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14 Tips for First Time Cruisers

14th January 2016

There’s nothing like that first time you step on board, excitedly explore the ship and hear its booming horn ringing out through the air for all to hear as you set sail on your first ever holiday at sea. Cruising out of the port and peering back at dry land, it can be hard, still, to imagine what’s ahead. Aussies have loved cruising for years and many go back, year after year, for more. No doubt you will love it too – but first, don't miss our top tips and bits of advice for first time cruisers.

Cruising is a wonderful way to travel. Image: Crystal Cruises. Cruising is a wonderful way to travel. Image: Crystal Cruises.

Talk to seasoned cruisers

Frequent cruisers know the ins and outs of what to do – and what not to do. From the big things down to those tiny little niggly tips that can actually be super helpful, it’s always worth chatting to someone who’s already been there and done that. From which ship and cruise line to go with to packing tips and other cruise tactics, get the lowdown and get a feel for what your first cruise holiday will be like.

First things first: explore

The best way to kick off your cruise is with a walk around the ship to get your bearings and get a feel for what’s on offer and where to find it. Often you’ll find that you’ll stumble across some sort of surprise that you didn’t realise when you booked – a cupcake shop, ice skating ring or pool you may have overlooked in the brochure. Think about what you like the look of and what you want to do first in preparation for the days ahead. A great time to do this is while you’re waiting for your luggage to arrive at your cabin.

Explore as soon as you board and see what you find. Image: Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas. Explore as soon as you board and see what you find. Image: Royal Caribbean (Legend of the Seas)

Cruise card is key

To save you carrying around money, credit cards, cabin keys and the works while on board, it all comes rolled into one on your cruise card. Your cruise card will be the key to your cabin as well as your personal account when buying drinks, souvenirs or anything else on board. To make it easy to keep hold of, come armed with a lanyard to keep it around your neck wherever you go. Just remember to bring real cash when venturing off the ship on port days!

Look into drinks packages

If you plan to have a few drinks, the drinks packages can offer great savings. Even just a cocktail by the pool and a couple of wines with dinner can quickly add up, so do the math to see what will work best for your budget. It may appear pricey at first, but be realistic about how much you plan to consume while on a relaxing cruise holiday. A range of packages are on offer, including a varying mix of soft-drinks, cocktails, alcoholic spirits, wine and beer. Just beware that on some ships, drinks packages must be purchased in advance or else on the first day of the cruise.

Drinks packages can be very economical. Drinks packages can be very economical.

Beware of seasickness

Nobody wants to get seasick, but the best you can do is plan for the worst. Pack seasickness tablets just in case and if you know you get seasick, be sure to start taking them the day before you board. Ginger can also help to alleviate motion sickness.

Know your dining options

Dining on board varies from ship to ship, and cruise line to cruise line. Find out what your dinnertime eating arrangements will be. Are there set times or can you choose? Will you be in the same seat with the same people each night? Are there specialty restaurants or celebrity chef establishments you’d like to enjoy? Find out so you know what to expect.

Innovative dining concepts are at the forefront of cruising. Image: P&O Cruises (The Pantry, Pacific Aria). Innovative dining concepts are at the forefront of cruising. Image: P&O Cruises (The Pantry, Pacific Aria).

Understand what’s included

There’s nothing worse than unexpected costs on holidays, so be sure you understand what is included in your cruise. Drinks, laundry, specialty dining restaurants and even on-board games like bingo often catch people out, while things like massages and beauty treatments and onshore excursions are more commonly known to come with extra cost.

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Pack a small day bag

As well as your suitcase and handbag, be sure to bring along a small day pack or backpack that is comfy. This will come in handy on days at port when you’re hopping off the ship to explore, as well as around the ship during the day. A great idea is to pack a change of clothes in this when you first board, so once you’ve done a walk-around you can hit the pool if your luggage is still on its way.

Research and plan ahead

Don’t stop researching once you’ve decided on a cruise line, cruise ship and season to sail in. Get to know your ship before you arrive and start planning what specialty restaurants, beauty salon and pampering treatments to book, and which activities and onshore excursions you’re interested in. Pre-book in advance or as soon as you step on board. Then stop, and relax, knowing it’s all taken care of.

Book your appointments in advance. Image: Seabourn. Book your appointments in advance. Image: Seabourn.

Do what you’ve never done

With so much variety and so much happening on board, a cruise is a great time to try something new. Don’t stick to your usual routine – branch out! Go to that late-night disco, play a round of bingo, try a yoga class, or strap on some skates and try your hand at ice skating. It’s sure to be a memory you’ll look back on and cherish – or be amused by – for a long time to come.

Get in line for shows

It may not be Broadway, but the shows on board are truly spectacular! Often performers come from around the world to perform their talents on stage on cruise boats around the world, including incredible ice skaters, dancers, singers and acrobats. Get in line to catch the show – the seats can fill up fast. Just get there early to make sure you don’t miss out.

 Don't miss the wonderful shows on board. Image: Royal Caribbean Don't miss the wonderful shows on board. Image: Royal Caribbean

Arrive the night before

If you’re not flying from your home town, don’t arrive the day you board. While it can seem convenient to fly in that morning, if flights get delayed, the traffic is terrible or some other unforeseen hindrances crop up, you’ll be kicking off your holiday with a great deal of stress – and will possibly risk missing the boat altogether. Better safe than sorry!

Consider a ‘sampler cruise’

First-time cruisers may not want to commit to a long-haul cruise straight up. So consider a ‘sampler cruise’ to get a taste for what it’s about. These cruises often span just two to three days and offer a great experience to test the waters. Keep in mind though that these can be seen as ‘party cruises’ for people looking for a short break to let loose or celebrate a bucks party or birthday with a quick getaway. Longer cruises tend to be more sedate, with plenty of time to enjoy it all at sea.

Enjoy yourself!

You’re on holidays, so enjoy yourself! Don’t succumb to the pressure to do everything – because there is a heck of a lot to experience on board and at each destination. So just go with the flow and see where each day takes you, while being sure to slot in the must-dos that you’re looking forward to most. Everyone on board is looking to have a good time so it’s not hard to pick up on the happy vibes and good spirits around. Join in and remember your holiday for all the right reasons!

 Enjoy every minute of your cruise holiday. Image: Seabourne Enjoy every minute of your cruise holiday. Image: Seabourne

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