Your first cruise

If you have never cruised now is the time to check out some of the deals that are coming out.
Here are a few tips (you’ll find more if you search the internet) that will help you to plan your first trip.

  • Choosing a time and place.

You can cruise at any time of the year, and every region has its cruising seasons. If you want to cruise from Australia then you will get the most choice in the warmer months. If you want to cruise the Mediterranean then you will have more choice in the northern summer. If Antarctica is your dream then you will also go in our summer – if it’s the Arctic then it’s our winter. You may want to do an expedition cruise – perhaps you fancy exploring northern Russia or New Guinea. Or you may want to take a river cruise in Europe, in Egypt or discover the lesser known reaches of the Mekong in Vietnam or the Irrawaddy in Burma.

  • Choosing a cruise ship

It’s important to be happy on the ship you have chosen. After your first cruise you will have a much better idea of your likes and dislikes. If you love nightlife, fun and mixing with people then you may want to be on a big ship with lots of activities to choose from. If you are taking children or grandchildren then you will want to be sure the facilities and activities are right for them. if you are wanting the ultimate in service and luxury you will be looking at the more exclusive cruise lines. Price will also be a factor for most. Generally adult-oriented cruise ships will have a higher per person cost than family-oriented ships.

  • What are your interests

Cruise lines are constantly thinking up new activities for passengers and most have a huge variety – you can often choose between rock-climbing walls, golf, yoga or dancing. Or you may just want to sit in a deck chair and be waited on. Some cruises have a theme – such as Cordon Bleu cookery, astronomy, classical music or bridge.
Where you go will dictate the shore excursions. Mostly these are booked when you are on the cruise but if there is something you absolutely want to do, then ask your cruise consultant about booking beforehand.

  • Fellow passengers

When you work with a cruise consultant or a travel agent to book your cruise you will have a better chance of finding out about the typical passengers on that ship. You may find yourself on a cruise where most of the passengers speak another language, or they may be much older or younger, noisier, lazier or more active than you like to be. Be sure you to ask as being stuck on a cruise with people with whom you have nothing in common will spoil your trip.

  • Scheduling air travel

Unless you are travelling from and returning to your home port you are likely to need air travel. Sometimes this is included in the package, but if it isn’t you need to be sure that your flights are scheduled so that you can board comfortably – usually the day before the ship is due to sail. Ask your travel agent or cruise consultant about when they suggest you should fly – and also about transfers from the airport to the ship.

  • What’s included in the fare.

Some fares cover everything – from alcohol to tips; others cover the bare basics. The bare basics generally include all meals in designated places – buffet or restaurant; water and fruit juice to drink; access to a swimming pool; access to gym; shows; contests and games; nightclub; disembarking at ports; some TV; library books; food and drink at cocktail or drinks nights.
They all differ but the basic cruise usually does not include: alcohol, the casino, tips, excursions, in-cabin movies, spa, the beauty or massage parlour, drinks in fridge in cabin, medical treatment. You will also find that taxes, port charges and fuel supplements are generally not included in the advertised price of the cruise.

  • Choosing a cabin

You get what you pay for in a cabin – some of the luxury ships have only balcony cabins but generally you pay more for a balcony, a suite, or an outside cabin. The basic advertised price is often the lowest and will be for an inside cabin. You can check out the deck plan before you book and if the cabin you want is available take it – it may be gone when you come back. Sometimes passengers are given an upgrade. If you think you might suffer from sea sickness then choosing a cabin that is mid-ship or on a lower deck may help – as may having a window you can look out of, or a balcony where you can get some fresh air. And consider whether the ship of your choice has stabilisers.

  • What to pack

Take a carry-on bag with the basics you will need on the first day. When there are many passengers embarking it can take a while before your luggage reaches your cabin so having the essentials you need to get through the first few hours can make a big difference. As well as your camera and appropriate clothing for the weather, you might add medications, sunscreen, a swim suit and basic toiletries or makeup and a change of clothes. If you are travelling with children make sure that they too have a carry-on bag.

Each cruise line will have a style of clothing it expects the passengers to wear and your cruise consultant can fill you in on this. If you have chosen your cruise because you like fine dining, or luxury you will have packed clothes you can change into for dinner; if it’s resort casual you will need the right gear and if you know there is a fancy dress night, or a dress-up night then you will need to have that too.
A few cruise lines will allow you take alcohol on board, and most will not. Find out before you pack.

  • Understand the dining options

When you choose a cruise you need to find out what the dining options are. When seating is assigned you will be given a choice of table size, but if you want to be a twosome you will need to tell your travel agent when you book. You can choose a cruise where seating is assigned for meals or you may find that the cruise of your choice has open seating or a choice of restaurants, bistros and snack bars. If you are on a special diet tell your travel agent so you can be accommodated at meals.

This is a start. Once you have decided to cruise your travel agent or cruise consultant will give you more information on your options. They will also arrange any visas you need and make sure that all your papers are in order for boarding.
Many folk love to cruise because it only means unpacking once, they return to a familiar cabin each night and they get to make lots of new friends…
I’ll post some of the great deals that are around in the next few days – meanwhile you can contact me – martin@travelchoice.com.au if you have any questions – or post a comment here and I will answer you.