Like venturing into anything for the first time, embarking on your first cruise requires a bit of know-how to ensure you make the right decisions.
And it helps to know a little cruise jargon that will soon become second-nature. Before long, you’ll know what to expect during ‘sail-away’ and what ‘prepare for muster’ means when the ship’s horn blares.
After you’ve decided where you want to go, you’ll face the decision of what type of ship suits your particular need.
The larger vessels of 2000 passengers or more – the mega-ships - obviously cater for everyone and that means of course you’ll be mixing with all types of people of all ages on board. Also expect that there will be numerous sittings for lunch and dinner and if you’re organised, you should be able to book these online before you leave.
The benefit of doing this is that it not only guarantees you eat when you want, but you can select meal times to suit the particular evening shows you prefer which should also be available online. This all makes sense when you align travelling days at sea for example versus days when you’re in port and likely to return to the vessel late afternoon. Most of the evening shows are repeated at some point so if you miss out the first time, you should get another chance.
The mid-point for ship classes is, predictably, known as Mid-Size (500-2000 passengers) and they offer most of what the big ‘resort ships’ do but just not as much variety. Typically, most first-timers find themselves on these ships given they form the majority of cruise ships in action today.
The more Boutique ships – under 500 cruisegoers - generally cater for more ‘discerning passengers’ with higher staff-to-guest ratios and therefore, higher price points. You won’t have the variety of dining or lounge options for example on a small ship but it will feel like more of a private club than a giant theme park.
The bigger vessels are obviously more suited to multi-generational family cruising and you can usually request adjoining staterooms if you book early enough.
All three ship types have their pluses and minuses but it’s worth noting the smaller vessels generally have access to more port locations given their extra maneuverability so you might find a wider choice of itineraries if you opt for smaller ships.
The big guys though offer the eye-popping experiences you’ve heard so much about with numerous restaurant options, Las Vegas quality evening shows, waterparks and endless onboard extras that make it hard to believe you’re actually on a ship at all.
And it’s a high stakes game, constant refurbishments and upgrades mean most of the major ships that service Australia’s international ports all offer their own wow factor so whatever you choose, you’ll find have plenty of entertainment options at hand.
Here’s a few extra points to consider when you’re planning your first trip.
- For comfort and convenience, book a cabin ‘mid-ship’. This means you’ll have less walking to and from venues and easy access to the lifts.
- If mobility is no issue, for the best deals, consider a cabin farther forward (fore) or towards the back (aft). Note there will be different pricing based on cabin views (obstructed, partially obstructed etc. Find out exactly what each one means when you book). Interior rooms ie: no window or porthole, are obviously cheapest by a significant margin.
- Most cruise lines require pre check-in online where you will also print off your luggage tags enabling fast access through the boarding process.
- If flying to get to your cruise, go the day before departure. There’s too many sorry tales out there about cancelled flights or missed connections messing up dream holiday plans.
- Be sure to pack clothing not only to suit your destination but onboard protocol. Some cruise lines expect men to wear jackets at certain meal times for example. There may even be a fancy dress or dancing night on the trip so swot up before you go.
- Then of course you’ll need the right clothes for shore excursions where you will do plenty of walking.
- Generally speaking, cruise lines offer free shore excursions with added optional extras if you prefer to enhance your visit with special tours. Sometimes, these can be rather expensive so if you think ahead, you may be able to get a local taxi and pay your own entry to a venue for example and save a small fortune.
- Be sure to budget for drinks and onboard essentials as these are normally not included. Again, clothing items and toiletries for example can be prohibitively expensive if purchased on board so plan ahead and take your own.
- Definitely consider pre-purchasing a drinks package. They are usually available in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options and it doesn’t take long to quickly get your money back if have more than a handful of beverages per day.
Published under license from Well Travelled.