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A first-timer’s guide to cruising

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you may wonder if it’s the right type of holiday for you? Well, its image has certainly changed over the past decade, with many young professionals and families embracing this type of trip. If you’re a first-timer, here’s our guide to help you get the most of your time onboard.

Which itinerary to choose

Cruise novices may be wise to go for a taster-cruise or seven-night option. The Mediterranean can offer plenty of scope for first-timers, with opportunities for sightseeing, relaxation and exploration. Opting for a cruise and stay is another way of hedging your bets – this incorporates a cruise with a stay on dry land at a hotel. When you get your sea legs, you can be more experimental with destinations and durations.

Shore excursions

guide to cruising

Pre-book your shore excursions early, and don’t feel you have to take part in all of them, either. When everyone else is on land, it’s the ideal time to enjoy all those onboard facilities in peace. So, head to the spa for a massage, take a leisurely stroll around the deck or enjoy a relaxing swim in the pool. You can, of course, explore independently, but make sure you’re back at your ship on time – they won’t wait around for latecomers!


The cabin you choose really depends on your budget. Outside cabins can be pricier but if you’ve paid good money for a scenic cruise, say one of the Norwegian Fjords or Caribbean, you’ll want to maximise every scenic moment. Suites and balcony options are also available if you really want to treat yourself. Don’t be tempted to live out of your suitcase during your time onboard, either – unpack when you arrive and stow luggage away under the beds to make the most of your space.


Most cruise lines offer All Inclusive which means all your onboard meals are included in the upfront price. This doesn’t always include drinks, however, so check the small print and go for companies that include this – alternatively, some cruise lines offer an ‘add-on’ drinks package. There’s usually a buffet restaurant but be sure to try out the speciality restaurants, too – it’s quality rather than quantity, after all. Many cruisers find they pile on the pounds during their voyage, so enjoy yourself but try to go for light lunches and take advantage of that free gym.

Stay connected

Most people will find that their mobile phones won’t work while they’re onboard, so it’s a good idea to give loved ones at home the contact details of the cruise line and ship you’re on. You may find your phone may pick up a roaming signal when you dock in a port but it’s easy to run up high costs, so check with your service provider before you travel. The easiest way to stay in touch is online – make the most of the Wi-Fi onboard; you can usually buy packages to use with your tablet or laptop.

What to pack

What you’ll pack will depend on where you’re going. It’s wise to do your research and check out the weather in each port of call. As a general rule, think casual during the day – jeans, shorts and T-shirts – and smart/casual in the evenings, with the option of glamming up for the captain’s gala dinner or cocktail party. Don’t be caught out! Pack some fleeces, rain macs and cover-ups for cooler days.

When it comes to cruise packing tips, I always try to remember this key phrase – less is more. Go for a capsule wardrobe with items that can work for a variety of occasions. For example, a smart pair of black women’s trousers can be paired with pumps and a T-shirt for a stroll around historic Rome, or dressed up with heels and a smart top for evenings in the bar. The same for men, with smart loafers and a button-down shirt replacing that polo. Don’t forget your swimsuit and gymwear if you want to work out during your trip.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that most ships offer laundry services onboard, so don’t worry if you do find you’ve underpacked. It’s also a great excuse for hitting the shops in your ports of call!

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