This is 18 things I learnt by my second cruise… because do you really learn everything from your first? I realise I am still at the beginning of my cruising life but none the less now I’ve done two cruises on two different lines I feel able to give you advice and good tips. I recently cruised on Royal Caribbeans Rhapsody of the seas and previously on the Disney Fantasy – which you can read all about here.
So if your yet to book or go on your first cruise then these 18 tips may help you ace it the first time instead of like me what will be my 3rd time (when I book again, not any time soon!)
1. Do your research… which cruise?
All ships are different, that’s in size, amenities, ports of call, on board entertainment programmes. What’s most important to you? I don’t think you will be disappointed on any cruise to be honest but choose your most important box and make sure that’s ticked first.
The first time I cruised it was simple… I wanted to experience a Disney one. Second time I picked based on ports of call. Fairly well travelled in Europe I wanted to make sure I was hitting places I hadn’t yet been. Also for me I didn’t want a massive ship. Travelling with my tween I knew he would clear off… I wanted half a chance of finding him! I chose Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas – capacity 2000.
2. Embarkation day is busy
When we got on this recent cruise we were hungry and headed straight to the buffett restaurant, same as everyone else. It was pretty stressy finding a table etc and I was going mad! Not a fan of all inclusive at all (no judgement if you are) it had that feel to it. Please know it never felt like this again! Consider booking a speciality dining for when you board to avoid this rush… I did but missed it! Whoops! Which brings me to my next point…
3. Don’t underestimate boarding time…
This latest cruise took longer to board then the previous Disney one. The port felt huge, the queues were long (we didn’t queue thanks to some VIP thing I booked) it did take a while to actually get on the ship. Not stressful but we did think we would pretty much walk on and we didn’t hence missing our lunch. We had actually been exploring that morning but in hindsight maybe box off the first day to just get on board if you want to make the most of it.
4. Pack a day bag
Seriously… don’t get caught out without things you might need straight away in your case. Aside from obvious things I mean your swimwear, sunglasses etc. Your case can take a while to be delivered to your stateroom and the last thing you want is your kids going mental because they can’t get in the pool!
12. The pools are not big
Okay so I’ve only done two cruises but as far as I can see this is across the board. Think of them more as a quick dip to cool off not swim! The main one will be overrun with kids who don’t seem to notice they are sharing it with 50 other people ha ha! Most ships will also have an adult only pool which is great to escape. Some have water slides like the Disney fantasy, that actually had a water coaster running around the outside, it was so fun!
5. Which Stateroom?
Another thing to think about here is how much your on the boat. I did a seven day cruise and was off the boat 4 days exploring, not utilising my drinks package. Funny story though… my son made lots of mates who had no package (so you just get water, orange, lemonade, tea and coffee) he spent all our cruise getting everybody’s drinks! Ha ha! So you could just make a friend with a package 😉
Both my cruises I’ve booked the cheapest state room with no window based on knowing I won’t be in it much. The only thing that’s tricky about them is the lack of space for all your stuff! You need to be highly organised to not end up getting frustrated keeping on top of things. Disney hace magic portholes in their cheapest rooms which give you a real time view of outside (off a camera) and you might just see a few of your favourite characters appear in it too – magical!
6. The initial cost is not all you will spend…
Cruises are masters at getting you to part with your cash or should I say credit card. That’s right… everything on board you pay for with your room key (which is linked to your onboard account and credit card), swipe here, swipe there, few cocktails later… erm how much am I up to!! Do I even care?! Ha ha!
Best way to keep the cost down is pre pay everything you can. We had a deluxe drinks package (£345 for me, £150 for the soda one for my son) we prebooked our two excursions that we chose. Also pre pay your tips!! This is huge, if you don’t you will end up with a bill in excess of £200 (in my experience) before disembarking. If your British and not use to compulsory tipping you probably won’t enjoy parting with it at the end. I didn’t pre pay on my first cruise and I racked up £1500 I think between tips, drinks, a special meal and a few souvenirs, yikes!!
7. Drinks packages…
Ahhh the dreaded drinks package! Do you want it? Is it worth the money? Okay I will let you into a secret… I didn’t pay those prices above, thank god! They were the prices but because I booked early I got my drinks packages included, winner! However I spoke to a couple who booked about six months in advance and they paid less than me but no drinks… maybe they just charge you and say it’s free?! Who knows… Consider booking early non the less.
Are they worth it?
If you don’t get a drinks package for free consider how much you actually drink!! If it’s 2-3 drinks a day it may be worth paying as you go. I think I worked out that to make it worth it in my cruise I would need to drink at least 5 cocktails a day! I drank seven cocktails when I first got on board and was giddy… let’s just say I don’t remember much of the speciality restaurant I dined in that night!
