Having just returned from my first cruise I thought I would pass on my cruise tips for first timers. There’s a lot to take on board (pun intended) if you’ve never set foot on a cruise ship before and with a little planning, you can ensure that every hour you spend aboard is time well spent.
My First Cruise
My cruise was aboard the Queen Victoria, one of Cunard’s three large liners, in October 2022. It sailed from Southampton, across the English Channel, then south across the Bay of Biscay. The first stop was at A Coruña on the Iberian coast of northern Spain, followed by Gijon, and Santander. Then we left Spain and headed north to dock at Cherbourg before returning to Southampton. In all, there were seven nights at sea.
During the first night at sea, there was a strong breeze of about 27 knots in the Channel. This created enough of a swell to introduce a newcomer to the sensation and the sounds of a cruise liner as you lie in bed listening to it all and getting accustomed to the experience. After that, the winds and consequently the sailing were calmer.
Throughout the voyage I found the crew to be excellent. They were courteous and professional, and always eager and willing to help in any way.
history of Cunard
180 Years of Cunard
In 2020, the Cunard Line celebrated its 180th anniversary. One of the most famous transatlantic shipping companies, Cunard is beloved on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as around the world. Cunard pioneered many new technologies and launched the largest and fastest liners of their day. During both world wars the Cunarders answered the call of duty and transported thousands of troops to support the Allies.
Cunard’s Queen Victoria
The Queen Victoria is 964.5ft long, has a crew of 913, and can accommodate 2,061 passengers. It’s the same size as its sister ship the Queen Elizabeth, but not as big as the larger Queen Mary 2. Cunard’s fourth liner, the Queen Anne, has yet to be launched and brought into service. It’s expected to be on its maiden voyage in 2024.
Decks 1, 2, and 3 contain various facilities including dining rooms, a library, an art gallery, a casino, and some shops. Decks 4 – 8 contain the cabins (or staterooms, as Cunard prefers to call them), and decks 9 – 12 contain more dining areas, beauty treatment areas, the gym, various club rooms, and the outdoor pools and viewing areas.
The theatre is accessible through the lower decks. It looks and feels like an old, small provincial theatre with ample seating in stalls, the circle, and boxes on either side. For every performance, both films and shows
There are three lift shafts, forward, midship, and aft or you can add to your daily steps by using the stairs at each location.
Even though there were about 3,000 people on board I didn’t feel that the ship was crowded at any time. Crew and passengers are so widely dispersed that I rarely saw a queue and apart from one popular show in the theatre, there was always somewhere to sit in each deck location.
Life onboard can be as relaxing, busy, or indulgent as you prefer. Each day there is a range of activities on offer; bridge, art classes, dance classes, quizzes, movies, shows, social hours, live bands or solo performers, dancing, and more. If you want to keep busy you can go from one thing to another, or simply enjoy the gym, beauty treatments, or relaxation in various parts of the ship.
Food & Drink
There are several restaurants on board, ranging from the Lido, which is all buffet, to the a la carte restaurants like the Brittania on decks two and three in the stern of the ship. The food was very good and sometimes excellent during our voyage. In the Lido, you could order pasta in a sauce of your choice, freshly cooked in front of you. Evening meals in the Brittania were of very high quality, as was the wine.
Once in port, you’re free to visit the local town or go off on your pre-booked activity or tour. These vary greatly from one place to another. You might be able to choose from a trip to a glacier to a helicopter ride around some local landmarks or scenery. The ship was docked for the whole day at each location leaving ample time to spend in town, taking in the sights and stretching your legs. Where required, buses are laid on to transfer the passengers into town and bring them back to the ship, but make sure you know when you have to be back onboard and don’t rely on the last bus as it may be full!
General Cruise Tips For First Timers
Cruises are a great way to see multiple destinations without having to pack and unpack your bags every few days. Not to mention, there is always something to do on a cruise ship whether you want to spend your days lounging by the pool or exploring all of the activities and entertainment that the ship has to offer.
Of course, even though cruises are a great vacation option, they can also be a bit daunting for first-timers. There is so much to think about when planning a cruise that it can be hard to know where to start.
Ocean liners in pictures
This beautifully illustrated book considers over a century of liner design: from the striking graphics created to promote liners to the triumphs of engineering, and from luxurious interiors to on board fashion and activities. Ocean Liners explores the design of Victorian and Art Deco ‘ floating palaces’, sleek post-war liners as well as these ships’ impact on avant-garde artists and architects such as Le Corbusier.
Pick The Right Ship
One of the most important things to consider when planning a cruise is which ship you want to sail on. There are many different cruise lines out there, each with its unique style and offerings. Do some research ahead of time to find a cruise line that matches your interests and needs. For example, if you are looking for an adult-only cruise experience, some cruise lines cater specifically to this type of traveller.
Likewise, if you are hoping to bring your entire family, there are family-friendly ships with plenty of activities and amenities for both children and adults. Once you have found a cruise line that you think you might like, take some time to read reviews from other travellers. This will give you a good sense of what other people’s experiences have been like sailing with that particular company.
Choose Your Cabin Carefully
When booking your cabin, it’s important to think about what kind of vacation you want. Do you want to be able to step out onto your balcony and enjoy the ocean breeze? Or would you prefer being close to the action by staying near the ship’s pool deck? If you’re travelling with young children, you may also want to consider booking a cabin with a separate bedroom (if available) so that everyone can have their own space. No matter what your needs are, there’s sure to be a cabin type that’s perfect for you—you just have to do your research.
Choose Your Itinerary Carefully
The next step is deciding which countries and ports you would like to visit. There are so many amazing itineraries to choose from these days that it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. If possible, try to pick an itinerary that includes a mixture of destinations on your wish list. That way, you can maximize your time and see as much as possible during your voyage.
Be sure to also factor in things like weather conditions and peak tourist seasons when choosing an itinerary. You don’t want to book a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season or an Alaska cruise during the coldest months of winter (unless, of course, you are specifically looking for those kinds of conditions).
Research Shore Excursions Ahead Of Time
One of the best things about cruising is that it allows you to explore different ports of call without having to worry about logistics like transportation or lodging. Most cruises will offer a variety of shore excursions at each port, ranging from guided tours to more active adventures like hiking or snorkelling. While it can be tempting to sign up for every excursion offered, try not to overdo it. Remember that you will also want some time just to relax onshore as well, and to stroll about, visiting cafes, restaurants, and shops in the local seaside town.
Do some research ahead of time to pick out a few must-do excursions at each port. Again, reading traveller reviews can be helpful here as other people will often have great recommendations based on their personal experiences. Once you have an idea of what kinds of excursions interest you, check pricing and availability through the cruise line’s website or app before setting sail. This will help ensure that you don’t miss out on anything that you want to do while also allowing some flexibility in your schedule should anything come up unexpectedly while you’re on vacation.
Plan Your Days (And Evenings) Carefully
The larger cruise ships are like their own little town, with things to do throughout the day and well into the early hours of the next. From watching movies and shows to swimming and classes, there’s always something to keep you entertained onboard, but with so many options, it can be tough to know how to spend your time.
Take some time before your trip to look at the schedule of events for each day and plan out which activities you want to do. That way, you can make sure you don’t miss anything important. Once you’re onboard, don’t forget to leave some time for exploring – you never know what hidden gems you’ll find onboard a cruise ship, even if it’s just a quiet corner where you can relax away from it all.
Cruising is a great way to see the world and relax at the same time, but only if you plan it correctly. By following these tips for first-time cruisers, you can ensure that your voyage is everything you’d hoped it would be and perhaps even better.