Cruise ships are worlds unto themselves, with their own sets of rules and ways of life, no matter where you set sail for. And whether you’re a new cruiser or an old hat on the high seas, there’s always a thing or two left to learn about these luxurious holidays. From cruise line secrets to make your trip just that much easier, to how to shave off a little bit of the cost, we’ve whipped up a list of top tips to help you get the most out of your cruise.

1. Book excursions in advance

When you book your cruise, you’ll be given a list of possible excursions aimed to help you get the most out of each destination – from kayaking and zip-line adventures to historic tours around the port of call. Make sure you book your preferred excursions in advance to avoid disappointment.

2. Check for dress codes

You’ll be notified of themed parties and formal nights in advance, and can expect to need items like dinner jackets and cocktail dresses. You won’t want to miss out on dressing up, so ensure you know what’s on the bill and that you pack accordingly.

3. Budget, budget, budget

It’s vital you know exactly what your cruise covers, or more importantly, what is and isn’t included in the price. All Inclusive cruises with lines such as Silversea include all excursions, drinks, meals and tips but if you’re travelling on a board only basis these will be extra.

4. Opt for dining in the main room

Group dining in the ship’s main room is a great way to meet your fellow cruisers and enjoy the ceremony of your cruise ship. Don’t let the prospect of awkward small talk scare you – if you sit at the same table with the same cruisers every night, you’ll become friends in no time.

5. Pack something warm, just in case

Even if you’re embarking on a tropical cruise where cardigans and shawls are virtually unheard of, you don’t want to be caught off guard when the wind sweeps in as you’re strolling the ship’s decks at night.

6. And bring a swimsuit!

Similar to packing something warm, you’ll always want to bring a swimsuit, even if you’re cruising past fjords and ice caps. Most ships will feature heated or indoor pools or, at the very least, hot tubs, though you’ll want to check your ship’s amenities before boarding.

7. Research ports in advance

If you’re the type to ditch the group excursions in favour of setting out at your own pace in port, you’ll want to research what the area is known for, and how much time you should allocate to each activity.

8. Explore the ship

You won’t be the only one onboard looking at the pool area as a top relaxation spot, and will often find the sunbeds in high demand. For this reason, you’d be wise to explore your surroundings and seek out lesser-known spots, like adults-only lounge areas and quiet libraries.

9. Choose the right ship for you

Before booking your cruise, take a moment to think about what kind of voyage you’d like to experience. From vast ships laden with indoor wind tunnels, water parks and casinos to more intimate ships with herb gardens nestled on the top deck, take your time when selecting the perfect ship.

10. Take advantage of room service

Many cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines offer free room service so a meal enjoyed in your state room isn’t a luxury- more a rite of passage. For a small fee, those travelling with MSC Cruises can enjoy freshly made pizza delivered straight to their door, 24/7.

11. Have a designated meeting point

With little to no phone signal and a vast ship to contend with, its a good idea to designate a meeting point upon embarkation with your family and friends should you lose each other throughout the day.

12. Prepare for seasickness

Even if you don’t have a history of seasickness, it’s always best to be prepared. Bringing your own patches or pills will mean you avoid paying higher prices at the ship’s shop, though various remedies will be available throughout your cruise.

13. Bring gym clothes

You’ve probably heard the rumour that cruises are packed with gourmet meals and endless buffets, but you’ll also find state of the art gyms, exercise classes and exciting onboard activities from climbing walls to running tracks. Active cruisers will delight at the basketball courts, mini golf, bowls and fitness classes offered by Celebrity while Royal Caribbean®’s Freedom and Oasis class ships boast full size boxing rings and the largest gym’s at sea.

14. Disconnect on your cruise

Be prepared for intermittent Wi-Fi during your cruise, and relish the time away from work emails and social media. Most cruise lines offer internet packages onboard and internet cafes which work out much cheaper than logging in per minute, should you wish to check in with your loved ones.

15. Arrive at your launching point a day early

Too many cruises have been missed by cruisers because of late or cancelled flights and traffic when trying to make it to the dock. To avoid missing the big send-off, it’s a good idea to arrive in your port a day early or choose a cruise with a departure point that’s easily accessible to you.

16. Go to the onboard shows

Cruises are famous for their entertainment schedules featuring world class performers and shows. With Royal Caribbean®, the show never stops, with West-End style theatre productions, comedy clubs, casinos and an outdoor AquaTheatre exclusive to Oasis, Harmony and Allure of the Seas

17. Pay attention to the ship’s schedule

If you’re exploring the port by yourself, you should always be aware what time your ship will be departing so that you can make sure you don’t, quite literally, miss the boat.

18. Bring a carry-on bag

Having an extra bag you can cart around with you from port to port is great for toting around sunscreen, wraps, wallets and sunglasses. They’re even handy onboard, as cruise ships are notoriously vast, and packing a bag of necessities can prevent you from having to make the trek back and forth from your camp on deck to your cabin.

19. Make time for speciality restaurants

Cruise ships will usually offer a speciality dining restaurant that isn’t included in the price of your cruise. Embark on a voyage with P&O Cruises and enjoy delicious cuisine in one of Marco Pierre White’s elegant restaurants, order sushi lollipops from an ipad with Celebrity Cruises or surround yourself with opulence in the French infused Verandah onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

20. Bring your own wine

Many cruise lines will allow passengers to bring a bottle or two of their favourite vino to consume during the cruise. Most of the mainstream cruise lines including Royal Caribbean® and Carnival Cruise Lines permit up to two bottles of wine per stateroom which must be brought onboard on embarkation day. If you’d like to consume your personal wine in public areas you’ll incur a corkage charge of anything between $10 and $25.

For some of the best cruise holiday deals take a look at our latest deals across the seven seas.

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