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10 things you should know BEFORE you cruise

So you’ve decided to be a cruiser!

There is sooo much to love about taking your holiday on the water. I am a 10-time veteran and have paddle steamed on the Mississippi, cruised around Alaska, twice in the Med, through the Caribbean and another to Cuba, driven a houseboat up the Murray River and crossed the open seas to Fiji (bleurgh!).

If you’re a first-time cruiser, I have a few tips of my own and have also interviewed the experts, so here are our combined tips that we hope you will find helpful:


L’Austral small ship (courtesy of Ponant Cruises)

1. First and foremost figure out what type of cruise would best suit you. Large ships with lots of activities and dining options or smaller boutique ships.

2. Compare cruises and find out what is included. Some include all drinks and excursions in the main price, others charge them as extras.

3.  Consider buying the drinks plan. We found on a recent cruise in Europe that we could have paid US$22 per person per day for unlimited alcohol and soft drinks. That was $44 per day. Times 8 days. BUT if we’d had one cocktail a day ($12) and maybe 2 wines over dinner ($8 each) plus cokes and other drinks that were paid for, it would have been a good deal. You can buy this onboard so check out what’s already included for free.

4.  If you’re taking the kids, I came across this great tip on Budget Traveller. A reader wrote in to say that they book an ocean view or even balcony cabin for them and they also book an interior cabin directly across the hall for the kids. They use a baby monitor to be there in a jiffy if their kids need them and that way they get two wardrobes, two bathrooms etc to spread out. Not to mention the huge saving you’ll make on an interior cabin vs an adjoining cabin with ocean views.

5. Take a small day pack each not only for your shore jaunts, but you will have your main luggage collected the night before you disembark so will need this for clothes and toiletries.

Holland America kayaking

This is one of the many shore excursions you can book (courtesy of Holland America Line)

6. Do a bit research on the ports you are visiting before you travel. If you book the ship’s shore excursions you will be well taken care of, but they can be more expensive than pottering off and doing your own thing.

7.  Most cruise lines have a daily gratuity fee added to your room for service. Just be aware of this and check to see if it’s already included in your total cost, or will be added daily once onboard.

8. Book your shore excursions before you go so you don’t miss out. You can usually do this on the ship’s website.

Venice police

Beware the Venice water police! Pic from Tony Hisgett/Flickr

9. Have a budget in mind for your onboard spending lest you swipe your card willy nilly and get a shock at the end. Budgetty types can get a daily printout from reception.

10. And finally, a warning: If you’re going to Venice, DO NOT purchase a knock off handbag. The police prosecute buyers not sellers and you could be pinged for €350 and marched to la stazione di Polizia.

And the best things about cruising?

  • Experiencing a different port every day
  • Travelling at night – no time wasted getting from one place to another
  • No driving in foreign lands trying to interpret a GPS
  • Unpacking once
  • Having the cost of the meals all included  – this saves so much money over a long trip
  • You can be as busy or relaxed as you choose

Click here for my tips on How to Pack for a Cruise >>>




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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!