How to plan your first cruise

Jean Claude Reuille30-Sep-2020

Are you among the ones who feel life is better at sea? You always wanted to plan a cruise vacation but never got the opportunity before. So now is the time to plan and explore the seas. A cruise holiday is desired by people of all age groups and by all types of travelers like solo travelers, families, a group of friends, or couples. There is so much that a cruise offers-a different way of exploring a destination, the amazing sights, the cozy and comfortable cabins, the lip-smacking cuisines, onboard entertainment, and of course the memorable experience that stays with you when you return home and something that you cherish forever. 

Planning a cruise can be a quite confusing experience, but if you plan everything ahead of time, then it can be a smooth one for you. We will guide you on how to go about planning and organizing your first cruise so that when you are planning one, it will not look like a daunting task. 

Here is a To-Do list that will help you to plan your first ocean voyage:

Time it right

There is never really a wrong time but we will still suggest that you should make a reservation 6-12 months before the cruise especially if you are thinking to fly to your departure city. Throughout the year, you will get great deals and offers but you can keep the Wave Season in mind which is referred to as “The Black Friday” in the cruise industry. The season stretches from January to March. It features some of the best deals resulting in instant savings. Sail during the off-season to save money and to avoid the holiday rush. 

Each part of the globe has its optimum cruising season. So you need to pick the right time to sail. For example-For a Caribbean cruise, the best time to travel will be between December and April. If you are planning to sail to Europe and Alaska, then plan in summer and winter season is ideal as well as a peak season for Australia and South America. You can check out the details and deals/packages on the cruise company’s website or reservation line.

Choose the type and style of cruise 

There are two major kinds of cruise: ocean or river. Ocean cruises have larger ships and cover more ground. They are very common. On the other hand, river cruises have smaller ships as they have to navigate narrow waterways and thus they carry fewer passengers. If you want more of intimate sailing experience and also prone to seasickness, then opt for river cruising as you won’t feel much of movement on the calm channels. In the case of group travel and where you wish to have more options in onboard food and entertainment, go for ocean cruising. 

The decision will also depend on what board activities you are looking for as a part of a package, as each destination will offer a distinct ambiance. Take into consideration the inclusions while deciding. There are cruises for different age groups, catering to different interests and some are event themed cruises. So, book a one that has all your desired inclusions. A few cruise lines that you can check out are Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, NCL, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. We suggest the Caribbean for the first cruising experience as it is easy and quite affordable to reach the boarding ports and shuttle between the clusters of islands.  

Book ahead of time

If you book ahead of time, then you get to choose the cabin (referred to rooms in a cruise) and cabin location of your choice. If you get lucky, you might also get upgraded. To avoid last-minute disappointment, prebook the activities like shore excursion, spa, or speciality restaurant. If you are planning to sail in the peak season, the reservation onboard gets booked quickly. 

Book through a travel agent

Hiring a travel agent will make it easier for you. Their experience and knowledge will help you in getting good deals and promotions, saving huge bucks on the bookings. Sometimes, they have access to special discounts, hidden inventories, and adventurous and exciting itineraries. Save your time and money and hire them.   

Finalize a budget

By deciding on your budget, you can choose whether to sail on a luxurious ship or go for a budgeted one. So the budget is essential to be taken into consideration. For optional activities, around 100 dollars each day is enough, excluding the cost of booking the cruise line. 

Some cruise lines will include meals and some onboard activities. Spa treatments, special shows, gourmet dining experiences may have an additional charge. On the website or once you are on board, you can refer to the full pricing list. 

Select the cabin type

Generally, the choices available are:

  • Inside cabins (No windows)
  • Balcony cabins
  • Cabins with a window/porthole
  • Suites ranging from a regular cabin to huge cabins

Depending on your budget, you may choose one. If you are low on budget and want to save a few dollars, then inside cabins are best for you. If you want a lavish stay, then go for suites and if you have a budget and want to enjoy the breathtaking view of the ocean, then reserve balcony cabins. Look at the layout of the ship while selecting your cabin. Try booking cabins that are away from busy passageways, public areas, and elevators. If you choose a room above a night club, then you will not be able to sleep early. We recommend balcony cabins so that you can enjoy sipping your favorite cocktail at your balcony. 

Research the onboard cuisine options

Cruise lines offer an extensive menu and they serve a variety of cuisines. The menu depends on the destination you are visiting. Check out the menus in advance, so that you can specify your food preference and the special dietary requirement to your travel agent or the cruise company.

Dress Code 

Check the dress code of your cruise while booking. Usually, during the day, you can wear smart casuals and whatever the cruise line advises, you can wear in the night. Certain restaurants require formal wear. Do carry sunglasses, a hat, jacket, winter wear, rainwear for excursions, lightweight cotton to wear depending upon the destination. 

What all to pack 

Even before your luggage will reach your cabin, you will reach your cabin. So your important documents, medication, phone chargers, etc., should be kept in a carry-on bag. Also, you can carry a bathing suit and sunscreen, so that you can soak in the sun or dive into the pool till the time your bags reach the cabin. 

Do not forget to carry your swimwear as it will be helpful during excursions and onboard. If you are traveling to a destination with a different cultural standard of clothing, then prepare yourself accordingly. As far as toiletries are concerned, you may carry your own but, you may get complimentary ones in your cabin. 

Carry comfortable shoes as you might need during an excursion on the shore. Please do not forget to carry the camera and charger as photos will be the only memories you will be having later. 

Cash on Board 

Most of the cruise lines accept US Dollars, Euros or Pounds, major credit cards and some of the large cruise companies have ATMs. A transaction fee will be applied. 

Travel Insurance

Get yourself covered by comprehensive travel insurance. Ensure that it covers all aspects of the trip and it is valid for the complete journey. Usually, your travel insurance protects you, if you fall seriously ill, met with an accident, or lose your baggage. Ships carrying more than 50 passengers have medical facilities and a doctor on board. However, they may charge for the services, so it is best to invest in travel insurance.  

Tag the Bags 

Tag the bag with a label stating your name, ship, cabin number, sailing date, and port from where you will be embarking. 

Travelers with Disabilities  

All cabins in the modern ships most probably have modified cabins for wheelchair users and some also have hoists for the swimming pool. Many cruise lines have special personnel to handle requests from disabled passengers. 

Research and take a travel-worthy phone plan

When traveling, switch to airplane mode or contact your cell carrier for phone plans as International roaming rates will cost hundreds of dollars. 

Arrive at your departure city early

Your ship may leave late in the evening, but a delayed flight or issues of heavy traffic may become the reason of you not boarding the ship. So we recommend, you arrive at your departure city a day before the cruise. 

Maybe you are daydreaming about sipping cocktails with a stunning ocean view in front of you, exploring port cities around the world, or getting pampered with a different spa treatment every day. Whether your dream vacation involves snorkeling in the Caribbean or exploring the castles of Dubrovnik, Croatia, or it is chilling out on the pool deck of your ship, you can follow the above-mentioned tips and information to make the most of that well-deserved time off.

There is no better escape than embarking on an ocean voyage. Once you organize all the things, you are on your way to a blissful vacation. Set sail for fun, excitement, and relaxation. Let the seas set you free! Expect the unexpected…

Good luck planning for your first cruise vacation!

Written by "Jean Claude Reuille" on 30-Sep-2020

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