A Guide to Taking your First Cruise

Posted on January 04, 2017

Cruising is an amazing way to explore the world, but planning your first cruise can be very daunting – after all, it isn’t as easy as jumping on a plane and hitting the beach. To help anyone planning their first ever cruise, we’ve created this handy guide.

Research

Research, Booking
Pick your Criteria

This first step can feel very overwhelming – with so many different lines, ships, routes and excursions to choose from, how will you ever pick? The best way to answer this question is to make a quick list of what you want from a cruise, for example do you want lots of family friendly activities to keep the kids entertained or would you prefer a more adult and luxurious atmosphere? Are there specific places you want to see? What sort of weather do you prefer? This will allow you to quickly shortlist the lines that meet your criteria.

Flights

When booking check whether the package is flight inclusive, if not you will have to book yourself and factor that additional cost into your budget. When booking flights, make sure to arrive as early as possible on embarkation day or the night before if possible, just to ensure any delays don’t stop you meeting the ship.

Excursions

A list of available excursions will usually be available to view six months before the cruise, or at the time of booking. The most popular excursions tend to book up quickly, so if there are a few you really want to go on you should book in advance. Other excursions can then be booked once you’re on the boat, via the shore excursion desk or sometimes via the cruise line’s app or cabin TV.

Visas and Jabs

Depending on your destinations of choice you may require visas and or inoculations to visit. Visit your doctor two months before your departure to check whether you need any additional medication or treatment in preparation for the trip. Your cruise line should be able to advise on visas, but always ensure you double check with your own research too.

What to Pack

Family Packing
 

Dress codes, weather and activities will all differ depending on your cruise of choice, but it’s a good idea to pack the following;

For the day time…

  • Light and loose fitting clothing, e.g. t-shirts, skirts, shorts – if going somewhere warm (remember that the evenings may be cool even in a hot climate, so make sure you pack a few jumpers)
  • Hat, scarf, gloves, thick coats and jumpers – if going somewhere cold
  • Swimsuit
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Activity clothing, e.g. shorts and t-shirts
  • If you will be visiting any religious places or conservative countries, make sure you bring clothes which will cover you (e.g. shoulders, arms, head and legs) to show respect

For the evening…

  • Men – tuxedo, suit with ties, shirts, polo shirts, chinos
  • Women – dresses or smart outfits, formal and cocktail dresses or trouser suits
  • Smart shoes to match outfits

In general make sure you pack…

  • Sun protection
  • Guide and phrase book
  • Travel insurance documents
  • EHIC (if travelling within Europe)
  • Photocopies of all your important travel documents and prescriptions (just in case)
  • Binoculars
  • Sun glasses
  • Sun hat
  • A day bag – Curise ships are big, pack the essentials in a bag you can carry around all day

Before you leave home

Passport and Visa

Documents

It is important that you read through all of the information sent to you by the cruise line. You may need to print out and complete some boarding forms (these will usually be sent three days before departure), and luggage tags (these will usually be posted to you or emailed for you to print out and attach to your bags). Don’t forget your passport!

Transportation

Depending on how and when you’re meeting your cruise, you may need to think about things like port parking, airport parking or taxis. Some cruise lines do offer transfers from the airport or pier, but these can be expensive and you must read the instructions carefully.

On Board

Cruise
Embarking

Setting sail is extremely exciting, and you should ensure you get a place on deck to really experience it – don’t start unpacking and miss a great part of the adventure! If you do have some time before departure, try to track down a map of the ship and explore where things are.

However, before you get to this point there will be a mandatory safety drill (known as muster drills), where guests and crew practice safety procedures including putting on life jackets and assembly points.

Money

Most cruise ships use a cashless system, so on check in you’ll usually receive a card or band which will allow you to charge costs to your room, things like food, drink, excursions, entertainment and gifts can all be charged. The day before you disembark an itemised bill be sent to you detailed all charges and how to settle the bill.

You may want to have some currency for shore excursions, to buy souvenirs and alike. It is best to get this currency before you leave home, as on-board ATMs usually charge high fees for withdrawals.

Medical treatment

The ship will usually employ a doctor and nurse to treat minor illnesses and injuries such as sea sickness. This treatment will not be free, and so it is a good idea to invest in specialist cruise travel insurance which covers cruising and on-board treatment. If you need more serious medical treatment you will usually be taken from the ship to the nearest land based hospital, so again it is absolutely vital that you get travel insurance to protect yourself against these costs.

