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First Time Cruise Experience & Tips

Last year when I was planning a family trip for 2019, my parents suggested taking us “kids” on a cruise. They had in recent years started taking cruises and said it would be the best way to plan a vacation as the cruise basically has something for everyone. When we discussed where to go on a cruise, I suggested Europe. The Mediterranean cruises had a lot of ports/cities to stop in, my parents hadn’t been, and with how expensive hotels and food can be in Europe, a European cruise seemed the best bang for the buck. While planning for my first cruise, I came across hundreds of articles online on how to prepare for a cruise, what cruise to choose, and much more. In this article I want to share with you key tips I used and how it helped with my first cruise experience.

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1. Start planning your trip through CruiseCritic.com.

Cruise Critic might be intimidating at first – it’s information overload! However, it is the Tripadvisor for cruise travellers. Cruise Critic provides information on all cruise ships around the world, the routes, and ports, as well as advice from other travellers who are expect cruisers. There’s also a forum you can join where you can find your “Roll Call”, the cruise you intend to travel on, and fellow cruisers who are on that boat. This resource is the most practical, as I was able to meet a lot of fellow travellers on my cruise through Roll Call, coordinated private group shore excursions (they’re cheaper than what’s offered by the cruise ship), and meetups before the cruise and onboard. It was through Cruise Critic I started meeting the large group of new friends I eventually spent evenings hanging out with on our cruise ship.

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Our group from Cruise Critic / Facebook as we travelled to our cruise ship from the train station. If you’re going to get lost, get lost in a group!

2. Select your cabin vs. random assignment – pick your own cabin!

As hubby and I rarely experience motion sickness, when we booked our cruise, we booked the cheapest Inside Cabin category which assigns a random room for us with a chance of a future complimentary upgrade at boarding if the cruise wasn’t full. However we were assigned at the front of the boat, room being right above the Casino & Lounge. We didn’t have any issues with the loud “boom boom” of the lounge, however we did notice that the room wasn’t really great for the swaying from choppy waters at some points in our trip, especially as we were getting ready for bed. We were also woken up each morning as the boat docked, as we felt the engine breaks rattle and shake our room. For our next cruise, we will most likely pay a small difference and select a mid-section cabin as the rooms are quieter, less shaky or swaying than front or back of boat.

3. Pack for all weather conditions.

Despite being told the Mediterranean in May was hot, in particular Italy and Greece, I hadn’t anticipated a cold front to sweep through Italy as we were leaving for our cruise. On our 10 day cruise, only 3 days of it was 23+ degrees C. Most mornings started off at 13-15 degrees C. I had not packed enough long pants or long sleeve shirts so had a bit of layering of existing clothes. I was also not prepared for the drop in temperatures in the evenings – cold enough that walking on deck on the cruise ship meant layering on my long sleeve and windbreaker. The temperature on the cruise ship deck will be a few degrees less than what’s stated as ocean winds make it quite crisp. Also, pack lots of sunscreen as sunny beach stops such as Mykonos may mean a whole day in the sun.

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4. Skip the Asian food onboard.

I’ve been told this multiple times by people who have cruised on different cruise lines. We tried the Asian restaurant on our cruise once, and have decided never again. Just like the forums state to skip sushi onboard, I suggest you skip Asian cuisine in general – if you want Asian food, eat it on shore, cooked fresh, from an ethnic chef. If you feel adventurous and have a Teppenyaki restaurant onboard, you can try that instead, however, skip the Asian buffet section or the Asian restaurant onboard. You won’t regret the decision, trust me.

5. Use a lanyard or bungee ID clip for your cruise ID.

As you won’t need your wallet or ID on the boat, you can lock everything up in your room. The only thing you will need while on the boat is your cruise ID card. This card will allow you to charge drinks, specialty dining, shopping, and anything else you might purchase onboard. Some dining rooms also use it to keep track of your reservations. While onboard, you may want to wear it on a lanyard or a bungee ID clip so you can have your hands free while playing ping pong or basketball or while you are loading up on drinks on the pool deck.

6. Bring magnetic hooks.

I learned this tip from online articles, and it has been quite helpful. Aside from the closet of hangers and a couple of hooks in the bathroom, your room most likely won’t have a lot of space to hang things. Bring some magnetic hooks (I bought mine from Amazon) so you can create more hanging space for your hat, towels, wet swimsuit, toiletry bag, etc. These magnetic hooks can also be used to clip your daily schedule/itinerary on the wall so you can map out what you want to do onboard each day.

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Magnetic hooks from Amazon – great way to hang your towels / clothing, and anything else that might save space in your cruise cabin!

7. Enjoy the sunrise or sunsets onboard, as well as the views on arrival or departure!

The sunrises maybe too early for me, however the sunsets onboard were amazing! We caught the sunsetting in Santorini, Mykonos, and various other ports. Your daily newsletter by the cruise ship will also provide you with daily sunrise and sunset times so you can make sure to catch that. It will also state any memorable views not to miss – such as when arriving in Malta, one of the most breathtaking and scenic arrivals I experienced!

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Enjoying a romantic sunset in the Mediterranean.

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Malta – one of the most beautiful cities to arrive in the Mediterranean.

I could go on forever sharing with you tips on my cruise as I learned so much from more experienced cruisers on my first cruise! I also built lots of new friendships we hope to continue to build as we keep travelling and cruising. Please share with us your cruise experiences and tips below or on Instagram with @maryinvancity and @alicelovesadventure.

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