26 Secrets The Cruise Lines Aren’t In A Rush To Tell You (But We Will)

June 30, 2015

Sometimes a cruise holiday can feel a little like a secret society. Why is it that everyone always seems to know more than you?

They always seem to know exactly what’s going on…

To know exactly where they should be at the right time…

Try not to worry too much though, we’ve all been there. There’s a lot to remember if you’re taking a cruise for the first time and with dozens of different cruise lines (with each cruise line having dozens of different ships) it can feel like no matter how much research you do, you’ll never quite get it right.


First then, remember this – It doesn’t matter! You’re on a cruise! You’re going to have a good time no matter what!

Yes it might be a bit annoying if you learn something on the last day of the cruise that you could have been doing all holiday but it’s not going to ruin anything for you.

However it would obviously be better if that didn’t happen as well – so we’ve put together this little list of tips that in the ordinary scheme of things you might not pick up till at least your third or fourth cruise (because we’re nice like that)…


Just carry it on yourself

When you embark your cruise for the first time your luggage will be taken from you and delivered to your cabin some time later that evening.

If you’re impatient to un-pack however or you know you’ll need something out of your case (maybe you want to get straight in the pools) then there’s nothing stopping you just wheeling your case on yourself.


First come first served…

Most cruise ships will have sales set up on the day you embark for drink packages right through to spa treatments. Booking it early (on the day you get on the ship) will ensure you net yourself a tidy little saving!


Should I order the lobster???

Everyone knows the food is free on a cruise but not many people ever truly appreciate that fact to its fullest.

Don’t like the look of the starters on the menu? That’s fine – Just order a main for your starter!

Like the look of two starters? That’s fine just order two!

See something you’ve always wanted to try on the menu but not sure if you’ll like it? That’s fine, just order normally and ask for what you wanted to try as well!

As we say, the food is FREE! Your waiter really won’t mind; honest.


Why even get out of bed?

Remember when we said the food is free? That means room service too! Feel free to just lounge around and order breakfast in bed (or even a late night snack when you get back from the bar).

It won’t cost you a penny extra.


First night queues

OK so we lied slightly about the food. If you want to dine in one of your ships speciality dining restaurants there will be a slight cover charge.

Despite that however these restaurants are always popular.

If you fancy trying a speciality restaurant but are worried it will be too busy (as they often can be) then the advice of the www.CRUISE.co.uk team would be to do a bit of research before you go then book it as soon as you get on-board for the first night. Most people will still be getting their bearings so there’s a great chance you’ll have the restaurant to yourself.


Do you want a flake with that?

If it’s big enough you might find several different places on your cruise ship that have ice cream for sale (whether it be an ice cream parlour or a stand on the pool deck). Sometimes these ice creams will come with a charge.

Don’t pay it!

You can get all the free ice cream you want in the buffet restaurant. Just head on down and help yourself.


Eugh, I don’t like that!

If you know you’re a fussy eater don’t worry about not liking the food in the main dining room when you turn up in the evening. If you speak to the maitre d’ ahead of time they’ll be able to show you the menus for the following seven days. You’ll then be able to choose which days you like the look of and which you don’t (and plan to eat elsewhere on those).


Skip the buffet for lunch

At least on embarkation day anyway. We guarantee you, practically the first thing every man and his dog will do as soon as they get on-board will be to head to the main buffet for some lunch.

What most people don’t realise however is that the cruise line will have other areas open to dine in that will be much, much quieter.


Definitely skip it for breakfast!

We get it. You’re on holiday, the diets out of the window and you just want to pile your plate with bacon, sausage and egg. Of course you’ll want to head to the main buffet (where you can pile your plate up with no one watching you).

The problem is everyone on-board will have had the same idea as well!

You don’t have to have breakfast in the buffet though. Instead you can head to the main dining room and sit on the same table you’ve been allocated for dinner. There a waiter will fetch and carry whatever you want without the scrum you can get in the self service restaurant.

