What is the one thing you wish you had known before embarking on your first cruise holiday?
Have a think back to your first cruise – did you know everything you needed to know before you left? For many of us, the answer is probably a “no”. For me personally, I can remember being a nervous wreck before embarking. I was under the impression that you had to dress up for dinner every evening and that the majority of the other people onboard were going to be at least 30 years older than me, how wrong I was! I wish I had known that a cruise can be anything you want it to be, I would have saved myself a lot of stress worrying about whether I would “fit in” or not when in reality all I should have been worried about was whether my clothes would still fit me by the end of the trip…
For today’s blog we asked a selection of influential travel journalists and cruise bloggers from the UK and US “What is the one thing you wish you had known before embarking on your first cruise holiday?”.
Gary Bembridge – Tips For Travellers – @GaryBembridge
I wish I had known that the choice of cruise line is even more important than the itinerary! Get the choice of line wrong and you have a miserable time. Get it right and it turns the cruise into a totally memorable experience. The activities on offer are your ideal, the type of people on board are like soul mates you click with as you all share the same interests and the ambiance and dress code place you slap bang in your comfort zone. As small amount of research will ensure that your chosen cruise line is the perfect fit.
Carrie Finley.Bajak – CruiseBuzz – @CruiseBuzz
The decision to take a cruise was hard. I only had one vacation break per year and a baby about 1.5 years old. So, where would we go? We picked a 4-day cruise from Miami to the Caribbean. Thank goodness that Carnival Cruise Lines Camp Carnival programme accepted kids who are in diapers and not potty trained, which is rare on cruise ships. Although a lot of cruise lines are family-friendly, not all of them have supervised programs for children in diapers. So, know before you go. It is really important to research the kids programmes to make sure that they offer what you need. For tired moms, getting a couple hours of relaxation on the ship is crucial because chasing a non-potty-trained toddler around the ship is no way to spend your precious holiday time.
Marian Krueger – TravelShopGirl – @TravelShopGirl
As a somewhat experienced cruiser with 24 cruises under my belt, thinking back to my first cruise I wish I had picked an entirely different cruise! That first cruise was chosen for me based on my availability and budget, but certainly not my interests. It was an older ship with an older clientele and I felt completely out of place. Now when I search for a cruise, I spend more time trying to ensure that I will feel comfortable and have a good time based on my specific interests AND that it matches with my budget. Don’t rush in to your first cruise adventure, do your homework and be sure it matches YOU!
John Honeywell – Captain Greybeard – @CaptGreybeard
I wish I’d known that within days of setting foot on a cruise ship in February 1997, I was going to be addicted. For life. After visiting the Pyramids and then boarding the ship in Port Said, I was overwhelmed by the fact that the very next day we were in Israel, setting off for an excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Back then it was the shock of the new. Nowadays, after more cruises than I can count, I have to pinch myself so I don’t take it for granted. I’m still amazed that I can be walking the walls of Dubrovnik one day, and zooming through the canals of Venice in a water taxi the next. Polar bears in Svalbard, grizzlies in Alaska, wallabies in Australia and penguins in the Straits of Magellan – I’ve seen them all thanks to my addiction to cruising. I also seem to have developed a knack for leaving a shipboard casino $100 richer. As far as blackjack is concerned, I know when to stop. Can’t say the same about cruising.
Anthony Nicholas – Travels With Anthony – @AntNich
I wish I had known more about the ports I was going to visit. My first cruise was on the old SS. Norway in the Caribbean, back in 1981, way before that thing called the internet. My tickets and information booklet contained very scant information on the ports we were going to visit, beyond a very basic outline. No restaurant recommendations, no shopping or in depth sightseeing guides. None of the plethora of electronic info we have at our fingertips now. It was, literally, a case of jump in and learn ‘on the move’ as it were. Despite which, what followed was the most marvellous and unforgettable adventure ever.
Doug Parker – CruiseRadio – @CruiseRadio
One thing I wish I knew before my first cruise vacation is that I could order as much as I wanted in the main dining room. Though I wanted multiple reorders, I was timid and only took what I was served. Once I got back on land my friends asked if I had that all-you-could-eat lobster – I had no clue what they were talking about. My friends told me I could order as much lobster as I wanted and could even take one to my room if I wished! From that point on cruises have been heavenly and now elegant night on a cruise ship for me is all-you-can-eat lobster night! It’s your cruise – eat up!
Stewart Chiron – The Cruise Guy – @CruiseGuy
After 209 cruises, I clearly remember I didn’t like the cruising concept. In fact, it took 14 months in the business before I took my first real cruise. Cruising 25 years ago was nothing like it is today. If I was a first time cruiser today, I would regret not having given cruising a try sooner. Once you try it, you love it and take a cruise vacation as often as possible. There’s no better vacation option to “Sea the World!” I enjoy not having to pack/ unpack, check-in/ out of hotels, waiting in airports nor waking up in the same boring place each day. Cruise vacations offer the very best value for your hard earned vacation dollars and pounds.
