This is a chunky post as there is A LOT to cover. So grab a cup of tea, some treats and settle in…or just do whatever floats your boat (pun intended).
With 3 cruises under my belt I’d like to think that I’ve got enough experience to be able to write about what you should expect on a cruise and the things you should be aware of.
When you think of a cruise what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I asked a few friends this and here’s what some of them said;
‘The Suite Life on Deck’ (lmao)
‘A ship on the sea’
There’s loads of misconceptions about cruises, a common one being that they’re all full of elderly people or it’s something you go on when you’re in your 50s. If you do your research and pick one that fits with what you want then you’ll find that this isn’t the case. With 314 cruise ships out there, there’s a cruise for everyone.
Cruises are more or less luxury floating resorts, there’s everything you need and more from restaurants to spas, pools, mini shopping malls, internet cafes, even walk in medical centres! It came as no surprise to learn that the cruise industry is the fastest growing category in the leisure-travel market. It’s said to have generated approximately $38 billion in revenue in 2017 which is absolutely insane but once you’ve been on one it’s easy to see how they’ve managed to achieve such great results.
Here’s the cruises that I’ve been on;
MSC ‘Preziosa’ Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
7 nights, £749 pp inc. return flights and transfers in Venice.
Royal Caribbean ‘Enchantment of the Seas’ Bahamas Cruise
4 nights, £399 pp, flights and transfers not included.
Celebrity Cruises ‘Reflection’ Western Mediterranean Cruise
7 nights, £945 pp inc. return flights, transfers in Rome and a one night stay at a hotel in Rome the night before boarding the cruise.
MSC ‘Divina’ Caribbean Cruise
8 nights, £1,399 pp inc. return flights, transfers in Miami, a one night stay at a hotel in Miami the night before boarding the cruise and a premium drinks package and on board WiFi on the cruise.
I’d say in terms of the overall experience that Celebrity Cruises was by far the best out of the four. Everything was on point, from the food to the rooms to the entertainment to the staff. Even the fire drill was a smooth and efficient process! If I was to go by destinations alone then the MSC Caribbean Cruise would win!
So you’ve decided that you want to go on a cruise, have gone onto some websites looking for deals and have seen something called ‘Fly Cruise’. You think, ‘what on earth is a fly cruise?
- Fly Cruise – is one where you fly from your home airport to the country where the cruise starts it’s journey. The flights, transfers and cost of the cruise are all included.
- Cruise Only – the alternative is to do a cruise only holiday. This is pretty self explanatory and means that the cost of your flight is not included.
Cruise ship rooms are referred to as ‘cabins’ or ‘staterooms’ and there are usually 4 types;
- Inside – the smallest and least expensive cabins. They don’t have windows or balconies so if you get claustrophobic in small spaces I’d strongly advise against booking this type of room.
- Outside – very similar to inside cabins but this one has a small window which looks out to the ocean.
- Balcony – bigger than inside and outside cabins and these feature a private balcony with deck space.
- Suite – a large cabin with multiple rooms including a living room and an extra large balcony. Suite owners often get extra perks eg. butler service, access to exclusive lounges and restaurants and many other extras.
All rooms are equipped with your typical furnishings such as beds, sofa, TV, bathroom, desk, storage and a safe. They are also cleaned on a daily basis.
ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES/FACILITIES
There’s soo much to do! There’ll be times when you’re on board for a while when sailing from one place to another and you might want to do something to kill time. For this reason, cruises have plenty of activities and other ways to keep you entertained. The ones I’ve been on have included the following;
- Spa treatment rooms
- Swimming pools/jacuzzis
- Teenagers/children’s clubs
- Basketball court
- Games room/arcade
- Adults only areas
- Medical centre
- Internet cafe
- Gym (inc. classes)
- Rock climbing
- Silent Disco
- Dance studio (inc. classes)
- Cooking classes
- Shopping mall (some even had stores like Rolex, Gucci, Tiffany & Co)
- Theatre (inc. shows)
As you can see, there is a lot to do and I’m sure I’ve missed some things out as well! Not all of the above are included in standard cruise packages so you may have to pay extra for some things eg. spa treatments, classes.
