All About Cruising: Guide for First Time Cruisers

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Room service is often included in the price of the cruise — something that tends to delight first time cruisers, but some cruiselines ask for an additional fee for room service at night. A full pricing list can be found on the website or once onboard, so take a look at this information. Fancy a specialty meal? Our advice is to enjoy your gourmet dining experience on one particular day.

However, if you plan to enjoy that specialty meal on embarkation day itself, you will find that most of the posh restaurants on the cruise ship are much less crowded. This is because everyone is busy settling in to their cabins and exploring the cruise ship, planning to enjoy that gourmet dinner later on in the cruise. If you book that meal on the first day, you will find yourself in a delightfully tranquil environment, simply rubbing shoulders with a few old timers who have also realised that this is the best way to beat the crowds. Do you find yourself nodding off during the in flight safety instructions on a plane because you have heard it all before?

This is a physical activity when all guests must practice assembling at a given location that has been designated as the meeting place in the event of an emergency. You must definitely attend this drill. However, the muster drill enables you to plan your route to the meeting place from your cabin or from your favorite restaurant, and so you will find it much easier to repeat this route much more smoothly and calmly in the event of an actual emergency. The same goes for visiting the spa.

Indeed, many spas will provide special introductory tours for guests on the day you embark. Spa staff will guide you around and show you the different treatment rooms and explain various treatments. You are able to take a look at the onboard sauna, hairdresser and fitness centre. Your picture probably will be taken at some point well, several points actually! First timers are often surprised to find a cameraperson popping up in the middle of their gourmet dinner and snapping their smiling face. Our advice? Be prepared for this. Cruise ships as a rule will hire professional photographers to roam throughout the ship during the cruise to take snaps of guests enjoying themselves.

Even if you do not use it on the cruise, a switched on cell phone could be silently accruing charges as your roaming data plan hooks you up to the ships network or local networks of the different countries that the ship passes through. But, if you want to access your emails we advise using a laptop or tablet, or only switch on your phone when needed. One of the plagues of cruise ships is, unfortunately, the gastroenteritis causing bug known as norovirus. This is because a closed off cruise ship, with a large number of people in close proximity and sharing meals, provides a near perfect environment for norovirus to spread.

Norovirus can spread relatively quickly through cruise ships and it can knock you out for several days. Help yourself and other passengers out by using hand sanitizer before and after meals, and regularly throughout the day. We have explained that you can usually bring a lot of luggage on board the cruise liner if you like, but most cruiselines allow passengers to bring some alcohol onboard when you embark, but they are often very restrictive about how much you can bring.

Why Type of Cruise Is Right For You?

After all, they want to be able to make a profit from their on board bars and restaurants. Cruise ships tend to depart from and arrive at the same ports again and again. As a result, they have developed strong relationships with certain hotels around their embarkation port.

Many hotels within a certain radius of the port will provide a free cruise shuttle bus or for a small addtional fee for getting you to the port on time on the first day. Seasickness is usually caused by the rocking of the cruise ship in rougher seas. If you like a tipple with your meals and you want to party on your chosen cruiseliner, you may find that you rack up a sizeable bill at the on board bar. One issue for many first timers on cruises is how to treat the crew. Should you leave them alone to get on with their job?

Our advice is to always be friendly with the crew. Get to know them and chat to them — be nice to them at all times if you see them around! Cruise ship staff are chosen for their excellent people skills, and most of them adore the job that they do as it enables them to meet new people. Be aware that they may not be able to do so right away, but usually they will try and make your most favored foodstuffs available for you to order the following day.

Many cruisers book their cruise to coincide with their birthday, or with a special occasion such as a wedding anniversary.

Planning Your First Cruise?

You absolutely must let the staff know about this as cruise shop staff love to go all out with special gifts for your special day, like a song just for you, decorations in your cabin, and a delicious birthday cake. Whether you are a vegan, or whether your require gluten free or nut free meals, simply let the staff know. You can tell them before you travel, or mention it to them at any time once the cruise is underway.

Cruise ships will provide you with a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and often dinner but there will also be a main dining room where you can eat a fancier meal with table service. Many guests save their main dining room experience for their evening meal, but we definitely advise having your breakfast or lunch there a few times too. Not too many people do this, and so this can be the best time to beat the crowds and enjoy a delightful lunch or a fancy start to the day with a gourmet breakfast!

