If you are new to the idea of cruising, you might wonder just what being on a ship for 7 nights is like. Although this article is about a Disney Pacific Coast cruise, the basics of cruising are , for the most part, similar.

In general you will be assigned some sort of boarding order. You will hand off your suitcase and will want to keep with you a carry on. Repeat cruisers on a cruise line belong to that cruise line’s club, or loyalty program, and will more than likely have their own check in area, as will cruisers who have suites or concierge services.
Your documents will be checked (send off for that passport early!) and you will be corralled into an area before boarding. At your assigned time, or when your group is called, you will board. You’ll go through security, as is the case each time you board from ports. You will constantly be given sanitizing wipes to keep germs at bay. Upsells begin immediately with picture taking hoping to entice you into purchasing photo packages. Then you’ll be directed to someplace to eat and will be told if your stateroom is ready or when you can expect it to be. This is where your carry on bag comes in handy. Besides having all your important documents in the carry on, it is common to have a swimsuit ready to change into, or you can streamline this and just wear your suit under your regular clothes to board. If you’re sailing on a line that allows you to bring your own alcohol, you will need to keep it in your carry on bag as well.

Soon you are in your room and unpacking. Before sailing away you will be directed to a mandatory life boat drill. This is where the ‘go here do this’ part ends and you are off!

Your cruise will most likely have a mix of sea days and port days. On this Pacific Coast cruise we departed on a Sunday at 5:00 pm, had a sea day on Monday, spent 2 full days ported in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday, had a sea day on Thursday, ported in San Diego on Friday and Ensenada, Mexico on Saturday, then returned to our originating port of Los Angeles on Sunday to disembark after breakfast. If you are bored on a sea day, you planned it that way. Extra activities are scheduled on sea days such as special presentations, cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts, Mixology and Tequila tasting, trivia, family competitions and activity classes. All days will also offer live shows, movies and Bingo as well as much more. Or course, if activity is not what you want, you can have a cold one by the pool, enjoy a spa treatment or have a specialty coffee drink while checking your email. Lounging on a verandah reading a book you never had time to read, with a backdrop of the seas is one of my favorite ways to pass a day.

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay is popular for cruise tourists

Then there are the port days. You can stay on board and enjoy uncrowded conditions, or head off the ship to see the sights.  It was great to be docked in San Francisco for two full days and use our ship as a hotel. We did the touristy things like touring Alcatraz and having a sundae at Ghiradelli Square and walking along Pier 39, right by where we docked.


Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

We also did Disney-phile activities of visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum and a rare treat of visiting the Lasseter Family Winery.  Many other quality excursions were offered to places like Muir Woods, City Tours and Sausilito. In my opinion there is no better way to visit San Francisco. Our next stop, in San Diego had us taking a short taxi ride to Sea World. The port is located very close to the World War II ship the Midway, which many enjoyed touring, as well as Seaport Village which is loaded with delightful   restaurants and shops snuggled up to a bay, perfect for a sunny day ashore.


Lasseter Winery in Central California

Our final stop was in Ensenada, Mexico which offered choices of tours, beaches and shopping.

Read this next: Destination Cruising Primer: What to expect on your first cruise

The last night on board, luggage is put outside your door and your trusty carry one will now hold everything you need for the next morning. Don’t forget to have your disembarking clothes pulled out before you say farewell to your suitcase. If you have an early flight out, you might choose to carry off your luggage to save some time.
Relaxing, or jam packed, a 7 night cruise, to anywhere you wish, holds a great time for all.

All images in this article are copyright to Nancy Julian.


Nancy Julian is a travel writing, trip planning expert. She has had a life-long love affair with travel, starting with childhood road trips and extending through service in the Air Force, a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, professional work in that field, and finally to the creation of her own company, Magic Feather Memories. You can read more at Nancy's blog, http://magicfeathermemories.blogspot.com, and also drop by Mouse Tales travel at http://.mousetalestravel.com/.