From getting the best cruise deals to making the most of your family cruise, our favourite travel bloggers and experts reveal their top cruise tips
1. Packing for your cruise
Tara Cain of thestickyfingersblog.com: “The first time we went on a family cruise we were caught short. We didn’t realise we would be spending a few hours without our suitcases, so the kids didn’t have swimwear for that amazing pool on board that was inviting them to jump in. So make sure you have hand luggage to see you through with the essentials – swimmers, sun screen, sunglasses, hat, books – so you can either enjoy the onboard activities straight away or at least kick back and relax while the youngsters do.”
2. Snapping up the best cruise deals
Johnny Ward of onestep4ward.com: “For me, finding the best cruise deal is all about timing – being flexible is key. Forget peak season and catch the tail end of low season or try the shoulder season. Often cruises are literally less than half price. You can’t go wrong with that.”
3. Choosing a cruise excursion
Julie Peasgood, Contributing Editor of Cruise International: “Some places are great for going off-piste and wandering around by yourself, especially European destinations, or if you just want to lie on a gorgeous white-sand beach all day. But if the language is unfamiliar, you’re nervous about straying too far and not getting back to the ship on time or there are things you couldn’t arrange easily by yourself – such as a trip to the ballet in Russia or swimming with turtles in the Caribbean – then it’s a much better idea to stick to an organised ship’s tour. It probably works out cheaper than trying to go it alone for the more specialist trips – and you always make it back on board in time.”
4. Ocean or river cruise?
Becky Wiggins, Contributing Editor of Cruise International and blogger at englishmum.com: “If you love a city break, then consider a river cruise. My favourite is a Rhine cruise, which allows you to explore several wonderful cities as well as fairy tale castles and spectacular scenery all on one trip. Such diversity from a single cruise makes it excellent value for money.
“If you really want to personalise your cruise to your own taste, there are a whole host of ocean cruises specialising in everything from golf to yoga. For example, if you’re a foodie, consider booking Britannia when one of P&O’s Food Heroes like Eric Lanlard or James Martin are on board, or if you’re an oenophile, splash out on one of SeaDream Yacht Club’s wonderful wine voyages.”
5. Family cruising
Liz Jarvis, Editor of Cruise International: “On bigger ships there’s a dizzying array of onboard activities to satisfy even the hardest-to-please children, with fabulous free kids’ clubs to suit all ages from five upwards (even teens). It’s the perfect opportunity to grab some adult time, safe in the knowledge that your kids are being well looked after and making new friends. The only challenge is persuading them to leave the clubs to join you at dinner or on an excursion.” Liz also blogs about family travel at themumblog.com
6. Choosing your cruise destination
Gary Bembridge of tipsfortravellers.com: “Go for one that you cannot do or is almost impossible to do by land or one that provides an experience that cannot be beaten any other way. For example, exploring the Norwegian Fjords or Alaska on a cruise will let you see more as driving around the area is difficult. You can even head to the Arctic or Galápagos Islands. Transit through the Panama Canal, or even sail across the Atlantic to New York from Southampton and relive the glamour of travel past.
“If you have a region in mind but you’re not sure exactly where to invest your time and money, then go on a cruise to get a taste of that area. A Caribbean cruise will let you sample five or more islands and decide which to go back to. Mediterranean cruises let you sample different countries and cities in Europe, while a cruise around Asia lets you experience a cross section of this diverse part of the world. Armed with these experiences you can then head back and explore for longer with greater confidence.”
7. Making the most of onboard spas
Julie Falconer of aladyinlondon.com: “To get the best value, book spa treatments on in-port days. Talk to the spa staff when you arrive to see if there are special packages or discounts available for off-peak times or multiple treatments.”
8. Choosing a cruise line
Sara Macefield, Contributing Editor of Cruise International: “If you want to go for glamour, then pick lines such as Cunard and P&O Cruises which have formal evenings where you can dress to the nines. If you want to stay casual, opt for US cruise companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean International, which have a more laid-back feel.”
9. Cruising as a solo traveller
Abigail King of insidethetravellab.com: “Don’t be afraid to get out there and start chatting to people. Cruises are a great place to make friends because of the informal seating arrangements at dinner, the plentiful drinks events and, of course, the organised activities and excursions that make it easy to break the ice and get to know your fellow passengers.”
10. Dining on board
Rosana McPhee of hotandchilli.com: “If you need to make changes to your booking for a particular restaurant onboard, make it early to avoid disappointment. Once at the table make sure you get to know your server – they know the menu well and can help with any queries – and the sommelier, who can make your dining experience pleasurable with their suggestions.”
If you’ve been inspired to take a cruise, use our Cruise Finder to find your perfect voyage.