Wanting to try an alternate way to holiday? Look no further than a cruise. No more myths about cruises and who they are for, cruising has embraced change and become the dream holiday for many couples, groups and families of all ages. Here are some top tips from one of our experienced Travel Counsellors to help you find the perfect cruise to suit you and help you get the most out of exploring the great wonders of the ocean.
Tip 1: Booking your cruise: use a Travel Counsellor Cruising is not the time to decide to be your own travel agent. Anyone new to cruising should work with an expert travel agent who is knowledgeable about the industry. They will help you to decide which is the best cruise line to meet your taste, help you choose the best cabin from the different grades and types available, whilst ensuring it is best positioned for your budget. Cruise lines have very different offerings, and the reason why most first time cruisers do not enjoy their first experience is because they choose the wrong cruise line. Some cruises are very formal which is great if you like dressing up but others are much more relaxed. You can also choose from adult only cruises or family friendly ones. Size is also important to consider as you can get huge cruises like floating cities while others are more intimate so can access smaller ports. With so much choice there really is a cruise line to suit everyone. Cruise fares can be complex and most ships have dozens of cabin grades and permutations. You really need someone who can talk you through this and ensure that you get what you need and more importantly, what you want.
Tip 2: Before you book a full cruise, try a ‘taster’ cruise for 2 or 3 nights Before you go ahead and book a full cruise, first time cruisers should try out cruising by going on one of the ‘taster’ or ‘mini’ cruises that most cruise lines offer. These are from 2-4 nights long and will travel to 2-3 ports in Europe. They give you the chance to try out your sea legs, live ship board life and see if the whole experience is for you. They tend to be very reasonably priced, run at various times throughout the year and usually depart from UK ports. If it is not for you, then you won’t have wasted a big chunk of your holiday time and budget. If you love it, you can also reserve your next cruise on-board to get additional discount or benefits.
Tip 3: Do not let worrying about being seasick put you off going on a cruise Everyone worries about getting seasick, although almost no-one actually gets seasick on a cruise ship these days. Cruise ships are designed to be stable, even in rough seas. They have stabilisers that they deploy that reduce the rolling effect which is what’s used to cause sea sickness. If you are concerned there are still a number of things you can do when you go on your first cruise: 1. Go in the middle of summer when the sea will usually be calm 2. Choose either a Fjords cruise as the Fjords are inland and very calm, or go on a Mediterranean Cruise that departs from a port in the Mediterranean 3. Choose a cabin that is in the middle of the ship and on a lower deck 4. Take some over the counter anti motion sickness pills or wrist bands with you to reassure yourself
Tip 4: Always request a dinner table for eight people As a new cruiser, I recommend you request a large table of 8 people for your dinner. If you are on a cruise that has ‘free seating’ and not set tables then of course this does not apply, but most cruise lines still have fixed seating for dinner. As a new cruiser being on a large table has many benefits. Even if you do not get on with one couple, there will be other people to chat to. The table will have experienced cruisers on and they will be able to answer all your questions, give you tips and secrets on how to get the most out of the ship and cruise. People on cruises like to talk and you will find it much easier than on any other holiday to start a conversation. Regular cruisers love to share advice, and will be happy to show you around if you want more guidance.
Tip 5: Watch the ‘extras’ as they can mount up quickly Cruises used to be much more ‘all inclusive’, but over recent years this has started to change with increased competition and the need to fill ships during tough times. So while we have seen the headline fare of the cruise fall and appear great value, it means that the cruise lines are now working very hard to drive up the average spend by passenger through extras. These include on-board activities and events, special restaurants, courses and training, gym classes, stores, excursions, on-board photos, internet access and of course drinks. It can be very easy to spend a lot of money on-board, and that could actually exceed the cost of the cruise if you are not careful. As everything you spend is usually charged to a cruise card, you are sometimes less aware of how fast these charges are mounting up. My advice is to set a budget and watch what you’re spending by getting interim statements via the reception desk a few times throughout your cruise. When budgeting, also check before you go if tips are already included in the fare or if you are expected to pay them to the cabin steward and waiters directly. I would also advise that you make sure you budgeted for the cost of excursions in your ports of call. These can cost anything from £40 to £100 per person. There are alternatives to help keep your budget under control like using the free shuttle bus that is always available from the cruise line or port tourist board. In all ports there will be leaflets on things to do supplied by the local tourist board in addition to the port guide by your cruise line. Almost all ports will have an inexpensive “hop-on hop-off” bus tours that will usually get you to all the local sights for little cost. There are also companies that offer similar, but cheaper, tours that will meet you at the port and can be found online as well.