Preparing for your first cruise can be an exciting, but daunting, experience. The following advice will give you an idea of what to expect, and tips on how to get the most out of your cruise. Good preparation will enable you to jump on board and settle straight into your holiday. This is one of the big advantages of cruising - the fun starts as soon as you depart.
You must take: tickets, passports, credit cards, medication, emergency phone numbers and travel insurance documentation. Other packing tips:
• Pack light. Take dress requirements and weather conditions into account. Laundry can be done on board, so you don't need fresh clothes for every day (Tips for planning and Packing for your travels).
• For families or couples, spread each family member's clothes among all suitcases. If someone's luggage goes missing, they will still have something to wear.
• Pack a small carry on with bathing suits, sunscreen and other essentials. You can then start enjoying the facilities as soon as you board.
I am normally very good on boats but suffered one of the worst mornings of my life when on a boat trip in Greece, seasickness is not fun. Different people have different thresholds so it is advisable to be prepared.
If you haven't been on a boat or ship before, there's no way to know if you will get seasick, but if you do it will ruin your cruise or at least a full day of it. Modern cruise ships have stabilizers, which help reduce the motion, but many people still get seasick. If you are worried about seasickness here are some measures you can take:
• Motion sickness medications are effective, but check for any potential side effects. Some can make you drowsy. They can be taken orally or through a patch.
• Anti-seasickness wrist bands are a drug free option, working on the principles of acupressure.
• Having a view of the horizon gives you something fixed to focus on and can ease the effects of seasickness.
• Get plenty fresh air.
• Some find ginger pills, candy or tea to be useful in combating seasickness. Many different medications are available on Amazon.
When you disembark in each port you will be bombarded with options. Likewise, on the ship there are many things to do. Doing some research will enable you to plan your activities so you can get the most out of your vacation.
• Researching your cruise's ports of call, so you know what you want to see and do in each, will mean less time wasted when you arrive.
• Check out the ship's dress requirements so you can pack appropriately. You don't want to arrive for dinner in shorts and t-shirt, when everyone else is wearing tuxedos and evening gowns.
• Read the daily ship's newsletters, which outline the following day's itinerary and activities. Take a highlighter pen so you can highlight all the things you want to do.
All cruise ships have medical staff and facilities, but the treatments they can provide are somewhat limited. Extremely sick or injured passengers will be disembarked for better medical attention. If the ship is at sea and the situation is life-threatening, the patient may be evacuated by helicopter. These scenarios can be costly, so travel insurance is highly recommended. Here are some things you can do to ensure a safe and healthy cruise:
• Pack an anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. Mingling with so many other people increases the chances of disease and infection. Wipe door handles, taps, remotes and any other regularly touched surfaces in your cabin. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, both on board and in port.
• Stick to bottled water when in exotic ports. Local water sanitation may be somewhat less than your body is used to.
• Use sunscreen and a hat to avoid sunburn, and keep hydrated to avoid sunstroke.
• Drink alcohol in moderation.
Most ships have kid's clubs, with age-appropriate activities to keep your children entertained. Check with the cruise line or your travel agent to see what kid's facilities your ship has. If your kids have something to do on those long sea-days it will allow you more time to unwind and relax.
Some ships charge a daily tip fee, which is divided among the staff, such as waiters and cabin steward. Casino and spa staffs are generally excluded and tipping is at your discretion. On some of the higher end cruise ships, service is all inclusive, so tipping is not required. Check with the cruise line so that you know their tipping policy, and you can plan accordingly.
All ship to shore communication is by satellite, making for very expensive internet and phone charges. Most ports have internet cafes and payphones, which are much cheaper option.
Most ships operate on a cashless system. They take your credit card details on boarding and issue you with a cruise card, which is used for all on-board transactions, except for in the casino. Charges are billed to your card and you settle your bill before disembarkation.
It can be easy to let this cashless spending get out of hand, so you should monitor your expenditure carefully. You will need cash in port, but remember: not all countries accept US dollars.