You can expect to find a number of bars, lounges, cafes and themed restaurants on most cruises. Almost every cruise has a primary dining area where breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are served. It tends to be a casual buffet restaurant with a number of different stations where passengers help can help themselves to food. Some stations are even open 24/7! The selection of food is so vast it’s almost ridiculous, you can get anything from Pan-Asian cuisine to traditional English fish and chips. Some cruises have themed lunches/dinners eg. the dishes are sometimes based around the place you dock at that day. On most cruises there’s also an à la carte restaurant where you can go for dinner every night. This is more of a formal affair as there is silver service and a dress code. Going to the à la carte restaurant for dinner is not compulsory, you can eat at the buffet if you choose to do so. In addition to this, there is often a grill by the pool on the main deck which offers BBQ food.
The à la carte, buffet restaurants and pool grill are usually included in the standard cruise packages but the other restaurants and bars on the cruise are not. You will have to pay if you want to eat or drink at those.
Now we come onto drinks. Most drinks such as juices, water, and hot drinks are included in standard cruise packages but soft drinks and alcoholic beverages come at a price. You can pay for these drinks outright or you can buy a drinks package. They can include either non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages or both and can cost from $59 a day.
When cruises dock at a destination it’s up to the passenger to decide what they want to do. It’s not compulsory to buy the excursions that the cruise offers. You can do whatever you want whether that be exploring the place independently or doing excursions that you see elsewhere or you can even stay on the ship. The length of time that the ship docks at the port varies, you could have anywhere between 4 and 12 hours at a place. It’s important to keep track of time when you’re out and about and make a note of the embarkment time. The ship will leave without you if you don’t make it back on board on time. 🙃
The excursions offered depend on where you dock and can range from sightseeing tours to cultural and historical events. It’s best to shop around and check with locals when you get to the port, or even better, research the ports you’ll be stopping at beforehand and find out the places to go to and the costs involved.
TIPPING POLICIES (GRATUITY)
Rather than tipping crew members, many cruise lines have a tipping policy in place. Almost all will automatically charge you a gratuity fee per day. For example, one cruise line charges $14.95 per person (over 3 years old) per day but the price can vary depending on what type of cabin you’re in. For a family of 4 all over the age of 16, that would be a total of $419 for a week long cruise. It’s not compulsory to pay a gratuity fee so you can modify the amount or opt out if you choose to do so. That being said, most of the crew members rely on gratuities to supplement their income so if you do opt out of the automatic charge then it’s nice to give a tip directly to the crew members who helped you on a daily basis eg. stateroom attendants, waiters etc.
There is little to no service when you’re out at sea so you’ll have to do without the internet. If you really can’t bear the thought of being disconnected from the web then you can buy a WiFi/internet package if your cruise offers it. Be prepared to spend a lot for it though! One cruise line in particular charges $19.99 for just one hour of WiFi and $49 for 24 hours. Those kind of prices will make you realise that you don’t really need WiFi to survive several hours at sea. But remember there’s a wide range of activities on board so you’ll always have something to do.
I’ve only ever experienced sea sickness once and it wasn’t even on my first cruise! It just hit me randomly and the best way I can describe it is like a constant feeling of dizziness and nausea. I constantly felt like I was swaying from side to side. 🤢 It didn’t last for long and I got over it by lying down for a few hours but there are ways you can prevent it or you can buy some meds to help.
GALA NIGHT/CAPTAIN’S DINNER
Depending on your itinerary and length of the cruise you may have what’s known as a ‘gala night’ or ‘captain’s dinner’ . They are more or less the same thing and it’s where you dress up (usually black tie attire) and have a formal dinner. There’s sometimes the option to have professional photos taken by a photographer and have a drink with the ship’s captain or head chef. Attendance is not compulsory.
When you’re checking in, each member of your party over a certain age will be given a cruise ship card that’s unique to the individual. It has your name, room number and fire emergency meeting point number amongst other info on it. The card acts as a method of payment for purchases made on board and you also need it to go in and out of the ship when you dock at the ports.
Like most things in life, cruises aren’t for everyone, they’re a bit like marmite you either love them or hate them. All the same, it’s worth experiencing it at least once as you won’t know till you try. They can be a great way to get a feel for various cities and/or countries all in one go!
If you have any questions about cruises or if I’ve missed something out then feel free to write it in the comments and I’ll answer it as best as I can.
Peace, love and flights.