To Educate non Cruisers and update seasoned Cruisers.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
16 Top Tips for First Time Cruisers
With the explosion in the
number of people that are going on cruises, never has there been a time when
there are so many first time cruisers. An increase in people seeking the best
and right way to venture forth onto the high seas for the first time.
I remember so well when I first
started to go on cruises, and based on that and experiences since then I have
developed this list of top tips and advice for travellers considering a cruise
for the first time. If you have any thoughts or tips to add, please leave a
comment on the blog posting, send it to me on twitter or email me.
Here are my Top 16 Tips for
Travellers about to – or considering – becoming a first time cruiser:
(1) USE A CRUISE EXPERT TRAVEL
I am one of those people that
like to do my own research and book directly when travelling. But I found very
fast that it is much better when cruising to use a cruise expert agent. Not
only do you get better prices and packages, but also you seem to get better
cabins and more chance of upgrades if they are on offer. I found this out with
the 1st 2 cruises we went on, and now only book via a cruise agent. We have
seen the benefit in both prices, cabins selection and upgrades.
We found our agent via cruise
site message boards where she was an active participant answering questions and
helping people out. /
The next best option is to ask
friends or work colleagues and find out who they use and recommend. Focus on a
cruise dedicated or expert, as they will also be able to understand what you
like and the best cruise line for you – as well as getting the best deals.
(2) RESEARCH, RESEARCH,
This is really key. For me the
best were the message boards on the main cruise fan sites. I used them
extensively when first considering a cruise. The best by far (in my view) are
the ones on Cruise Critic at http://cruiseforums.cruisecritic.com/ as they split
by topic and also by Cruise Line. This site also has professional and traveller
reviews on the site that are added to regularly. This is an excellent way to
If you are looking for
something more physical, then the cruise “bible” has to be the Berlitz Complete
Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships by Douglas Ward. It is updated every year
and reviews cruise lines and ships and rates them based on his own experience.
He spends most of the year at sea.
(3) CHOSE YOUR BRAND CAREFULLY
There are now so many cruise
lines, although in reality most are owned by 2 mega companies (Carnival and
Royal Caribbean). Carnival is the largest and owns everything from Cunard
through to P and O and Holland America. The reason is each offers a different
experience and different levels of service and features. It is important to
understand these so you find yourself on a ship that is most likely going to
meet your tastes. Your agent can help as can the message boards and Berlitz
Guide. All lines are not the same and increasingly they are trying to target
different types of cruisers. Chose carefully!
(4) GO ON A TASTER CRUISE
Many cruise lines run short
cruises of anything from 1 to 3 nights. These usually go from and return to the
same port and are perfect for first time cruisers to feel out of a cruise and a
certain brand is for them. I strongly recommend you do one of these before you
commit to a longer cruise. They are usually well priced and give you a full on
experience of the experience and what the particular cruise line experience is.
Then if you love it, you are ready and eager to book something – and if you
hate it then you only have a night or two to pass by.
(5) CONSIDER A REPOSITIONING
These are cruises usually at
the start and end of the seasons where cruise lines move their ships to and
from the Caribbean area in Europe/ USA winter to the summer in the Med. They
usually involve 5 or 6 nights at sea and 4 or so nights at some ports. They
tend to be great prices as more people seem to like routes with lots of ports,
and also many people like to start and end at the same port. These though give
you the best of many worlds!
(6) DON’T WORRY ABOUT GETTING
I was really worried about
this. But the reality is that is you do feel seasick it can be dealt with by
buying anti-seasick pills from your pharmacy before you go – or worst case by
going to the ship medical centre and paying for an amazing injection that makes
you sleep but wake up read to take on the roughest of seas. I can vouch for
this as on my first long cruise we did a winter crossing of the Atlantic on
Cunard’s QE2 with 50 and 60 foot waves and had the jab and had no issues at
Saying all of this, modern
ships have stabilizers that reduce and pretty much cut out the “roll” effect
and so even when the sea is choppy you don’t really feel it and so less likely
to have any effect. If you are concerned aim for a cabin in the middle of the
ship and low down as that is where there is the least movement of all in a
(7) GET TO THE PORT AND SHIP AS
EARLY AS YOU CAN OR ARE ALLOWED TO
Although many cruise lines will
try and encourage everyone not to arrive too early and all at the same time, as
a First Time cruiser and also when new to a ship, I recommend getting there and
on-board as early as you can and then you have time to explore the ship and
find your way round before it is busy and everything is open. For many people,
the first time on a ship they find getting around can eb a bit confusing as you
charge off thinking you are heading to the rear of the ship to find yourself at
the other end. Finding your way round, seeing where you dinner table is and
other key areas you are likely to spend time on is a great idea. Then you get
to enjoy disembarkation on deck!
