From the Back Nine: Cruise blues

I’m a sucker for the swell and roll of the ocean … at least from the relative safety of a cruise ship. I’ve just returned from such a boat ride and things aboard are changing.

Here are a few hints for novice or experienced cruisers:

• If a cruise company or travel agency did all your planning in the past, you need to be vigilant now. As a possible result of understaffing everywhere, I met many passengers who suffered the consequences of computer/paper/human errors. Check everything carefully before you go. And review your bill as you go to catch errors early.

• Cruise crew are no longer mere gofers. They may well be better educated, more traveled, and know more languages than you. Treating them like so many galley slaves is way out of fashion. You could be keel hauled.

• Cruise companies are changing to digital communications. If you prefer paper, that’s too bad … it is becoming archaic. Get to understand in advance the digital protocol of whatever cruise line you use.

• About excursions: you used to be fine booking them on board. I now recommend booking them in advance. People on this cruise were not getting to places they hoped to see due to a shortage of inventory. If you don’t care a lot where you tour, you’ll be fine. But if you really, really want to see a certain waterfall or garden, don’t wait.

• Apparently, many new ships have no self-serve laundry. If you are used to doing your own, you better check with your cruise company in advance about your particular ship. You can use the ship’s own laundry service, of course, but that is pretty spendy.

• You will notice many little niceties now missing as cruise companies tighten their belts. Don’t count on binoculars in your cabin, free lobster dinners, fresh flowers, kitchen tours, chef’s parades, or mints on your pillow (this last item may be viewed as a good thing if you collapse in a drunken stupor nightly and embed those mints into your cheek).

• Bigger ships mean a lot of walking just to get end to end. Many passengers rent mobility equipment which is new to them. Beware people with rental scooters … they may be out of control when trying to do complex maneuvers like reverse. We saw two shipboard accidents involving scooters and the ankles of others.

• Cruise ships are moving from formal nights to dressy nights. If you don’t want to pack evening gowns, then fancy tops and pants are fine. And I saw no men in tuxes other than the maître d. I guess you get to define dressy for yourselves.

• There’s no nice way to say this, but many people aren’t nice. I observed a battle over couch pillows, for heaven’s sake. As well as a table war between a mahjong team and a bridge foursome. The need to chill is the reason you took a cruise in the first place; try not to get sucked into petty feuds. And have a wonderful time.

Linda B. Myers is the author of 10 novels, including “Starting Over Far Away,” released this fall, available at Port Book and News, Pacific Mist, and Amazon. You can reach her at