You’re packed and raring to go, but if it’s your first time on board a cruise ship you may need a little advice to get you started. Nicholas Dalton gathers some top tips

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  • If it is your first time on a cruise ship I would advise going to the port lectures – they might sound dull but they’re a great help if you’re planning to go it alone when you arrive. Often they’re even better – on a recent Celebrity cruise in the Adriatic the speaker was a veteran US professor whose wise guy take on the Roman Empire would have made him a great TV series host.
  • “Control that thirst,” says Douglas Ward, one of the world’s leading cruise experts, author of the book Cruising & Cruise Ships. “You are greeted by a smiling waiter offering you a colourful, cool drink but put your fingers on the glass and he’ll ask for your cruise card.” And you’ll have paid up to £5 for what could be a weak, ice-filled drink. Bottled water is usually charged for, too – you can drink by the glass for free from the coffee station instead.
  • Most dining these days on a cruise is open-seating – for the chance to meet new people opt to share a larger table.
  • Get a bonus at the bar by buying the drinks card available from some cruise lines. “You can normally choose from bottled water cards, soft drink cards and alcohol cards, or a combination,” says Lynn Narraway, UK managing director of Holland America Line. “For example, we sell a $90 card that gets you $100 of drinks.” It’s also worth pre-ordering a drinks package if your cruise line offers one of these.
  • On board a cruise ship there’s always a daily newsletter, delivered the evening before, which tells you what’s going on the next day (and the weather), so you can plan. Use it to help structure an otherwise formless day at sea with themed restaurant offerings, exercise classes, activities, talks, demonstrations and shows.
  • “Make sure you know where to find the dining room, the gangway and the show lounge, and everything else will fall into place,” says Mike Hall, head of marketing at cruise line Cruise & Maritime Voyages. A cruise can’t make you fat – it’s eating the constant supply of free food that does that! Ships have gyms, walking and jogging circuits and plenty of stairs so there’s no excuse for not getting active.
  • It’s easy to be over-awed by a huge, modern cruise ship but just remember that it’s full of free things to do – so relax and enjoy yourself. Above all, think of your cruise ship as a floating hotel, but one that takes you to a host of fabulous destinations – and if you don’t get to do everything, there’s always next time.

My First Cruise…

Jess-for-web“I cruised down the Rhine with Uniworld and loved waking up to a new view every morning.”

Jessica Tooze, Former Deputy Editor of Cruise International

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