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All you need to know before taking your first cruise vacation

By LLM Reporters  |  October 9, 2020

Are you considering a luxury cruise vacation for your next trip? If that’s the case, then you’re in for a treat! Cruising is a wonderful way to explore the world and try out new things, giving you the chance to see some of the most beautiful vacation destinations from the comfort of an elegant and luxurious state room.

A cruise vacation offers excitement, adventure and pure relaxation. But with so many options to customize your vacation, it can also be an intimidating prospect for newbies. There’s a lot to prepare for, and plenty of things that can sound confusing for first-timers. But fear not! There’s nothing genuinely complicated about setting off on your first cruise vacation, and with a little advice and preparation, you’ll be set for the trip of a lifetime. So, whether you’re looking to book a 3 day cruise for a quick getaway, or head off on a longer transatlantic voyage, here’s everything you need to know before taking your first cruise vacation.

Not all cruises are the same

Destinations, ships and cruise lines all differ significantly, and it is worth putting in the time to research exactly what you want from your vacation. Ask yourself where it is you want to travel to and at what time of year are looking to take your trip? Also do you want to incorporate a flight into your vacation or is there a specific port that you’d like to set sail from? These questions will help you to narrow down your options significantly, and then you can start looking for the best deal for you.

Cruise lines will be able to offer very varying on-board experiences – you may want to be wowed or you might prefer something a little more low-key
Image credit: Junce/

Cruise lines will be able to offer very varying on-board experiences, from golf to surfing to ice skating, film screenings, extensive spa treatments, performances from top names in showbiz, talks from authors and so much more. In addition to this, dining and drinking options can vary wildly too with multiple restaurants, bars, buffets, cafes and nightclubs and casinos often provided for guests’ entertainment as well. On the other hand, smaller cruise lines will offer more intimate dining and entertainment options, so it is up to you to decide which type of trip you prefer.

Pick your cabin wisely

There are a wide variety of cabin options, and getting the right one can make a huge difference to your cruise experience. Not all staterooms are as glitzy as the ones in the photos, and you should make sure you know what to expect.

Higher cabins, for example, are better for views but may not be great if you’re prone to sea sickness. If you want to snap some photos from your room, make sure it has a window or balcony!

And if you’re one of the unlucky ones that get seasick, fear not. Choosing your room wisely can help you avoid the queasy feelings aboard. Book a room with a window or balcony or opt for a room midship and on a lower deck if you suffer but you don’t want to let it hold you back from enjoying the trip of a lifetime.

Pack a day bag

One of the most important things in your cruise toolkit is your day bag. Right from the beginning, when you board the ship, your luggage will be whisked away and can take a little while to arrive in your stateroom. Packing a day bag for your first few hours on board is key, and it also comes in handy for shore trips as well.

When deciding on which cruise to opt for, the destination will be your first consideration

What to pack in your day bag? All the essentials, of course. If you’re taking a cruise in a warmer climate, you’ll want to sit deck side, soak up the sun’s rays, and maybe even take a dip in one of the pools. Pack a bathing suit, sunscreen, and a sun hat. Bring your favourite book, some cash to tip, a change of clothes and anything you’d typically pack in your carry-on like mediations, a toothbrush, a hairbrush, etc.

Consider the dress code

Planning your outfits for a cruise is a little different and a little more involved than for heading off on a backpacking adventure. Sure, you’ll need the standard shorts, t-shirts and sunglasses, but you should also check whether your ship has any specific dress codes for meals and events. Some cruises uphold some pretty strict rules, so you may need a variety of casual daytime outfits and smarter evening options.

It can be really fun to dress up for fancier nights, have your picture taken and dine in style. It can also be fun to walk the cruise ship in fancy cover ups then cosy up in your room with plush slippers. And don’t forget about your excursions, you may need walking shoes and a raincoat, either way, it’s safe to say that you’ll be taking the biggest suitcase you can find!

The bigger the ship, the more dining options you will be faced with

Spring for all-inclusive packages

The best thing about cruises is that all your needs are catered for at any given time. They make for the best kind of vacation because you are whisked to wonderful destinations and while you’re travelling you are having the most fun. It goes without saying then that you should opt for an all-inclusive package so you don’t have to think about what you’re spending throughout. One or two meals a day, plus drinks, can quickly add up, and being able to forget about money while you are on board is a great benefit. Cruise cuisine is often top-notch, with highly rated chefs cooking up a storm, and being able to eat and drink whatever you like throughout your trip is a huge perk.

You may find that with larger cruise lines you can opt for add-ons such as exclusive dining packages and drinks packages, and you can prepay the tip upon booking if you don’t want to have to worry about it later.

Don’t be afraid to go rogue

Many cruises offer shore excursions and while they are convenient they may not always be able to offer you the kind of experience you would like at a particular destination. If you’d rather have an off-the-beaten-path experience, book your own excursions, whether with a local tour company or grab yourself a taxi from the port and explore for yourself. Just be sure to account for travel time and what time you need to be back at the ship, ships hold to a very strict schedule and will depart without you if you aren’t back in time!

Setting off on your first cruise might initially feel daunting, but with a little planning beforehand, you’ll be ready for a trip you’ll never forget.