. While this island is not as big as the “big island”, public infrastructure outside of the city of Honolulu is not good. Therefore, I would recommend taking a moped rental(30-40$ a day) for a solo trip. Roads are narrow, and the moped turns out to be a better choice than a car, both for driving and parking. The only time a moped gave me trouble was when it rained. Outside of the city of Honolulu, there is nothing much to do after the sunset. So, plan your trip accordingly. Do check out local food items, like Shave Ice cream and Banana bread from local markets. But don’t carry any of it for the return journey.

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Belize in 4 days

The country is roughly divided into inland and cayes. Inland has historic Mayan sites. Cayes (pronounced “keys”) have water sports.

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A day at Point Roberts

Point Roberts is a weird place. 5 sq. Miles (12 sq. km) U.S. exclave connected to British Columbia, Canada. As a part of the Treaty of Oregon, 1846, the territory jointly controlled by the British and the U.S. was handed over to the U.S. It later became the Washington state. The area should have been part of British Columbia, but the dividing line was chosen incorrectly due to a geographical mistake.

Point Roberts

Point Roberts

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