Ever thought about a cruising holiday? Wondered if it’s right for you? It’s a fair question. After all, once the ship leaves the dock, you’re pretty much stuck until the ship turns around and comes home.
Here are answers to the most common questions for cruise newbies.
There are two ways to go here. Most first-time cruisers choose a short cruise with lots of port calls; they do this because they’re afraid they’ll go crazy if they’re stuck aboard ship. While this is a good strategy if you just want to get your feet wet, look for a longer itinerary with some “sea days.” That way you can relax and enjoy the ship’s facilities. It’s really the only way to find out what “cruising” is all about. So, look for a cruise with some balance between sea days and port days.
It may have all the amenities of a resort, but a cruise ship does travel on open water. Your body will register that motion no matter how big the ship is or how well it is stabilized. Therefore, if you experience severe motion sickness on land or on airplanes then cruising may not be for you.
Ordinary motion sickness can be relieved by remedies like Dramamine and acupressure bands. If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, book a cabin on a lower deck in the middle of the ship where motion is minimized. Even better is a balcony cabin in the middle of the ship; fresh air really does help with motion sickness.
If you love dressing up, then by all means do so. But cruising has become less formal in recent years. In fact, many new ships offer several informal dining venues (e.g., sushi bars, pizzerias, buffets and snack bars) where you needn’t dress up at all.
One of the best parts of cruising is getting to meet people from all walks of life. But if you are uncomfortable sitting with people you don’t know, you can arrange a table change with the maitre d’ – but you must do so as soon as you get on board. If you wait too long, the staff may not be able to accommodate you. Understand that tables for two are scarce aboard ship except on luxury cruise lines.
Except on a few luxury cruise ships that have “no tipping required” policies, passengers are expected to tip their cabin steward, dining room waiter and assistant waiter. Special service personnel such as the maitre d’, deck stewards and bellmen should be tipped as service is rendered. Some cruise lines offer to add the suggested gratuities to your shipboard account; the accounting office then distributes the tips at the end of the cruise. On other ships, you leave cash in an envelope on the last evening of your cruise. Understand that ships’ crews work very hard to make your cruise top-notch. Unless the service has actually been poor, tip the recommended amount. For outstanding service, add a little more.
Most ships have self-service laundry rooms with ironing boards. On most mainstream and premium cruise lines, you’ll have to pay to use the washers and dryers. On luxury lines the self-serve laundry is complimentary. Don’t want to waste valuable holiday time doing laundry? Then send your clothes to the ship’s laundry or dry cleaner; there will be a per-item charge. During the cruise, many ships offer a “laundry bag special”: For a set fee laundry crew will wash everything you can cram into the laundry bag.
Cruising is a holiday like no other. It offers vast open seas, and the scenery changes every day. The food and service can be better than in a resort or hotel, all food and entertainment is included in the price, and you have to unpack only once. Who could resist that!