Cruising 101 - a Handy Guide

Posted January 30th, 2012

If you are a first-time cruiser, the whole process might be a bit daunting for you. There are so many options to consider – where do I want to go, how long should I cruise for my first time, which ship should I choose? These days there are so many options open to cruisers that you may not know exactly where to book.

That is where this handy “Cruising 101” guide may come in….

Which cruise should I book?

As mentioned above, there are lots of factors to consider when making this decision – destination; cruise line; embarkation ports etc. Today there are more options than ever for cruising, and what you will like and not like is very subjective. Some people prefer the old world formality of some lines, while other people don’t want to dress up and be told when to eat and where. Some people want to cruise with their families, while other people want to spend romantic time with a loved one. Some people love travelling in the summer, others may want to escape the heat of summer and head to a more temperate climate.

So unfortunately there isn’t one hard and fast answer for this one, but we definitely suggest doing lots of research to find out exactly what is waiting for you. Our website has loads of information on the different cruise lines and their ships (these can be vastly different within the cruise line), different destination and different styles of cruising. You can also join cruising forums and chat to old-hat cruisers. And don’t forget, your local Cruiseabout consultant is always ready and waiting to give you all the information you need.

How do I book?

We definitely recommend using a travel consultant – it won’t cost you anything, and they can find discounts that you might not have otherwise known about. And, a good travel consultant will learn your travel patterns and your likes and dislikes, which will make any future bookings much easier.

When do I book?

This really depends on how flexible you are. If you know what you want and you aren’t willing to change it, then we recommend that you book as far in advance as possible – about a year to 6 months out – in order to get the best deals. But, if you just want to cruise and you want it cheap, you can try book at the last minute as you can grab some great bargains this way.

Documentation - you need it!

Definitely make sure you have a passport. Not only will it allow you to move around the world relatively freely on this cruise, but when it comes to any future travel plans you will be able to make them whatever you want them to be. And, in case of an emergency, your passport will get you home!

What cabin should I book?

Different lines have different sized rooms, but they should all be big enough for your needs. But, if you think that you might find an inside room with no windows a little claustrophobic, then definitely look at an outside room. In general, the bathrooms are pretty small, so keep this in mind so you don’t have any surprises when you get on board.

Is food included?

Generally, your cruise fare includes the buffet, meals in the main dining room, room service and usually several outcroppings of the buffet. A lot of cruise ships have speciality restaurants these days, and these generally cost extra and you need to book in order to get a table.

What about drinks?

Alcohol and sodas are generally not included in your cruise fare, except on some luxury liners. But, some lines allow you to buy a drinks package which makes the cost per drink cheaper.

Do I have to tip?

Some cruise lines include gratuities in your cruise fare, but those that don’t still have tipping guidelines you need to follow. So, even if this isn’t included you should still go into your cruise thinking about tips as part of your overall costs.

Do I have to pay for the entertainment?

Most of the entertainment is included in your cruise fare. Things like bingo, gambling, alcohol tasting and certain fitness classes do cost extra though. But the included entertainment is fantastic, so you may find you don’t need to pay for extras. Expect to see things like comedy shows, cabaret acts, cooking demonstrations, pool games, dance lessons, game shows and more throughout the day. There are also a lot of organised activities such as mini-golf, basketball and rock climbing walls.

We hope that you have found this “Cruising 101” guide handy, but if you have any more questions (or even if have some tips for first-time cruisers) don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

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