Cruise liner at sunset

10 insider tips for your first time cruise!

09 May 2023 By Matt French
Cruise liner at sunset

Ahoy there! If you’re about to go on a cruise for the first time and you’re wondering what to expect, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll let you know how spending works on board, what to pack, how to choose the right cruise for you, and much more. In fact, we’ve got a boatload of tips and tricks for making your first cruise holiday smooth sailing – read on for our top insider tips!

1. How do I choose my cruise?

Waterslide on board MSC Seashore, courtesy of MSC Cruises

Nowadays, cruise companies offer everything from fun-packed jaunts to the Caribbean to awe-inspiring trips through the Norwegian fjords. There are cruise liners with their own water parks, larger-than-life vessels with Vegas-style casinos, and even ships with robot bartenders serving the drinks! If you’re looking for a kid-free experience, you can find that too – some cruises are adults-only. Why not call one of Broadway Travel’s cruise specialists on 020 3478 2163 to find a cruise that’s right for you?

2. What about spending money on board?

Boutique aboard MSC Europa, courtesy of MSC Cruises

Apart from at the casino, most cruise liners don’t accept cash on board. Instead, they issue you with a card (called Cruise Card on MSC and Sea Pass on Royal Caribbean) which is linked to your credit card. You can use this to pay for items in the shops and for drinks from the bar. Ideally, you’ll want to limit spending on board, since prices for things like sunscreen and medicines can be costly – be sure to pack everything you need before you go.

3. What is my baggage allowance?

Woman packing for a holday

If you’re travelling from the UK without flights, the good news is you can pack as much as you like – well, almost. P&O Cruises say you can take as much luggage that comfortably fits into your cabin, while Royal Caribbean state that each passenger can take a ‘reasonable’ amount of luggage on board. MSC Cruises have an allowance of 2 x 23kg suitcases per traveller, along with 2x pieces of hand luggage, weighing up to 23kg each. For cruises with flights, it’s a case of sticking to the airline’s baggage requirements.

4. What should I pack, and what’s prohibited?

Woman packing for a holiday with check list

Depending on the length of your cruise, you’ll want to pack a decent variety of clothing and sportswear (see no. 5 below). Bring magnetic hooks for hanging towels and jackets in your cabin, and a lanyard for holding your cruise card. You’ll also want to pack your own sunscreen and motion sickness tablets, as these sell for a premium on board. In terms of prohibited items, the major cruise liners don’t allow hard liquor or food to be taken aboard, although you’re usually OK with dried snacks and a couple of bottles of wine.

5. What’s the dress code?

Woman wearing a sun hat on a cruise holiday

It’s fine to wear casual attire in most areas of the ship during the day. A smart-casual look may be expected in the evenings, and most ships hold formal evenings when it’s all about dressing to impress – think cocktail dresses and tuxes. You’ll also want to bring your sporting gear so you can hit the gym, and take part in the many sporting activities on board including squash, tennis, and even surfing. On MSC and Royal Caribbean there are multiple pools and water slides to try out, so don’t forget your swimwear!

6. What about food and drink?

Colourful cocktail on a cruise ship

One of the major perks of a cruise holiday is the fantastic food on offer. Your package will include full board food, giving you 3 meals per day, with snacks in between. You’ll find a huge choice at the buffet, with venues open from early in the morning until late at night. If you prefer waiter service, you’re free to choose that instead, at no extra cost. Tea, coffee and fruit juice are usually free of charge, but you’ll have to pay extra for sodas and alcoholic drinks – we recommend buying a drinks package for unlimited beverages on board.

7. What about excursions?

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

We always recommend booking guided excursions in advance. These tend to be very popular, particularly for destinations in southern Europe and North America. However, you are free to explore each place on your own – just make sure you’re back in time to set sail! Some people even stay on board when the ship docks, giving them uncrowded access to the most popular facilities, such as the swimming pools and sports venues. If you do venture out, it’s a good idea to bring your passport, a backpack for souvenirs and water for hydration.

8. What kind of entertainment will I find on board?

Ice Spectacular on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises

There’s zero chance of boredom when you choose a cruise holiday with Broadway Travel! Expect multiple swimming pools on board all our ships sailing from Southampton, along with Jacuzzis, slides, and even adventure playgrounds above the water. You’ll find Rob the Robot Bartender aboard MSC Virtuosa, and Shaun the Sheep on P&O Cruises. Then there’s Royal Caribbean, home to a surf simulator, laser lag, and a high-up zipwire. You’ll find Broadway-quality shows, gala evenings and outdoor film nights… the list goes on.

9. What type of cabin should I choose?

Suite aboard MSC Europa, courtesy of MSC Cruises

There are usually 4 types of cabin to choose from: inside, outside (often called oceanview), balcony, and suite. Inside cabins are the least expensive option, while outside cabins give you a window with a view of the ocean. Balcony cabins have an outside balcony with seating, and suites – the most luxurious cabin type – provide extra living space and a variety of perks, including exclusive guest-only areas. At Broadway Travel, we often provide free cabin and drinks upgrades as part of our cruise packages – sign up to our newsletter for the latest deals.

10. Where can I find out the daily itinerary?

Digital Personal Assistant monitor on board MSC Bellissima, courtesy of MSC Cruises

The first thing to do is download your cruise company app before you board. This will keep you up to date on sailing times, onboard mealtimes and events, and upcoming excursions. Once settled into your cabin, you’ll find the cruise channel, which will keep you in the loop when it comes to entertainment, daily kids’ clubs and much more. If in doubt, ask a member of staff on board – they’re always happy to help out.

Good to know:

  • Look for a package with free tipping – if not, you could find gratuity added to bar bills, salon treatments and mini bar items.
  • Watch out for roaming charges. Depending on your phone plan, you may want to put your phone in airplane mode to avoid racking up a hefty bill. Wi-Fi usually costs extra, so download music and movies before you leave.
  • Pack your swimming costume and sun block in your carry on bag. This way, you can get straight to the pool without waiting for your main luggage to be delivered to your room. On bigger cruise liners, this can take a number of hours.
  • Make use of the cruise app on your phone. This will allow you to easily browse the ship’s daily itinerary, keep track of your onboard spending, book kids clubs, reserve tables for dinner, organise excursions, and more.
  • Book your cruise holiday early. This will not only save you money, but it will give you plenty of time to plan and look forward to your exciting first cruise. Keep an eye on our cruise page for the latest deals and offers by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on your preferred cruise company.
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