It’s your first time hitting the high seas and there’s a million questions running through your mind: what to pack for a cruise? What’s the go with proper cruise etiquette? What happens if you finish all of your holiday reading early? While it can be overwhelming preparing for the unknown, we’ve come up with a few cruise tips and tricks to help ease any anxiety, and outlined a few things you can expect to encounter before you embark. The advice below covers larger ocean cruises; procedures may be different for river cruises or smaller ships.
So all that’s left for you to do is sit back, relax and lap up everything about your very first cruise experience.
Security and Baggage Handling
Just like at any airport, there are a few security procedures you’ll have to go through before you can successfully board the ship. While there’s no full body scanners, you will need to step through a metal detector, and all your bags will be X-rayed. From there, porters will collect your luggage and organise to have them delivered to your cabin. Generally, your bags will arrive by dinnertime, but often this isn’t the case (the average large-scale cruise ship has 3,000 passengers – that’s a lot of bags to deliver by 6pm!). The chance of your luggage being misplaced is very slim though, so head off to dinner and you should find your bags waiting in your cabin upon your return.
Due to the risk that you may not get access to your luggage until late into the first night, what you pack in your carry-on becomes VERY significant. So cruise novices, make sure all your travel documents are on-hand. Think passports, ID and your cruise tickets. Next up is any medication or seasickness tablets you’ll need. Valuables are worth keeping close too, so stow away phones, cameras, laptops or electronics. It’s always a good idea to pack a few toiletries and a change of clothes for dinner, and why not throw in your bathers, a hat and some sunscreen? The pools will be open once you set sail, so make the most of the quieter conditions (most people won’t have thought to pack swimming gear) and spend your first afternoon relaxing by the pool.
Mandatory Safety Briefing
A routine part of every cruise – no matter where you are in the world – is the muster drill. It’s essentially a safety briefing that ensures each passenger knows where the lifeboats are located, can successfully put on their own life jacket, and is aware of the correct procedure should an (unlikely) emergency occur. Normally held in the theatre or top deck, the muster drill shouldn’t take much longer than an hour. It’s important to note though, failure to attend could see you removed from the ship.
With the security and safety briefings out of the way, it’s officially time to set sail! A much-loved tradition of cruising is the sail-away party, held on the top deck of the ship. With champagne flowing, live music and entertainment and epic views of the port you’re departing, it’s the perfect way to kick off the trip. Plus, the atmosphere is electric – surrounded by your fellow cruise-goers, the excitement is infectious, and it’s hard not to feel enthusiastic for the journey ahead.
Food, Glorious Food
One thing you certainly shouldn’t worry about on a cruise is going hungry – the food options are endless! Buffet-style meals are the norm for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all eaten in the communal dining room with fellow passengers. The fare is simple, tasty and varied, and you’re guaranteed to leave the buffet wholly satisfied. If you’re after something a bit more gourmet, or you’re celebrating a special occasion, most cruise ships also have a few restaurants that are slightly more sophisticated than the all-you-can-eat option. These fine dining experiences often require an early booking and aren’t normally included in your cruise package though, so be prepared to pay extra.
Wondering what to do on a cruise? Your first port of call should always be the excursions desk. The crew here will go above and beyond to ensure your cruise is as jam-packed (or relaxed!) as you want it to be. It’s the go-to place for organising things like the shore outings (activities for when the ship docks at a port), booking seats at one of the nightly live theatre shows or music performances, or securing your spot at one of the exclusive Chef’s Table or Captain’s Dinners. If it’s a spa treatment you’re looking forward to, head directly to the spa centre (best to do this on the first day, as appointments fill quickly), and if you’ve got little ones that need entertaining, book them in with the kids’ club.
As mentioned, these tips cover what to expect on larger cruise ships – those that typically undertake ocean voyages, be it around the South Pacific, Caribbean or Mediterranean. There is a whole world of diverse and beautiful cruises though, no matter if you fancy floating between fjords in Alaska, or alongside the Mexican coast. You might even like the idea of incorporating a cruise into your wider holiday; splitting time between land and water. And in that case, take a look at the range of cruise-inclusive tours on Webjet Exclusives. These cruise deals cover everything from navigating the Nile in Egypt and overnighting in Vietnam’s Halong Bay, to even expeditions to Antarctica. Aye-aye, captain…
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