If you’ve been following along recently, you might have noticed that I went on a cruise to Norway with my family this summer. It was my first time going on a cruise and I was really, really nervous. I’ve not spent much time on boats so the idea of being on one for a week was occupying a lot of my brain in the weeks before we went away.
It’s strange, isn’t it? I’m lucky enough to have done quite a bit of travelling in my 22 years but add in a new mode of transport and I was suddenly really unsure about myself.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have much to worry about. There were a couple of bits that I wasn’t keen on (which mainly involved the ways of getting on and off the boat) but it was otherwise ok. I think I still prefer planes and trains for travelling long distances but I would do a cruise again if the opportunity arose. With that in mind, I thought I would share some of the things I learnt about being on a cruise and my tips for your first one if, like me, you’re feeling a little nervous about it.
- The first thing that was worrying me was what to pack. After going to Paris, Rome and Berlin with just my backpack, I didn’t think I’d have a problem with it but after a quick google I was overthinking it. Everyone kept talking about Captain’s nights, and swimming costumes, and outfit changes every day. In fact, I actually ended up taking a fairly large suitcase to Norway, even though I was away for the same amount of time as I was when I explored some of the European cities! The first thing to do is check the itinerary and see how many formal nights there are (that’s all the Captain’s nights are really) and pack for that. I chose to take two fairly dress-y dresses, which I had bought for my graduation dinner. There were people there in full length but my fifties style dresses were definitely not out of place! For the other nights, I packed a few more casual dresses (think nice day dresses) that I wore to dinner each night since it was in a restaurant. Most days, I wore jeans and shirts since it was raining so much in Norway.
- Once you’ve had a look at your itinerary, check how many days at sea you will have. Obviously, you can’t go anywhere on these days so you’ll need plenty to entertain yourself. The cruise company put on plenty of activities too but I used the chance to catch up on my reading and writing. Pack plenty of books if that’s your thing. My Nana also bought her art materials, my Mum took advantage of the gym on ship and Dad had loaded his phone up with all of his favourite podcasts and tutorials. Even if you think you might do the on-ship activities, it doesn’t hurt to bring something else along just in case!
- Most ships do have entertainment and extra facilities on board, which I didn’t know until we got there. Take advantage of the performances, lectures and activities as some of them can be quite interesting. I also used some of the time on board to visit the spa, which was lovely. On our ship, there was also a library, casino and shop so there was plenty to keep you entertained.
- Since I had never spent so long on a ship before, I felt very reassured by the fact that my mum had thought to pick up seasickness bands just in case any of us needed them. Luckily, I didn’t feel seasick the whole time we were on board but I saw plenty of people wearing them on the ship. There were tablets available as well but I felt a little less stressed knowing that we had solutions with us if I suddenly discovered that I don’t travel well on ships! If you’re not sure, seasickness bands simply go on your wrist and apply pressure to help with any nausea (I think).
- You might need to do a little research before you go. In some places, you might be fine to pick up a map and explore on your own but in others you might need to do an organised excursion to see the local sights, especially if they are a little way from port. You should get a list in advance so you can start to plan what you want to do or you can speak to the staff on board to book. They can get quite expensive, so it’s worth thinking ahead so that you can budget for it. This is the one that caught me by surprise!
- If you are travelling with your family or in a group, don’t be afraid to take time for yourself. Being on a ship means that everyone is in very tight quarters. During the days at sea, I would go and do the activities that interest me and meet up with my family later in the afternoon. It gives everyone a chance to enjoy themselves and means you can tailor your holiday to your wants and needs.
Most of these tips are common sense but they’re things I was unsure of or learnt along the way on my first cruise. Hopefully, they can help you too! If you’re been on quite a few cruises (lucky thing), and have any more tips, please pop them in the comments for everyone to see.