You won’t be drinking if your off the ship…
Only you can answer this. First off ask yourself how much time do you plan on spending in it? If you will be out and about maybe it’s not worth the extra cost? If you like your own space book one with a balcony where you can enjoy time out watching the ocean. The suites are utterly fabulous if you can stump up that kind of cash.
8. You will not be able to do everything
FACT! my first cruise I assumed after a manic week in Florida I would be nice and chilled on board, wrong! The ships have extensive entertainment programmes which are delivered to you each evening for the next day. You will want to do loads but don’t! Pick the things that jump out at you and don’t spend your time running round the ship (like I did!) trying to see and do everything. On my second cruise I accepted I would not be doing everything and felt more like I had relaxed – it is a holiday after all!
9. Dining in the restaurants every night is a mistake
Much like the above dining in the restaurants every night is hard work. Again all ships are different but your tied to a specific dining time. You might just be having a great time on deck and not feel like going and getting dressed for dinner again. Then don’t! Skip the restaurant and go to the buffet/more relaxed dining room a few evenings. They have no end of choice anyway!
10. Formal night is not as formal as you may think
Personally I loved formal night, all those tuxedos and beautiful dresses and the band playing. However if your not a dressy up person don’t sweat it. Many men are just in a shirt and long trousers, ladies in nice dresses – not full length ball gowns. Check what it says for your ship but it’s unlikely everyone will go all out, so don’t stress! My son and I were not dressed to the nines on our recent sailing and we fitted in fine.
11. Stay on board when in port to enjoy peace
This is not something I have done but other cruisers have told me it’s great. I’m a get off and see the world kinda girl but if your there for the cruise life and not too then stay on board and enjoy a chilled day with less people.
13. Bring clips for your towels
How did I miss this memo?! Your out at sea… of course it can get breezy!! Pack towel clips to ensure your towel stays put when you trot off to the bar.
14. Excursions with the cruise company or independent?
I’ve always booked through the cruise company through fear of not making it back to the ship. Bottom line… if your out with them they can’t leave you. However I won’t be doing it in the future. At some ports of call I felt our excursions were rushed. For example when we had a beach day they dropped us off at 10am and picked us up at 1:30, despite the ship not leaving until 4:30pm and it was only 20 minutes return journey. If you want to run to your own schedule make your own arrangements (which may also be cheaper) but don’t cut it fine getting back to the ship.
15. Kids club is a godsend
Let me repeat that… KIDS CLUB IS A GODSEND ha ha! They usually run 3 sessions a day, morning, afternoon and evening. They will keep your little treasures safe and amused when they have burnt you out. Nursery age kids? No problem… they have that covered as well. Teens, literally have a ball! They have a cool place to hang out rather than a supervised club. Activities are still put on and it’s there choice if they do them. You will find they make friends and hang round the ship together breezing in and out of the club.
You can dine in peace thanks to kids club… take the kids to the buffet and drop them off to kids club then head to your chosen restaurant, they will thank you for it and you won’t have indigestion! Disney go one step further and actually pick them up from the restaurant if you prefer. So once they’ve eaten they go… meaning no rushing out for you. Ahhh yes I will have a 3rd glass of wine!
16. Your kids won’t like getting off the ship
True story… no kids want to get off!! Why would they? They are having a ball and now you want to drag them round Rome or whatever… they will moan and you will here when are we going back to the ship?! My tip here is bribe them ha ha! If your good now you can stay up a bit later… or you could use ‘I swear to god if you don’t behave you will stay in the cabin!’ That worked for me! Try to pre-empt this and keep it interesting for them too.
17. Consider working out on board
Cruises are full of yummy food, tempting treats and sugary cocktails! Your on holiday so your going to indulge. On my first cruise I didn’t work out and put on half a stone! Ha ha! This time I was wise… I still indulged a bit but I headed to the gym 4 times onboard. Not into that? There were yoga classes, spinning and exercises classes on board. Why not simply take the stairs every time instead of the lift? Or some brisk walking laps round top deck whilst taking in the sea air.
18. You will want to book another cruise!
You agonised over booking the first… will I like cruising? Will it be too busy? Will my kids be bored? I’ve not met anyone yet who’s been on one and hated it. That’s not to say those people aren’t out there. But don’t be surprised if when you come off your already planning your next. You can actually book your next whilst on board ha ha! Very clever… get them whilst they are in the moment. My son BEGGED me to do this but I already have next years adventure planned.
So there are my 18 things I learnt by my second cruise. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you are going on a cruise I hope I gave you some points to think about. Seasoned cruisers… is there anything else you would add here? Let me know!
Rachael 🙂 x