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Everything you need to know before your first cruise holiday

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Booking your first cruise is exciting. You have a list of destinations you’ll be calling at, activities you’ll be taking part in and on-board attractions to explore. But, as time goes on, and you have your 15th draft of your ‘to pack’ list completed, you’ve brought 3 new pairs of sunglasses and researched your destinations, there will be a few nagging questions may spring to mind’. If you take advantage of a last minute cruise deal, getting a quick answer to those little questions is even more important. In this article, we hope to answer those and tell you everything you need to know before your first cruise holiday.

It’s not all formal dress

A lot of people think of cruise ships as places where Sunday best should be worn every day. Although we appreciate the effort and love it when our guests feel they want to dress up and celebrate, do not feel like you have to. On shore days we recommend you wear comfortable shoes and climate-appropriate clothing - light fabrics in the heat and layers in colder climates. 

lady in sun hat

When it comes to dinner, we encourage guests to follow a ‘resort casual’ dress code, following good taste and common sense. In the main dining room, or to speciality restaurants, we ask for no bare feet, tank tops, baseball caps, bathing suits, shorts or torn/distressed jeans. Whereas, when dining at Windows Café we simply ask that guests wear footwear and a cover-up or shirt.

We spoke to Tanner, founder of Cruzely, a leading cruising website and blog. Tanner passed along his advice on what you should be wearing on your cruise: “When it comes to what to wear, remember that cruises can feature several different situations within just a few hours. You might poolside in the morning, followed by an elegant dinner and a show that night. In general, you should wear appropriate clothing for the situation, even if that means changing once or twice during the day.

“The good news is that the cruise line wants you to enjoy your trip, and not worry about whether you are wearing the right clothes. There aren't strict dress codes in most cases and casual wear is fine for the vast majority of the trip. To keep things simple, I recommend you dress how you normally would if you were staying at a nice land-based hotel.

“You do want to be comfortable and confident in what you're wearing. For example, wearing a swimsuit is perfectly fine lounging at the pool, but wearing it to dinner is considered a faux pas, just as it would be on land. You are more than likely to feel a bit out of place instead of being able to enjoy your meal. For dinner, it's a good idea to dress up a little, such as wearing trousers and a collared shirt for men or a dress or pants for women. Don't feel as though you have to wear a tuxedo or ballroom gown to eat every meal!”

It’s a ship, not a boat

Cruising has a language of its own, and you’ll soon pick it up. But, something that will soon single you out as a newbie cruiser will be using the word ‘boat’. Cruisers will always refer to their vessel as a ship, and although it seems like small and insignificant thing it’s something of a taboo in the cruising world. 

Cruise Miss is an expert cruise blogger and cruiser, and she has this to say on the subject: “I don’t think there are any laws that stipulate if you get it wrong then you shall be banished to a life at sea aboard the Black Pearl, but whichever way you look at it, a cruise SHIP is most certainly NOT A BOAT!!!”

“I offer you this famous saying that will help keep you right in the future (before you let the B word slip out!) – A ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship. The next time you bump into your Captain, please, for the sanity of cruise-a-holics everywhere, don’t refer to his grand ocean-going vessel as a boat – I beg you!”

It’s for people of all ages

A lot of cruising connotations imply that cruising is only for a certain type of person. But, as more destinations become available, and cruises become more popular, you’ll find a range of people on your ship. From a retired couple spending their time in the sun, to families enjoying the pool and even young solo travellers trying to explore the world.

The people you meet on a cruise ship can become lifelong friends, so it’s a great place to try and be social. Perhaps join in on group actives on board, talk to people in bars or restaurants and get to know your neighbours. Think of your ship as a small city of people, who all have something in common!

