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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

12 Tips For Booking A Cruise Holiday

Having no upcoming holiday to look forward to this year (besides my New York dreaming  but that trip isn't possible now with a kitchen renovation and Courtyard this year!) I've been reminiscing about my last holiday sailing across the seas visiting tropical islands with an endless supply of cocktails and white fluffy towels sigh yes I'm still relishing my cruise holiday from last year.

I have been on four cruises both with family, extended family, my best friend and my partner Mr P and each was a totally different experience on different ships and destinations:
  • 1999 - 8 week cruise on the Oriana with my parents and brother when I was 18 we went from Fremantle to Southampton in the UK in a 4 berth cabin aka bunk beds oh yes it was very cosy!
  • 2003 - 3 day out at sea Fremantle cruise on the Super Star Virgo with my bestie and we partied constantly - drank, swam and sang karaoke until we lost our voices.
  • 2008 - 14 day cruise around Australia on the Sun Princess for my Nanna's 80th Birthday I shared the cabin with my Nanna and my parents and Aunt and Uncle had their own double cabins as well. It was a treasured family holiday that we still laugh about now and my Nanna wants to go again!
  • 2012 - My latest 10 day cruise on the Pacific Jewel travelled around the South Pacific with Mr P and I and was the fanciest cabin I've ever had with our own balcony and was a really romantic fun holiday.

I've gushed before about the many reasons to go on a cruise holiday and now want to share some hints and tips on what to do once you've actually booked your cruise holiday as there's always a lot of uncertainty from first timer cruisers on what to pack, wear, buy, etc.

1. Singles are welcome - Don't be afraid of booking on your own. There were lots of single meet ups and events so that everyone got to know one another. If your friends or family aren't in a position to travel with you why should you miss out on a good time - don't wait be brave and cruise solo!

2. Pick your destination - There are many cruises now leaving from Australian ports. If you can get one that you fly to one destination and then cruise back to your home port, this way you don't need to worry about airports and how much your suitcase weighs on your trip home. Arriving at your destination by ship and walking off for a full day of adventure Vs Waiting at airports in endless lines then battling traffic to get to your destination - I know which one I'd rather do!

3. Check the weather - Research the weather that time of year in your destination because if it is tornado season the last place you want to be is on the ocean! The seas can get rough so just do some research beforehand to make sure you will be travelling at a good time of year so it'll be sunshine and happy days.

4. The daily newsletter is your bible - It will be delivered to your cabin each evening with a calendar of events for the next day as well as the dress code so you can plan what you're going to wear. These are the 2 biggest decisions each day - what to wear and what to do! The newsletter is like your bible, carry it around with you each day so you know whats going on and where - heaven forbid you're late for Bingo!

5. Professional photographers - The photographers snap photos of you getting on and off the ship and also some portrait nights which is a good opportunity to get some family/partner etc portraits. These are displayed the very next day and cost $20 onwards for each print. If you've ever wanted to get portrait shots done (see mine here) this is your chance as it's free to do it and no obligation to buy any photos unless you want to. Plus you feel like a bit of a superstar being snapped and photographed :D

6. If you get sea sick - Don't mess about - pop some seasickness tablets before you board. Get up on deck in the fresh air, have a drink and don't think about it just relax and enjoy yourself. I get sick on small boats and have been known to feel sick on a cruise ship, but mine is more fear of the water than rocking of the boat. As soon as you get on they do a safety drill and use the life boats to tender you to shore at some port stops so you realise safety is paramount on these ships and you are in very safe hands.

7. All entertainment is included - I'm talking live shows every night - dancing, comedy, magicians, singers, etc. There are usually 2 time slots to suit both the late and early diners so make sure you book your dinner around the entertainment so you don't miss out. It pays to get there a bit early too so you can grab yourself a good spot with a drink in hand ready to be entertained.

8. Almost all meals are included in the price - There will always be the buffet with convenient long hours for breakfast lunch and dinner and a fine dining restaurant with shorter hours for breakfast lunch and dinner. Be sure to enjoy dinner in the restaurant it's an excuse to dress up nice and be waited on and chose from a 3-4 course dinner each night. I was shocked to speak to some cruise folk who hadn't been to the restaurant only the buffet - put that tray down and go experience some silver service people!

9. Cocktails & Cruising - Drinks are the main thing you'll spend money on. The bonus is you can buy a drink and walk around anywhere on the ship, from pool bar to your cabin, from the restaurant to the theatre, where ever you like. Another tip is to buy a bottle of wine which you can take around with you and it works out cheaper than buying by the glass or you can take the bottle back to your cabin. You aren't allowed to bring booze on board and anything bought on they'll hold for you until you get off - this has caused a lot of upset as even the Duty Free bottles onboard they don't allow you to drink they are for taking home. My tip is Bacardi and Vodka look a lot like water if you want to take a chance and fill your 'water bottle' before boarding :D

10. Don't take a beach towel - They have an endless supply of towels for the pool and you can even take them ashore for the day. I've heard rumours of there being fights in the laundry so don't spend your holiday washing or ironing in the laundry room, take enough clothes with  you so you don't need to. There's a small clothesline in your shower for your smalls to make use of but just don't hang board shorts and a tshirt from it or it might snap oops yes that was me!

11. What to pack - During the day casual clothes for the ship - jeans, shorts, singlets, cardis, dresses and flat sandals. It can get cool in the air conditioning and out on deck so pack a jacket and cardi. Don't strut around in your bikini unless your beside the pool put a cover up on especially if going to eat at one of the restaurants some people have no shame! Same goes for men  - jeans, shorts, tshirts. After 5.30pm the dress code is smart casual or more formal on certain nights. Smart casual is dresses, skirts, pants, nice top for men it's dress pants and button up shirt. Formal night is long evening dress and for men dress pants, button up shirt and tie optional. Bring out the bling ladies here's your chance to dress to impress. There may be some theme nights as well like Hawaiian or Country and Western we also had Pirate and Back In Time 50s-80s dress up on my latest cruise. If you don't find out beforehand what the theme is you can always visit a cheap shop when your ashore and grab something for your costume.

12. Just like a hotel - You can book a cheap cabin down the bottom of the ship with no window or a more expensive cabin with a balcony or go all out on the deluxe suite. Once on board everyone is equal - you are all there to enjoy the restaurants, entertainment, together so it doesn't matter where you rest your head at night you will all get your money worth from a cruise holiday. I prefer the balcony because you can step out and see the weather so you know what to get dressed in for the day and it also meant you don't have to scramble up to the top deck to view the scenery you can do so from your balcony or even better while laying on your bed!

I could think of a lot more tips but I think that's enough reading for now!

If there is anything you'd like to ask about cruising fire away I'm happy to help!

If you want to go on a cruise holiday check out the awesome deals on Travel Factory here

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  1. Great tips and all good advice.

  2. I so wish I had packed sea-sickness tablets. Ugh, no fun on the first night of our cruise for me!

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