Buy this, do that, chat to this person, see this… embarkation day can be manic, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, many passengers waste the first day of their holiday being stressed about all the things they ‘should’ do on the first day on board. Here’s a little tip: slow down! You’ve got plenty of time, so if something doesn’t need to be done on embarkation day, then leave it for another time, enjoy your first day on your luxury cruise ship, and chill out! You’re going to hear different advice from every person you bump into between now and your cruise, especially if you have family members of friends that cruise a lot, but if this is your first cruise, take your time and do things at your own pace. The below suggestions are exactly that, suggestions – not must do’s and don’ts just little tips to get you started. The main thing to do though, more important than anything, is to enjoy yourselves, you’re on holiday!
Explore the Ship
When you first board, many first time cruisers have the perception that the ship will be completely hectic with thousands of passengers racing around with a specific purpose – to find their cabin – locate the buffet – meet up with their friends – BUT this is not the case. In fact, embarkation day is actually very well handled and often far smoother than an airport check-in process. Embarkation day is actually an excellent time to have a leisurely wander, especially of the outdoor areas and decks. Remember, there’s no rush, so why not leave all the running around until later? Exploring the ship early on is a great tip as it means you don’t miss out on anything. You get to see all the restaurants, entertainment venues, activities, observation areas, and you can then plan your holiday around what you’ve seen. It’s also a good idea if you’ve had a long journey to the ship and want to stretch your legs.
After your journey to the port, you’re sure to be hungry, and usually passengers first thought is to head for the buffet restaurant. It is true that is an ideal choice for when you get on board and often a popular choice but many passengers don’t realise that a number of other restaurants are open for lunch on embarkation day, so these venues can be remarkably quiet. If your stomach is growling and you just can’t take it anymore, head to one of the speciality dining restaurants for a quieter meal. If you’ve explored the ship beforehand, you’ll know what’s open, otherwise you can always ask a crew member. Some cruise lines, including P&O Cruises also offer an open deck barbecue on embarkation day, especially lovely for when the sun is shining as it sets the perfect tone for the start of your holiday, ready for the grand sailaway.
Register Your Kids
If you’ve got children, it’s a good idea to get them registered at the kids’ clubs on the first day so that they can start having fun immediately. Kids’ clubs and nurseries are usually open on embarkation day, and registration takes no more than a few minutes – it simply involves filling out contact details, and any important information, such as allergies or medications taken. Your kids can choose to stay at the club if they wish but, if not, you can relax in the knowledge that everything is set up for when they do want to have some time away from mum and dad. It’s also a great opportunity for children to instantly become familiar with their surroundings and for parents to get a greater understanding of the facilities for kids on board. It’s all very well and good us telling you just how amazing the children facilities are on board but until you see it for yourself, you never quite realise it. It’s a great idea to head there early and check it out, the kids will love it and parents will instantly feel much happier. Travelling with children can be stressful as you want to make sure they are looked after and have a good time, heading here early on is a great opportunity to get the relaxation ball rolling, taking a huge weight off your mind. The facilities are so good, you might even find yourself wanting to stay for a while!
Go for a Swim
Obviously not applicable to all sailings, especially if you’re cruising from the UK in December but often a lovely thing to do when setting sail on a warm day. Swimming pools are usually empty on embarkation day because passengers are waiting for their swimsuits to be delivered to their cabins in their cases. The trick is to pack a swimsuit in your carry-on luggage, and hit the pool immediately – an excellent choice if it’s a nice day and especially if you’re travelling with children. Don’t worry about packing a towel; you can borrow towels from the poolside area if your cabin is not yet available, or if it is, then towels will be waiting for you upon arrival. Taking a dip is a nice, relaxing way to start off your holiday, and is much better than sitting in your room waiting for your luggage to arrive. After your swim, sip on a fruity, colourful cocktail at the poolside bar – this will really get you in the holiday spirit.
If you plan on using the spa during your voyage, take a stroll past the spa reception. You’ll often find that passengers are so busy doing other things that many reservations aren’t made until the following morning. This gives you the best chance of getting the appointment you really want, and it’s so nice to have a pampering session to look forward to. It’s the same for speciality restaurants. When you head to your cabin for the first time, give them a call and book your table – it’s so quick and easy to do so. You may also find that special offers are available on embarkation day for both speciality restaurants, and spa and beauty treatments. The first day on board is always a lovely opportunity to take a tour of the facilities. Spa staff members are only too happy to show you around and will provide you will all the information needed on the facilities available.
Enjoy Speciality Dining
On the first night, you’ll often find that the main dining rooms and the buffet restaurant are quite busy, but for the main dining rooms, this generally applies to freedom or anytime diners. Traditional dining, that has both first and second sittings is usually fine as passengers head for the dining rooms at the times of their sittings but for anytime/freedom main dining rooms, it is different. Throughout the cruise, passengers visiting these restaurants at night are usually nicely spread out as guests dine at a time that suits them. For some its earlier, for some its later but on the first day on board, after embarkation, its not uncommon for these dining rooms to get busy. Don’t worry, this is not a regular thing, it just happens because people are hungry, want to experience the main dining room and are excited to do so once they’ve unpacked. Some passengers automatically default to the main dining room because they haven’t yet explored the ship and discovered the alternative dining options, while others head to the buffet as they’re still wearing their ‘travelling clothes’ and haven’t unpacked their bags yet to find something suitable to wear to dinner. Here’s our tip for evening dining on embarkation day: As most won’t have found, or made reservations at, the speciality restaurants, these are usually the quietest on embarkation day. Make the most of it! Head for a relaxed, uncrowded dinner and sample the culinary delights before everyone else. Plus as we mentioned before, embarkation day can be a great chance to take advantage of first day dining offers with certain cruise lines.
Don’t try and pack too much into that first day on board. That game of blackjack you’re keen to play? The casino will still be there tomorrow! That game of golf? Why not wait until you’re at sea and pretend you’re at the world’s most picturesque golf course? Don’t waste your first day on board by racing round like a blue-bottomed fly! Take it easy, enjoy yourself, and relax, you’ll feel much better for it.