Two of the big selling points about big ship cruising, alongside only needing to unpack your suitcase once, is the ability to do as much or as little as you like. While there are some who will find their favourite poolside lounge chair and barely move from it for the entire voyage, there are also many who enjoy getting involved in as many social activities as possible. But in order to know what is on, where and when, each ship produces a daily program which is distributed to each stateroom each evening. Each includes basic information about which port your ship is in the next day, if any, the weather forecast, and so much more.
The daily program delivery is also taken by the cruise lines as an opportunity to disseminate any specific communications relevant to a passenger’s voyage via the stateroom attendant in his or her daily or twice-daily cleaning and cabin servicing. Along with the daily guide, passenger’s returning from dinner may also find a chocolate on their pillow or even an animal made out of towels – one of the cute perks synonymous with cruising.
This article will take a look at five such guides and why you should always keep one in your pocket. If you lose your delivered copy or get it wet, more are usually available from the Reception desk. Click through and check them all out. Which is your favourite?
1. Royal Caribbean – Cruise Compass
“Play like you’re 12 all over again” says our guide, delivered at the end of the first night onboard after sailing away. This sort of motivation hammers home the fact that you’re now at sea and the promise of several days of fun are right ahead. Usually a bi-fold program printed on all sides, Cruise Compass adopts a fairly universal layout across the entire Royal Caribbean fleet to ensure familiarity.
These might include a special performance in the theatre, the Studio B Ice Rink or even in the Royal Promenade. A section entitled ‘Important Things to Know Today’ lists information such as financial advisories including how final accounts are settled, satellite internet connectivity and how the ship discharges waste and rubbish accumulated onboard.
Operating hours of the various bars, clubs, lounges and facilities around the ship are usually also listed. Sometimes, an additional insert will mention special offers on drinks on sale for the day only or a heads-up about an art auction you shouldn’t miss.
2. Princess Cruises – Princess Patter
Waiting in staterooms right from embarkation day is the Princess Patter, which starts by introducing the ship and its history, through the high-level members of the crew including the Captain, Staff Captain, Chief Engineer, Food & Beverage Manager, Executive Chef and many more. A short profile of a ‘Host of the Month’ also features on the front page. Embarkation specials feature right from the start, including opening day an internet promotion and a loyalty incentive for multiple visits to the spa.
Like every day onboard, a full schedule of activities is set out, most of which carrying some sort of ‘Welcome Aboard’ theme to signify the start of the voyage. Also, a number of opportunities to meet members of the crew one may interact with, such as personal trainers, are available from the start.
3. Carnival Cruise Line – Fun Times
Perhaps due to the vast array of activities available on a Carnival ship, the daily ‘Fun Times’ guide appears to be a lot more packed than its contemporaries, with very short descriptions of each event owing to the sheer amount that must be included each day. A daily ‘Top Ten’ offers a selection of highlights selected by the crew, recommended for guests to check out. If you also plan on doing so, it is important to be there early to ensure you get a seat, as they are highly likely to be popular. This guide also lists the activities available just for kids in the Kids Club.
A full rundown of the operating hours for each dining venue can also be found on the back fold, along with dress codes for the main dining rooms. A number of drink offers can also be found, which often change on a daily basis.
4. Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Today
Featuring a bright white front page along with colourful photos, the Celebrity Today program leads on its front page with how many nautical miles the ship will travel to reach the next port. On Day 1, a section entitled ‘Must See Must Do’ encourages guests to get to the Shore Excursions desk to book their shore tours if they haven’t done so already. Managers are often on hand to provide assistance and suggestions. Tours can also be ordered through stateroom televisions.
Daily ‘Top Tips’ offer opportunities to meet restaurant staff to learn more about menus and even sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen and even the Bridge. A daily ‘Featured Venue’ provides some information on part of the ship where something special may be taking place the next day, while ‘The Daily Pour’ teases about some drinks well worth trying.
5. P&O Cruises – Pacific Daily
Unlike all of the other guides featured in this roundup, the ‘Pacific Daily’ guide on P&O Cruises offers basic dress code and sunrise/sunset information on its front page, accompanied by a centre photo and a few highlights for the day. The second page is a full, one-line per event summary of everything happening on the ship that day, listed only by its start time. ‘Cruiselings’ are then given a more detailed rundown on the final pages, including a section of ‘Crowd Pleasers’ which by their very title are tipped to be popular.
The final page is where special attention should be given, with a variety of ‘Deals of the Day’ highlighting promotional pricing on amenities including the spa, P&OEdge activity park, professional photos, duty free, onboard internet and official merchandise.