Much more civilized! (our advice would be to get the eggs benedict!)


Careful, that drinks not free

When you board a ship for the first time you’ll notice a lot of waiters circulating with trays of drinks. Be careful though…. They’re not complimentary! As our forum member drewlin points out… Wished I known that the welcome drink wasn’t free and that I didn’t have to wait until dinner before eating on embarkation


Compulsory gratuities are never compulsory

A lot of people (especially us Brits who aren’t used to it) can be put off cruising when they hear about gratuities (or tips) automatically being added onto your account each day.

What a lot of people don’t realise however is that all of these can be decreased (or increased if you wanted) or even removed entirely.

Just head down to the reception desk and ask there. You may have to explain why you want them removed (which can feel a little awkward sometimes) as the cruise line will want to know if there’s a problem with the service, but they will do it for you.


Don’t Double Up

Whilst you can head down to reception and remove the gratuities that are added to your account daily you won’t be able to do anything about the service charge on your drink.

Most American cruise ships will add a 15% service charge automatically to your bar bill whenever you order


There will also be a space for you to add a tip if you want. Don’t (unless you really, really want to) you’ve already tipped the barman and waiter, you probably just didn’t realise it.


Oi! Put a cork in it you!

Buying a bottle of wine with dinner will be much cheaper than buying it by the glass but there’s always the worry about whether you’ll drink it all (well we never have that problem but we’ve heard other people do).

Did you know your wine waiter will cork and label the bottle for you meaning you can drink it the next night?

You don’t even have to be in the same restaurant. If you tell them where you dined the night before the (ever so helpful) staff will go fetch it for you!


Soda packages are a bit of a rip off

Many cruise lines these days will offer to sell you a soft drinks package either for your children or yourself (if you’re not a big drinker). On the face of it they may seem good value, after all who wouldn’t want unlimited soft drinks on a hot day.

The thing is soft drinks are already free though.

If you head up to the buffet you can pour yourself as many soft drinks as you want… free of charge! In fact many of the newer cruise ships will even have soft drink dispensers dotted around places where children might gather – The www.CRUISE.co.uk team noticed several of these on Quantum and Anthem of the Seas.

A drinks package might be more convenient as you’ll be able to get a drink from anywhere on the ship rather than just several fixed points but as long as you don’t mind stretching your legs….


Stock up on soft drinks

Most cruise lines have strict rules on you bringing your own alcohol on-board (after all they’ll want you to buy theirs) but those rules tend to be a lot more relaxed when it comes to soft drinks (as long as you don’t take the mick too much!)

A bottle or two of squash for your cabin or when you’re going on shore (or even a couple of bottles of fizzy pop) will be allowed on-board without even a raised eye brow.


Your cabin walls are made of metal

You may be wondering why your cruise line would tell you this snippet of info. or why you’d care even if they did.

We can answer you in one word… Magnets!

As the walls are metallic packing a few magnets can be a great way of nabbing yourself a bit of extra storage space. Lots of experienced cruisers do this but it tends to be one of those things you wouldn’t ever guess unless someone in the know let you in on the secret.


Your cabin will probably have secret plug sockets

Phones, digital cameras, tablets, I-pods, hair straighteners, hair dryers… It’s easy for the plug sockets in your cabin to all get used up these days, especially if you’re staying in the cabin with a family (or your partners a tech geek).

Now you could just pack a plug extension but if you forget then speak to your cabin steward.

Most cabins will have ‘secret’ plug sockets under the bed or in the wardrobe to help your steward when they clean.

If you ask them they’re normally more than happy to share the location of these.


Don’t pay for an adaptor

We’ve all been there. You arrive on your cruise ship, go to plug something in and notice the American or European plug sockets.

Hopefully you’ll have planned ahead, read our guide to cruise ship plug sockets and be ready. If you haven’t though you’ll have to head down to the cruise ship store and pay over the odds for an adaptor…. Or will you?

