You are planning your first cruise holiday but you want some cruise tips for first timers to ensure you don't mess up. I can certainly help you as I worked on cruise ships for two years. I have sailed around the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of USA. And spent one season in Alaska too.
In fact, the above photo is me and friend working on our first cruise ship. I was totally clueless in what to expect but gained alot of experience over the years. Therefore, I have a lot of handy cruise tips and tricks to pass onto you. Below are the main ones I get asked about.
If you are prone to sea sickness, the on-board shops do sell over the counter medication, for example Kwells. For a drug free alternative, they also offer the wristbands - where a button sits on a pressure point above your wrist. However, I found that the wristbands worked on half the passengers that purchased them.
Sometimes you may encounter rough seas due to bad weather. This can still make you feel queasy even if you have your ‘sea legs’. So always bring with you some form of sea sickness remedy – whether it be medication or natural remedies like wrist bands or ginger tablets.
If you prefer the least amount of rocking motion while sleeping, then select a cabin mid ship. You will feel the most amount of rocking at the front of the ship. The most amount of engine noise is at the rear end of the ship (aft), on the lower level decks.
Majority of ships work on a cashless system. When you check-in, the pursers create a cruise account for you and register your credit card against it.
P&O Cruises go one step further by asking you to register your credit card of choice online when you make a booking.
So all purchases you make on the ship will go directly onto your account – duty free shopping, salon, spa centre, specialty restaurants, casino chips, bar service, day tours and currency exchange purchases.
At the end of the cruise, you’ll be given itemised account with one total amount that will be charged to your credit card.
For on-board payment, the currency used on the ship is usually determined by either the country of departure or the cruise ships country of ownership. For example, some cruises departing from Australia will use Australian dollars but other cruises like Carnival Cruises, which are US owned, will still use US dollars on-board even though the cruise leaves from an Australian port.
You can also purchase currencies on-board, enabling you to have local cash for each of your ports. However, you won’t get the best exchange rates. So if you have time before you leave home, buy some currency cash as your local bank or money changer. You can usually check the rates online.
You will never go hungry on a cruise ship. Every day they serve breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and midnight buffet. If you eat to your hearts content, expect to come home with a few extra kilo’s/pounds - and I don't mean in your suitcase!
For traditional dining, the main meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are served in the main dining room. There are usually two sittings – early dinner (approx. 6pm) and late (approx. 8pm). You will need to select your preferred sitting time at the time of booking.
Some cruise lines offer 'Anytime Dining', so you choose when and where you want to eat between set times.
However, cruise ships dining trends today also like to offer variety. Therefore, some ships will have from 1 to 4 specialty restaurants on-board too. Each will offer their own special cuisine – seafood, Asian, Italian etc. However, bear in mind that food in these restaurants are not included in your cruise package. You will need to pay for them separately.
TG Tip: As these specialty restaurants have limited seating, you will need to make reservations in advance.
Drinking alcohol on board is quite pricey. So if your cruise is offering a drinks package, do consider it. Check out the details as sometimes they offer up to 50% discount – well worth it!
Each cruise line has their own strict rules on how much alcohol you can bring on board with your luggage. Their luggage scanning machines are real good at detecting it. So check out the ships alcohol allowance policy.
However, you can buy 1 litre bottles from the on-board duty free shops. Prices are reasonable, especially on US/Caribbean cruises.
You could buy alcohol in any of the ports too. But quite often the bottles will be held by the ships security and returned to you when you disembark at the end of the cruise. This is because you are taking business away from their on-board bars.
With all the ports you visit, you have 4 options on what to do:
It is customary to tip your waiter and cabin steward at the end of the cruise. You usually have the same staff looking after you for the entire cruise.
You will get a lot of attention from them as your tips is the main way they earn a living. Not many people know that their average monthly salary from the cruise line is approx. USD500 per month.
These days, cruise lines make it easier for you to tip. They automatically add a set daily rate or percentage to your cruise account. If you want to give more for receiving over and above exceptional service, you can give cash directly to your waiter/cabin steward.
The above points cover the main questions I’m asked about cruising. It’s a great way to holiday and lots of fun to be in a floating hotel.
However, if you need any other cruise tips, please post your questions in the comments below.
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A travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.
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