For many people, travelling is about the thrill of the new, of discovering things you didn’t know about, satisfying a curiosity to experience something you’ve never seen or done before. Often this means searching out newly discovered or off-the-beaten-track destinations, but it can also mean seeing existing places through fresh eyes, or considering a destination or mode of transport you previously neglected. If, like me, you’ll go through a ton of options when deciding which holiday to take (city, nature, beach; having one base or moving around) but have never considered taking a cruise before, then find a comfy seat, get your favourite drink, and settle in while I explain the 10 things you need to know before taking your first cruise.
1. Don’t look at it as simply a method of transport from A to B
It’s not like a plane or a ferry – it is so much more than that! On a ship, the journey is as much the destination as the ports of call. Less than 5% of the population take cruises for their holidays, but when you factor in travel costs, food, drink, the use of a spa and facilities and entertainment then the prices can also be surprisingly reasonable.
2. There’s SO much to do on board
We had two days at sea during a week-long Mediterranean trip, and I could happily have spent another two exploring all the activities on board – mini golf, tennis, basketball as well as 3 large pools, the spa, GoPro camera workshops, comedy shows, yoga on the deck, dance classes, art auctions, a “Movies Under The Stars” outdoor screen, Broadway-style musicals. On the Princess Cruises ship I was on, the Crown Princess, they also offered “Discover at Sea”, a stargazing session to learn about the wonders of the night sky (although sadly it was a little cloudy during our trip, but it sounded amazing).
3. Appreciate the sound of silence
At least once in their life, everyone should experience the wonder of waking up to the sound of the empty ocean, waves lapping against gently against the ship, with endless miles of blue water from the bedroom window, often with no sight of land. Utter bliss – especially if you normally live in a busy city!
4. It doesn’t have to be just for a certain age of traveller
While admittedly going on a cruise does still attract a slightly older generation of passenger, there’s no reason at all why those in the 20’s or 30’s wouldn’t enjoy it too. On our ship, there was a fabulous nightclub called Skywalkers where the vibe was super relaxed and friendly and the DJ even popped out from behind the decks to teach us all how to dance “The Wobble”!
5. Embrace the digital detox
Equally, even if you’re a millennial taking their first cruise, you may be surprised at how much you enjoy taking a break from being constantly connected, which can be so refreshing. You can still buy as much internet as you want, but at a cost (well, remember you’re on a ship in the middle of the sea) – so why not take the chance to have a little digital detox, catch up on those books you’ve been meaning to read, listen to the waves, or spend some quality time with your partner with no online distractions.
6. There’s no need to worry about packing & unpacking all the time
There is a unique pleasure in being able to unpack your suitcase just the once, but still have the benefit of travelling to a different place every day or two. Normally on a holiday, you’d either unpack once and remain in that location, such as a city or beach trip, or you would be on the move and packing/unpacking every couple of days. On a cruise, you get the best of both worlds with none of the hassles!
7. The food and drink is excellent
When comparing it to other possible holiday choices, remember to compare it to things like all-inclusive resorts. Although packages may vary from ship to ship, the food and drink was a slightly surprising highlight of my time onboard. And while you may pay extra for the speciality restaurants or rack up a bill if you want to drink alcohol all day, the $29 uplift to dine at the Crown Grill onboard would be money well spent for carnivores – I had one of the best steaks of my life there! And for those who enjoy or cocktail or three, there are drinks packages available that make it better value.
8. It feels so safe
Being on board felt incredibly safe the whole time too – if you’re a nervous flyer this could be the perfect holiday for you. And not just the stability of the ship itself, but the feeling of personal safety was high too – I felt I could’ve left my phone or camera on my sunbed while I went for a swim or to get a drink without any worry (I’m saying you should do this, but it felt as though you could). That’s not to say that crime is unheard of, but it’s certainly well below the average.
9. Hygiene and health are taken very seriously
There are hand sanitizers when you board and disembark, and at every restaurant too, and if you suffer from seasickness I can recommend Stugeron15 (available from Boots). I took for the first couple of days, then I was fine after that. You barely even notice the movement of the ship!
10. It’s not as expensive as you may think
Cruise ships are pretty huge, and they need to fill those cabins to make it a viable business. During the school holidays the family rooms will be in high demand, but outside of those dates, there is nothing to stop 3 or 4 friends from sharing a family room and getting a bargain in the process. Whether you’re planning a break with friends or just keen on some unusual backpacking, think about that the next time you’re weighing up the cost of sharing a dorm with a bunch of strangers!
11. There is a tangible sense of nostalgia involved in taking a cruise
You are part of a long history stretching back over a hundred years, and during the middle of last century taking a cruise was the absolute epitome of luxury. I recently saw an exhibition at the V&A called Ocean Liners: Speed & Style, all about the Golden Age of cruise travel. Despite being more modern inside and out nowadays, our ship often made me hark back to images I’d seen of that era – who wouldn’t want to be part of that romantic and glamorous heritage of these floating palaces?
These are just some of the many reasons why you should consider booking a cruise for your next holiday. Before I went, I was a little sceptical that I’d enjoy it but, like everything in life, you only find out for sure once you try it personally – and I was so glad I did, and can’t wait to go on one again!
All words and photos by Lee Hubbard, Lee was a guest of Princess Cruises but all his opinions are his own.