As we mentioned above, most cruise liners provide room service throughout the day, and it is often free. Nowadays, many companies also ask you to pay extra to get room service throughout the night as well if you want those delicious midnight feasts. Though a private balcony is part of your cabin and it is for your use alone, it is not so secure as the interiors of your rooms.

Do not leave valuables on your balcony — we find that a large proportion of the items stolen on cruise ships go missing from balconies. In addition, balconies can get a little windy and if you leave a pair of sunglasses, a book or a towel on the side it could get blown into the sea! Thinking of stepping straight from the shower onto your balcony to enjoy the bracing sea air on your nude body? Yes, this keeps your belongings safe from thieves, but it also ensures that the wind does not sneak in to your cabin and leave everything in disarray, or when sailing in the tropics your cabin will heat up or become very humid.

One of the best ways to start your day on a cruise liner is to have your breakfast out on your balcony — trust us! Your regularly updated, personalized bill for your stay on the cruise liner can be accessed via your TV.

Check out if your chosen cruise ship provides free laundry before you travel as this could be very handy. Another option provided on a cruise is to have a qualified member of staff babysit your children for you in your room and keep your kids entertained whilst you adults head to the bar or to a show by yourselves. The atmosphere on a cruise ship can definitely be conducive to romance, and we have seen plenty of lovely lasting relationships starting between guests who met on cruises.

Hooking up with a member of the crew is a definite no-no, though. If you have a news item that you would like to have included in this daily newsletter, simply get in touch with a member of staff. Many cruises take place under hot tropical sun, but the sea breeze can make the day feel nice and cool, disguising the strength of the sun. First timers are often disappointed to find that they get sunburned after a few hours out on their balcony enjoying the cool wind.

Our advice is to apply sun cream at the start of each day and to reapply it regularly throughout the day. Add a few towel clips to your luggage you may not be able to buy them on board the ship and use them to clip your towel securely to the frame of a deck chair or a similar surface. Cruise ships can be raucous places, filled with a real buzz as everyone kicks back and enjoys themselves to the max.

We all need a little down time, though, where we can listen to music, meditate, or read undisturbed. One item on your agenda when you first board the ship, then, should be to find a quiet spot where you know you can go for a little peace and quiet. That might be your private balcony, or it might be a cosy little cafe tucked away midship. Even in the tropics, nights can get cold. A warm jacked is an essential addition to your luggage. Smoking bans are becoming ever more ubiquitous in indoor spaces such as restaurants and bars. However, many cruise ships are exempt from such bans. On many cruiseships you will definitely be able to smoke outdoors in a certain area and on some ships still on your balcony.

Many cruise liners offer on board casinos though the pay outs are usually smaller than the pay outs for casinos on dry land. But, you can also participate in a variety of games and quizzes throughout the duration of your trip to get great prizes such as a free spa treatment, a free gourmet meal in the specialty restaurant, or a free shore excursion.

As you settle in to your cruise, you will no doubt be enjoying it so much that you will not want it to end. A lot of the time you will be able to find what you want and can eat from the menu but if you need any assistance with this the waiter can run through menus with you for the following days meals. If you are a diabetic again the waiters can help and you will need to let the cruise line know. If you have any intolerance to foods the cruise line will need to know to try and cater for your needs. If they can't cater for certain things then you may be able to take your own on board.

It is always best to check they will let you do this. Choosing your cruise destination can be hard and the weather can be a big factor. It is always best to check the climate of your chosen destination before you book your cruise. It is always worth to check with your cruise consultant as you may find you need to change your destination to suit your holiday dates check out our Weather guide for further details.

21 Helpful Tips for First Time Cruisers

When you go on a cruise the last thing you would expect is to be taken ill and need medical attention but this does happen on some occasions and so all ships have a medical centre and facilities on board. The medical centre is there to deal with minor problems to the not so minor. They are there if you are suffering from sea sickness to if you have fallen and broke a bone or cut yourself. It is always worth bearing in mind that the services from the medical centre will probably come with a charge so having your travel insurance check out our Travel Insurance guide is a must as it could get pricy.

In the event of a passenger having something more serious like a heart attack then it will become necessary to medevac you to land. A lot of the large cruise ships have heli pads on board so passengers can be airlifted from the ship, but on other ships the doctors will look after you until you reach port to be taken to hospital.

