You have just booked your cruise and with all the information getting ready for your first cruise can be daunting. You can almost compare it to the first flight you booked or your first-ever vacation!
A cruise is quite another experience! It’s like staying at a luxury hotel, but then it’s not really because, well, it’s clearly another whole experience! Our first cruise was, fortunately, a cruise to Antarctica which is a COMPLETE other story as well!
So how do you get ready for this first type of travel experience? Well, you just did the right thing by researching and finding this article! How you pack or how you get ready for your cruise can definitely change your experience to the best! So here we go, here are our top 10 tips for new cruisers!
Before we start…
Mitch and I are clearly NOT the cruise experts as we only have been to three including this trip with Royal Carribean going to New Zealand, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Are you a cruise fan? What are your top tips for people new to cruising? Please get involved and do let us know in the comments below the article to contribute, would love to hear from you! OK let’s start this.
1) Cabin Fever
Cruises are not really options for people that usually say that they have cabin fever. People usually avoid cruises because they are scared that they will be bored. For some reason, people think that a lot and that is a big perception of cruises. We like to think the absolute other way around, we never actually have enough time on the cruise to do everything or at least try everything! There is so much to do aboard a cruise ship, small or big ones. Waterslides, bars, parties, games, so much to do! Which brings us to the next point…
2) Free activities
There is SO MUCH to do for free on cruises. People think that you have to pay for everything on a ship because they compare it to a normal hotel room experience when they travel and have to pay for activities but it’s almost the exact opposite way around on a cruise!
There so many free activities every day with one of the staples being the evening theatre shows on some cruises. When we were on our Disney Cruise, the evening shows were just SPECTACULAR! On the other hand, on our Antarctica cruise, there were other presentations about landings we did instead which we as much interesting because we were visiting the 7th continent, DUH!
Back to regular cruises, depending on what cruise your book, shows can range from Broadway-style productions to comedies, game shows, magic, and even circus acts.
Depending on the cruise you book, throughout the day, you’ll find free activities that can be like dance lessons, art lessons, language classes, pool parties, live music, rock climbing, zip-lining, art exhibitions, lectures, and so many other things.
For some reason, there is confusion about water on cruises. The water from taps on board, also the one from your bathroom tap, are safe to drink. However, you must know that it is desalinated water so it can sometimes have an odd taste. If you have a water bottle with built-in filters, it can be a very good idea for your cruise but nice in general for all of your day to day and other travels! Anyway, unless you are a water snob, you never ever need to pay for drinking water as there are water dispensers all around the cruise so make sure to bring your water bottle!
Depending on your cruise, drinks are not included. If you drink a lot of alcohol, it is essential for you to get the drinks packages as they can be of good value.
Prices for individual non-alcoholic drinks not served during the eating slots are not too badly priced in general on most cruise lines. If you are like us and only consume drinks during eating time, there will be no problem for you!
In our case, we really think that on cruises, there are enough free options for us that we never have spent any extra money on drinks. On our Disney Cruise and Antarctica cruise with Hurtigruten, we could drink anything we wanted no alcoholic during our meals. Typically on other cruises, you can expect 1 to 3 free juice options at breakfast with tea or coffee options. Lunch and dinner at the buffets also have free options in addition to tea and coffee.
Simply make sure you get informed in advance on the packages of the cruises you book!
5) Mobile service and WiFi
So essential for us eh? The question we almost ALL want to know, is there WiFi onboard of cruises? Almost every cruise ships are now equipped with both mobile service and WiFi. We even had some kind of little internet connection on our Antarctica cruise, but of course at a cost.
Always beware when using your mobile coverage though as it is typically classed as a maritime satellite service which gets the highest roaming charges! Turn your data roaming off!
WiFi is usually the best option to communicate and stay connected so make sure you tell everyone that needs to get in touch with you! What about pricing? Yeah, WiFi isn’t free like most hotels, they typically charge for minutes or days of access to the WiFi with packages available. The WiFi speed is variable depending on factors such as where you are literally, the weather, and what other people on board are doing on the internet! Classic. You must know though, Royal Caribbean’s TV is capable of streaming video from YouTube and Netflix as long as you aren’t in a dead spot for free! The price to order wifi is a lot more expensive onboard so get it before you leave!
