How to Cruise

Cruise Ship

With the number of people booking cruises increasing year on year (according to the Passenger Shipping Association), we thought we'd step in with some top cruise tips and advice to help you plan your cruise, save money and get the most out of your floating holiday.

If you're yet to be convinced, just consider the double VV: value for money and variety (different destinations, on board activities and style of cruise) and you can't fail but to be won over!

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    1. BE SURE OF WHAT YOU WANT. It may sound obvious, but being clear about what sort of cruise you want will help you find the right cruise for you among the hundreds on offer. Think about where the boat docks as you might have to pay for an expensive flight in order to board the ship. Also, consider the type of stops it makes on route and whether they suit your sightseeing needs. There are cruises for the mature, young couples, families and singles - if you're after a quiet break, you may want to avoid ships offering a raft of children's activities. If you're worried about whether cruising is for you, try a mini taster cruise (two to seven nights) before you shell out on a booking. Virgin Cruise Holidays offer decent info on this type of break. For a good all round guide to the type of cruises available, see Discover Cruises.

    2. BE FLEXIBLE. The more flexible you are with dates and docking/embarking ports, the cheaper and easier it will be for you to cruise. Look out for off season deals and also repositioning cruises. Repositioning cruises crop up twice a year (usually in spring and autumn) when cruise ships need to relocate at the beginning or end of a season. Ship days out number port days on these cruises, but if you have good sea legs, it could be a cheap way to travel.

    3. RESEARCH CABIN OPTIONS. You get what you pay for when it comes to cabin types and there are an overwhelming number to choose from. Think about how much you're going to use your cabin (it would be similar to how much time you would usually spend in a hotel room). If it's very little consider an 'inside' cabin (usually lower down in the ship without windows). If you love to lounge, it might be worth paying a bit more for an 'outside' cabin (usually higher up in the ship with a balcony or windows). You pay for the luxuries too (a bath for example) and cabin location. If you're really worried, try visiting your ship before you book. Companies such as Mundy organise tours of ships while they are docked.

    4. REMEMBER THE USUALS. Make sure you have the relevant visas as well as passport, relevant currency and have taken the appropriate vaccinations for the destinations your ship will be stopping at. Just because you're sailing doesn't mean the usual items and precautions should be forgotten.

    5. PACK CAREFULLY. Depending on which cruise you opt for, you may be sailing through various climates and stopping off at destinations that have different attitudes to dress. Pack appropriately. The ship itself may also have a dress code (particularly at dinner) so think about formal wear as well as anything you might need to take part in the ship's activities - tennis shoes for example! For advice fitting it all into your suitcase, see our How To Pack tips.

    6. TAKE THE ESSENTIALS. It can take some time for your luggage to arrive at your cabin, so if you're keen to get going the minute you board, make sure you have a small bag packed with the essentials: swimming costume, book, sun cream etc.

    7. KEEP IN TOUCH. Mobile phone reception can be a bit hit and miss out on the seas (and roaming charges are expensive), so if you're travelling in a big group, family or just like to keep in touch, consider investing in some walkie talkies.

    8. BE WISE TO TIPPING. Policies regarding tipping on ships now vary from one cruise company to the next. It can, for example, be standard that a tip is calculated into the price of your cruise meaning you don't have to tip (and carry loose change) on board. This can total £3 to £10 a day per person, so if you'd rather opt out, make sure you are able to do this before you book. You can also talk to the purser on board about reducing the compulsory gratuity.

    9. ENJOY YOUR DINNER. The best way to make sure you enjoy your cruise ship dining is to consider the options. Most ships have a main dining room (included in the price) plus other dinner dining restaurants than may incur a surcharge. Guests who choose to eat dinner in the main dining room will usually need to choose between an early sitting (around 6pm) and late sitting (around 8pm), plus the size of their table (you will be sharing with as many as 10 people). Seating and dining times are fixed, though you can always rearrange with front of house. Be prepared to book tables for other restaurants on board well in advance.

    10. GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH. With most package cruises falling into the all inclusive box, you'll want to make the most out of your trip. Look up the activities on offer before you board and make sure you are quick to book. Spa, sports, culinary services and port excursions can all book up very quickly. A little bit of forward planning will mean you get the very best out of your floating holiday.

Last Updated: March 2010