So, here it is: the second instalment of our Top Tips For Cruise Virgins. Feel free to leave any comments/advice you might have in the comments section below.
6. When to eat – early and late dining times:
Depending on which cruise line you are sailing with you may be requested to select the dining time you would prefer. Often split between early and late timings, there are advantages to both of these options:
Early seating: Recommended for those who enjoy eating earlier (obviously) as it allows you the free-time after your meal to explore the lounges, bars and shows (if applicable) on the ship. You will also find that the earlier dining time is the preferred choice of families and more elderly cruisers.
Late seating: Ideal if your itinerary means that the ship often sets sail in the early evening as you’ll be able to enjoy the sunset from the deck of the ship rather than having to get ready for meal. Some people prefer later dining because they believe it is more relaxed and some cruise ships will also put on earlier entertainment showings to accommodate those who prefer to eat a little later.
Helpful hint: Take a look at your itinerary and let that guide you. If you’re going on a cruise where the ports and excursions are an important feature of your planning, then a later dining time will give you enough time to get back to the ship and have a little rest before heading for dinner. However, if you’re on a ship where a full evening of entertainment is particularly key to your enjoyment, then an early dining time will allow you to digest your food before readying yourself for the night ahead.
7. Cruise Ship Dress Codes:
As there are so many cruise lines, it’s nearly impossible to sum up all their dress code requirements in a couple of paragraphs. However, most cruise lines will advise you before travelling what type of dress is required and in which public spaces. Generally, these are split between formal, smart casual and casual depending on which cruise ship you are travelling on so it’s important you pack the right clothes to fulfil each criteria. In some cases, your cruise ship might be having a theme night – in which case, ensure you’ve got the right clothes to suit the occasion.
Helpful hint: Read the documentation sent through to you by your cruise line. This will often let you know what dress codes are required for which nights etc. If you’re still unsure, then take a look at this handy guide or visit your cruise line’s website.
8. Know your destination:
One of the great things about a cruise is that you get to visit lots of different places – from isolated ports unspoilt by modern living to bustling cities that never sleep. There’s a good chance you haven’t have been to the majority of ports on your itinerary and because of this it’s a good idea to have a few basic ideas of the town/cities layouts before you start exploring.
Obviously, you don’t need to have a Michael Palin-sized vat of knowledge but it’s important to remember that most of these are living, breathing places and are therefore not just set up to welcome cruise ship visitors. Like anywhere, they will have their less desirable places as well as their hotspots and points of interest so caution is advised when wandering off the beaten track.
Helpful hint: A bit of reading up and a simple map should suffice. If you have any questions, ask the Cruise Director or one of his staff – they’ll probably know the layout of the port better than anyone else.
9. Shore Excursions:
Shore excursions are a brilliant means of exploring a port of call or city in more detail. The types of excursions generally vary between activities (scuba diving, off-roading, hiking) and sight-seeing tours to points of interest. Some cruise lines may have set guidelines when it comes to their excursion booking policies but more often than not there are 3 options available to you for booking your shore excursions:
Book your shore excursions before you leave: No matter who you book your cruise through, they should be able to list the excursions that are available for your sailing, along with prices and other bits of information. The big advantage of this is that you’ll know what you’re doing in each port well in advance of you leaving, giving you ample time to familiarise yourself with the local customs with a bit of prior research.
Book onboard: If you don’t feel like committing to an excursion program before you leave then there’s always the option of booking when you’re on the ship. This is great if you’re in two minds, or if you’ve made friends on board who’ve travelled the region before and have recommended a particular activity or sight-seeing tour.
Go independent: You might find that your desired trip or excursion isn’t offered by your cruise line. In this case, there are lots of independent shore excursions providers online who offer a huge range of trips and activities, sometimes at a lesser price than the fare being offered by the cruise line itself. These will often meet you directly from the ship and will provide tour guides and transfers. These are a great way of getting to explore a destination in the way that you would like, but remember to ensure that the organisers are aware of the time you are required to be back at the ship – you wouldn’t want it to leave without you!
Helpful hint: Be aware that many cruise lines will not refund the amounts paid for shore excursions in advance. Likewise, not booking your shore excursions before you leave may mean that there aren’t any spaces left.
10. Booking your next cruise whilst onboard:
Something that proves popular with many regular cruisers is the option of booking their next cruise holiday whilst onboard. This is a great option if you’ve enjoyed your sailing so much so that you’re sure you’d like to repeat the experience in the near future.
Many cruise lines make this process extremely easy and are able to offer early-booking discounts, free-upgrades and have access to the latest and best prices. In some cases, the cruise line may also protect the price of your cruise in the event that the fare goes down between the time at which you make your booking and the time you set sail, meaning you’ll be entitled to a refund of the difference.
Helpful hint: Every cruise line offers something different to potential onboard bookers so ensure you’re aware of the terms and conditions upon deciding to use this method.
Is there something we’ve missed? Leave a comment below!