What to Take Ashore
The most important thing to remember when you head ashore at any port of call is that you must bring your ship identification card with you. You will not be allowed back on your cruise ship without it. Also carry another form of identification with you, such as a driver's license with photograph, in case there are any questions or problems.
Of course, you'll need money. Some cruise destinations, such as the Bahamas and the Galapagos Islands, have currencies that are linked to the U.S. dollar. You don't need anything in your pockets that you wouldn't normally have, and you will be able to do anything you want.
Curious about how the U.S. dollar compares to other currencies around the world? There's a Web site that will tell you with the click of a mouse. You can compare Uncle Sam's greenbacks to the euro, British pound, Japanese yen, and nearly a hundred other currencies at www.xe.com.
In most other countries, though, you will need the local currency if you want to pay for things with cash. Your best bet is to exchange your U.S. dollars for the currencies of the countries you will be visiting before you board your plane in the United States. Major international airports all have currency exchange booths, and if you do all your transactions at once, you will only be charged a single fee. This will save you time and money compared with trying to exchange currency at every new port of call, especially if you are visiting different countries that each use different currencies.
Credit cards and traveler's checks, too, are usually accepted at major tourist sites. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely used, but Discover is a decent backup in many locations, too. If you're sticking with group tours and don't plan to venture into quaint little areas on your own, you probably can get by without any cash. You'll be doing most of your shopping at the major tourist stores that take credit cards. In addition to money and your ship identification card, you'll want to have a few other things with you when you head ashore:
A guidebook of the area, including a map that shows your ship's port
A sun hat
A large bottle of water from your ship, or your own thermos filled with the ship's water
Snacks like granola bars and apples in places where the local food is questionable
A number you can call to reach your ship if you get lost or need help
Frequent travelers often toss all of these items into a backpack, since it has thick straps that distribute weight evenly and prevent theft when used properly—and offers plenty of extra room to add souvenirs along the way. And of course, if you're traveling with small children, you'll want to have any additional items they need with you, as well.
If you're planning to carry a backpack in a destination where pickpockets are common, consider using your tiny luggage locks to keep your backpack pockets closed. If possible, use a separate, smaller “fanny pack” for your wallet, cellular telephone, shipboard identification card, and any other valuables. You can often hide this type of pack under your clothing, close to your body.