First Time Cruisers
- First Time Cruisers
- How do I choose the right cabin?
- There are lots of cabins to cater for different group sizes and personal preferences, but they are essentially broken down into 4 main grades; Inside, Outside, Balcony and Suite. Within each grade there are different categories, usually identified by a series of letters and numbers, e.g. OG, D2 etc. These relate to where the cabin is on the ship, and they sometimes vary in size and the facilities they feature.
An Inside cabin is nearly always the cheapest and it's a good choice if you have a strict budget. They can be quite compact, especially on older ships, but they will have everything you need for a comfortable cruise. Outside cabins are often the same size as an Inside but they have a picture window or porthole. Outside cabins with an obstruction are a good alternative if you have a set budget but don't fancy an Inside as they still allow a lot of light in.A Balcony gives you a much larger cabin plus the outside space on the balcony itself. They are more expensive but can be invaluable if you like to have a little bit of space to yourself every now and then. Suites come in various forms, ranging from fairly standard ones to those with butler service. They're great if you are travelling as a large group because they give you extra living and sleeping space, or if you simply fancy treating yourself to the most luxurious accommodation available!
- Why do I have to pick a dining time? Can't I eat when I like?
- Well, yes and no. Unless the ship only offers a flexible dining option with no fixed times, you'll need to choose something otherwise the booking can't go through. Having said that, you can eat pretty much 24 hours a day onboard, so if you decide you don't want to eat at a fixed time or in a certain restaurant, you'll find plenty of other alternatives. Many ships nowadays offer a flexible evening meal option with no set time anyway, so be sure to look out for that when you book.
- Aren't cruises really expensive?
- Some are, but it's a common misconception that ALL cruises are. The price of a cruise includes a lot more than you might think, such as meals, entertainment and leisure facilities, so when you compare that to the cost of a land-based holiday it's very good value for money and you get to see more than one destination!
- Cabins on the port (left) side are the best ones to have
- Some people still think this is true because this is the side cruise ships used to dock on. Nowadays they have such sophisticated navigational systems that they can go in forwards, backwards or even sideways, so it's irrelevant which side of the ship you choose.
- Cruises are only for the 'newlywed and nearly dead!'
- 20 years ago maybe, but not these days. There is such a huge choice of ships available that there is something to suit every age, from your 1 year old son to your 95 year old grandad!
- Don't you have to get off in every port and pay for the ships' excursions?
- Not at all, it's your cruise so if you want to stay on then that's your choice (although it does seem a shame to miss all those lovely ports of call!) You also don't have to do the ships' own excursions, you can just get off and explore on your own. Just remember to give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship because if you're late, it won't wait for you!
- Won't I have to get dressed up every night?
- Some ships are more formal than others, so it generally depends on who you're sailing with. Most will have a couple of 'formal' nights where you are expected to dress up, but they aren't mandatory and they aren't every night, so if you don't want to join in there will always be other restaurants you can dine in without the dress code. If you're unsure, have a look at the cruise lines' website where you can find specific information on dress codes.
- Cruises are boring and regimented
- I dare anyone to come off a cruise holiday and say they were bored! There is SO much to do, both on and off the ship, that you simply don't have time to be bored. Your time is your own to do with it as you wish, so you can do as much or as little as you like; no-one is going to force you to join in with any of the activities and entertainment, so if you'd rather just chill out by the pool then that's fine!
- I get seasick on ferries so I'll get seasick on a cruise ship
- Possibly, but far less likely than you'd think. Unlike a ferry, modern cruise ships are very stable and have sophisticated systems and stabilisers that help to balance the ship during rough seas, making seasickness a rarity. If you are prone to seasickness there are various remedies available before you travel and whilst you are onboard to help you feel better.
- How do I choose when to travel?
- This will depend on where you want to go; most of us have a vague idea which ports of call or destinations we want to visit, so focus on the best times of year to visit them and go from there. The Caribbean tends to be most popular between November and May as it's Hurricane season during the summer months, although there are ships based there year-round. You can visit the Mediterranean all year too, but the weather is generally cooler and less predictable during the winter; the Canary Islands are a good alternative.
