Today, more and more people are going on a cruise as it is for many a relaxing and comfortable way to see (parts of) the world. From cost-effective, luxury, and world trips, there’s a cruise that will fit everyone’s budget. If you are new to cruising, these big ships and life on board can seem somewhat intimidating. Here are some helpful tips that may address your major concerns and bring you well-prepared aboard.
What type of cruise shall I choose?
Cruise options are countless, and it is important to think ahead what you expect from your cruise, which destinations you’d like to visit and what kind of activities you like to find on your trip. In principle, there exist three major cruise options:
1. Sea cruises
This type of cruise is probably the most popular cruise option. Choosing this option, you will step aboard of one of the largest cruise ships of the world. You may cross the ocean, pass the most beautiful coastlines and an enormous variety of dining rooms, entertainment and activities are awaiting you on board. The highlight of these cruises are the so-called port days where you get the opportunity to explore fascinating cities or isolated islands. But also on the ships you won’t get bored; you will have plenty of time to relax at the pool and sunbathe on the deck.
2. River cruises
Following some of the greatest rivers in the world such as the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Nile, Amazon, and even the Ganges, is a beautiful way to see the heart of many fascinating countries. Cruise by and visit the historic old towns of Pague and Vienna or the cultural attractions along the Seine. Explore the mysteries of the Nile and spot wildlife from your deckchair on the Amazon; river cruises bring you to places that sometimes you cannot reach by road. River cruise ships are limited in size, but that also brings the advantage that these cruises are small-scale with lesser crowds.
3. Expedition cruises
Adventurous travelers may consider an expedition cruise, where unique ships take you to the most remote places of the world such as the South Pole, Papua New Guinea, Borneo and other fascinating places. These trips tend to be filled with many excursions and activities most days such as getting familiar with the local culture and traditions, spotting wildlife, fishing, hiking and much more.
What is really included in my fare?
The basic price of your cruise includes accommodation, onboard entertainment, all your traditional meals plus snacks throughout the day. Not included are your onboard purchases, alcohol, specialty beverages and excursions. While ultra-luxury cruise lines may include alcoholic and soft drinks and shore excursions, most cruise lines will charge extra for those items and services. Ships generally operate on a cashless system, with purchases charged to a cruise card. Guests get an itemized account on the last night to check, and the bill goes on a pre-arranged credit card. So be aware to add some more budget on top of your actual cruise costs!
What can I do on board of the ship?
Cruise ships are huge, and a lot is going on at the same time! On most cruises, you get in the evening a daily newsletter that offers valuable information such as a guide to the port, information about the ship or nautical facts. Above all, it has a list of activities that are on schedule for the next day, such as yoga and dance lessons, napkin folding classes, cooking demonstrations and classical bingo and bridge events. In the evening, you can watch a Broadway-style play, a theater show, or you can listen to music in the ship’s atrium.
What about excursions on the shore?
It is not only important to consider what to do on board but also what you can do in or around the ports where the cruise ship will stop. Find out before your cruise what the port towns have to offer and what you can do in the nearby surroundings. Otherwise, you might be overwhelmed at arrival and would not know what to do for the next eight hours.
If you have your heart set on a specific excursion and don’t want to take the risk that it will be sold out by the time your cruise starts, you might buy in advance your shore excursion via the cruise line company.
Also, independent tour operators offer shore excursions like those proposed by the cruise lines, most of the time at a lower price and with fewer people on tour, be sure they are well-reviewed. If you prefer to choose last-minute what to do, then you can opt to arrange your excursion once you step on land. In most larger ports, you’ll find guides and tour operators that offer you tours for a discounted price.
To conclude some more tips that may facilitate your cruise planning.
When checking in, make sure you have all the items you may need in your carry-on luggage so you can explore the ship rather than wait for your main luggage to arrive at your cabin. Don’t miss the moment you sail away, be sure to be out on the deck when you leave magnificent ports such as Sydney or Venice.
If you take a short cruise the dress code won’t trouble you for much more than bringing casual wear. On longer trips, however, a “formal” night is often organized, which means bringing with you a black-tie outfit. If you are not keen on this, you may choose a buffet dinner that night (usually at the buffet there is a casual dress policy) or you can order room service. That doesn’t sound like a bad alternative!