6) Food in-Room service
On Disney Cruises, it is ALWAYS FREE in-room dining, how amazing was that? We ate so well throughout the day though that never could use it literally! On cruises, some still have the free in-room dining but many lines have added a tray charge. It’s still a low-cost way to do something special, like have breakfast on your balcony if you have the room that permits it! On Royal Caribbean cruises, there will be fees for room dining so be aware of the extra costs.
7) Sea Seasickness
Some people have motion sickness on planes, cars and boats. Some people do indeed get seasick on cruise ships but that’s really if they are sensitive in general. Modern cruise ships are very stable and also in general bigger cruises are more stable than smaller vessels. Let’s not even talk about the Hurtigruten cruise with EduOutings, you are going through the biggest waves of the world when going through the Drake Passage so it’s normal to get seasickness. Many people take pills for that in general.
Note that cruise lines have free medication on board and it is some of the best you will find for seasickness. If you are more the sensitive type of person and you know you might have seasickness, carry a bottle of MotionEaze with you as this prevents motion sickness and eases it using an essential oil blend. It is just soothing oils to apply behind your ears.
If worst comes to worst and you do get bad seasickness, don’t hesitate and head to the medical bay and grab some of their free motion sickness tablets.
8) Dining on Cruises
Food on cruises is included on your price, meaning that there are no extra costs. If you want to access premium or speciality restaurants, that’s the only time when you would have to pay extra cash. Some packages include 1 or fewer experiences as well to these venues so make sure you check on what you have booked or with your travel agent.
On personal opinions from past cruises, Hurtigruten to Antarctica had AMAZING food and incredible selection, I would go far to say it was even better than some 5-star hotels. Disney Cruise‘s was also great with options for all diets. The food was so great in our previous two experiences.
Often, there are rotations in dining timings to make sure there is a place for everyone in each restaurant. Your cruise will usually allocate you a specific time on a letter when you come back to your room. Some may be turned off on the idea of a set dining time and dining room experience but in reality, it is quite flexible. If you feel like two starters and no mains, it’s totally fine, just ask for it. They are usually really good to accommodate the vast majority of requests so don’t be scared to ask if they have a few other options off the menu.
Tipping is a big thing in North America and Western Europe but a concept that can be quite confusing for Australians on the other hand. Thankfully cruise lines are more and more finding ways to make tipping easier like including everything in your cruise costs so guests don’t need to think about it. Some others give you the option to prepay the gratuities but the best part is Royal Caribbean that has incorporated the costs of the cruise. Extra gratuities on spa and salon services can occur but are often just billed directly so you don’t have to be concerned about it. Many people are uncomfortable with tipping so when “service” charges are already applied, it can make it better. On the other hand, like me, I don’t like to have gratuities all included as I prefer to judge myself of the service and how much I want to tip for it. Most cruise lines actually give you envelopes on the last day of your cruise for you to tip for anyone you want to give an extra reward to but, again, you don’t need to feel the pressure to do so and are absolutely NOT a cheap person for not leaving anything behind. For some reason some people feel pressured but please don’t feel obligated to use this. It’s literally just there if you feel someone really helped you out and deserves something extra.
10) Bring the Little Things
As you will be out at sea for a while, the cost of everything will be more. So please bring all the little things from sunscreen, electronic adaptors, deodorant, hygiene products, special shampoos, sunglasses and eye drops as you will either not get them or have to pay plenty for the product.
Did we miss anything?
We hope these tips are useful and has answered many of your questions about cruising but we are sure there are so many more things we could include in this guide and if you think we are missing something important, please do let us know in the comment section below. We created this guide in the hope to cover some of the key questions and concerns that first-time cruisers might have!
Please let us know if you have more questions in the comments below and we will do our best to have the right answers for you.
Disclaimer: Our trip with the Ovation of The Seas was part of an organized trip by Royal Caribbean Arabia. All of the opinions about our trip and tips are entirely ours. Thanks.