Want to make the best of a break at sea? We’ve put together our best cruise tips and tricks to help you find the best travel deals and make the most of a cruise experience.
Cruising is unlike any other holiday, allowing you to unpack just once, yet visit a vast array of destinations.
From the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, the Arctic, to the Antarctic the world lays before you.
Then there’s the fantastic array of experiences to be had on board.
Each year, and with each new ship launch, cruise companies push the boat out (if you’ll pardon the terrible pun!) with an eclectic selection of entertainment, fun and adventurous activities, delicious foods from around the world and plenty of nightlife options.
Top cruise tips and tricks
With so many choices of cruise lines and ships, on board staterooms, holiday packages and special offers, booking a cruise may seem a complicated process.
So we have produced a list of our top cruise tips and tricks. From finding a cruise deal to making the most of life on board, here’s our tips for the first time cruiser.
1. Choose the right cruise line
There is a holiday for everyone when it comes to cruising, but finding the right ship for you should be your first port of call, even before searching for great deals:
For great value… NCL, Carnival and MSC Cruises
For serious luxury… Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn
For enrichment… Crystal and Cunard
For expeditions… Hurtigruten, Lindblad and Quark Expeditions
For solo travellers… NCL and Crystal
For night owls… NCL, Carnival and Celebrity
For families… Disney, Royal Caribbean and Carnival
For river cruises… Viking, Uniworld and AMAWaterways
These are some examples to get you thinking about which company has the right experience for you. Also consider Princess, Holland America, P&O, and Windstar.
2. Find the best cruise deals
Book your cruise at least six to nine months in advance to find the best early-bird deals.
Make September your planning and booking month, as this is when all the major cruise lines release their new itineraries and offers.
New to cruising? Try a shorter break for more value while you get your sea legs. Many operators run shorter trips from January to April, even on the newer, bigger ships. It’s a great value way to discover if cruising is for you.
Repositioning cruises are when ships change their seasonal itineraries often, with a transatlantic crossing. These are often heavily discounted on account of sailing one-way, with no stops. Just remember to factor in your one-way flight.
3. Use an agent
Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned cruiser, use a cruise agent to book your trip. They will narrow down the right cruise based on your tastes and access better offers than if you book direct.
4. Selecting the right cabin
Take a look at the deck plans carefully before you book. Check your room isn’t adjacent or underneath any high traffic areas such as lifts, the buffet restaurant or the children’s activity centre.
Starboard or port side? If it’s a one-way cruise, check your cruise itinerary to establish which side will be facing land.
Some cabins to potentially avoid:
- Cabins at the front of the ship offer great views, but can have lots of movement on the waves, particularly on upper decks
- Aft cabins often feature larger balconies but some can be subject to vibration from the thrusters
- Sometimes outside or balcony cabins are at bargain prices, but come at the cost of obstructed views. Confirm with your travel provider before you book, to guarantee a view of the ocean and not a lifeboat.
5. Bag a cruise upgrade for less
Cruise deals with automatic cabin upgrades are great value for money. Carnival, MSC, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Line often run these types of offers.
Already booked? Call your cruise line two to three months before departure for a cabin upgrade as this is when most operators tend to reduce fares.
6. Book excursions independently
Before you travel, research your ports and activities. You can save money when you book independently, but make sure you are back in time for departure – the ship will not wait for you.
If you do choose to book with your cruise line, another of our cruise tips and tricks is to book early to avoid disappointment as excursions can fill up quickly.
When you arrive at your final destination you may have a lot of spare time before your flight home. You could book a short sightseeing tour if time permits, as your luggage is often transferred directly to the airport.
7. Lose the crowds
On check-in day, expect heavy crowds during the first few hours of boarding. Arrive roughly two hours before departure to avoid the queues.
Pool and promenade decks are notoriously busy on cruise ships. Take advantage and skip the trips on port day, to enjoy all the facilities without the crowds.
Book your meals to coincide with theatre shows to enjoy more space and time to eat.
8. Travel light
Save your back and your luggage allowance by packing light, taking advantage of the on board laundry services.
Remember to pack a swimsuit and a change of clothes in your hand luggage for your first day on board, as it can take a while for your luggage to arrive at your cabin.
9. Resist the urge to log on
Among other good cruise tips and tricks to remember is that using the internet on a ship can be very slow and expensive as it connects by satellite. Resist the temptation altogether, or when you dock find a café with free Wi-Fi. Better still, do your research before you go, and discover that authentic local restaurant with fabulous views, where you can also get online and check in with loved ones back home.
Remember to set your mobile phone to airplane mode to avoid the unpleasant surprise of roaming charges when you receive your next phone bill.
10. Staying healthy
With so many food choices on board from buffet restaurants to snack bars operating round the clock, you may want to count the calories. Take the stairs rather than the lift, and bring your gym kit to burn some extra calories while looking out to sea.
11. Travelling as a group
Travelling as a group is a great way to save money. Search online or contact an agent to discover any cruise deals they can offer your party, including free cabins.
More hands make light work, so share out the research and assign a port of call to each person. Meet up pre-cruise to share activity options to enrich the trip for everyone. And of course, it builds the excitement of your upcoming adventures.
The larger cruise ships can be like floating cities, so it’s easy to lose each other. Be sure to pre-arrange meeting points and times to keep in touch with members of the group.
Love cruising? Share your top tips below for grabbing a great cruise deal and making the most of life on board, or read our recent review of ship Norwegian Escape.