Everything you need to know before booking your first cruise

Cruise ships offer various cabin categories to accommodate different budgets and preferences. Picture: David Dibert/Pexels

Cruise ships offer various cabin categories to accommodate different budgets and preferences. Picture: David Dibert/Pexels

Published Jul 12, 2023


Booking your first cruise can be an exciting and memorable experience. The allure of exploring different destinations, indulging in delicious cuisine, and enjoying a wide range of on-board activities is enough to entice anyone.

However, before you set sail, there are some things you should know to ensure a smooth and enjoyable holiday. Here's everything you need to know before booking your first cruise.

Research cruise lines

The first step in planning your cruise is selecting the right cruise line. Each cruise line has its own style, atmosphere, and target audience.

Some cater to families with children, while others are more luxurious and suited for couples or solo travellers. Consider your preferences, budget, and the type of experience you are looking for.

Find the cruise line that best suits your needs by researching them, reading reviews, and comparing amenities, itineraries and prices.

Itinerary selection

Cruises offer a range of itineraries, from tropical Caribbean escapes to cultural European adventures. Take time to consider the destinations you want to visit and the activities you'd like to experience.

Would you prefer to explore historic cities, relax on pristine beaches, or immerse yourself in nature?

Keep in mind factors such as seasonality, weather, and the duration of the cruise when making your selection.

Cabin options

Cruise ships offer various cabin categories to accommodate different budgets and preferences, from cosy interior cabins to luxurious suites with private balconies.

Consider the amount of time you plan to spend in your cabin and whether having a view or balcony is important to you.

It's also worth noting that cabins located in the middle of the ship tend to experience less motion, which can be beneficial for those prone to seasickness.

Understanding on-board expenses

While many amenities and activities are included in the cruise fare, it's important to find out what additional expenses you may incur. Alcoholic beverages, speciality dining, spa treatments, shore excursions, and gratuities are often not included in the base price.

Set a budget for these extras to avoid any surprises when settling your on-board account at the end of the cruise.

Some cruise lines offer drink packages or all-inclusive options that can help you manage costs.

Packing essentials

When it comes to packing for a cruise, it's important to consider the destination, season, and activities you'll be participating in.

Bring comfortable clothing and shoes for daytime activities, swimwear and resort wear for poolside lounging, and appropriate attire for formal nights or speciality dining.

Don't forget essentials such as sunscreen, medications, travel adapters, and any necessary travel documents. Most cruise ships provide toiletries and hairdryers, so you can save space in your luggage.

Embarkation process

Embarking on a cruise can be a seamless process if you are prepared. Complete online check-in before your departure date to save time at the port.

Have your passport or identification, cruise documents, and any required visa or health documents on hand.

Follow the instructions provided by the cruise line regarding luggage tags and port arrival times. Once on-board, take the time to familiarise yourself with the ship's layout and attend the safety drill.

On-board experience

Cruise ships offer a plethora of on-board activities and entertainment options. From swimming pools, fitness centres, and spa facilities to Broadway-style shows, live music, and themed parties, there's never a dull moment.

Take advantage of the daily newsletter, which provides a schedule of activities, dining options, and port information.Try different restaurants and sample the diverse cuisine available.

Shore excursions

One of the highlights of a cruise is the opportunity to explore different ports of call. Research and book shore excursions in advance, especially for popular or limited-capacity activities.

You can choose between guided tours or independent exploration.

If you're comfortable exploring on your own, consider local transport, self-guided tours, or simply wandering through the streets to discover hidden gems.