Chris Owen – ChrisCruises – @OrlandoChris
I wish I had considered onboard expenses before going on my first cruise. One of those people who mistakenly thought that the ‘inclusive nature’ of a cruise holiday meant ‘all-inclusive’, our family of four spent almost as much onboard as we did on the cruise fare. Granted, it was our choice to make those onboard purchases but the amount of our shipboard account bill at the end was surprising. Knowing how to control it in advance would have been helpful. Now, we know how to do just that and have been able to go on a cruise holiday spending very little other than gratuities for the crew and still have a wonderful time of it. – Keeping me out of the casino does not hurt our budget either!
Dave Monk – ShipMonk – @ShipMonk
I wish I’d known how good it was going to be. How convenient everything is – you can pop back to your room for a rest or a change of clothes at any time. Though life seems very relaxed on board, you can still be incredibly busy, even on a transatlantic trip with no shore excursions. On a big ship, there’s always something to do, somewhere new to explore. And there are so many interesting people on board – even the ones you wouldn’t expect to be. My one disappointment was the size of the swimming pools – though I now realise the reason why (water weighs so much!), I was expecting to dive into something bigger than the tiddly features on most ships. But cruising is fun and suits everyone – you just need to find the right ship!
Zoë Dawes – The Quirky Traveller – @QuirkyTraveller
Standing on the deck of Cunard’s ‘Queen Elizabeth’ as she sailed into Geiranger Fjord is one of the most memorable experiences of my travelling life. Massive mountains towered above and streams of waterfall cascaded in torrents into the deep, dark waters. I was on this lovely ship’s maiden voyage to Norway but it was also my first time on a cruise. I had no idea just what a memorable, exceptional experience it would be. I wish I’d known just how enjoyable it is to sail away from one lovely place, just to arrive a few hours later at another equally fascinating destination.
Sherry Laskin – CruiseMaven – @CruiseMaven
The one thing I wish I knew before I took my first cruise holiday? That’s difficult to say since I was only eight years old on my first cruise, aboard the 13,000-ton MS Matsonia from Los Angeles to Honolulu. The ship had no apparent stabilizers, children’s programmes or even a 24-hr pizza bar; bare bones compared to what’s sailing the seas today. I wish I had known then that my transpacific Matsonia cruise would be the stepping stone towards decades of cruising, along with countless memories, lasting friendships and a passion for the cruise industry that I entered into in 1992. If I had known then what I know now, I’d have saved all my pennies to buy a residence on one of those condominium-style luxury ships!
Lynn Houghton – RoamingScribe – @Roaming_Scribe
I wish someone had explained a bit about the mechanics of seasickness. My very first voyage, we sailed from Palma, Majorca into 24 hours of rough seas before dropping anchor outside of Villefranche. By the end of that 24 hour period, in the early hours of the morning, I was camped up on an open deck on the Thomson Celebration on a sofa with my blanket. I discovered from this experience that I could not be in a closed environment (deck 2 inside cabin) without getting physically ill. But if someone had told me about the various remedies available, I might have been able to get a good night’s sleep. At least I learned, quite quickly, that you must have your sight on the horizon to combat the nausea. That is the only thing that works if you don’t want to use medicines.
Sue Bryant – Blogger for Cruise Critic UK – @sjbryant
I wish I’d known that it pays to organise your time on a cruise. Yes, it’s a holiday and it’s nice to be spontaneous but I wish, for example, that I’d booked the specialty restaurants earlier so I could have got the times and dates I wanted. I’ve learned always to sign up for a course of spinning classes upfront; committing to the cost means I actually turn up and can offset the calories burned against guilt-free cocktails.
The other thing I’ve learned through expensive experience is to research ports in depth before travelling; when my kids were small, I spent a fortune on shore excursions to keep them busy every day but now that we’re revisiting old favourite ports, we do a lot of independent travel on public transport and I blow some money on one really good excursion, like zip-lining in Alaska.
The last thing I wish I’d known, especially when travelling long haul, is to organise the disembarkation day. We got kicked off a ship in San Francisco at 8am with two small children and a ton of luggage, and had a 9pm flight. Should have thought that one through better!
Ralph Grizzle – Avid Cruiser – @AvidCruiser
I started cruising back in the 1990s. Though as a travel writer, I journaled each cruise with magazine articles — and now blog posts, photos and videos — I wish I had done a better job documenting my trips. For example, I would have collected the key cards from each cruise. The modern ones have the passenger’s name, date of sailing and sometimes a photo. Of course, I have been on ships where keeping the key card would have been theft. Peter Deilmann River Cruises used brass keys for entry into the staterooms, for example. The upshot is that I would like to have more memorabilia from my cruises. Collect, and years from now, sit back and enjoy strolling (or make that cruising) down memory lane.
I want to extend a BIG thank you to everyone that got involved with this blog and I hope it has offered you, the reader, some tips and good advice – Danielle Fear – @CruiseMiss
If you are looking to book your very first cruise and are looking for expert, impartial advice, please call one of our Cruise Experts on 0800 008 6677. The Cruise Line is the UK’s original luxury cruise specialist and is now in it’s 21st year.