20 Tips for First Time Cruisers
Posted on 06-Aug-2019 by Deesha Jhaveri - avid traveler and cruise-lover
First time cruisers can be a little overwhelmed with all the decisions to make when planning a cruise and apprehensive too about what to expect onboard the ship. However, once you’ve experienced cruising, you will be hard pressed to find a vacation option more comforting, rejuvenating and relaxing. This blog is an attempt to help first time cruisers navigate these waters, and make your experience on your cruise as smooth, easy and seamless as possible. Here are the top twenty-five tips for first time cruisers!
Know your Ship
Cruise ships these days are like floating cities in the middle of the ocean. These ships are spread over 15 to 18 decks with dining & entertainment options located on multiple decks. Firstly, get familiar with the location of your cabin on the ship – whether its located in the forward, mid or aft section of the ship and the distance to the nearest elevator. Most leading cruiseliners today have detailed maps and 3D tours of the ship available on their mobile apps or websites. Take your time devouring the entire ship and all it has to offer, before even stepping foot in it. Trust me, even after all your preparation, you will have a tough time short-listing all the on-board activities and dining options you wish to experience.
Know your Ports of Call
Your cruise will cover several destinations over the sailing duration, sometimes even across multiple countries. Each destination will have multiple choice of things to do in the limited time that you are at the port. It is advisable to go through the list of shore excursion options offered by the cruiseliner so that you get an idea of the choices you have and then decide which excursion you would like to take. You can pre-book the shore excursion online before your cruise (recommended for really popular excursions), book your excursion on the ship at the shore excursion counter a dayor two prior to docking at the port or just explore the destination on your own.
Using the Cruise Card
Cruises are entirely cashless! Your Cruise Card serves as the sole gateway for all your expenses while on the ship. Just swipe your cruise card for whatever extras onboard including booking shore excursions and settle your bill on your last day by using your credit card or pay in USD / EURO. In most cruises, the cruise card functions as your room key as well. Needless to say, keep it close!
Make advance bookings
This is the mantra to live by if you want to have a memorable cruise experience. On the big ships, there are upto 5000 passengers onboard so its advisable to make advance bookings for specialty restaurants, for select on-board activities like spa or for popular shore excursions. In many cruises, you also need to decide on your dinner time (choice of 1st or 2nd seating) prior to the cruise.
There is a myth surrounding cruises that everyone on-board must be dressed formally all the time, like some sort of modern-day Downton Abbey. This is (thankfully) entirely untrue. Barring specific formal nights like Captains dinner for which your cruise will provide prior intimation to you, you can dress as casually as you desire. But most cruises request their guests to wear closed shoes and collared T-shirt during dinner. It is important to pack smart with only what you need. The urge to overpack is understandable, but too many bags will only clutter your cabin.
Luggage handling is pretty much identical to international flights. While there is no express bar on the amount of luggage allowed per person, cruise liners might have individual restrictions. After the check-in during embarkation, you will see your luggage directly in your assigned cabins after a couple of hours!
Choose your cabins wisely
If the ship is your city, your cabin is your home, and you need to choose your cabin very carefully. Cabin classes differ in terms of view - typically cabins are classified as interior (without any view), with window (porthole), with private balcony and suite. Within each broad classification, you can choose cabins based on cabin size and luxury based on one’s preference ranging from studio cabins for solo travelers to duplex cabins for families with vanishing verandas. For families travelling with members having disabilities, cruises these days have special disability-friendly cabins and accommodations.
Your Cabin Amenities
Cruise cabins in general have most of the amenities one would find in a luxury hotel room. Cabins are equipped with all basic toiletries (including hairdryers) and all basic necessities you may require including a wardrobe where you can unpack all your stuff (and keep your suitcase away, under the bed).