Lots of people forget to take their adaptors with them at the end of their cruise and these tend to end up in a box behind the reception desk. If you find you’ve left yours at home just head down to reception and ask nicely, they’ll probably have spares to hand out.


It’s not just the food on the menu

Nobody likes an uncomfortable pillow; the problem is no one can ever really agree what a comfortable pillow is!

Should it be hard or soft? Do you need one or two? Do you like feather or foam?

The list goes on.

The cruise lines don’t advertise it widely (as everyone would do it and it’d be chaos) but there’ll normally be a bit of a pillow menu you can order off from your cabin steward.

Unless you’re in a suite you probably won’t be able to order the hypoallergenic, memory foam, gold plated pillows but you should find something you’ll be able to sleep on.

Again… just ask your cabin steward.


Don’t forget to explore your cabin

You may think your cabins a bit small to explore but before you head off to explore the ship we’d always recommend having a poke around your room… you’d be amazed at what you can find.

To start with there’ll always be extra storage space for those that look for it, under the bed, behind the mirror etc. Then there’s the secret plug sockets we’ve already mentioned but for the determined hunter you can also find more esoteric items like spare hairdryers.

In fact we’d recommend you take a look for your cabins bible (there’ll always be one somewhere). Lots of cruisers store unused drinks vouchers or shop promotions etc. in it for the next cruiser to come along. Just remember to pay it forward if you find yourself with any spares at the end of your cruise.


Don’t suffer in silence with sea sickness

Seasickness can be a horrible thing to have happen to you but before you ring down to the ships doctor (and pay the ship doctors’ fees) the www.CRUISE.co.uk team’s recommendation would be for you to try ringing room service.

The people on the other end of the phone will all have been at sea for a long time and will probably learnt more home remedies for seasickness than you’ll ever be able to remember.

Just explain your situation and ask them to bring something up (anything with ginger is normally good!) but make sure you try this before you get the doctor involved!


Bargains are there to be had

Depending on where your cruise is going there’s never any reason to pay full price for spa treatments.

If there’s a port on your itinerary you’ve been to before or you just don’t fancy then our recommendation would be to stay on-board and enjoy having the ship all to yourself. You’ll have the run of all the bars and pools and the spas… and because everyone is off in port, they will have massive discounts on treatments.

It’s the perfect excuse for a pamper day!


Sweating won’t cost you anything

As all the steam rooms and saunas are located in the spa many new cruisers assume they’ll have to pay for these as well, just like any other treatment.

Not true.

Just like all the pools on-board the steam rooms and saunas are free for anyone to use so feel free to swap between the pool and sauna as much as you want.


Don’t worry if you miss a port lecture

Lots of cruise lines will host port talks or lectures the day before you arrive into a post with lots of valuable information and tips about your destination.

The problem is they always seemed to be held at really awkward times though.

Not to worry however, almost all of these talks will be recorded and broadcast on your in cabin TV for you to watch at your convenience.


Bargains… bargains galore!

You’re on a cruise, you’re in the holiday mood… It’s always tempting to splash out in the on-board shops on a permanent reminder of your cruise.

There’s nothing wrong with this (in fact we do it all the time!) but it’s worth remembering that ALL the shops will have massive sales on the last evening of your cruise. Massive!

So by all means go window shopping but our top tip would be to save any purchases till your final night.


Wake up… your holiday’s over!

The last day of your holiday can always be a bit depressing but never more so than when it’s on a cruise!

Although you won’t normally have to be off the ship till mid-morning (so you’ve time for breakfast and a last walk around the ship to say goodbye) you will have to be out of your cabin early so your steward has time to clean it for the next guest’s arrival.

8:00am is about the standard but we’ve heard stories about passengers being asked to vacate their cabin by 7:00am in the morning. Ouch!


And that’s all our insider secrets to things we think first time cruisers might want to know.

Did you find any of them useful?

Do you have any of your own tips that the cruise lines won’t tell you about?


Let us know in the comments below…