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Tips for Cruisers, Especially First-timers

Cruising, although seemingly easy to book at first glance, can actually be quite complicated considering a number of factors. Certainly, once you get there, it can be the easiest, safest way to travel in spite of some of what the media tells you about the risks associated with it these days due to COVID.

Booking the right cruise line, cruise ship, itinerary, and stateroom alone can be daunting, if you’re not familiar with the process, particularly for any first timers. There’s a lot to consider.

1. Certainly, for any travel these days, it’s important to stay on top of the required protocols, testing, and procedures that are required for the airlines, countries visited and the cruise line itself.

2. When considering the cruise line, ship and itinerary, you need to know that the cheapest option initially may not ultimately be that cheap once all the extra ‘nickel & dime’ items get added to the initial cruise fare. Some of these added expenses include alcohol, gratuities, specialty dining, excursions, and even airfare that some time can be ‘all inclusive’ with other options that ultimately end up being a lower overall expense at the end of the day. It’s also beneficial to many who prefer knowing exactly what the entire cost of a vacation will be vs. being shocked disappointingly at the end with a massive bill.

3. Oftentimes, the pricing of an itinerary can seem like a bargain since it’s more ‘off-season’, but you may have risks with weather or rough seas, if you sail during this time frame and you may not know that when you’re booking if you’re unfamiliar with this factor.

4. Booking the wrong stateroom on a ship can sometime cause grief, depending on the location relative to elevators, early morning or late-night activity nearby, above or below your stateroom. If you’re prone to motion sickness, the location of the stateroom also becomes an even more important consideration. Many of the larger ships, in particular, have very complicated coding for their staterooms that may also sometime result in obstructed views as well.

5. Always, highly recommended, is the advice to arrive the day before the ship sails, if you’re travelling with any potential for arriving late. Ships won’t wait to sail since they have to adhere to strict schedules and you certainly don’t want to miss the boat, literally! 😉

6. Another great recommendation, any time you travel, is having all your required essentials in your carry-on. Some essentials you don’t want to risk being without may include medications, sunscreen, sunglasses, important documentation, toiletries and even a change of clothes, just in case of a worst-case scenario.

7. Don’t forget to consider all those things you should reserve ahead of time prior to sailing as early as possible including specialty dining, excursions, and any spa activity you might want to do during those ‘sea days’ if there are any.

8. Internet connections on board ship can sometimes be sketchy, with a basic Wi-Fi package especially when everyone gets back from certain events such as meal-time, excursions, shows, etc. It has improved from previous days, but depending on where you’re sailing and the level of quality you need, you may want to consider an upgraded Wi-Fi package if available.

9. On the larger cruise ships, often times there aren’t enough deck chairs, particularly on sea days, when the weather is conducive. It’s highly recommended that you don’t try to ‘reserve’ these chairs when you’re not present to enjoy them in order to be fair to your fellow passengers. That’s why it can be a great idea to upgrade to some of the higher end, smaller cruise lines and/or consider some of the exclusive locations (like “The Retreat” or “The Haven”) that some of the larger ships have that enable specialty areas that are restricted to just those who have staterooms in those upgraded areas of the ship.

10. When it comes time to book excursions for your cruise, you may want to consider NOT necessarily going on all of the ones that your cruise line may offer, particularly if they’re at an extra cost. In many ports around the world, there are oftentimes, less expensive options that are either with smaller groups or maybe even private vs. those offered by the cruise line. Excursions for the cruise line are a profit center so that they’re not always the best value. Whatever you do though, be sure to work with a reliable provider (preferably via your Travel Advisor) so that you don’t end up missing your ship if your excursion happens to run into trouble with being late or the cruise line is required to leave earlier than originally scheduled. The latter doesn’t happen very often, but the former can happen and there are tour providers that will honor agreements to get you back on time or pay to get you to the next port, if something untoward happens with your excursion.

Currently, be aware, during these strange COVID times, that some cruise lines are requiring passengers to ONLY take their excursions in order to control risks with exposure while on outside tours with other companies.

11. With those larger cruise ships where drinks, in particular, are an extra expense, be certain to keep a tab on your spend factor so that you don’t have any surprises at the end when you’re presented with your final bill.

12. If you’ve never sailed on a cruise ship and are not sure whether you may have issues with seasickness, then take some added precautions including locating your stateroom in a more stable location on board the ship which tends to be both midship and on a lower deck. Also, be sure to remain hydrated, get enough sleep, consider some form of proactive treatment such as ginger pills, acupressure wristbands, or an anti-nausea med and consider avoiding some of those known itineraries that may include some rougher sea passages like The Tasman Sea, The Drake Passage, and possibly even any of the Transatlantic sailings across the open ocean.

Hopefully you’ve found many of these tips helpful if you’ve never booked a cruise before and even if you have, you may have found something of interest that you weren’t aware of previously? If you need any help whatsoever with booking a cruise, even if you are familiar, consider booking through a Travel Advisor because most of us have the added advantage with our host agency or consortium connections that enable us to ‘buy into’ some group pricing or offer added amenities that you wouldn’t get on your own. Most of us also, give you special gifts for your travel, and also, are there every step of the way to answer any queries you may have and assist if there are any minor or major issues before or during your travels. We’re very happy to help!

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