Complete Guide For First Time Cruising

Your followed all of your friends advice in doing the right research to find the best cruise for your first time cruising holiday.  You’ve looked into cruise lines, possible itineraries, exchanged conversations with other first time cruisers and spoken to our cruise experts.  You’ve now made your decision and you’ve booked your chosen cruise, stateroom and itinerary.  The good news is that the hard part is over.  We know that a cruise can be harder to get your head around than when booking a land based holiday but it is definitely worth it!

Now that you’ve made your booking though the next question is what next?

We’ve put together a full guide of the important factors to consider in the run up to your cruise.  They are certainly not as crucial as deciding on the right cruise but still remain important and we wanted to put your mind at ease and provide the ideal guide for answering any questions you may have.

First time cruising ‘Fly Cruise’ factors

If you have chosen a fly cruise and not booked your flights through the cruise operator then you will be in a position where you’ll need to book your own flights.  When booking your flights be sure to check the embarkation and disembarkation times of your cruise so that you arrive in plenty of time on the day and depart the ship without the need for a long wait before you fly home.  The reason we recommend this so strongly is that you have to consider any potential flight delays and any other transportation issues that may occur, preventing you from reaching your ship on time.  The same applies to the journey home.  It is highly unlikely but should you experience any delay clearing customs or delayed disembarkations, it’s always best to leave a bit of time so as not to risk missing your flight home.  We would always suggest booking flights through the cruise operator as this eliminates all elements of concern.

If you have arranged your own flights and do experience any delays, make sure the airline is aware that you are due to board a cruise and they may be able to help.  Be sure to also contact your cruise line as soon as possible to make they are aware of your delay.  Most cruise lines provide a contact number for this type of eventuality; make sure you have it to hand at all times just in case.  If you require assistance with this prior to travelling just give us a call and we will be able to help provide these details.

Pre-cruise documentation

It is important to make sure you read through all of your pre-cruise documentation once you have completed your booking.  This can be posted to you or you are now able to select our Go Green facility.  The pre-cruise documentation covers all you need to know about your holiday including itinerary details, booking summary, visa requirements and much more.  We will provide you with a pre cruise information form, which we will need you to complete with the appropriate, correct details.  Cruise lines will require you to fill out boarding paperwork prior to your departure but many operators now provide an online service on their websites for this to be completed.

Getting to the port

It is definitely worth planning this part of your holiday well in advance, mainly just to make sure it’s all done and dusted with no need to panic closer to the time of departure.  We have covered the appropriate steps to take for fly cruising in the aforementioned fly cruise section of this blog but as well as flights, it is important to consider transfers to and from the airport in order to reach the port.  Ports such as Civitavecchia in Italy are an example of where pre planning is a must.  Civitavecchia is the port for Rome but is approximately a 90 minute drive away from the airport.  It is therefore important to check you have this covered.  Our cruise experts will talk you through all the appropriate travel information at the time of booking.

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If you are travelling from the UK then you also have to consider this and there are numerous options in place.  The majority of cruise lines will recommend a port parking facility if you are driving to meet your ship and we will provide you with this information.  Alternative transport options include coach travel, train or perhaps private taxi.  We can provide details for all circumstances and preferences to make sure you are relaxed, have things planned and can just focus on enjoying your holiday.

Coach travel to the cruise port

What to pack and why

Boarding a cruise is not like arriving at a hotel.  Unlike hotels that check guests in over many different days at a time, a cruise ship checks a large amount of passengers in on the same day and during a specific time frame.  As such it is important to note that your checked baggage will be delivered direct to your stateroom and usually takes just a short time from embarkation.  It may, however be a slight delay before your bags reach you and therefore packing your hand luggage is an important consideration.  Carry-on items are often key with a cruise so be sure to plan for this.  Make sure you pack anything you may need to get you through the short time it takes for your baggage to arrive.  Medications in particular are important to consider as well as cameras, sunscreen, toiletries and clothing.  The right packing strategy can be perfect in the event of a short delay on receiving your luggage.

