The Art of the Ship Inspection
’Tis the season for travel conferences, and many of them will include opportunities for multiple ship inspections. When you can conceivably inspect four ships in a single weekend, how do you keep the information separate once you have returned home? Ships can end up looking a lot alike, making it difficult to remember which pictures belong to which ship, or to differentiate all of the stateroom pictures that you took. Here are a few simple tips that will help you maximize the limited time you have when conducting a ship inspection.
Typically, ship inspections are run in one of two ways. Either you are escorted by a cruise line employee or you are sent off on your own and told when and where to show up for lunch. When you are in an escorted group, the cruise line employee controls where you go, what you see, and how long you get to spend in any given area of the ship. They will usually keep a head count and take counter measures to prevent you from wandering off on your own.
When you are allowed to inspect the ship on your own, you will usually be given a list of staterooms that are available for viewing. Don’t be surprised, though, if no staterooms are made available; this happens occasionally and there is nothing you can do about it. NEVER enter a stateroom that is not on a list from the cruise line. When doing a self-guided ship inspection, I recommend devising a quick game plan: Decide either to start at the top and make your way down, or start at the lower decks and work your way up to the top of the ship. Don’t waste too much time in any one spot, giving yourself as much time as possible to see everything. Quickly check out public spaces like bars, lounges, dining rooms, the theater, etc., snapping a few quick pictures to remind you of what the area looks like. If you can, also take a picture of the room/area name. For example, if you are in the Jubilee Lounge and there’s a sign at the entrance, take a picture of it as you enter the lounge, then take picture inside. When you moving onto the Fusion Lounge, take a picture of that sign before taking pictures inside. This way when you return home, you can easily distinguish between the different lounges.
Staterooms are small and can’t hold a great deal of people at once. Everyone should take turns rotating through the room as quickly as possible. Etiquette rule #1: don’t dawdle. Etiquette #2: don’t touch anything in the room (otherwise the room steward will have extra work, coming in behind you to clean/straighten up before the guests arrive). You can take pictures, and are encouraged to do so, but don’t expect them to be perfect. You will slow down everyone if you insist on everyone clearing out of the room so you can snap those brochure perfect pictures. Except that it’s not going to happen, and that the pictures are for YOUR reference, so that you can answer questions about room layouts, where the outlets are located, how much storage space is available, etc.
Similar to the public areas, when you take stateroom pictures, start with a picture of the room number and then interior pictures of the room. That way, as you go through the pictures later you’ll be able to tell which room is which. You can later pull up a deck plan to get the information about the room category based on the room number (i.e. was it the Penthouse Suite or the Grand Suite? Was it a D1 balcony or an E3 balcony?).
Before you even enter the ship, take a picture of the exterior with the ship’s name visible. That will help you keep your pictures separate so you aren’t confusing the Princess interior with a Celebrity interior.
Don’t just take pictures when inspecting a ship; also take notes. Carry a small notebook and pen where you can jot down notes about your observations, especially anything that cannot be captured through pictures. When you walked onto the ship, was there a heavy cigarette smoke order? How did the food taste (assuming lunch is included in the ship inspection)? How friendly was the staff throughout the ship? If you get the chance to talk to any employees, jot down the questions you asked along with their answers.
As soon as you can after getting home, download your pictures and organize them into folders (creating a separate folder for each ship). Name the pictures based on the public area name or stateroom number. For example, if you took six pictures of the Jubilee Lounge, name the pictures Jubilee Lounge 01, Jubilee Lounge 02, etc. Also type up your hand-written notes and save them into the appropriate folder on your computer. This way when you look up a ship in the future, you’ll have quick and easy access to all of your notes and pictures in one location and you do not need to go hunting for them, or worse, take the risk of losing them altogether.
What tips do you have to share from past ship inspections that you have done?
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.