Ten ways to enhance your cruise experience, whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a veteran, there’s bound to be something in here you hadn’t thought of…
One – Sail with your age group
A marked contrast in ages aboard one ship is a short cut to a bad cruise experience for most passengers. A young family with rowdy children doesn’t want to be the centre of attention in a predominantly over 50s dining room, and similarly, if you’re looking for an intimate couples’ cruise, you don’t want to have children running around on every deck.
Cruise with your age group, generally speaking, most cruise lines carry more kids during the holidays, while most cruises to colder climates have a higher average age of passenger.
Short cruises also tend to attract a younger crowd, while older passengers will opt for a cruise of one week or more. So if you’re young, take a short cruise to a warm climate, if you’re older, head off on a two-week cruise to a cold climate. Who says stereotypes are dead?
Two – Your dining companions are similar to you
The Maitre’d will go out of his way when assigning seating in the main dining room to have you seated with people that are similar to you (young single travelers together, couples together, seniors with seniors etc).
Make an effort to strike up conversation with your dining companions; you may make a friend (or more!) for the duration of the cruise or even the rest of your life.
Three – Don’t rely on a cabin upgrade
Cruise ships are often booked to capacity and while a cabin upgrade is sometimes possible if you head to the purser’s office directly upon boarding, usually they’re all taken as there are very few ‘no shows’ for cruises.
Don’t waste the first day of your cruise on a tenuous possibility that isn’t worth it in the long run, you wont spend much time in your cabin anyway.
Four – You have a drinking problem (at least at sea you do!)
If you’re a social drinker, you’ll end up drinking a lot on your cruise, and if you’re a fairly heavy drinker, you’ll probably be drunk for most of the time you’re at sea.
Cruise lines rely on the on board revenue stream from alcohol, so they make sure you have easy and constant access to it, and will incentivize you with special promotions and all-inclusive packages. Take some painkillers with you for the mornings!
Five – Start a trans-Atlantic crossing in Europe
Because you’ll gain daylight hours with the change of time zones and because the crossing from Europe to North America is the most historic.
If you’re cruising with Cunard, there is nothing quite as moving as watching the Statue of Liberty emerge from the haze in New York harbor.
How many tens of thousands of peoples’ footsteps are you following in, who all crossed the same ocean looking for a better life? End the cruise with a visit to Ellis Island.
Six – Book your shore excursion before boarding
Most cruise lines allow you to book shore excursions online, at the same time that you make your cruise booking.
This is the easiest and most reliable way to book a shore excursion because you’ll skip the onboard queues and get the shore excursion you want before it fills up.
How many of us have stood in line in the lobby only to find that the one excursion we really wanted to go on is sold out?
Seven – Choose a good cabin location
Cabins above the nightclub will be noisy late at night, cabins near the engine room will vibrate.
Cabins amidships will have the least motion for passengers prone to seasickness, but will have the most traffic in the corridors.
Choose your cabin location (not just the category) according to what is most important to you.
Cruise Arabia & Africa recommends cabins further forward, they’re not suitable for seasick sensitive passengers as there’s more movement as the ship pitches, but they’re the most quite with the least traffic.
Eight – Don’t miss the boat
A cruise ship will wait 30-minutes at most for a group of passengers who are late back to the ship in port, or for its departure sailing.
While the captain will wait much longer for a shore excursion conducted through the cruise line, he will leave you in his wake if you’re exploring the port independently and miss the sailing time.
Cruise lines all have a port agent that will take care of you, either to get you home or to the ship at the next port, but it will cost you extra.
Nine – Cruise with the crew
Do you have a friend or family member who works on a cruise ship? You 100% have to sail with them! You’ll experience the cruise from a totally different perspective and get a unique look at cruise ship life for the other half of those onboard.
You also might be able to travel with him or her for free (paying on port charges and taxes) if the ship isn’t full, and they’ll be able to get you access to the crew areas, where the best fun, gossip, pranks, parties and games take place.
There are perhaps no group of people that best exemplify the saying ‘work hard and play hard’ than cruise ship crew.
Cruise passengers who are regulars aboard the same cruise ship year after year will know what we mean, when you cross the barrier from passenger to friend, a whole new onboard world opens up.
Ten – The Cruise is the destination
The ship, whether it is the largest cruise ship in the world like Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas, or a small yacht-like cruise liner such as SeaDream, is the destination.
It will take you to exotic ports and amazing cities, but is where you will spend most of your time.
Cruising is great for sampling destinations that you might want to go back to for a longer stay, as on a cruise you will only be in port for perhaps 8 to 10 hours at a time.