All aboard! You’re going on your very first cruise. Lucky you! This is an exciting time. Huge adventure awaits you, but before you go, there are some things you need to know. Here is an overview of cruise vacations for first time cruisers.
Many first-timers are confused about what’s included in your cruise price. As a general rule, meals, snacks, onboard activities and entertainment are included in the stateroom prices. Here’s some great news that might surprise you: even room service is included! Beverages such as water, juice, tea and coffee are typically included, as well. Other beverages, such as those from the bar – soda, beer, wine and cocktails – are an additional cost. You’ll also have to pay extra for babysitting, salon and spa services, gambling and purchases from the gift shop. Fortunately, all these expenses are charged to your room, alleviating the worry of carrying cash everywhere onboard.
There are other activities that you’ll have to budget for, namely, shore excursions. There are many options available, from simply shopping forays to extensive guided tours. Most cruise lines have specialists that can help you book your offshore activities. It’s typically wise to utilize this service, as the cruise experts have loads of experience and know which companies are reputable, and which to avoid. Many activities book up quickly, so plan ahead. It’s also a good idea to book spa and salon appointments well in advance.
Many cruise lines factor gratuities into your final bill when the cruise ends. Others leave this amount up to you. If you’re in charge of the tip, follow this rule of thumb: $3 per person, per day for your cabin steward, busboy and cabin steward. All gratuities should be paid in cash when the cruise comes to an end. When it comes to bar beverages, you’ll have to pay at the time of service. Your servers are there for one reason: to serve you and make sure you have the best cruise experience ever. Treat them well.
Nothing says great food like a cruise. Everybody knows that cruises are notorious for exceptionally delicious cuisine and abundant dining options. Buffets, niche restaurants with high-end specialties, elegant dining rooms, cozy room service, on-the-go snack bars – they’re all yours. Try them all! Room service is usually available 24 hours a day while other options have limited hours, some serving late into the night or early in the morning. Main dining hall times frequently begin around 6:30 p.m., and permit seating through 8:30 p.m. Submit your preferred times in advance whenever possible.
Special dietary needs? No problem. Cruise lines employ top chefs who are well-versed in all kinds of dietary specialties. Vegetarian, kosher and low-fat diets being the most common special needs, these dishes are abundantly available. More specialized needs can easily be accommodated, as well. Be sure to consult your vacation cruise specialist in advance and speak to them about your dietary restrictions. That way, you can be sure to secure a perfect culinary experience.
Not sure what to pack? You’re not alone. Most cruises are seaside-casual during the day, and more formal at night. When packing formal attire, men can’t go wrong with a nice, dark suit. Ladies: pack your lovely cocktail dresses. Make sure all your fabrics are appropriate for the climate in which you’re sailing.
Check with your vacation expert to determine the level of formality aboard your ship. Some lines are far more formal than others, and require tuxedos and gowns. Don’t have a tux? Check to see if rentals are available on board. Many offer this amenity. If dressing up isn’t your thing, don’t worry; most every cruise line offers exclusively casual dining options.
If you’re a water person, don’t forget to pack plenty of swimwear. Those who bring only one or two bathing suits will likely have to buy more onboard. The same goes for basic toiletries.