It is very safe to say that your ship will most likely have WiFi access throughout or in the common areas of the ship at the very least. Some cruises also have WiFi packages for the entire duration, as per your requirement. Cell phone network will be strong at the ports but weak when you are cruising on the high seas – since you will be travelling through multiple countries, choose your international roaming pack carefully.
What to carry
Among a few things that might come handy, do carry a convertible adapter for your gadgets – cruises can have sockets differing from those of your gadgets. God forbid your camera dies on day two of your trip! Keep all your necessary documentation - passports, insurance, credit/debit card, your Cruise Card etc. safely. All cabins have a safe deposit box in the cabin to keep your valuables. Depending on your itinerary, some cruiseliners keep your passport at the time of check in which they return on the last day of your cruise.
What NOT to carry
Keep no sharp objects (knives, scissors, nail filers included) or inflammable articles (candles, incense, fireworks, bows and arrows) in your luggage. In addition to this, hot plates, irons, coffee makers too will be confiscated. All balls must be deflated for them to be allowed while bats, sticks and self-defense gear is prohibited entirely.
Tipping etiquette dictates that each guest should tip at least eight to ten dollars a day, per person. Most cruise liners have made gratuities compulsory which is either collected at the time of booking the cruise OR added to your extras billing which is settled at the end of the cruise. This saves the hassle of tipping for individual services availed on the ship.
You can’t carry any alcohol with you on the ship. Don’t let those precious bottles waste any space in your luggage. However, this is no damper on your plans to indulge during the cruise. You can try all the wine and vintage liquors in the specialty restaurants and bars on the ship and pay for it at the end of the cruise. Not to mention the excellent alcohol you can try at the multiple ports of call you stop at. If you wish to purchase any, the cruise-line will likely retain the bottle with them till the end of the cruise.
Take the Stairs
This might sound dubious, but take the stairs instead of the elevators. There are three advantages to this – you will get good exercise, you’ll explore the ship and find your own little nooks and corners and you will save a lot of time. When exploring, do begin from the top deck and then go downwards, keep a map of the ship handy; and the ship is your arena.
Mobile App / Daily Schedule
Most cruise liners today have mobile apps which they recommend you download when you board the cruise. These apps are pretty much a one-way key for all your queries – the day’s schedule of activities, the maps, activities, events etc. are all loaded on the app for easy reference. In addition, you will get a daily schedule leaflet every day in your cabin (usually at turn down service in the evening) so you can plan the following day’s activities.
If you’ve disembarked to explore the ports, remember to return to the ship atleast 45 minutes prior to the ship leaving the port. Ship gates close 15 to 30 minutes before sailing. At the start of the cruise, it is mandatory to attend the muster drill on the day of embarkation. Not only will it give you all the information in the case of an emergency, it’ll help you get acquainted with the ship.
Know your cruise lingo
your vessel is a ‘ship’ not a ‘boat’ and is to be referred as ‘she’. The floors are called ’decks’ and the bedrooms are called ‘cabins’. The crew in charge of the upkeep of your cabins, as well as your go-to people for room service are called ‘cabin stewards’. In addition, try and learn a few catchphrases in the local languages of the various cities you are likely to visit, it always helps in initiating communication in case you don’t have a translator or a guide.
Mingle with your fellow travelers and have a multi-cultural, multi-faceted experience while travelling across multiple countries.
Try as many cuisines as possible – whether on the ship or the ports.There is a joy to tasting authentic cuisine of the places from local restaurants that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world. You might be pining for good old Indian food, but nothing beats tasting authentic Italian Pizza on a street-side restaurant in Rome. Let your taste buds free!
Finally, take pictures. Take a million snapshots. Of the sea, of the ports, of the people, of yourself. Capture every second and treasure it forever! You can only go for the first cruise of your life once, make sure you record every little moment, and re-live it over and over again. Happy cruising!
They are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantage and extraordinary opportunities and culture legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways other cannot
Thanks for sensible tips which is very informative to start off for first timers like us... and we gain more knowledge as we go.
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