When it comes to Gratuities on board a cruise it is hard to know what to pay and who to pay. The gratuities are paid to your head waiter and cabin steward. Most cruise lines will automatically add their recommended Gratuity amount to your on board account. This saves you having to worry how much to pay.

First Time Cruise: Tips, Advice & Planning - Cruise Critic

A lot of the time you have the option to now pay these before the cruise so it is one less thing to think about when on board. Other cruise lines include the gratuities already so you don't need to worry. All cruise lines will operate differently on this so it is worth knowing how each cruise line operates. What is on board credit? When it comes to cruising on board credit gets mentioned a lot. Cruise lines will try and offer some extras to encourage passengers to cruise with them. How does on board credit work?

You will receive your on board spending money on board the ship. You don't receive this before you travel. Once you have your on board account on board the ship the money will be credited to your account. You can check this early on in your cruise if you wish to make sure the money has been applied. The money will then be deducted every time you make a purchase. When you receive your final bill at the end of the cruise you will see the on board spending money has been applied.

Everybody has a dream destination that they would love to travel to. Cruising gives you so many opportunities to travel to those places that you never thought you would get to. As a first time cruiser many people don't realise where they can travel to on a cruise. The Mediterranean and the Caribbean are always places that come to mind when you think of a cruise and are a good start to cruising, but that is only the start with where you can travel to.

There are lots of cruises out there to look at ranging from 2 night mini cruises to give you a taste to cruising to doing a full world cruise for over nights. There is always something to suit everyone and every budget. Some destinations that are a must see when cruising include;.

When you book a cruise a lot of the time now there will always be some sort of offer on the sailing. A lot of the cruise lines will offer lower prices but with some restriction on the cabins.


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A guarantee cabin is something that pops up a lot. Cruise lines offer guarantee cabins in different ways. It basically means that you don't get to choose your cabin number for your cruise. The cruise lines offer you to pick and book a particular grade of cabin but your cabin number will be allocated by the cruise line at a later stage.

They will either offer you a cabin number within the grade you booked or will look at upgrading you to a higher cabin category. Some cruise lines will offer a different guarantee and offer either an inside, outside or suite. With this again you won't know what cabin number you are getting but it would be an inside if you have booked a guaranteed inside cabin etc. This way of booking suits a lot of people as they are getting a good priced cabin and may get upgraded from the grade they have booked.

A guarantee cabin isn't for everyone though — if you like to know what deck you are on, or if you like to be in the middle of the ship it's probably best not to go with this option. I am sure you have heard tender port pop up a few times when looking at cruise itineraries but what does it actually mean? A tender port is when a ship cannot get into port to dock alongside so has to anchor in the harbour and ferry the passengers to shore.

This can be due to the fact the ship is too big to dock or that the water isn't deep enough for the ship to dock. So how does a tender port work? On a normal port of call you will be able to disembark the ship when you want and just walk off the ship. What you need to do for a tender is normally collect a ticket and wait for your number to be called to join the tender boat. If you are on a booked shore excursion the cruise line will organise and help disembark these passengers.

You will then proceed to the gangway to step onto the tender boat to take you to shore. The tender boats are normally one of the ships lifeboats but some port will have their own boats that they use. The tender boats will run to and from the ship throughout the day while the ship is anchored. You will get given the time of the last tender boat before you get off the ship. It is always worth checking how many ports are tender in an itinerary because if you have restricted mobility then these may not be suitable for you.

If you are disabled maybe you have been put off by cruising as you don't know how the cruise lines would cater for you and your needs. Cruise Lines do cater for the disabled passenger and all cruise ships will offer different facilities on board. If you are confined to a wheelchair then a disabled cabin would be the option to go for as disabled cabins on board ships will have wider doors, a wet room and much more space than a standard cabin for you to manoeuvre.

If you require a hoist then these aren't as standard in cabins and will need to be hired. There will be a selection of disabled cabins on board ranging from inside cabins up to suites. You do need to bear in mind that there are limited cabins for disabled passengers so you do need to book far in advance to get the cabin you would prefer. If you aren't confined to a wheelchair then some cruise lines will let you have a standard cabin and take your own wheelchair for use around the ship or on excursions.

Some cruise lines do limit the amount of wheelchair users they will have on board the ship so again booking early is essential. There are plenty of facilities around the ship for disabled passenger also. When you have the muster drill when you board the ship the lifts will be out of order. What normally happens is the cabin stewards will be at your door to come and help you to your muster station. Cruise lines will normally have sections reserved in the theatres for disabled passengers and some ships will also have hoists into swimming pools.

