Things I Learnt on My First Cruise

The deck of a P&O cruise ship

I went on a cruise when I was half way through my teaching degree. For me it was a bit of a celebration that I was half way there, and while I had a good time there were a number of things that I discovered that I’ve always thought would be useful information for people out there new to cruising. So, without further ado, I present to you my list of hints and tips on how to survive and enjoy your first cruising experience.

1. Do not link your credit or debit card with your cruise card

When you’re on a cruise you don’t pay for things while you’re on board with cash money, eftpos or credit card, you use a cruise card. Your cruise card acts like a Paywave card; you want to buy a drink from the outdoor deck bar, just flash ‘em your cruise card. You want to purchase perfume from the boutique upstairs, hand your cruise card over. It’s simple, it’s easy, but it can be real trouble if you link it with your credit or debit card card.

It’s dangerous for two main reasons: firstly, it’s really easy to lose track of onboard spending, especially since everything is WAY more expensive once you’re onboard, particularly alcohol and medication. It’s also easy to lose track of your onboard spending because you can’t actually see your money disappearing (kind of like your credit card actually). By handing cash over at reception to ‘load’ your cruise card, you become a bit more aware and tend to track your spending, because if you run out you can no longer make on board purchases and will have to travel back down to reception (all the way from the rooftop bar!) and load it up again.

The second reason is because things can get a bit sticky with your actual credit or debit card for a while. When you link your credit card with your cruise card, most cruise providers use a ‘pre-authorisation’ system which places a daily ‘hold’ on your credit or debit card for the amount you have spent each day. This is done to ensure that you do not overspend on your available funds. At the end of your cruise you are given a statement documenting the total amount you have spent, and that total amount will be charged to your credit or debit card in one big hit with the daily holds being released. This all sounds fairly straight forward, so what’s the problem? The problem is that some banks hold pre-authorisation funds for up to 30 days. When my friend and I went on a cruise about 2 years back, we both experienced this problem. We chose to link our debit cards with our onboard cruise accounts which was fine until a large chunk of our funds remained on hold by our bank, which made day to day living a bit tricky and very stressful.

Towels folded into a bunny rabbit

2. Be Friendly with the Room Service

On the first day of your cruise, the person assigned to service your room should introduce themselves to you, and if they don’t, you should make an effort to meet them. You should do this because not only are they people too, but if you’re nice to them, they’ll be extra nice to you. You see, more often than not they are locals living on the islands you’ll be visiting, so they can give you advice, tips and direct you to the best spots if you want to get away from the commercialised areas and see the real island. They’ll also take to leaving you little treats like extra chocolates on your pillow or awesome towels that have been folded to look like animals.

3. Get a beverages package if you plan to party hard

As stated above, alcohol is especially expensive once you are onboard your cruise ship, and it can become very easy to rack up a large alcohol or soft drink bill very quickly. Even the mocktails are crazy expensive. For this reason, if you plan to party up in any of the various onboard bars or parlours, you need to get yourself a beverage package. Sometimes they may seem expensive they are worth it.

P&O cruise double room

4.Bring your own sea sickness medication and make sure it’s the good stuff

Because nothing sucks more than throwing up in the waste paper basket. I jumped onboard a ship knowing full well that I get motion sickness when sitting in the back seat of a car, yet I thought to myself: “You’ll be right.” Oh, how wrong I was. I was really sick on the second day of our cruise, so much so that my friend called the onboard doctor. When I’d fist started feeling sick I’d gone straight to the onboard shop and purchased some sea sickness stuff but it didn’t work, I still got sick. Turns out the good stuff is kept at the reception. Oh, if only I had known this! I ended up buying three boxes of it during the course of my 10 day cruise, and believe me, it started to add up. So for future cruises I have sworn to take my own sea sickness stuff with me as to avoid all of this. I have also sworn to take onboard my own cold and flu medication as that stuff costs and arm and a leg onboard as well, and if it hadn’t cost so much in the first place, my friend would have avoided paying a $250 doctors bill. Speaking of that…

5. Get travel insurance

My travel buddy got sick practically the moment she set foot on the boat. It all started with a runny nose, then it became a scratchy throat, then she started to feel really tired, then, before you know it, she had a chest infection. This resulted in her having to see the ship’s doctor which ended up costing her just over $250. This is quite a staggering doctor’s bill and she was not impressed. She would have been even more unimpressed had she not had travel insurance, so luckily she was able to claim every cent back. Moral of the story? Get travel insurance. 

on board entertainment on an P & O cruise

6. Get involved in onboard activities

Allow me let you in on a little secret, yes, when you’re cruising you will be visiting some magnificent island locations, however, you will be spending a lot of time at sea away from land. It’s for this reason that you should receive a newsletter delivered to your cabin everyday informing you of the wonderful array of activities available on the ship that day. Such activities include bingo competitions, art auctions, dance lessons, pamper sessions, shopping days, theme nights, movies, and pool games amongst other things. GET INVOLVED IN THESE! Like seriously, there is only so much relaxing around the pool that you can do. I had an absolute blast running around the ship and I met heaps of awesome people because I would just randomly approach groups during group activities like quiz nights and ask to join their team.

The friend that I went with chose to mostly stay in our cabin or on the pool deck the whole time. It was only when we were doing a final run around the ship and she saw all the different activities that were taking place that she realised that she should have gotten involved. She kicked herself particularly hard over not going to the ballroom dance classes that had been held every day of the cruise.

A view of turquoise blue waters and green beaches in Vanuatu

Was there anything that I missed? What do you wish you knew before you went on your first cruise? Let me know by commenting below so we can save the next person some serious hassles.

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