First cruise tips
Check out what is and what isn’t included in the cruise fare. If you’re a non-drinker, an all-inclusive cruise may mean you’re subsidising others, and if you’re a foodie, you won’t want to pay a supplement for speciality restaurants when some cruise lines include them in the cruise fare.
Packing for a cruise can result in weighty excess baggage charges from the airlines, so find out in advance the cruise line’s dress code and how many formal nights, if any you’ll need to pack for, so you don’t end up excess black tie, ball-gowns or tiaras – or a caseload of heavy duty fleeces.
Shore excursions help you make the most of your time while in port and can be pre-booked in advance online. Some cruise lines often offer packages or discounts for advance bookings and the cost can be added to your cabin account, so look out for these and plan ahead.
If you like a bottle of wine with dinner, don’t feel that you have to drink it all. Your bottle will be labelled with your cabin number at the end of the evening and it will follow you around the ship, even if you dine in different restaurants.
Speciality restaurants get very booked up, so book your dining requirements as early as you can. Experienced cruisers will know this so make sure you don’t miss out on your first cruise and make your table reservations as soon as you can, some cruise lines will allow you to do this from home.
Whether you’re on the ocean or river cruising, you’re on a `ship’, not a `boat’! You’ll quickly identify yourself as a new cruiser if you refer to your floating home as a `boat’.
U.S. guests are used to tipping and cruise lines will notify you of the policy regarding tipping on their ships. It’s usually on a discretionary basis but make sure you’re aware of the guidelines and whether cash is expected, or if they are added to the onboard account.
Use the safe in your room for cash and valuables and avoid using your birth date as the code.
Take some time to plan your cruise, day by day, making the most of the excursions, the dining, the daily activities and the enrichment programme that many cruise lines offer, from dancing lessons to cookery, learn a language or a new skill.
The `Cruise Director’ is in charge of passenger enjoyment and is the person to consult when it comes to anything to do with the on-board activities and entertainment. Listen out for his announcements and make sure you read the daily newsletter that most cruise lines will leave in your room at early evening `turn down’.
Top cruise tips to dispel myths
Cruises are for `oldies’ – one of the great joys of cruising is that there will be a ship for everyone, according to age, interests and tastes, from adventure cruises in the Arctic, to family cruises with kids’ clubs in the Med.
Cruises are expensive – they can be, but many aren’t and the keyword is value. Cruises offer exceptional value as meals, activities, entertainment and often drinks are included in the holiday price and standards are exceptional on many ships, often much higher than on land.
Cruises are too formal and dressy – not always! Cruise lines will advise you of their dress code and you can choose your cruise according to whether you like to dress up, or down, or simply be relaxed and casual. Many have moved away from the `bling’ and black tie.
I can’t cruise, I get seasick – stabilisers and modern technology on board help the ship navigate smoothly wherever possible and much of the time, guests are unaware that they are on a moving ship. Should conditions worsen, medication will be available on board.
Cruising isn’t safe – cruising has an excellent safety record and safety standards are higher than at any other time, with obligatory safety at sea drills on all ships, on every cruise.
There’s nothing to do at sea – cruise lines worked out years ago that having a captive audience on `sea days’ means lots of willing participants in sports and games and `enrichment’ programmes, such as learning a skill, a new hobby or a language. You simply have to find time to pick the activities that you want to join, and to plan your time to fit it all in.
Cruises are too long – mini-cruises, often from UK ports to the Western Med or to the Baltics give newby cruisers a chance to have a taste of cruising before committing to a longer cruise, and they also allow keen cruisers to travel even more often.
Cruises are too regimented – some cruises have set dining times and evening dress, some have a far more relaxed ambience and more freedom. A good cruise travel agent will be experienced at guiding you through the different cruise lines and what they offer.
Cruising is old fashioned – no other sector of the travel industry has invested so much in its infrastructure and its product. It’s not just the ships that are modern, but the amenities and range of activities and these days the attention of detail goes right down to the quality of the beds, the bedding, the crockery and the family facilities.
Cruises are mass market and tacky – contrary to such misconceptions standards on board many cruise ships are as high, or higher than can be found in the best shore side restaurants and hotels, with some of the top, luxury cruise lines exceeding 5-star standards of luxury and service.
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