We’ve had the pleasure of sailing to Bruges and Norway and that has totally converted me to cruising. I remember booking my first cruise and not having a clue what to expect. It was quite daunting actually as it was going to be my first holiday abroad as an adult. I had to take care of insurance and passports and do other adulting tasks like paying for it. We decided on a cruise because it seemed like a faff free way to holiday and after speaking to a travel agent and how passionate she was about cruising we were absolutely sold. I was also inspired to cruise because of my grandparents who had cruised along the Fjords and loved it. I wanted to visit Norway and this seemed like an ideal way to visit the country and get a real taste for the scenery. I’ve now been on a couple and they are my preferred way to travel. I don’t particularly like flying, I don’t get seasick and I like the fact that as soon as you’re on the boat you’re on holiday.
Choosing Your Cruise line
There are so many cruise companies out there it’s really hard to choose who to cruise with. I would advise considering one that depart from the UK for your first cruise. P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean both cruise from Southampton which cut down our options a lot. We went with P&O as we liked the fact that everything on board was in £’s and that was what was recommended to us. P&O are a good company to start cruising with, I think, and have a great range of amazing holidays. Do your research before hand and find a company that has everything you need on offer for your party.
Choosing Your Cabin
A lot of companies allow you to choose a cabin when you book a cruise. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more for this. P&O have a ‘select’ price option which enables you to choose your exact cabin so you know your cabin number before you board. I find this very handy as you can easily locate it on the ship when you book. You can have a flexi option where you’ll be given your room number a few weeks before you sail. Cabins choices are inside, outside, with balcony or suite. We love a balcony as it gives you a little more space and it’s so nice to relax privately. However those on a budget, do not let an inside cabin put you off. You can easily get a breathe of fresh air 24 hours a day being on deck and there is a lot of seating and plenty of places to relax. Those with children, choose a ship with a kids club which will give you all a bit of extra breathing room. With P&O the kids club is free, but it’s important to register early on in the cruise.
You can also select if your cabin will be at the Aft (back) Forward (front) or Midship (the middle). Apparently those that worry about seasickness a midship cabin that’s lower to the ground is your best best.
Most Cruise Ships come with Full Board which basically includes all the food. P&O include Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate at meals and with room service. Juices and Water is also easily accessible. All other drinks need paying for however most ships operate by using a cruise card. This is swiped when you make a purchase and you may at the end of your holiday. You can usually purchase drinks packages prior to sailing. Some of these include premium coffees, soft drinks and wines. Other cruise liners offer more complete drinks packages to include cocktails, beers and spirits too. Buying a drinks package can be a great saving.
Evening entertainment, cinema screenings, swimming and the gym are all usually included in the cost of your cruise. I quite like the evening shows to be honest. I especially like a comedian and on our cruise to Norway we saw two who were very funny. The dance and music productions are pretty good too, if a little cheesy, but a fun way to pass the time in the evening. Some of the kids clubs operate until a little later too with movie nights to give you a chance to enjoy some time as adults.
What isn’t included?
Excursions – these an be booked in advance or during sailing
Tips – you can pay in advance for this with some companies and each company usually has a different policy. If service is not satisfactory you can remove tips from your account or choose to tip individually. With Royal Caribbean you still need to pay tips with any drinks even if you pay tips in advance.
Premium Dining – this is usually bookable prior to sailing or on the ship and includes a cover charge per person. It’s usually very fine dining and a great chance to try lots of different food.
Spa Treatments – again, companies include packages you can prebook or you can pay with your cruise card on the ship
Dressing for Dinner
Dressing when cruising is always a topic of conversation, you want to know what to pack! Every cruise will usually have at least one formal occasion evening where you are given the chance to dress up. I really like this actually especially when sailing from Southampton where there is no baggage allowance. I believe Norwegian Cruise Lines do not have a dress policy as they feel this is more family friendly. Children are fine in smart casual dress. Men will be required to wear shoes and jackets. I think women have a lot more freedom on these formal occasions to be honest. On our 2 night cruise there was one formal night and one smart casual night. On our 7 night cruise there were 2 formal nights. One was a Captain’s Gala and the other was a black and white theme which was a lot of fun. Annoyingly you don’t know the theme until you’re on board.
Cruising is a really lovely way to travel and has many perks. I hope this has helped you prepare a little for your first cruise and you have a wonderful time.
I’d love to hear any top cruising tips you have?