Norway, Greenland and Iceland are at their best during the summer between May and September, and the Baltics and Northern Europe follow a similar schedule. Most Alaskan itineraries run between May and September too, but different months have their own advantages; May and September are generally the best priced, whilst June and July have the longest days and warmest weather.
- Which cruise line should I choose?
- Mainstream cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises, Carnival and Princess Cruises will offer excellent service and accommodation with a varied choice of dining venues and fantastic children's facilities, so they are a good place to start. If you like the finer things in life then premium brands such as Cunard, Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises could be for you. They often have much higher staff to passenger ratios in order to give superb service, and you tend to find their ships are more refined with less of the 'gimmicks' that are found on mainstream lines (rock climbing walls, water parks etc).
Small-ship brands such as Azamara Club Cruises offer intimate boutique cruising, taking you off the beaten track to small or unusual ports of call, which are very popular with well-travelled folk, whilst the likes of Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn are 'ultra' luxurious, with smaller ships and passenger numbers, exquisite fine dining and are often all-inclusive so that all your needs are taken care of.
- How do I decide which ship to sail on?
- That all depends on what you like to do on holiday; if you prefer quiet resorts with a minimal number of people then a huge ship with thousands of people probably won't float your boat (excuse the pun!). The most important thing is to read all the information about each cruise line and/or ship so you can gauge which will best suit your needs and tastes.
Smaller ships tend to be quite intimate with a more personalised feel, but they can have fewer dining and entertainment options available. A larger ship, however, can feel a bit like a floating city but will have lots of different activities, entertainment and dining venues on offer.P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International are good starting points as their ships range in size and therefore cater to many tastes.
- Will there be enough for my children to do onboard?
- Absolutely - chances are you won't see that much of them because they'll be having too much fun with their new friends! With the exception of adults-only and some smaller ships, there will be extensive activities and facilities available throughout the day and in to the evening. Most of the kids' clubs are split into several age groups and they are fully supervised throughout by professional child carers. Make sure you have a look at the kids' facilities before you book - P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises are particularly good for families.
- Is there a restriction on how much luggage I can take with me?
- If you're sailing round-trip from a UK port then there are no restrictions; as long as you can fit it in your cabin, you can take it with you! If you are using coach transfers to get between home and the port, you'll just need to make sure each bag is no more than 20kg so that the drivers can safely stow your luggage. If you are flying to meet the ship then you will need to abide by the airlines' luggage allowances. In most cases this is 1 bag each up to 20kg for the hold and 5kg for hand luggage, but it can vary so be sure to check before you start packing.
- What things will I need to budget for onboard?
- The main things you will need to pay for onboard are drinks (soft and alcoholic), any purchases from the shops, shore excursions, gratuities (unless you have pre-paid them), casino chips if you like a flutter, cover charges in the speciality restaurants, internet access and any beauty or spa treatments you decide to book. Don't forget to take spending money for when you go ashore too - the ships usually have exchange facilities but the rates aren't particularly good.
- I don't understand how the tips/gratuities work!
- Don't panic, it's not as complicated as it seems! Tips/gratuities are extra money that you give to the staff onboard to show your appreciation for all their hard work. There are very few cruise lines where this is a mandatory charge, and if it is they will state it clearly in their terms and conditions.
Most cruise lines, such as P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and Cunard, add a set amount on to your onboard account each day, and then if you want to amend the amount you can do so at your own discretion. The likes of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises give you several options on how you can pay it; at the time of booking, a set amount automatically added to your onboard account, or your own amount at the end of the cruise.
|Azamara||Celebrity Cruises||Cunard Cruises||MSC Cruises||P&O Cruises|
|Princess Cruises||Royal Caribbean|
|Caribbean Cruises||Mediterranean Cruises||Baltic Cruises||Panama Canal Cruises||Transatlantic Cruises|