Shore Excursions

Woman with map, in front of cruise liner
Solo vs Group Tours

We’ve already discussed when and how to book shore excursions, but there is always the option of exploring on your own away from the scheduled tour. This can be an exciting way to explore, but for first time cruisers it is usually a good idea to stick with the group, not just to ensure you get the full experience, but also to ensure you don’t get lost and miss the ship’s departure time!

Other Excursion Advice

  • Remember that in most markets around the world, haggling is expected! Do not offer the first price that is offered to you, most merchants expect a bit of haggling. Ask your guide if unsure.
  • If you are travelling somewhere hot, make sure you wear a high factor of sun protection, drink plenty of fluids and take regular breaks in the shade.
  • Always keep your bag close to you, use a bag which zips up or locks, and use a strap that goes across your body as opposed to on your shoulder. This should prevent anyone stealing your bag or pickpocketing you.
  • Carry your change in a small purse and your notes in a money belt under your clothes; this should avoid flashing your purse and cash too often. Plus, if you are mugged you can hand over the coin purse as opposed to all your cash.

Remember to research local laws and customs before you disembark to avoid accidentally offending anyone (for example covering up when visiting Holy sights).

Further Reading:

What to Pack for a Cruise Holiday

Posted on March 18, 2016

If you’re going on a cruise, you must make sure you have packed the correct wardrobe. Whether you are sunbathing on deck, swimming, exploring the shore or dining, you will need a mix of clothes. Remember that some cruise events can be extremely formal, and you will not be allowed to partake unless you have the correct attire.

 

Do not panic! Here is our guide to cruise attire, and cruise packing guidelines;

For the day time…

  • Light and loose fitting clothing, e.g. t-shirts, skirts, shorts – if going somewhere warm.
  • Remember that the evenings may be cool even in a hot climate, so make sure you pack a few jumpers.
  • Hat, scarf, gloves, thick coats and jumpers – if going somewhere cold.
  • Swimsuit.
  • Comfortable shoes.
  • Activity clothing, e.g. shorts and t-shirts.
  • If you will be visiting any religious places or conservative countries, make sure you bring clothes which will cover you and show respect.

For the evening…

  • Make sure you have a mix of formal and smart-casual clothes; this should prepare you for all events.
  • Men – tuxedo, suit with ties, shirts, polo shirts, chinos.
  • Women – dresses or smart outfits, formal and cocktail dresses or trouser suits.
  • Smart shoes to match outfits.

In general make sure you pack…

  • Sun protection.
  • Guide book.
  • Phrase book.
  • Travel insurance documents.
  • EHIC (if travelling within Europe).
  • Photocopies of all your important travel documents and prescriptions (just in case).
  • Binoculars.
  • Sun glasses.
  • Sun hat.

Enjoy cruising in style!

Cruise Travel Insurance Buyers Guide

Posted on

Cruising holidays can be expensive, so travel insurance may seem like a low priority – surely you’re not likely to lose your luggage or be mugged out at sea!?

However, when you go on a specialist holiday it is absolutely vital that you invest in specialist travel insurance. Could you afford to lose all the money you’ve paid for your cruise holiday if you had to cancel?

To help you get the best policy for the best price, here is our guide for buying Cruise travel insurance;

Life Buoy

  • Firstly make sure the policy actually covers cruising; always opt for a specialist policy to make sure you get the best cover.
  • Make sure the insurance covers ship to shore repatriation, and cabin confinement – in case you get ill on board.
  • Check your pre-paid excursions are covered under the cancellation section of the policy.
  • Make sure the insurance will cover you for the entire duration of your trip.
  • Make sure you choose the correct cover for the country you are visiting. Ask the company if you’re unsure.
  • Does the policy actually meet your needs? Check the levels of cover offered carefully to avoid being left out of pocket, Cruise cover should always have higher cancellation cover.
  • If you’re thinking about or planning to participate in activities such as scuba diving or golf during your trip, are these covered?
  • Make sure your formal cruise attire is covered against loss and damage.

When you buy any travel insurance policy you should check that;

  • Make sure you have declared any pre-existing medical conditions, and make sure your policy covers them. If you have not declared your conditions you will not be covered for any subsequent bills.
  • The cancellation cover is enough to cover the pre-paid costs of your trip.
  • The insurance includes at least two million pounds of emergency medical cover and repatriation (£5 million if travelling worldwide). This may seem extreme but medical treatment abroad can become extremely expensive.
  • The policy covers your baggage and personal possessions if they become lost, damaged or stolen.
  • Once you have purchased your policy, you will usually be given 14 days to read it through and check that it covers your particular needs.
  • Most importantly, ALWAYS read the small print.
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