Smooth Sailing: Sage Advice for Novice Cruisers



You never forget your first cruise. The question is, will you remember it for the right reasons?

Upon casting off in one of today’s towering, palatial ocean liners, most first-time cruisers are stunned by the scope, scale and clockwork precision of a luxury voyage. Though we board these surreal vessels to be captivated by those  unparalleled ocean views, novices often return with a new appreciation for how much they didn’t know about making the most of their time at sea.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) expects 24 million passengers will set sail in 2016, up from 15 million just a decade ago. Whether you’re about to work your inaugural cruise event, advise a novice incentive group, or simply embark on that ocean getaway you’ve always dreamed of, here’s how to make the most of your first luxury voyage.

That “all-inclusive” cruise? It’s not: Sure, it’s a bargain to have your lodging, meals, snacks, pool fun and activities provided for the cost of a ticket. Just don’t expect a free pass to the ship’s spa, salon, fitness classes and alternative dining venues, or to have wi-fi, laundry or your favorite latte thrown in gratis. The same holds true for those popular “all you can drink” packages, which vary in price depending upon your beverage(s) of choice.

To really kick back, book ahead: Before you depart, reserve what matters most to you on your cruise, be it an hour at the spa or seats to the seaboard production of “The Book of Mormon,” because, rest assured, seasoned cruisers will.

Board with a day bag: Spoiler alert: you’re going to beat your checked luggage to your cabin, perhaps by hours. To start your cruise in style, carry on a day bag filled with a swimsuit, towel, headwear, sunscreen, prescription medications and other essentials. That bag will also come in handy for shore excursions.

Consider travel insurance: If you’re worried about the what-ifs of your first ocean voyage, travel insurance can put them to rest at a price you can afford. Individual plans designed specifically for cruise travelers cover a host of potential perils that your home and health insurance won’t.

Dress code? Really? Yes, really… sort of. Some cruise lines, being sensitive to the proclivities of their worldwide customers, make a nod to “dressing for dinner,” though depending on the carrier, that could be as simple as donning a clean T-shirt (or indeed, a T-shirt at all, in the case of nudist cruises). Rather than require formal wear, some lines offer “cruise casual” or “cruise elegant” evenings where casual skirts, blouses, summer dresses, capris and even jeans for women and sport slacks, khakis and collared sport shirts for men are de rigueur. That said, if you must absolutely dine in your Speedo, there’s usually a way.

BYO cabin accessories: Breaking news: cruise ship cabins have minimal space for drying wet towels and swimwear. Seasoned cruisers solve the problem by packing a handful of magnetic hooks that attach to the metal walls for hanging windbreakers and hats, and a few balloons that, when inflated, make great temporary swim suit drying racks.

Book-end your cruise: First-timers typically choose a cruise based on its ports of call. But as you narrow down the choices for your first cruise ever, consider super-sizing your getaway by adding a few days on land at your departure and/or arrival destination.

Tip of the hat to Beth Godlin and her Aon Affinity Travel Practice team.

Photo credits:


Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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