Things to Consider as a First-Time Cruiser

So you’re a cruise newbie – now what? Surely it can’t be so hard – get on the boat, have a good time, get off the boat..right? 

Well, yes, but there’s more to it than that. The way to get the most out of your cruise is to be aware of the first-timer faux pas. And if you’re here at Cruisewatch, you’re already halfway there!

A man sitting in front a travel map planning his cruise vacation

If you want to fully enjoy every minute of your cruise you should plan ahead for a worry-free experience.

Simon Migaj

Plan ahead

As ships get bigger and technology evolves, you’ve got to pre-plan important parts of your trip. Ideally, about a month before you set sail. 

Sign up online with your cruise line long before you sail if there's something you absolutely have to see – can you imagine missing out on scuba diving in the Pacific? One thing to note though (as always) is the refund policy and the infamous fine print. That helicopter ride or cooking class might not be refundable if you change your mind.

If you think you’ve packed light, pack even lighter

We’re all guilty of this one – but on a cruise, overpacking becomes particularly inconvenient very quickly. Why? Well, the price you pay for all of the awesome activities on a cruise (water parks, shopping malls and swimming pools take up a lot of room) is usually a pretty cosy cabin. 

A standard sized suitcase or duffel bag will be enough for a week-long cruise, so steer clear of that new full-sized carry-all you got for Chrissy. If you’re starting to freak out, don’t – we’ve created a cruise packing list to make sure you’re well prepared.

Always check the weather

Sometimes, for regular vacation spots, going during the off-season can provide you with an awesome holiday, but perhaps without assured flawless weather or access to certain onshore activities. 

A South Pacific cruise from Sydney, for example, can be super cheap in the wetter season or shoulder season (November to May). But of course, with the wet season comes the rain. So be prepared that if you do need to pinch pennies, you may have to sacrifice a little on quality.

Relaxation and weekend cruises? Buckley’s and none!

A weekend cruise sounds like a great idea, right? A quick little getaway to de-stress and recharge. Except in some cases, it’s not. Think about it – which group of people likely only have weekends to spare? That’s right – 20-somethings looking to party with all-you-can-drink packages. 

If you are a party-goer, that’s awesome. However, if you’re looking for a few days of peace and quiet, it might be best to opt for a four-night weekday cruise. Indulge in a little room service or treat yourself to a specialty restaurant.

Fly in one day early

The one time you think ‘Oh, our flight probably won’t be delayed’ as you book your flight to your cruise terminal, is the time it’ll go wrong – it’s Murphy’s law! And if it’s your first cruise ever, being late for embarkation day and missing the boat will no doubt leave a sour taste in your mouth. Even worse if you have to deal with lost luggage, traffic on the ground, and any other curveballs life throws at you. 

To avoid that potential trip-ruiner, make sure you fly in the day before, kicking off your holiday with a night of sightseeing in the port you’re leaving from. And on the day, the way to get to your cruise ship plays an important role and can reduce your stress levels long before you board the ship.

Be aware of school holidays

If you don’t have kids or don’t plan to travel with the kids – don’t book your cruise during the school holidays! As you can imagine, when winter school holidays start in June, thousands of Aussie families flock to the dozens of family cruise ships available around the country. 

So unless your idea of fun is sharing the pool, hot tub, restaurants and the hallways with hundreds or thousands of little ones, check out the holiday periods before you book. 

Budget for onboard expenses

In recent years, cruises have added plenty of onboard activities – but unfortunately for your bank account, most come with extra charges. It’s not likely that the cruise you book will actually be fully all-inclusive, and chances are you'll want to splurge on at least one or two of the speciality restaurants, take a fitness class, or maybe head to the movies. 

It can be easy to spend a great deal more than you anticipated if you didn’t work these add-ons into your budget. So do yourself a favour and budget ahead of time so that you’re not staring at your bank statement like a stunned mullet at the end of your trip. 

With a few handy tips from us, you can save money on your cruise and get the most bang for your buck. 

Know what is included

Before you go, make sure to read up on what’s included in your cruise fare – because you may be surprised! You don't want to eat in the buffet every meal simply because you assume your main dining room will cost you extra. In fact, on nearly every cruise ship, the main dining room is free too! 

There are also likely a lot of shows included in the cost of your cruise, all you have to do is book yourself in ahead of time. The cruise lines want you to get the most out of your trip too, so they keep you in the loop with a daily newsletter, delivered nightly to your cabin. It’ll also tell you whether something is included in the cost of your trip or not. 

And of course, if you have any questions you can always talk to guest services for more information about shore excursions, cruise line activities, and which meal options are included. 

Check out these articles for more first time cruise advice:

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