Cruising for the first time can be exciting but also a little daunting, because you don’t really know what to expect. And if you’re a details-oriented person, you really like to plan.
Well never fear, we spoke to a recent passenger who had her first ever cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas just before Christmas. The seven-day trip took her – along with her partner, two kids, and extended family – to New Caledonia, visiting Mare Island and Noumea. Here are her tips – complete with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
1. We cruised just before Christmas, and there was already a Christmas tree and carols on board. Our group decided a cruise over Christmas would have been even better, because you’d just have to bring a few presents and all the other Christmas details would be taken care of.
2. If you haven’t purchased the Wi-Fi package, it’s hard to keep in touch with other travellers in your group. We saw people using walkie-talkies.
3. If you let the cruise line allocate cabins, instead of stipulating you must be together, you can save a lot of money. We ended up with two beautiful balcony rooms at separate ends of the ship, with enough money left over to purchase the Wi-Fi package to keep in touch, and still come out ahead.
4. Bring the smallest suitcase you can. We met a family in a quad-share cabin who had a hard time finding room for all their luggage.
5. If you’re not big drinkers, bring your own wine (we were allowed two bottles a room). Between our group, we had a bottle of wine with dinner every night. Another option is to purchase a 10-drink pass.
6. Take two sets of swimmers if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the pool.
7. If your kids won’t go to kids’ club, it’s not a disaster – simply choose activities that everyone wants to do.
8. Save some money in Noumea by getting a hop-on, hop-off bus pass instead of taking an organised shore excursion – but make sure you have some francs with you if you want to buy food or pay to use the toilets in the main part of town.
9. You can bring food out of the restaurants. We saw several people putting together cheese and antipasto platters from the buffets and taking them poolside. Room service is free, but there is a delivery charge – so it’s cheaper to go out and bring your food back to your cabin.
10. Got a problem? See your cabin steward– he or she will handle any of your requests in the fastest time.
11. Breakfast in the a la carte dining room can be a lot less hectic than at the Windjammer Cafe’s buffet.
12. Bring a small overnight bag with swimmers and toiletries etc – you might not see your luggage for a while after you board; and you have to leave your main luggage out in the corridor the night before you disembark.
13. We wished we had brought highlighter pens, like some other passengers, to mark the nightly information sheets about the next day’s activities.
14. We didn’t realise that there were themed nights until we boarded – check what they are ahead of time!
15 .You don’t need to bring a beach towel – there is a towel station at the pool.
16. Take a power adaptor for the US, if you’re travelling on Royal Caribbean – we had to rush out and buy one the day before we left.
17. Bring your own lanyard so you can hang your room/account card around your neck, rather than buying one on board, which can be expensive.