Cruise Tips. A Q&A for first time cruisers

By Patti Pietschmann with photo by Richard Pietschmann

While cruising has gained tremendous popularity over the years, there are still many people who are on the fence on whether to cruise or not to cruise.  My answer of course, is go for it. There is nothing like being able to pack and unpack once, climb on board a luxury vessel and seamlessly sail into ports of call all over the world while you are wined, dined and entertained. Still some not so intrepid travelers have a few qualms about it. The following are some of the most popular questions we hear:

Q:  Will I fit in?

A: Wow this pops up a lot especially for clients going on luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal for the first time. Those lines boast humongous repeat passengers and newbies worry about blending in. Well, not to worry your sea legs about this. While it’s true those companies attract an upscale clientele you will find ship mates in all shapes, sizes, income tax brackets and personalities. And whatever your style, you will fit in.  Of course you should practice etiquette and good behavior.

Q:  How much money should I bring?

A:  So many people don’t understand that you don’t need lots of cash on ships because anything  you buy on board such as drinks, spa treatments, boutique shopping etc. as well as shipboard gratuities are  billed to your shipboard account for which you must leave a credit card.  Cash comes in handy ashore for tips  or taxis. Bring a couple of hundred dollars in small bills. Cash is never used to pay for anything on a ship.

Q:   Tipping. Not to worry especially if its an inclusive fare on ships such as Crystal, Regent Seven Seas,  Seabourn, or Silversea,  where gratuities are included. Otherwise the cruise line deducts a certain amount a day  per person for tips which you can dispute higher or lower when you pay your bill.

Q:  What do I wear?

A:   A big conundrum of newbies.  It’s fairly simple. Dress for evenings as you would at a fine local restaurant.   While not as prevalent as it once was, a few ships still have formal nights when men don tuxes and women wear gowns or chic numbers.  This has become more optional.  If you don’t want to doll up you can always opt to dine in  your stateroom or go to one of the casual restaurants.  When on deck shorts, jeans, bathing suits with cover ups, sun dresses and the like are acceptable. In doors during the day most ships prohibit short shorts or bathing suits. Also before you sail, check the cruise line website for dress codes. Some lines ask you not to wear jeans at night.

Q:   Should I buy a beverage package?

A:   Depends on how much you intend to drink.  If you like cocktails or drink wine with meals, yes purchase a package it will save you a bundle.

Q:   Will I gain weight?

A:    Only if you over indulge–in which case expect your clothes to shrink (LOL).  Just eat prudently, lay off or limit desserts and exercise if you can.

Q:    Can I workout?

A:   Of course you can. There are fitness rooms, pools, jogging tracks, exercise classes and other ways to burn calories on ships such as using the stairs in lieu of elevators.

Q:   Should I buy shore excursions if they aren’t included in the fare?

A:   While I prefer exploring on my own, most of the time, escorted tours are a good bet when you don’t know the area, want to assure you won’t miss the boat because they are obligated to get you back on board in time.  You can find your own shore excursions on the Internet, too and also on your own in port but it’s challenging. Sometimes if my husband and I just want to go snorkeling, we take a cab to the nearest beach. It’s a lot cheaper than a shore excursion and less hassles of riding a bus with a lot of other people. Plus you always get more time at the water.

Q:  We will be cruising Italy.  How often are bathroom breaks on the excursions?

A:  This was a real question posted on Facebook. And well there is no real answer. If you have a bladder problem probably don’t want to take a long excursion.  There are restrooms but you never know.

Q:  Do I need a passport?

A:  Yes. We are required to have a passport whenever we go into another country.  And yes if you’re traveling with children, they need them, too.  In some cases you might also need a Visa so double check with the cruise line. A few years ago we took an Amazon cruise and didn’t learn to the last minute that we needed a Visa for Brazil, we had to pay a lot extra to get an expedited document.

Q:  Is there a limit on luggage.

A:  Usually not but of course there is on airlines. It is best to travel light. You will need half the clothes you’ll pack the first time, they will just go unused. Trust me.

Q:  Can I drink the tap water on the ship?

A:   Well, I usually don’t, but it is okay to drink it. I consume only bottled water especially on lines that provide it  (Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea) and buy it if I have to. Why, because our digestive systems sometimes don’t take well to tap  water.

Q:  We will be cruising Italy.  How often are bathroom breaks on the excursions?

A:  This was a real question posted on Facebook. And well there is no real answer. If you have a bladder problem probably don’t want to take a long excursion.  There are restrooms but you never know.

Q:  Will I be bored?

A:  Depends on whether you like to read, swim, sun, workout, go to shows, play bingo and other games, watch movies in your room or a theater, gamble in a casino, get spa treatments, explore ports, meet people, take language lessons or brush up on computer usage (Crystal Cruises has the best Computer University as Sea, go to interesting lectures or plotz in a deck chair.

Any more questions, pose them here or email me at ppietschma@aol.com.

Bon Voyage!

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