Shandelle Battersby shares what you need to know.
So you've listened to Aunty Pat, and Gayle and Peter down the road and you've decided to book your first cruise. Now what?
UNSURE? DIP YOUR TOE IN THE WATERS
The cruise life is for most people, but definitely not for everyone. If you're having a few wobbles, perhaps try a shorter cruise first — maybe a transtasman or Pacific Island jaunt.
CHOOSE A CRUISE THAT FITS
Yes, there's a lot of crossover, but the cruise lines all have their own specific markets and vibe. If you're wanting to hit the onboard disco every night, a river cruise down the Danube is likely not for you
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Similarly if you're not too keen on sharing the pool with a bunch of rowdy children, check when the school holidays are in your selected destination.
PLAN YOUR SHORE EXCURSIONS
You've chosen your cruise destination for a reason, now make sure that you've done the internet legwork around your shore excursions. It can be costly if you go with those provided by the cruise line but if you only have a few hours in port, it might be a better use of your time to get on the bus to Pompeii with everyone else rather than organising your own way there.
Cruise converts: Falling in love with the romance of the seas
HAVING SAID THAT ...
Major tourist attractions within cooee of major ports will have local tour operators that are likely to be a cheaper option, and sometimes it can be part of the fun negotiating the local public transport and finding your own way.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE TIME
Cruise ships wait for no man, woman or child.
The ship will sail precisely at the time you are given — do not be those people left behind.
ALSO KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR TAB
Ship currency is almost always managed via a cashless system where your charges are tallied up at the end, so it's all too easy to rack up those bills. Expect to pay extra for gratuities, alcohol, specialist restaurants, shore excursions and any spa treatments.
IF YOU'RE A FAN OF PINA COLADAS AND OTHER FROSTY BEVERAGES ...
... it might be worth your while to invest in a beverages package to reduce the nasty shock when you get your booze bill at disembarkation time.
THE WI-FI IS NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
We're used to being online 24-7 but when you're in international waters, the internet connection is often provided by satellite meaning it can be slow and expensive. Cruise lines are adapting to the times and things are improving, but definitely check what the deal is before you board to avoid a major bill when you're back home.
Join the conga lines! Try all the classes! Get acquainted with the odd couple from Florida who wear matching T-shirts every day! Play shuffleboard on the top deck! You're here for a good time, not a long time, so we'd recommend embracing the cruise life and getting involved. Happy sailings!