Cruise tips for first timers
Are you going on your first cruise, how exciting I love cruising I have done over 10 cruises in the last few years. For so long I kept putting off going on a cruise as I didnt think I would like it, how wrong I was as I fell in love with cruising straight away. Here I offer some advice by sharing my cruise tips for first timers.
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Pack things you will need straight away in hand luggage. Your cases are taken at check in and will be delivered to your cabin, but this can take a few hours. If you know you are going to want to head straight to the pool, then pack your swimming things in a separate bag.
Also you might not be able to get on the ship straight away they normally let you board according to cabin grade this information will be given to you beforehand i.e. what time you may check in or some cruises do it and you arrive at port and give you a number card and then you wait for that number to be called. It is good to be patient and dont expect things to be done quickly and then if they are it will be a pleasent surprise.
I have had to wait hours to get on board and on other cruise lines I have gone straight on, so it all depends. You will need passport visa booking information and sometimes a credit card again all this information will be given to you beforehand but I like to have it already in a plastic wallet for when I get to the port.
Get to know you cabin steward
Get to know cabin steward they can help and get you extras. You will have a dedicated cabin steward who makes up your cabin and delivers daily requirements.
If you dont like the pillow in your cabin tell your steward, most cruise lines have a pillow menu and they advertise as a luxury for higher priced cabins but I always ask for a memory foam or firmer pillow and never had a problem getting one I like a firm pillow.
Read the daily program
The daily program it is printed and delivered each night to some ships such an NCL Epic put the information on the tv screens in the cabin. The program has everything you need to know about what is happening on the ship also information about any ports you may be visiting.
I get a little excited each night reading the daily program so I can plan what I am going to do the next day.
So many people complain if they miss an activity they wanted to do when on a cruise and I say did you not see it in the program and they say oh I don’t read that well there you go then whose fault is it if you miss something you would have liked to have done.
Tipping on a cruise
Automatic gratuities are often added daily to your onboard account. These tips will be shared between all different levels and types of staff working on a cruiseship including people behind the scenes.
Tipping is quite a sensitive subject on a cruise and being British and not from a tipping culture this was quite a shock for me. I personally believe tips should be included in the price, but a lot of cruise staff receive low wage and rely on these tips.
You can however remove the automatic tips and then pay what you want to whom you want. I cruise a lot on P&O and found this was quite the norm but then when I went on NCL it wasn’t.
However, you will have to go to the reception desk and fill in a form to have this removed. A lot of people do it on the first day, but this can lead to long lines. It doesn’t have to be done on the first day so you can wait.
Depending on how long my cruise is I normally wait a few days and then when I am passing and there is no queue, I fill in the form. It is quite a bizarre, I feel as though I look l like a cheapskate, but I do tip, however I like to give it personally. Some cruises dont let you remove the automatic gratuities so you will need to read your pre cruise information for this.
Cabins are quite small and a tip I was told about was to use a magnet to put up important tickets on the cabin wall, so you know where they are. I often buy a magnet when I am in port anyway as a travel souvenir.
It can get windy on deck and one thing I have found helpful is a towel peg. Also means if you get up to get a drink your towel doesn’t end up on the other side of the deck.
If not doing a fly cruise you can take more, I like taking a water filter so I dont have to waste money on bottled water as tap water can taste a little funny.
Use a scarf to show you are sitting somewhere
People move around a lot on a cruise i.e. you go and sit in the bar then you are hungry, so you pop to the restaurant. You get a seat in the theatre but then you want to go to the toilet before the show starts.
Even if you are travelling with others if someone sees an empty seat they might try sitting down but if you use a scarf or even a book, something of little value then it sort of marks it so others are aware.
Obviously dont use it to reserve seating for long periods of time as this is actually frowned upon but for a short time it is ok.
If you are sat in the restaurant but you both want to go and choose your desserts together then leaving something behind lets people know you are coming back it also helps the cleaning staff so they don’t reset the table.
Over the door storage
As storage space is limited an over the door storage bag is useful especially if you like to be organised. I have one and hang it over the bathroom door just means I am then not tripping over things. I keep my toiletries and shoes in it.
Reusable plastic bags
Whenever I travel, I have a few reusable plastic bags as they have a variety of uses. One thing I do which might be frowned upon and I am not greedy but if I am going to be in port for lunch to save money, I grab something from breakfast.
I am not a big breakfast eater and tend to eat little and often so I like to snack. I take maybe an apple and bread roll with ham or cheese for my lunch put it in the plastic bag and I then have a packed lunch.
I am not a total money pincher, but I do look at ways to save money on a cruise. If I am in a new country I might want to try some local cuisine so I dont do it all the time but especially if you are going to be on a long excursion it is handy to have a snack with you.
Also even taking a cake from the restaurant to my room for later just because I am lazy and don’t want to have to keep going back to the dining room especially if my cabin is at the other end of the ship it is a long trek to get a cookie to go with my cup of tea.
Talking about cups of tea if your cabin doesnt have tea and coffee making facilities and you are a big hot drink drinker then consider a travel kettle.
Again it is for convenience and because I am lazy and don’t really need as you can get tea and coffee 24 hours somewhere on the ship or you can ring room service but if you don’t like waiting like little old inpatient me then I like having my own stash of PG tips and my kettle.
I dont have milk so thats not a problem for me but you can also get long life milk if you don’t have a fridge. If you have to have your particular brand of coffee in the morning then take some with you just in case you dont like what’s onboard.
Same with anything you like to just take it without I take some chocolate bars as I know not having any will make me want some even though there is so much food on a cruise I like to have a chunky KitKat when I want one.
Buying things in port
A lot of cruise lines say you cannot purchase alcohol in port to bring back on board but I have never had an issue.
Dont go overboard (sorry!!) But bringing on a bottle of wine to drink in your cabin is not going to cause a scene. Now if you bring on 5 cases it might raise a few eyebrows.
If you are a wine drinker then dont forget to pack a corkscrew or a bottle opener for your beer.
Most people will be stocking up when they go to port and there are generally port shops to do this.
When you do get back on the ship you go through a security scanner as do your bags.
Check the dress code
Your cruise itinerary should state how many formal nights there will be, and this will ensure you have enough posh clothes.
You dont have to dress up but if you want to go in the dining room on formal night you will need to be smart.
Also it is worth checking as some cruises have themed nights such as black and white or pirate night if you want to take part again it is not compulsory
The night before the last day on a cruise, you have to put bags out so make sure you have a smaller bag and keep things back such as clothes for next day pjs to sleep in and then you can put all your last minute things and valuables in the bag.
You might not be able to just get straight off the ship when it gets to the end of the cruise. It is often done in stages from decks to grades of cabin. You will be told a couple of days before what time you can off the cruiseship.
However you do have to vacant your cabin early so a good option if you have to wait is to stay in the cabin as long as you can then go for a leisurely breakfast. But note the times of breakfast as this might be different from normal cruise days.
This is the bit of the cruise I dislike; it can be a lot of waiting around I have been on a cruise before when I have had to leave the cabin at 8am and not got off until 12noon.
There can also be delays so have something to occupy yourself. The best thing if the cruise is finishing in your home country is that your phone network should now be back to normal so you can catch up on social media and things.
Your account will have been settled the night before so you may have to use cash or a credit card to make any last-minute purchases but there is not normally anything open when the cruise in in port anyway.
The biggest tip I can give for first time cruisers is enjoy yourself a cruise is an amazing vacation and something I love to do.