A crucial factor to consider when packing for your first time cruising getaway is the specified dress code of your cruise line.  No doubt you’ve researched this and our cruise experts have covered it with you to decide on the ideal choice for you but it may be something you haven’t considered.  During the day, all cruise lines have a casual, relaxed dress code; you’re on holiday after all and need to be able to relax.  In the evening, however, different cruise lines have different dress codes so it is worth checking.  Your pre-cruise documentation will specify any details regarding how many formal nights there is going to be on board.  Typically, with most cruise lines there are three types of evening dress code.  These are smart casual, semi-formal and formal nights.  Formal night will mean a dark suit or tuxedo for the men and an evening gown or cocktail dress for the ladies.  There are certain cruise lines with no strict dress codes such as Norwegian Cruise Line for example who choose to focus more on “Freestyle Cruising” but the majority of operators do have these in place.

We have been asked in the past about taking alcohol on board with you.  This is fine to do but certain cruise lines do have a variety of policies you will need to consider.  The amount you are able to take on board with you does change depending on the cruise line.  If you are celebrating a special occasion, this will require proof but in this case, cruise lines may be a little more lenient.  If you do take large quantities of alcohol with you this may well be taken from you and returned at the end of the cruise.

It’s important to consider electrical items when packing as you will need to determine the electrical outlets used on board your ship.  We can provide you with this information at the time of booking but if you are unsure it is always best to consider the itinerary you are sailing and the cruise line.  American cruise lines will use American sockets whereas cruise lines such as P&O Cruises who cater specifically for the British market will provide British outlets.  Consider this before travelling as you may need to purchase an adapter.  The last thing ladies want is not being able to straighten their hair whilst men will curse not being able to charge electric razors!

Packing a suitcase

Making the most of your first day

After you have completed your check in process and are ready to head on board, most of the time you will be directed straight to your stateroom.  There is the possibility, however, that you may not be able to access your stateroom straight away.  If this is the case then relax, head up to the top of the ship and grab some lunch at the buffet restaurant on board.  This is always a nice thing to do when you arrive and settles you into the ship.  Alternatively, take a wander and explore your home for the holiday, getting to know your surroundings means less time spent walking in the wrong direction!

A muster drill will take place once everyone is on board and this will be made clear to you in your stateroom and via ship announcements.  These are the cruising version of safety drills and require all passengers to attend.  The drills involve a safety talk from the ship’s crew and the captain as well as guides to what to do in an emergency.  You will be given an assigned area of the ship to attend.

Alcohol on board Britannia, Pool Drinks

Cash and currency

Aboard a cruise, you do not need to worry about keeping cash on you.  Nearly all cruise lines now operate a cashless system where you provide the operator with a debit or credit card at check in and this will used throughout the cruise.  You will be provided with your itemised bill at the end of the cruise but many cruise lines also offer an in-stateroom interactive system through your television now so you can keep track of your tab.  The cashless system comes in the form of a swipe card/room key given to you when you board.

It is important to consider currency before you sail.  Make sure you look into the itinerary you have chosen and take the appropriate currency required.  Cruise lines do offer a currency exchange service on board at fairly competitive rates but it will still work out better for you in terms of value for money if you do this prior to departure.

Close up of money

Health facilities

Let’s take a moment to talk about the dreaded thought of seasickness.  This is a common concern for first-time cruisers until you see the size of modern-day cruise liners and realise just how stable they are.  Nevertheless, we understand that this can be a concern for many passengers and it’s always best to provide advice over what to do if it is worrying you.  Many shops now offer travel sickness remedies including medication as well as alternative methods such as travel bands.  If you do experience seasickness on board then fear not as all cruise lines offer onboard medical facilities and will provide medication for you if necessary.  The medical centres are used to handling these concerns and will provide you with the best assistance they can so there is no need to worry.

Dietary requirements

If you have specific dietary requirements then just let us know and we will advise the cruise line on your behalf for this to be accommodated.  Cruise lines are exceptional in dealing with dietary requirements and this is often a huge reason many people love cruising so much.

Special occasions

If you are celebrating a special occasion on board just let us know and we will make sure the cruise line is aware of this.  Many cruise operators provide packages for occasions such as birthdays, honeymoons and much more so be sure to let us know.  For anniversaries, certain cruise lines may require evidence of this in the form of a copy of your marriage certificate, just send a copy over to us and we will make sure it is passed onto the right people.

glasses filled with champagne

You Should Also Read

You may also find our article on booking your first time cruise » useful.

We hope this guide to first time cruising has helped and if you have any further questions please give us a call on 01246 819819 or visit our helpful FAQ and cruise guide pages for further information.