Thursday, August 16, 2012

Do You Remember the Doc Dance

Once Upon a Time ...

August is a busy time for us, monitoring the tropical storms that are forming in both the Atlantic and Pacific.  You may have noticed most of our articles have been about approaching storms and the impact on cruise itineraries.

Fortunately, there hasn't been much impact to the cruises despite the number of tropical storms.  Ernesto caused the most disruption.

We thought you might like a break from all this talk about weather...  Journey with us down memory lane...

Digging Into Our Archives

We found this "Guest Vacation Documents" booklet from Royal Caribbean from one of our Panama Canal cruises.  You'll notice that it was a bound booklet, which cost some money and effort to put together for each guest on the sailing.

Royal Caribbean and all the major lines sent out these documents to guests, usually about a month before the cruise.   Folks that were chatting online would declare they "were doing the doc dance" when the package arrived in the mail.   Everyone else would then be on the lookout for their docs.

Receiving your cruise documents this way helped build excitement.  Once they arrived you knew the trip was real - it was getting close.

Electronic Age

With the boom of the electronic age and the expansion of the Worldwide Web into everyone's lives, these booklets have gone the way of the dinosaur and become extinct.  There are a few of the luxury lines that still produce these booklets, but even there the numbers have dwindled.

Now you are likely to get an email with your booking ID and instructions on how to read the "documents" online and if desired, print a copy for yourself.

Luggage Tags

Included with your documents you would also find several luggage tags which you could use to identify your baggage.   Initially they were blank labels which you'd have to complete.  In later years, they were pre-printed with your name and stateroom information, along with an identifier of the ship.

Looking inside the documents we found in our archives, we found the extra luggage tags still in the bound booklet. 

Times They Are a Changing

Along with the passing of hard-cover documents, luggage tags went through many changes.  In some cases, like with a Royal Caribbean cruise, they were special-order items.   Your cruise specialist may have ordered them for you and sent them, but rest assured, you weren't getting them directly from the cruise line as had been the case for decades past.

Royal Caribbean has just announced that it will no longer be possible to pre-order the luggage tags.  They are now included as a page in the eDocs that you print from the web.   Some elite Crown &  Anchor members and high-end cabins will still be able to get baggage tags, but the majority of you won't be able to order them. 

A Word of Caution - Hints

Royal Caribbean was one of the hold-outs printing luggage  labels on special stock.  Other cruise lines have already substituted the "print your own at home" baggage tags for some time.

The down side to printing your own is that these baggage tags are far less durable than the ones that were previously provided.  They are likely to come off the luggage during handling.   You don't want to put them on your bags when you leave home.   The airlines will do everything in their power to rip them in transit, and you'll get to the pier without a luggage tag.

You could print on heavy-stock paper and put on your bags ahead of time.  That might work, but again, it's pretty risky.

One thing that we've done successfully is wait until we are on the way to the pier (leaving our pre-cruise hotel for example) to attach the home-made tags.   We ask the front desk if we can borrow a stapler, or bring some tape with us to attach that way.

Make sure to have other identification on your bags (the real sturdy kind) in case these tags fall off.   The crew will be able to check the ship's roster and deliver your bags to you (bags might be late arriving at your cabin however).

You can also wait until you get to the pier and ask a porter for luggage tags.  You'll want to be sure you have your stateroom information handy to fill them out properly.

How to Build Excitement

You won't be getting your documents in the mail, unless your cruise specialist goes the extra mile and prints them for you.  So, what to do to get that heart pumping as your departure date draws close?

Embrace the electronic age and add a calendar entry to go online and complete you online registration, review and/or print your documents, and optionally print your luggage tags.   You need to do this anyway, so make it part of the preparation phase of your trip.

This post gave us a whole new idea for some future columns.... this is only one thing from the past that has gone away or changed.   Can you think of others?  Drop us a note via email, comment, or post on our Facebook page.

Speaking of future columns, be sure to Vote in our poll to help select our next featured destination.

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