(8) GET ON SECOND SITTING AND
TABLE FOR 8
I recommend if you are a first
time cruiser and on a cruise line with set seating, to go for a big table and
the 2nd sitting (usually around 8 or 830pm). If a large table there will be a
lot to discuss and learn, and even if you don’t click with some people on the
table then it does not feel too uncomfortable!
(9) TALK TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS
People who cruise love to talk
about it. They love to share their experiences and tips. So all you need to do
is talk to as many people as you can, and they will share all sorts of great
advice. We learnt a huge amount by doing just that on the taster cruise and
came away from 2 nights with tips and advice we never got from other research.
(10) GET DRESSED UP ON FORMAL
NIGHTS. RELISH AND ENJOY
Many cruise lines have formal
nights. These are part of the cruise experience and you should embrace and
enjoy them. If you really hate the idea, then avoid cruise lines that have them
and especially ones that enforce them strongly such as P and O and Cunard for
(11) WATCH THE EXTRAS. THEY
WILL MOUNT UP VERY FAST IF YOU DO NOT
Cruises used to be much more
“all inclusive” but over recent years this has started to evolve, and even more
so as the headline price of the cruise itself gets discounted and priced to attract.
So cruise lines now work really hard to drive up the average spend by passenger
from events, special restuarants, courses and training, gym classes, stores,
excursions, on-board photos, internet access and of course drinks. It is very
easy to spend a lot of money that may exceed the cost of the cruise. As
everything you spend is charged to a cruise card you have on the ship, unless
you set a budget and watch spending you may have an unpleasant surprise.
(12) STAY ON THE SHIPS ON SOME
Most people seem obsessed with
getting off a ship rather than staying on it and enjoying it. I may be
different, but actually prefer the sea days as you get to have a more leisurely
morning and then can enjoy all the many events and options of things to do on
the ship. If on a cruise with many stops, plan to spend one day just on the
ship. You will find everything is quiet and so you can do things like enjoy the
pool without the crowds, sit quietly in the bars reading and so on.
(13) SHORE EXCURSIONS – DO YOU
REALLY NEED TO DO THEM VIA THE CRUISE LINE?
Research your stops. There
usually is a free bus shuttle laid on by the cruise line if the ship docks not
close to town centre. You may find that just doing that and exploring the town
with some preparation before going, although also most of the towns will also
have booths with maps and suggestions. We tend to avoid going on booked
excursions to explore ourselves. They can be fairly costly and may not be worth
it. There are also some companies online that run similar tours for when ships
dock with smaller groups and at lower costs.
(14) BRING ENOUGH CASH FOR THE
Check if your cruise fare
includes or excludes tips, or if they are added to your on-board account or if
you are expected to pay cash tips. On the message boards, tips is one of the
most discussed topics. Most cruise lines will recommend a level, and you can
increase or remove them. Avoid the temptation to both pay what is charged to
your account and then also pay cash. One tip though is maybe hand your cabin
steward a tip when you first meet them for added sparkle in service!
(15) PLAN YOUR NEXT DAY BEFORE
YOU GO TO BED
There is so much to do on a
ship, and most provide a schedule for the next day for when you return from
dinner. It is worth spending time digesting and planning the next day to make
the best use of your time. Remember you are on vacation, so don’t go too mad!
(16) SELF SERVICE
Depending on what level of
cabin you are travelling, you may find yourself sitting about in public rooms
from 8am for a few hours before your turn to disembark at the end of your
cruise. Many cruise lines are now offering self disembarkation where you carry
all your own luggage off the ship. You can usually get off the ship half an
hour to an hour after the ship docks and is cleared. I really like this as
means less time just hanging about. So when packing think about if you can
manage with luggage you can carry, and make sure you have cases with wheels as
a lot of walking and carrying through the ship and on the docks…
Do you have any tips to add?
Leave comment on the blog posting or email me.