TO CRUISE OR NOT TO CRUISE? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Cruising is a multi billion dollar industry.  And it doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon.  Ships are becoming bigger and better and some are referred to as floating hotels.  Smaller ships though will take you to places the larger ones can’t such as the Naeroyfjord of Norway.  Some cruise ships are family orientated whilst others don’t allow children under 18.

Once you take your first cruise, you’ll probably get hooked – although it may not appeal to everyone.  What I love about cruising is that you unpack once and all meals are included, other than at specialty restaurants.  They also include things such as entertainment, shows, organised games and parties, movies and lectures.

CABINS

If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll probably go for an inside cabin.  It doesn’t matter because you won’t spend a lot of time in your cabin.  If you buy a cabin with a porthole, all you’ll see when you look out the window is the ocean.  You can get all the fresh air you want on deck as you recline in your deck chair, sipping cocktails while you watch the ocean pass by. 

Balconies tend to be a bit overrated to be honest.  Firstly, the balconies are very small and you wouldn’t be able to fit a reclining deckchair on them. More importantly, you’ll be paying around 25% more for the pleasure. Guaranteed you won’t be spending a lot of time in your cabin as there are just too many things to do on-board.  Of course, on the plus side, they are more spacious than standard cabins.   

If you’re prone to sea sickness, then I’d recommend mid ship on the lower decks.  Some people swear by ginger however I’d like to suggest trying a product called Sea-Band.  You wear one on each wrist and position the plastic stud facing inward over the acupressure point (instructions come with the product).   I have it straight from the horse’s mouth that they really work.  My client’s husband loved cruising and she used to get terribly seasick until she discovered Sea-Band.  They worked a treat.

If you’re doing a river cruise in Europe for example, all cabins usually have big picture windows to give you the maximum benefit of viewing the magnificent scenery along the river. As the ships are a lot smaller than cruise ships with less amenities, you’ll probably enjoy spending more time in your luxurious cabin.

If it’s an option, ask your agent to choose cabins away from elevators, the dining rooms, pool deck and dance floor.  I’d also recommend staying away from the engines or laundry room.  Be aware that if you’re offered an upgrade, you might end up near one of these areas so you’ll need to weigh up whether it’s worth it.

MEAL TIME

It’s very tempting to over-indulge and let me warn you, you will pile on the kilos if you’re not careful.  On a cruise you have the opportunity of dining all day long.  Try and pace yourself and be as active as you can be in-between.  Thankfully, there’s usually a gym on-board however they fill up fairly quickly so my tip is to do a few laps of the deck or the pool if you can’t get into the gym.

It’s recommended to follow hygiene procedures before entering a dining room.  You’ll usually be greeted by a staff member offering you a hand sanitizer.  Make sure you apply a decent amount and rub vigorously – most people don’t.  I’d also recommend carrying your own or use good old fashioned antibacterial soap and water! 

BEVERAGES

Generally, tea, coffee, soft drinks and juices are included in the cruise price.  Some cruise lines will include wine and beer with lunch or dinner.   You’ll be required to pay additional for cocktails however ships often have a happy hour when drinks are half price.  Some luxury cruise lines will include all beverages, others some.  Be sure to ask your agent what the inclusions are.

If you’re wanting to take alcohol on board, check with the cruise line as to what the limits are.  Some allow two bottles of wine or champagne and some allow beer.  I would recommend purchasing any duty free alcohol on-shore as it’s usually cheaper, although sometimes they offer specials on-board.

INCIDENTALS

Make sure you take along a credit card to pay for any on-board splurges such as photography, drinks which aren’t included, shopping, spa treatments, shore excursions etc.  If you’ve set yourself a budget, don’t be pressured by on-board sales tactics.  Cruise ships often include an on-board credit per cabin when you buy your cruise ticket so you can use this towards any extras.

You should check with your agent what type of currency you should take with you for on-shore spending if you don’t want to rely on a credit card. 

