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Top tips for first time cruisers

25 May 2017 | by Keith Maynard

First time cruise tips

Introducing you to a vibrant range of cultures and destinations, a world of gourmet cuisine, and an unforgettable showcase of entertainment, a cruise is truly one of the best ways to holiday. Whether you're travelling with family, friends or solo, the service you'll receive will be second to none, but you may be wondering where to begin your journey. Read on to find out our top cruise tips to have the best cruise holiday.
First time cruise tips

Before your first cruise

When to book your first cruise

The best time to book your first cruise can vary depending on the cruise line of your choice, your cabin preferences, destination and what time of the year you're booking. Generally, you'll be able to book a cruise anywhere from two years in advance to even a week before the sailing date, but there are upsides to being ahead of the game, and to hanging on until the last minute.

If you're keen to book a specific cabin, or want to enjoy some great early bird savings, our top tip is to book early. Pre-register your interest on a new sailing season and you could be rewarded with fantastic incentives, such as onboard credit, upgrades and private transfers.

Occasionally, cruise lines will offer the last remaining cabins at discounted rates, usually within 60 days of the sailing date. While you may not have as much choice when it comes to selecting your cabin, there are often great incentives to book yourself a last minute first cruise.

What to pack for your first cruise

With no baggage limitations or liquid restrictions on most cruises, it can be tempting to pack your entire wardrobe for your very first cruise holiday. Our top cruise tips for packing for your first cruise are:

  • Bring warm clothes such as long sleeved t-shirts, a cardigan and a rain jacket, even if you are embarking on a warm weather cruise. The sea can be a chilly place during the evenings, and layers will come in handy.
  • Bring a small packet of laundry detergent so that you can make use of the laundry services onboard.
  • Put essentials such as medication, travel money and a spare change of clothes in a day pack in case you are separated from your luggage for quite some time.

Not sure what attire will best suit you and your cruise? Check out our in depth guide on what to wear on your cruise.

Preparing for embarkation day

Depending on your embarkation time, you may not be able to access your cabin right away. Our top cruise tip is to pack a day bag with any medication and other essentials, your swimming costume, a spare change of clothes and a good book. During this time, you can take advantage of the quiet pool, a relaxing spa treatment, or reserving your dining and entertainment for your holiday ahead. If you're traveling with small children, ensure you bring enough nappies and wipes in your bag to get you through a day.

Muster drills

An essential part of your cruise holiday, the muster drill is where passengers and crew will gather to practice steps taken in an emergency situation - whether you're new to cruising or a seasoned cruiser, this is not to be missed. This process takes place just before the ship sets sail, so ensure you are paying attention to announcements made during embarkation day. Be forewarned, crew members do come around to check that people are not still in the cabin.

During your first cruise

Saving cash during your cruise

Cruises are hugely popular for being all inclusive, with dining, entertainment and accommodation usually all included in your cruise fare. However, seasoned cruisers will know there are some tricks to keep in mind that will help you get the most out of your cruise without breaking the bank.

Here are our top tips for saving money during your cruise:

  • Keep an eye out in the daily cruise program for the cocktail of the day, which is often at a fantastic discounted price.
  • Stop by the spa or specialty restaurants during lunchtimes and port days. During these off-peak hours, they will often run special offers that will be posted in the daily cruise program.
  • Opt for a drinks package if you know you'll be enjoying the premium beverages. From coffee to soft drinks to world-class spirits, there's a drinks package to suit all kinds of cruisers that will save you time and money.

In order to make payments a smooth and easy process, you'll receive a swipe security card upon check-in - which doubles as your room key - for charging various items and services to an account that can be settled at the end of your trip with a debit/credit card or cash.

Dining

Dining during a cruise is often the highlight for many, and with so many fantastic cuisines on offer, you'll be spoilt for choice. If you're particularly eager to get a seat at a specific venue, our top cruise tip is to make reservations ahead of your cruise or during embarkation day. Specialty restaurants will be even more popular, and it is highly recommended that you book in advance to guarantee a taste of the gourmet dining experience.

On the other hand, if you're looking to dine in your own time, many cruise lines offer flexible dining - simply speak to your travel agent about arranging this. Alternatively, for an even more laidback dining experience, you don't have to eat in the main dining room at all! Simply head to the buffet where you can load up on your favourite dishes from around the world.

Entertainment

With so many cruise lines pulling out all the stops for the most unforgettable entertainment yet, you may be wondering where to start on booking your dream shows and bands onboard. Our top cruise tip is to ensure you make the most of discounts and deals when booking in advance. Many cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, allow customers to book entertainment, dining and excursions, often with fantastic discounts for getting ahead of the game. Best of all, you'll be among the first to pick your seats, meaning you'll have the best views of the most spectacular shows at sea.

Activities

Cruise lines have gone above and beyond to provide an unrivalled program of activities for guests to enjoy while onboard, including go-karting, roller coasters at sea, roller discos and much more. Families will love the 4D cinema as seen on MSC Bellissima, as well as the exhilarating Sky Zone seen with Carnival Cruise Line. Adults, on the other hand, may prefer something to relax and unwind such as with an indulgent treatment at the spa. With so many options, you may be overwhelmed with choice on your first cruise, but don't worry - there's plenty of time to enjoy it all!
  • Onboard activities may be included in the price, while some come at an extra cost - keep an eye out in the daily program for offers on spa treatments and family activities.
  • Want to avoid the queues? Visit your activity of choice during a day in port - while everyone is onshore, you'll find the ship is much quieter, meaning you'll have much more time to enjoy the activities onboard.
  • Cruise gyms are generally always free to use, meaning you can keep up your fitness regime during your holiday. To step it up a notch, book yourself an exhilarating class or a session with one of the expert onboard personal trainers.

Excursions

Similarly to popular entertainment, the most sought after excursions will book up very quickly. With limited time in port it's highly recommended that you book in advance, whether the excursion is sponsored by the cruise line or provided by your favourite tour operator. As with booking entertainment via customer portals, cruise lines often have brilliant discounts to take advantage of when booking beforehand, or when booking at guest services on embarkation day.
First time cruise tips

Keeping in touch

All cabins contain phones for ship-to-shore calls however the charges are costly. Most cruise lines have now made their ships mobile phone friendly - while phones typically work best within sight of land, you can connect while miles out at sea. Research your carrier's policies, accessibility and roaming fees before you depart. Roaming rates can be high but are typically cheaper than using your ship's phone service. To avoid any surprise bills when you return home, turn off your phone's data roaming before you leave.

Internet

Though cruise ships have Internet Cafes, almost all are fully Wi-Fi enabled so you can log onto the Internet from your own device. Fees apply but can be greatly reduced if you purchase an internet package before your cruise or at guest services on embarkation day.

While you're browsing our huge range of deals, you'll often find lots of bookable extras such as speciality dining, entertainment, internet, drinks and more as part of these fantastic offers. Check out our We offer lots of bookable things like dining, entertainment, internet, drinks, excursions and much more as part of our offers, check out our deal page to find out more or get in touch to find the perfect first cruise for you.

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