The www.CRUISE.co.uk team think going on your first cruise should be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done. Getting married? Pfft. Birth of your first child? Please. You’ve just booked your first cruise!
Some holidaymakers feel that it’s all a little daunting though, as there seems like there’s so much to remember and so much knowledge that more experienced cruisers just take for granted.
You don’t need to worry about making the same mistakes all first time cruisers always seem to however, with our handy guide for first timers everyone will think you’re a pro-cruiser and be asking you for advice!
Picking The Right Cabin
This is a hard one to get right for a first cruise. On the one hand you don’t want to be disappointed with your cabin choice but on the other you don’t want to set up any unrealistic expectations for future cruising.
Obviously you’ll want your first cruise to be extra special (who wouldn’t?) but unless you can always afford to book the Presidential Suite avoid booking it for your first cruise or you’ll find you’re forever comparing your future cabins to it. By the same token don’t book an inside cabin as a first experience just because it’s the cheapest option (and you don’t want to waste money if you don’t like it).
Our advice (budget depending) would be for either an outside or balcony cabin but try to relax, no matter what you end up going for we’re sure you’ll have a great time and just remember – your cabin isn’t meant to be a prison; there’s lots of ship to explore!
Don’t Pack Your Passport!
Obviously we’re not advising you to leave it at home (nobody has time for those type of disasters), but many first time cruisers do pack it in their suitcase. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to root through your unmentionables at the check-in terminal searching for it as everyone looks on smiling.
Pop it in a handbag or pocket so it’s close to hand, along with all the important documents you’ll need; every holiday starts with some serious organisation.
Don’t Buy Lots of Foreign Currency
Ah, we remember it well. Looking at your itinerary, researching the currency needed, trying to guess how much you’d need, over-estimating it ‘just in case’, heading to a Bureau De Change, packing all the separate currencies in nice little wallets and finally coming home with lots of unspent, useless currency you then need to change back (but which in reality just sits at the back of a drawer somewhere).
Unless you’re visiting the middle of nowhere (which is always possible we suppose) almost all ports will have a cash machine. Just take out what you need when you get there as you’ll have a much better idea what you’ll need on the day.
Top Tip: Remember to tell your bank what you’re doing as multiple withdrawals from a foreign country can look suspicious.
Don’t Let the Ship Convert Your Currency
A cruise, in almost all things, is great value for money but when it comes to converting your cash for you, their exchange rates they won’t be your first choice after your first cruise.
Don’t get us wrong, in an emergency you can change your money on-board for convenience but who doesn’t like having everything organised before going on your holiday? The www.CRUISE.co.uk team advise you to take it out in port and pay your banks exchange rate; trust us…
When you print out your cruise tickets you’ll find the ship has given you a boarding time, normally anywhere between 12:00 and 16:00. But here’s a big secret that they don’t want you to know… you don’t have to pay attention to these times!
If check-in starts at 12:00 but your ticket says 15:00, you can still turn up at 12:00 and board the ship ready for lunch.
The reason the cruise lines do this is to stagger the arrivals and make sure there aren’t huge queues but (assuming everyone doesn’t read this and decide to follow our advice) you can turn up at whatever time you like – Just don’t be late and miss the ship!
Save Room in Your Case
Just because it fit when you packed it doesn’t mean it will fit when you go to re-pack it at the end of your cruise – it’s one of life’s little unwritten rules.
Combine that with the fact you’ll need room for all the souvenirs you’ve bought and it makes sense to make sure there’s extra room in your bags for when you’re heading home, so either purposefully buy a bigger suitcase or be strict and don’t bring three versions of your favourite black evening dress…
Don’t Wait For The Lift
When you first board you’ll be directed straight towards the lifts so you can find your cabin where your suitcases will be waiting for you to unpack. The problem is everyone else will be doing this at the exact same time so there’ll be big queues for the lifts.
Check the floor you’re on and where you need to get to, if it’s not too far take the stairs. Not only will this save you a lot of time it’ll get you more used to what to find on each floor and what restaurants and bars are closest to your cabin…
Don’t Book Every Single Shore Excursion Available
It’s scary the first time you get off the ship in a foreign port. You almost want to keep the ship in your eye line in case they decide to go without you (don’t worry we’ve all had that feeling).
Due to this nervousness lots of first time cruisers will book an excursion through the cruise line for every single port they visit, just for that sense of security. And as you can imagine, this soon starts to add up in cost!
If you choose to do your own thing and then do your research beforehand though, there’s no reason you can’t just stroll off the ship, have a wander around and be back in plenty of time. Just make sure you make note of a few notes of where everything is…
Top tip: There’ll be a lot of taxi drivers hanging around the cruise terminal that will be happy to negotiate a daily rate to show you around and have you back in time – just make sure you haggle a little with them first.
Book Your Shore Excursions Early
If you do decide to book a shore excursion make sure you book it early via your cruise personaliser. You can book the cruise lines excursions ahead of time online and if you do decide to wait till you’re on the ship to book it, many of the more popular trips will already be booked and you might end up disappointed.
Although there’s a vast array of things to keep you entertained onboard, why not make the most of having arrived at your destination and wait to make the most of the ship’s features once you’ve set sail. Be organised with what you want to book, there’s nothing wrong with being an early bird…
Room Service Is Free
A cruise ship may sometimes feel like a giant floating luxury hotel but remember there are still differences, and one of the main ones is that room service is free!
Some lines may apply a small charge if you order after a certain time (normally after 23:00) but if you fancy breakfast in bed or a snack or drink whilst you’re getting ready for the evening then it’s as easy as picking up the phone. It won’t cost you anything and it’s as easy as that!
Don’t Panic About The Speciality Restaurants
Many modern cruise ships all have speciality restaurants that you’ll need to pay a small cover charge to dine in. Many first time cruisers looking to experience ‘everything’ a ship has to offer almost feel like they have to try them all (which might cost quite a bit).
Remember though, there’ll be plenty of restaurants to try for free and the menu in the main dining room will change every night. Save the speciality restaurants for a special occasion if at all and you’ll be just fine.
Don’t Book a Mini-Cruise as a ‘Tester’ Cruise
It might seem sensible to book a cheap, mini cruise before you book a full cruise to see if you’ll enjoy it. Whilst this is a great idea it’s worth bearing in mind that mini cruises offer a very different experience to normal cruises!
Many people book them as ‘party cruises’ so you’ll find that they’re a lot more lively and active than you would a normal cruise, more for young couples and hen/stag do’s. If this isn’t up your street then just bear that in mind when making your decision!
So, those were the 12 things that first time cruisers often get wrong! After reading about the importance of booking shore excursions early, paying attention to your cabin choice, having your passport close to hand at all times and cheating the system by turning up before the cruise lines state you can check in from, you’ll be a pro without having to make the errors in the first place!
What are your tips for first time cruisers? Is there anything you had to learn the hard way? Leave us your thoughts and advice below…