1. Book an inside stateroom
While it can be tempting to save money by booking an inside cabin, a cabin with a view should be your go-to as a first-time cruiser. Being able to look out at the horizon helps keep seasickness at bay, as does plenty of natural light. If you’re on a tight budget, an obstructed-view balcony or ocean-view stateroom can offer similar savings without the risk of feeling like you’re stuck in a box.
2. Choose a Guarantee Cabin
Booking a Guarantee Cabin means you’re guaranteed to get the cabin category you booked – and might even get an upgrade if you’re lucky – but it’s the equivalent of Russian roulette as you don’t know where you’ll end up on the ship. Regular cruisers are often reluctant to book these cabins as you can find yourself near a noisy crew service area, trying to sleep above the disco at 1am, being woken up by deckchairs being set up on the pool deck at 6am, or worse.
3. Join the bottled water brigade
There’s no need to shell out for expensive bottled water as the water out of the tap in your cabin is perfectly safe to drink. If you aren’t keen on the slightly different taste, chill your water bottle in the in-room fridge, and you’ll hardly notice the difference.
4. Forget to check the on-board currency
Even if you’re sailing in local waters, you may not be getting charged in NZ dollars. On-board ship currencies vary and may be US or Australian dollars, or even British pounds, depending on where the head office of the cruise line is based, or the on-board charging policy. Check the ship’s currency before you get on board, or you could end up with a (much) larger bill than expected due to the exchange rate.
5. Use your mobile phone on sea days
Just because your mobile phone works while you’re at sea doesn’t mean you should use it. Ships rely on satellites to provide mobile phone coverage, which means you’ll be charged global roaming rates if your phone cannot connect to a mobile tower onshore. Switch your phone to aeroplane mode whenever you leave port or turn off data roaming only and limit your phone usage to urgent incoming calls.
6. Buy a drinks package without doing the maths
Drinks packages can save you plenty, but they’re not for everyone. If you are thinking of purchasing a package, take a moment to think about how much you’ll use it and whether it’s worth the cost, particularly if only one person in your cabin is a hearty drinker.
This is important as most cruise lines stipulate that everyone in the stateroom must purchase the package, whether they want to or not. Of course, there can be exceptions to this rule if you have a letter from your doctor citing health reasons or someone in the cabin is pregnant, for example.
If your partner only has one glass of wine with dinner each night, it’s probably going to be better value paying as you go. The same goes if you’re going to be off the ship every day as it’s hard to get your money’s worth if you aren’t spending enough time on board.
7. Forget to pack a day bag
After you board the ship, your luggage will be delivered to your stateroom - eventually. With hundreds of other passengers on board and so many bags to drop off, your suitcase may not arrive at your room until dinner time or perhaps even later. Instead of worrying about when it’s going to get there, bring a day bag on board as carry-on luggage with a change of clothes for dinner, your togs, and any essential medication so you can make the most of your first afternoon and evening on the ship.
8. Pack a curling wand, travel iron or similar device
Bringing chargers, laptops and iPads is fine but if you pack potentially unsafe electronic devices in your bag, they’ll be confiscated and returned on disembarkation day. Cruise lines are extremely safety conscious and these types of devices can be a fire risk when passengers use them in their cabins.
9. Cram everything into your schedule
While all those on-board activities and shore excursions may sound like fun, don’t get too carried away or you could arrive home feeling exhausted. Plan some “must-do” activities in advance but also leave enough time to kick back, relax and enjoy the experience of being on a ship. If you’ve visited a destination on the itinerary before, it can be a good opportunity to sit back and relax on the pool deck and enjoy the on-board facilities to the full for the day while the other passengers are onshore.
10. Forget to buy travel insurance with cruise cover
Even if you’re cruising in local waters, you won’t be covered for medical treatment on the ship unless you have a travel insurance policy that includes cruise cover. Some travel insurance policies include this automatically while others offer it as an add-on to a regular policy.