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5 Things To Know Before You Go On A Cruise

Cruises can be a luxurious dream, but it's not all plain sailing…

By Shanice HarrisonPublished 2 months ago 6 min read

Hopefully you’ve seen my previous article about why you should go on a cruise and are now very excited about potentially booking one! This follow up article includes tips and things to keep in mind both before you book the cruise and when you're on board. These are a few things I wish I knew before my first cruise.

Image from The Sun newspaper

1 - When you need cash

Firstly, you don’t need cash to buy anything on board. You pay for everything with your cruise card, which keeps an accumulative bill on your account that you can check at any time on the app or at reception. You typically pay this after the cruise (it will likely be taken automatically from the card you registered on your account before boarding). You can tip individual staff members with cash though.

However, you will likely need cash for the countries you are going to. There are always stalls in and near the port area where you can buy a range of stuff, and they are usually cash only, which means you might have to take out cash using their ATMs which charge a premium. I’m talking from $5 per transaction! The ATMs on cruise ships are sometimes worse ($6.95+ per transaction), so keep that in mind. Do your due diligence for the countries you are visiting to see if they are more accepting of cash or card to help you prepare. If it's cash, get some before you board in the right currencies!

2 - The not-so-obvious fees

Secondly, gratuities are added to your bill everyday during your cruise. Check with your cruise line to see how much that is to help you budget, though you can usually opt out of paying them. Also, if staff take your drink orders and bring them to you by the pool for example, they’ll expect a tip for their service. That tip is added to the receipt and comes out of your final bill.

I mentioned this in my previous article, but WiFi isn’t included for free in your room on the cruise, so that is an additional fee. The cruises I went on charged around $20 a day per person for WiFi. I was happy to be disconnected for the cruise, but if you know you’ll want WiFi, see if there are any package deals where you can get it cheaper. There is no phone service out at sea but there is public WiFi in many places off of the ship when you enter the different countries.

Also, depending on the cruise and the countries you are visiting, tax might be added after, so your bill might be a little more than you expect. In the UK, we’re used to the tax already being added, so this can confuse us at first.

3 - You only have a few hours in each country/city

You’re probably already aware of this, but for most cruises, you will only be able to come off the ship to explore for a few hours. This is because the ship is on a tight schedule to get to the next place. They always tell you on board when you can come off and when you have to be back by, so this gives you time to plan your day or buy an excursion with the cruise ship (meaning you’re guaranteed to not be left behind!). You might be able to see the timings when booking as well. Don’t push your luck. If they say be back by 3pm, be back by 2:45pm latest!

Even though you’ll often be wishing you had more time to explore, it’s a really good taster and shows you where you might want to go back to for a full holiday (and where you don’t want to visit again).

4 - Book an excursion or tour

To get the most out of the country you’re in and your time, I recommend booking at least one excursion through the cruise and booking tours with locals at the port. The latter is usually much cheaper than those from the ship, but make sure you go to people who look trustworthy (marketing materials, uniforms etc). You don’t want to pay a random person to take you on a tour that ends up not being safe. The tours I had with the locals were mostly amazing! The groups were smaller so the tours were more tailored to our interests. A couple of the tours were just me and my friend being driven around the island as the tour guide told us interesting things. A private tour for $30 per person instead of $80 per person for a tour with 18 other people, sign me up!

There are different types of excursions and tours, so I’m sure there will be something that tickles your fancy. However, if you don’t fancy going on one, be sure to plan out what you’re going to do before leaving the ship so you don’t waste time. My friend and I tried to blindly walk around Grenada, but all we saw were houses in the space of an hour. When we went back to the port and got a private tour, our experience was much better as we saw a range of things. Instead of getting a tour though, we could’ve checked a map beforehand then got a taxi to a starting location and explored there. If there is one main thing you want to see in that country and you have time, I’d suggest getting a taxi there (and back) without an excursion as it’ll likely be quicker and cheaper.

Looking out at the sea during sunset

5 - You know you’re moving

Last point, before going on the cruise, I read that you won’t feel the water beneath you because it’s such a big ship. That’s a lie! Some days are quite calm and you can walk around perfectly fine, but there are other days where the sea/ocean is angry and you’re wondering how much you’ve drunk because you suddenly can’t walk in a straight line. Luckily it wasn’t bad enough for me to stay seated, I could walk around and pretty much do all the things I wanted to do. If you get sea sick though or have problems with a lot of movement, a cruise might be challenging for you.

When you are ‘parked’ at a port, you don’t really feel the water whilst you’re on the ship. That’s the perfect time to get off the ship and feel the non-moving land again though.

To offer peace of mind, if you do go on a cruise and experience any problems, the staff are never too far away, so there is always someone to help. It’s a massive operation with hundreds/sometimes thousands of staff working at once.

I hope you found that useful!

If you have any questions or anything you want to add/dispute, please do drop it in the comments below.

TTFN (Ta-ta for now),

Shanice x

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About the Creator

Shanice Harrison

Hello and welcome to my page!

I love a list, it's one of my favourite things to write and read, so if you're like me, I might be the author for you. The main topics I like to write about are travel and money, but I like to be random...

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