You’ve booked a cruise and jumped on board with eager anticipation for weeks of sun-soaked enjoyment, but first-timers might get a shock in a few departments if they don’t follow some of these handy tips before they board.
We’ve pulled some of the best together to help you be the best prepared you can be:
1. Pre-purchase an Excursion
If you are travelling at a popular time of year, the best excursions will sell out fast, so get online once you’ve made your cruise booking and start exploring your options so you can pick from the whole range rather than being restricted to the dregs of what no one else wants to do when you are on the ship.
Most are paid for up-front – so it also helps with reducing your on-board bill for the end of the cruise!
2. Book a Balcony Room
There is nothing like watching the sunset over the ocean every night and it is beyond magical to be able to sit on a balcony and listen to the lapping of the ocean against the boat.
Better still, if you go on a Royal Caribean Cruise, even a room on the inside of the ship has a ‘Virtual Window’
3. Take A Map of the Ship With You
Cruise Ships are ginormous, so being able to orientate yourself through the warren of identical doors will make life easier. There are so many nooks and crannies on a cruise ship and you might miss out on some gems – like where the day spa is or that there might be an on-board cinema that you can tap into if there is a spate of unfortunate rain and the kids are getting cabin fever!
Speaking of gems on a cruise, choosing one that caters to all age groups is the most convenient option for mums and dads.
4. All Drink Packages are NOT Created Equal
Suss out whether you are more likely to need H20 hydration and a pick-me-up cup of joe throughout the day than an endless supply of cocktails, beer and spirits.
But ask your travel agent about the best way to get bang for your buck when it comes to drinks packages. Because if you don’t – you will end up with a huge bill at the end of the cruise that can leave a bad taste in your mouth!
5. Turn on your TV
The cruise ship broadcasts a morning show every single morning that informs cruisers about all the activities of the day. And there I was, messaging my friends and trying to figure out what to do every day. The TV isn’t like a hotel TV, it has a purpose, turn it on.
6. Book a Table (You Need to Book)
There is a free buffet for all meals, but the food there doesn’t even hold a candle to the food in the finer restaurants. Plus, you can’t beat the feeling of being served. Part of the beauty of a cruise is being waited on hand and foot, so why not splurge just a weenie bit to feel like royalty for a night.
As soon as you get on the cruise ship – find a restaurant and go book your table for the evening. The fancier places book out the fastest – and people who cruise all the time know this!
7. Make Time for the Live Entertainment
These are not local high school productions with shaky lighting and pitchy singers cruise liners invest a lot of time and money into securing cream of the crop acts and stage crews and what they have to offer will impress you.
8. Read the Daily Newsletter
Every single night when your bed is made and your room is cleaned, they leave a Cruise Compass, or something similar. This handy newsletter contains a complete schedule of events the next day as well as other very important information including where to eat, hours of different activities and stores and discount codes for the spa and more.
9. Bring Your Medicine
There may be an on-board doctor, but there is not an on-board pharmacy. Even if you don’t get seasick, bring something along just in case. Also, it’s a good idea to bring some Panadol and other medications you might need for the kids, like a Ventolin puffer if your child gets asthma symptoms when they get the sniffles.
Plus you would be amazed at how many people get seasick – even if the weather is fine. So grab a few ginger biscuits or grab some Sea-Band Nausea Relief Bands.
10. Brush up on Dress Codes
Some cruises have special captain’s dinners and themed nights, where you are expected to meet a dress code to attend. Find out if there are any of these to avoid embarrassment. These are usually listed in the cruise liners travel documents. While some require multiple dress codes, others are super casual and allow jeans anywhere onboard – even at dinner.
11. Look Under the Bed
When you first move into often found myself complaining that my dresses and skirts couldn’t hang nicely in the closet because our big suitcase took up so much space. Then one day, on perhaps our third or fourth cruise, my husband looked under the bed and found lots of empty space there. We didn’t have to shove all our bags into the closet.
12. Think About The Bed Configuration
While it’s always best to request the bed configuration you want before your cruise, just because you enter your cruise cabin to find two beds when you’re travelling with your spouse, or one bed when you’re travelling with a friend, doesn’t mean you’re in trouble. Beds on most ships can easily be pushed together or separated, so don’t panic, just ask your cabin steward to do it while you’re out of the cabin.
13. To Tip or Not to Tip?
Brush up on what the expectation are before you travel. Most cruise liners include a gratuity in their fees, but because you are travelling on international waters with staff that are from all over the world, so budgeting a little extra for a tip for your cabin steward or your waiter might be a good idea.
Here’s a science experiment to avoid. What happens when you open both your balcony and cabin doors at the same time? A wind tunnel will whip its way between the two doors, leaving devastation in its wake.
15. Water, water everywhere.
The tap water on cruise ships is completely safe and drinkable, having been through rigorous filtration and testing, all of which are overseen by heath agencies. You can drink all the bottled water you want, but if you are stuck at a pinch, drinking the tap water on board is perfectly okay.
16. Extra Storage
Experienced cruisers have all sorts of tricks for creating more places to store, hang or stow their belongings in small cabins. Consider bringing things like over-the-door shoe holders, or suction hooks that can be used to help dry out beach towels without taking up too much precious space.
17. Don’t Part with Your Passport
Do not pack your passport in your luggage or you will not be let on board until they find your luggage among thousands of bags. Not only will you be stranded before your holiday even begins, you will probably get the stink eye from the people waiting behind you.
18. Leave the hip flask at home
It’s not worth trying to sneak alcohol on board! You might be tempted to try to save a few dollars by bringing your own grog, but as stealthy as these rule-breakers think they are, cruise lines know all about alcohol-packing hacks. They know all the common hiding places, as well as which containers are most suspicious. Not only will you lose your concealed stash, but you will start your holiday on a foul note.
19. Take a Carry-on Bag
A ship receives thousands of pieces of luggage in a matter of a few hours, which means your bags might not arrive in your stateroom until a few hours after you’ve boarded. Carry-ons are key, so pack everything needed to get you and your family through to dinner time, including ID and documentation, wallets, swimming gear, cameras, medications, sandals, sunscreen, a change of clothes and toiletries, and if you’re travelling with small children, enough nappies, wipes and diversions to get you through a day.
20. Ear Plugs
The walls are thin, so if you are a light sleeper, these might be a good addition to the bags. Cleaners will be in the halls at 7am and your room could be near the entertainment precinct, so if you are an early-to-bed kind of person, earplugs will help you to get some much-needed shut-eye.