In September this year, we embarked on our first-ever cruise from Vancouver, around Alaska and back to Vancouver. The 7 days of eating too much food, forgetting which room number I was in and avoiding WiFi, sailed by.
*Sorry for the “Dad Joke” – I couldn’t resist!
Regardless of the fact I had listened to so many different experiences and read various blogs, I still didn’t fully understand what to expect. So, with this in mind, I thought I’d put together a guide of things that first -time cruisers will hopefully find of use.
When you book…
Seriously consider booking a Balcony room if you have the budget, or at least ask about it, we were able to get a fantastic deal for very little difference in price. A highlight was watching Whales in the Ocean whilst sitting on our balcony, something I’ll never forget. Plus, if you think there’s a chance you might feel seasick, book a cabin at the middle of the ship.
Before leaving the UK, check you have a Visa (or whatever is applicable) for ALL locations you are visiting during your cruise. We nearly got caught out as we didn’t find out until last minute that we’d need an Esta before visiting America.
Even if you aren’t a big drinker, I’d recommend that you buy the drinks package because it provides much better value and complete peace of mind if you want to enjoy one too many cocktails in the hot tub. On a similar note, I’d firmly recommend paying tips in advance, however, we did tip one particular person (Markus from Celebrity Cruises– We love you!) who went above and beyond.
If your cruise is an extension of a longer trip, don’t forget to pack handwashing kit – The cost of washing on a cruise is completely excessive, around £30-50+ per load.
Don’t assume that WiFi is free, this is often an optional extra and can be extremely expensive. We waited until we docked and used data and/or WiFi in local bars/café’s on the ports.
When you arrive…
Your bags will be left outside your room & it’s likely that they will arrive after you, make sure that you pack anything you need urgently in a carry-on. My next (and best) piece of advice is to avoid having lunch before you board. Start as you mean to go on and head straight to the buffet. You know that makes sense right?
Once you’ve settled in, take the time to slowly explore the ship, there’s so much to see and take in that it took us a few days to work out where everything was. There were a few “Tours” of the ship being offered and on reflection, this might have been something that could have been of benefit to us.
When it comes to that tricky subject of money, remember that not everything is inclusive, unless you’ve booked a particularly special deal/room. It’s worth checking the information pack to understand that’s fully inclusive to you and work out what’s worth paying extra for if anything at all. Most cruise ships are cashless, therefore you provide card details before boarding (we firmly recommend Monzo) which are used for any additional expenses you might incur on the ship. Most cruise ships will give you a card which acts as your room key/confirmation of what package you have in place, I noted that a fair few people kept these around a lanyard. I kept mine in a little wrist purse/key holder.
Out and about…
Whilst admittedly booking excursions via the cruise won’t be the most cost-effective, you can guarantee that you’ll be back on time. Plus, every excursion we went on was excellent and we often had spare time for exploring, shopping or fitting in whatever activity we fancied whilst at the port.
Make sure that your insurance includes cover for cruising and missing the cruise ship because the ship won’t wait for you! It sounds ridiculous, but at least one/two people a week miss the cruise from the port and have to find various expensive and stressful ways to get back on board.
Hopefully, anyone who has booked a cruise or is thinking of booking a cruise will find this helpful. I’ve got the bug and can’t wait to book our next adventure…