Top 10 things to know for new cruisers, but before we even hit the top 10, always talk to a travel agent who knows the cruise industry!
1 – Choose the right cruise line. It is essential to seek advice on which Line will best suit your needs. If you want a fun fun fun cruise the Carnival is for you, taking your teenagers – check out Royal Caribbean. For a quintessentially British affair then P&O is the way to go, but if you want to see the rugged side of the small Norwegian fjords then Hurtigruten is well worth a look.
2 – Choose the right ship. Some of the larger cruise lines have over 20 different ships, and they are by no means identical. The number of passengers a ship carries is often quoted as a comparison factor; however you need to look more for the number of passengers compared to the size of the ship and the facilities on board. Adult only and family orientated will also affect the atmosphere.
3 – Get the right itinerary. Whilst the are plenty of things to do on board your ship, if you are an activity loving explorer then five sea days in a row will not go down well. A sea day at the start of your cruise is actually very useful to just relax into the holiday mode, familiarise yourself with the ship and plan out any thoughts for your days in port.
4 – Cabin fever. Prices splashed throughout marketing quote the cheapest price they can, usually an inside cabin is the least desirable part of the ship. If that doesn’t bother you and you only plan to sleep in your cabin, then grab these fantastic prices. Balcony cabins will cost more but the private open space is delightful especially which stunning scenery to sail past.
5 – Gratuities. Like most of the service industry, it is customary to tip your waiters and cabin stewards, as all ships work on a cashless system these tips are automatically added to your on board account at a set daily rate and then split between the staff. If you get the option, pay these up front as you will soon forget about the small additional cost you have paid to begin with and it will lessen the impact of the bar bill at the end of your holiday.
6 – Putting your feet on solid ground – shore excursions are no doubt a fantastic way to explore the areas your ship has docked in, however only a handful of cruise lines include these in the cost of your cruise. Spend a little time before your cruise to look at your ports of call and decide if there are any options you particularly want to do as multiple excursions soon add up a large bill. If you only want to explore the place you are docked at then there is often a free or inexpensive shuttle bus into the town.
7 – Hidden gem of tranquillity. Nearly all ships have spa facilities, fantastic for an indulgent treat but watch out for the push of product sale by the staff. However, often there is a thermal suite of steam rooms, saunas and hot and cold plunge pools which are a haven of peace. You can get either day or whole cruise access to this area; check out your options with at the spa reception.
8 – The hidden cost of service. Prices on board will usually not include a service fee, this will be in small print on the bottom of your menu or price list for treatments. The service fee can range anything from 10 – 20% so keep a mental note. Another point to watch is that if you have a pre-paid refillable drinks cup, make sure you go to the machine yourself to refill, if s member of staff does it for you in a restaurant then you will almost certainly be charged a service fee.
9 – Just because it is there doesn’t mean it is free. It is common knowledge these days that minibars in rooms are expensive. However if in doubt assume you will have to pay for everything found in your cabin and then check with your steward what is and is not charged for. The toiletries are usually free as per usually hotels, as well as any tea and coffee facilities if your ship provides them. After that all ships differ, some have free bottle of water, others charge. This go for the restaurants too – tap water is free, if there is bottled water on your table then this will be charge for if opened.
10 – Keeping connected. The cost of Internet at sea is not cheap. Very few cruise lines include Internet in the holiday price, but more and more ships have Wi-Fi throughout, at a price. Check with your cruise line if it is a per minute pricing plan or a per device per day plan, both will be expensive. If you simply want to check emails and social media, maybe find some information about your ports yen it would be worth checking data roaming rates with your mailed provider as this may well be a cheaper option for port days.