We spoke to Tara from Where Is Tara?,  a 28-year-old travel blogger and photographer who is well versed in all things seas, to find out whether she believes cruising is only for people of a certain age: “Absolutely not. There are all sorts of cruises out there for people of all different ages and with different interests. I think for a long time people have had this outdated idea of cruises as being for pensioners and couples, but that's definitely not the case. You can even go on singles-only cruises. So, don't let age put you off, but do consult with you travel agent to find the best cruise for you and your needs.” 

You probably will not get sea sick    

Due to the size of our ships and the specialised stabilizers we use to give you the smoothest ride possible, it’s very unlikely you’ll get sea sick. In fact, most of our first-time cruisers are worried about this, but the reality is even if you get motion sick during car rides or on airplanes, you are still not likely to notice the movement on a cruise ship. If you are incredibly worried about this then bringing some travel sickness tablets or bands just in case can be a great way of easing your mind.

We asked Tara from Where Is Tara? about whether seasickness is something to worry about on cruises: “Cruise ships are large and the chances of you feeling seasick are lower than if you were on a little sail boat. But there's always a chance. If you suffer from sea sickness, then it's always worth bringing some motion sickness tablets with you on a cruise. If you forget them speak to a member of staff and they'll be able to get you some. If you don't like taking tablets or are on medication that might interact with motion sickness tablets, then try the acupressure bands. They last for ages and are quite cheap.”

There is a best time to sign up for a shore excursion

Shore excursions are some of the best ways to see the world. They allow you to journey into the bones of a culture with experiences tailormade by our experts and create authentic travel moments. As we offer amazing destination immersion, our shore excursions mean you can spend more time enjoying and learning about new cultures. 

man taking photograph

The best time to book your shore excursions is before you even step foot on the ship. This way, you’ll not only be able to plan your voyage more thoroughly, you will get the best price and ensure you get a spot. To keep our excursions as personal as possible we keep a 25-person limit, so booking early ensures you get a spot on the trips you want.

We spoke to Vicki Garside, content creator and editor-in-chief at Make Time To See The World. Vicki told us why people should sign up for shore excursions before leaving for their trip: “Having a good plan for your port days will mean that you make the most of the time that you have in each destination. Signing up to shore excursions before you get on board can help with this and save the stress of deciding what to do each night for the following day. You'll also save time standing in the sometimes-busy lines to book each excursion and you can then use that extra time to enjoy the ship and its facilities.”

Tipping on cruise ships doesn’t have to be tricky

Tipping can often be a bit of a confusion for cruisers. With most of our cruises, gratuities are included within the price. That means that a section of what you pay goes to all of our fantastic staff, from the person behind to bar making your favourite cocktails, to the wait staff bringing you your meals. 

someone holding money

If gratuities are included in your cruise, you needn’t feel as though you have to tip. However, if you fall in love with our exceptional service, one of our crew members goes out of their way to help you or you are just feeling friendly, our staff appreciate your recognition. Tips are up to your personal discretion, so don’t feel like you must!

We also spoke to Tanner from Cruzely about this, as a seasoned cruiser, we knew his expertise would come in handy: “One of the nice things about cruising is that gratuities are included in your fare these days. Instead of feeling like you have to constantly reach into your pocket to acknowledge good service, it's all taken care of before you get on the ship. For example, your gratuities in the dining room or other restaurants are already included. The same goes for your stateroom attendant. In most cases there is no need to tip more beyond what you've already paid.

“Sometimes there are times when the cruise staff may go above and beyond your expectations, in which case it is a nice gesture to provide a little something extra. Remember that anything additional you tip is beyond what's already included in your fare. If it's a small gesture from the staff that stood out to you, then a few dollars is perfectly fine as a thank you. Should you want to recognize something larger -- like a stateroom attendant who did an amazing job during your entire cruise -- then a larger amount is appreciated by the staff. The important thing is to not stress about the right amount to tip. Anything beyond what's already included in your cruise fare is definitely appreciated by the staff.”

So, there it is, everything you need to know before going on your first cruise! Now all you need to do is pack your bags and start planning! 

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