ON-SHORE EXCURSIONS

Although they’re more expensive, if you’re prone to tardiness, it’s safer to purchase your excursions on-board the ship because if the tour is running late, the ship will wait for you.   If you decide to  book your own tours either pre-cruise or on-shore, then ensure you’re back at the ship at least 45 minutes to an hour before the last embarkation.  Allow for traffic delays, including trains as this can happen if there’s an issue on the tracks. If you miss the boat, it will be at your expense to get to the next port.  This needs to be taken seriously.

A tip, there’ll sometimes be tour guides waiting at the gangplank.  They’re worth taking and will often be cheaper if you share with fellow passengers.

Where cruise ships make stops at tropical islands for example, be prepared to share the beach with every other cruiser if it’s a smaller beach.  If you’re lucky, you might be able to find your own little piece of paradise around a cove.  Some islands will be much bigger so crowds won’t be an issue. 

Just as a “by the way”, my favourite island on a South Pacific cruise we did was the Ile of Pines in Noumea (also known as New Caledonia).  Stunning! And a must do on any South Pacific cruise!  Google “Images of Isle of Pines” and you’ll see just what I mean.

CASINO

I recommend caution as there are stories about games being rigged and slot machines being tighter than usual.  Because ships operate on international waters, there aren’t any government agencies overseeing them.  Either avoid them altogether or make sure you only spend as much as you can afford to lose.  People do win, however, that’s to ensure that people keep coming back.  Remember the golden rule – the house, or should I say ship, always wins.

ON-BOARD CRIME

Unfortunately, crimes do happen on-board and you need to be vigilant.  Cruise ships are reluctant to publicise them and you’ll generally only hear about a few incidents.  It’s usually because of the protocols and laws associated with international waters.  It’s probably a good idea to keep your valuables locked in your cabin safe if there is one or leave them with the purser’s office whenever you decide to go ashore.  It’s recommended to leave your jewelry at home.

WEATHER

Be aware that cruise ships can bypass ports due to inclement weather and unfortunately, there’s no compensation.  

Below are the best times to cruise, bearing in mind that weather is unpredictable:

South Pacific – try to avoid January to April as this is usually cyclone season.  It’s usually why cruises are cheaper.

Japan – the best time is from March to April during cherry blossom time and October to November when you’ll experience the stunning and vivid hues of autumn leaves. 

South Korea, China and Vietnam – the coastal areas experience monsoon season from May to October. 

Bahamas – hurricane season is between June to November with the peak period being from early August to end of October.

Caribbean – the rainy season is between May to December so best to avoid this period.

Alaska – the cruise season is between April to September.  July and August can get quite rainy.

Mediterranean – best time is May to June or September to October.

Baltic Sea – May, June and September are quieter, but July and August are better for the northern European cities. 

Aurora Borealis – the best time to see the Northern Lights is during winter and you can experience this by doing a cruise into the Norwegian Sea, stopping at Svalbard and Reykjavik between September and April. 

BON VOYAGE!!

IMAGES – ON UNSPLASH

  • Image 1 – Fernando Jorge
  • Image 2 – Ricardo Gomez Angel
  • Image 3 – Fernando Jorge
  • Image 4 – Chris Walker
  • Image 9 – Anatoly Anikin
  • Image 10 – Joss Woodhead
  • Image 11 – Seth Fogelman
  • Image 12 – Mche Lee
  • Image 14 – Alex Munsell
  • Image 15 – Joseph Gonzalez
  • Image 16 – Casey Lee
  • Image 17 – Melissa Walker
  • Image 18 – Rinck Advertising
  • Image 19 – Miguel del Sol
  • Image 20 – Isabell Winter
  • Image 23 – John Fowler
  • Image 25 – James Peacock
  • Image 26 – v2osk
  • Image 27 – Bjorn Are Andreassen
  • Rest of images – Author’s own

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