Cruises are one of the top vacations around the world and have seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years. And if you are planning your first time (ahem ahem), you’d obviously want it to be a memorable experience, taking in foreign sunsets as you set sail from one horizon to the next. But along with all the fun and excitement, your first cruise can also be a bit intimidating and confusing. With mega-ships, today, which are destinations themselves contain restaurants, casinos, Broadway musicals, silent disco parties, skating rinks, karaoke, and escape-the-room experiences- host almost 3,500 to 5,000 passengers in one go. With so many people on board, these ships surely seem like small towns setting sail! Here we have some hot tips to keep in mind before going on your first cruise:
Yeah, this is the first time that you are planning to ‘test the waters’ (so to speak) and obviously you cannot just jump into it, right? So, we begin with the most basic advice of all: Do your research. Check multiple cruise lines, talk to friends, family or your travel agent about what you would like. Is it luxury travel that appeals to you or a family-friends atmosphere or a party vibe? As cruise ships are loaded with activities, it’s important to map out what exactly you would like to do. Your research will help you save on time and the potential of missing out on something you really wanted to experience. Along with the activities, your research should tell you the difference between ‘fee’ and ‘free’– you should be aware what’s included in your cruise fare, what will be costing you extra (hidden costs of the cruise). Thorough research should be done on the rules and regulations of the cruise line as well.
Not all Cruises are the same
Of course, if this is the first time you’d probably look for some cheap deals or think that if they are going to the same destinations that they all are pretty much the same. In reality, there is a wide variety of cruise categories that differ a lot from each other (each having their own rules and regulations as well). While one might offer a 5-star dining experience, others might offer adventurous excursions. So, don’t just fall prey to the cheapest deals online or offline, be sure what you’re looking for and once you have your eye set on the prize then, hunt for the deals.
Cruise line Alcohol Policies
While this can be included in the research point, I need this to be a separate reminder. Just because there is unlimited alcohol that doesn’t really mean you need to drink so much that you’ll zonk out. Opt for an inclusive package: as drinking each day or paying as per the bill every day will just rack up a large bill, it’s better to opt for all-inclusive packages that offer better value (especially if you are planning to have a few cocktails).
Yes, this can come as a big shocker for the first time cruisers. The cheapest cabins are not the most glitzy (obviously), but they are also without windows. They are in the belly of the ship and in fact, might even resemble a coach car in a train (in size) but without the window. If tiny enclosed spaces are not your thing, check the room amenities once and do some cost comparison before booking your room. Know that: higher ones’ cabin room is, less sensitive one will be to the effects of queasiness or seasickness.
Find out about the tipping policies
It’s better to be sure about the tipping policies of the cruise as the staff abroad the ship are working long (sometimes back to back) shifts to you the best cruise experience. With a ship holding as many as 2000 crew members you can imagine how much effort it takes. Let the staff know you appreciate the effort by tipping generously if it’s required.
Just like for any other vacation, it’s better to carry your own medications for cold, constipation, headache, fever, and for any specific condition that you may have such as migraines, indigestion, and heartburn.
Give yourself ample time to arrive and disembark from the cruise
Sounds simple, no? But hundreds of cruisers literally miss their ships due to delayed flights, traffic, bad weather and other unforeseen troubles. And those who FINALLY make it, they make it by the skin of their teeth, panting and screaming at one another. Who needs that kind of stress (we have enough of that already)? Add in an extra day when you can fly in or drive into the port city, simultaneously bypassing pre-departure jitters. Oftentimes, cruise lines don’t even allow passengers to board if they arrive only an hour before the ship is supposed to leave.
The same applies while disembarking from the cruise: remember that you have to go through customs again. With hordes of passengers leaving at the same time as you, plan to give yourself plenty of time to make it over to the airport to catch your flight.
Double-check your Wi-Fi options
Roaming is going to cost you a fortune while you are on board, as often signals are bouncing from the ship’s satellite. So, we’d suggest to SWITCH OFF THE DATA. Nowadays, mostly all the cruise ships offer Wi-Fi services. Just have a look over the internet package: if it is limited to a number of minutes or devices. You don’t want to use it all up within the first day. You won’t require your data except for those dock days if you need to keep a tab on your travel party. Even then, it will be far economical to find Wi-Fi hotspots.
Along the same lines, if you absolutely cannot survive without it (like so many of us), it’s better to check with your carrier that there aren’t exorbitant penalties.
Review all the documents in advance
Review your original documents in advance and make a day bag for yourself. This bag can contain your essentials such as sunscreen, a bathing suit, a book, and any medication or your documents and any essentials so that you’re not panicked. During your dock days or even when you first arrive on the ship, there will be shuffling of bags, so it’s better to carry your travel documents with you at all times.
You should also remember, Cruise Ships are a kind of No Man’s Land, so you must navigate a customs of sorts (and perhaps even have your bags scanned) when you venture ashore. What’s worse than hundreds (possibly even thousand- depending on the size of the ship) – of passengers all disembarking at the same time? So, to beat the hordes and leave the boat as soon as you can- it’s better to keep your documents (and other essentials together in your day bag. You can also pick a waterproof bag that can double as a beach bag for the days where you’re docking somewhere for a swim.
There will obviously be a lot of announcements made about when the ship is going to dock or when it is going to leave. Understand that: the ‘port time’ is the time that the ship is in the location of the port. But the ship keeps the time of where they departed from. Therefore, if you are travelling through multiple time zones, it’s important to know what time the ship refers to when they plan to leave the port. You don’t want to miss your ship because you thought they were referring to local time.
Check if you can carry food or not
If you have any dietary restrictions or just don’t want to splash out on the buffets and eateries on-board, you may want to explore cruises that allow passengers to bring their own food along with them. As there are many chef-inspired restaurants on board, it’s better to check which of these all-inclusive restaurants require a reservation and is not included in the dining plan.
Specific dress code
Be sure to review the ship itinerary and check for any special events happening in the formal dining room and plan your outfits accordingly before packing your suitcase. Yes, you can be asked to leave for wearing ripped jeans, flip flops, or even sneakers in the dining room. Also check if your ship has Laundromats aboard so that, you can pack light.
Hope these tips helped you prepare for your first cruise trip. If we have missed anything, let us know in the comments below!