For the deaf and hard of hearing passengers the some ships will have text telephones, visual alert alarms, closed caption decoders on TVs and an assistive listening system in the cinemas. For the blind then Guide dogs are accepted on board but may not be in the ports of call. The menus will be in large print and braille and there will also be braille signs on elevator buttons and on the cabin signs. Check out our Disabled Facilities guide for more information. When you are taking your family on a cruise you want to make sure there is plenty to keep the kids occupied.

Some cruise lines will offer more family facilities than others so it is always worth looking into this before booking your cruise. Some cruise Lines will offer Kids clubs, these will be staggered in age groups and normally start from age 2 up to This is so much more convenient than having to carry around cash. Just be sure to keep a close hold on your card! Wondering if you should get an interior cabin or a balcony room?

Balconies are great, but there are some big advantages for interior cabins. Having an interior cabin is a cheaper way to get on your first sailing without breaking the bank. As we just said, interior cabins are great for first-time cruisers who are usually out around the ship the entire trip. Having the fresh air — and the view — from your balcony is worth the extra cost if you want to pay a little more for your trip. Thankfully, cruise security is much more like flying used to be.

When it comes to boarding the ship on cruise day, everyone is excited. The result is a huge rush of people at the start of check-in unless your cruise line uses staggered check-in. It can take an hour or more to get through security and check-in. Instead, wait until about an hour before the boarding window closes.

By this time most people are on the ship and check-in takes just a few minutes. Cruise lines offer early debarkation for passengers who can carry all of their luggage. In our experience, the majority of passengers opt for this route. The result is a long wait to get off the ship. Headed to the Caribbean?

The ports you visit thrive on tourism and make things easy for tourists. They will all gladly accept U. If you just loved the Chicken Parmesan from a few nights ago, ask for it again. Chances are high that they will whip up a serving for you, no questions asked.

On most vacations, room service is an expensive luxury. Some cruise lines are charging for certain items on the menu, but they will be clearly marked. Cruise lines know that people want to let loose and have a drink or ten! Still, most cruise lines allow you to bring aboard some alcohol when you embark at the start of your trip. Drink packages seems like good deals, but the rules can make them quite pricey. For instance, many cruise lines force each person in a cabin to buy the package if any passenger buys it. This keeps you from sharing drinks. As well, you have to buy the package for the entire cruise.

Finally, with high daily prices, you usually have to drink drinks each and every day you are on the cruise to come out ahead. For most passengers, they are actually better off buying drinks individually. Want to board first? Want to be first off the boat? Great, hope you like standing in line. It will mean you spend less of your vacation waiting around and more time enjoying your trip. They are typically right at the cruise terminal, so you unload and head right to check-in. Of course, they charge for that convenience. If you search for parking lots near the port , you can usually find lots that are nearly as convenient, but at a sharp discount to parking at the port.

Plan to stay in town the night before your cruise? As an incentive to attract guests, many hotels especially in smaller port cities like Galveston offer free parking if you stay a night with them. Tipping is a fact of life on a cruise. And while many cruise lines have switched to including gratuities with your cruise fare, there are still situations that call for tipping the old-fashioned way. There are horror stories after horror stories of people coming back from their cruise with unexpected cell phone charges.

Turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode before your cruise leaves the shore. But if you are the type that makes a lot of noise ahem… enjoying your vacation with your partner, perhaps? Most passengers will eat their dinner in the main dining room, but they actually serve breakfast and lunch there too. Head over if you want something a little fancier.

Shore excursions: The early bird catches the worm

Not always, but often the cruise lines will simply dub a fruity cocktail the drink of the day and charge the same amount as usual. A little confusing? No doubt. With everything seemingly so perfect on the ship, it can be easy to think that ports of call are perfect as well.

To be fair, ports you visit will be pretty safe, especially in the tourist areas. The fact is that most people will never use the travel insurance that they buy. Travel insurance can help covers costs of getting sick or injured, as well as compensate you for travel delays, lost baggage and more.

You can read more about travel insurance and what it covers here. Have your heart set on Cozumel? Just know that cruise itineraries can change for any number of reasons. Whether it be an issue with the ship, weather, or even riots in port.