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How to Plan for your Next Big Cruise

As an experienced cruiser, I've got tons of tips to make your next cruise vacation a breeze.


Prioritize, Plan and Then Party

Don't you just love going on cruises? I've been on a fair few, and I am still amazed by how much there is to see and do on them. If you are willing to embrace new things you will find at least one thing every day of your cruise, that will make every second of your trip feel worth it.

It is virtually impossible to get around and see all there is to see on an entire cruise ship in one trip or take part in everything that they have to offer, but that can't stop you from trying your best to fit in as much as you can.

To get the most out of your vacation, plan things ahead of time. This will save your poor feet by stopping you from endlessly wandering up and down the entire ship till you find your bearings, looking for things to do. Make sure that you grab your copy of the ship's daily cruise planner so that you can get a real idea of what is available.

Making sure you do your research before you leave and seeing what the individual ships and ports offer that might be up your alley just makes wonderful sense, so be sure that you take the time to look it all up.

The Internet is available on cruise ships, but it is not as great as you wish it could be, it is both expensive and not always that reliable as satellite availability, your location, and local weather can influence it. It also doesn't pay to leave getting the internet till you are on the ship as the cost of it can be more expensive than if you had made the purchase prior to boarding either through your travel agent or by contacting the cruise line directly. This can also be said about some excursions and specialty dining opportunities.

Prior to leaving, a little research will give you a decent idea of what to expect on your trip, reducing the chances of overspending, travel anxiety, and the likelihood of missing out on all the fun things on offer.

Smaller ships allow for the opportunity to really get around and really take in all that is on offer, however, mega-ships through sheer size make it almost impossible to get around and see everything thing on offer in one trip.

A little bit of research goes a long way

Researching the ship before boarding allows you to get the most out of your journey. I suggest being familiar with at least the basics like venues, activities, and entertainment that will be available during your trip.

Whether it be a certain music, entertainment, or you just want to treat yourself to that full body massage. This is your time to pick your goals for your cruise.

This is also true of the ports that you will travel to. If you are fully versed in what is available, you will be able to more easily arrange things to get the most out of your journey.

A good tip if you don't go ashore at every port, is to make sure you read your daily cruise planner, as the cruise lines offer the most beautiful treatments and massages on those days when the ship is almost empty. It can be the perfect chance to spoil yourself whilst the ship is quiet.

I scored the most luxurious Swedish massage with all the trimmings through doing this. It was amazing how she worked all the muscles fibres and relaxed them to the point I walked out of the spa feeling like a million dollars.

Whilst on your cruise pay attention to your Cruise Compass or Cruise Planner as they are sometimes called, these are normally delivered to your stateroom but can also be collected from the concierge desk or on the ship's app, if they have one. These gems hold everything you might need to know about the goings on around the ship during your cruise daily.

Welcome to the Internet

The internet is your friend when it comes to getting the most out of your cruise, just make sure you use it before you get on the ship as getting an internet package can be expensive. A little research will help you know what is what with your trip, and any quirks to keep in mind.

I have found that I achieve the best results with online resources like Facebook groups which have the most to offer, as people in the groups have seen it all. It will help you get an idea of what to expect and what is worthwhile keeping in mind when booking and taking a cruise. I find that reading the experiences of other people takes the uncertainty out of the trip for me and allows me to truly relax and enjoy my time on the ship.


Cruising in Style

Plan Ahead And It Will Be Peachy Keen

The problem with cruising is that there is a necessity to plan at least some of the things that will happen. Doing so will get some bucket list items done and at the very least ensure that you have a bit of variety during your trip.

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Making sure that you choose the right dining option for the main dining room and and pre-booking as many tours as soon as possible are perfect examples. Planning these ahead of time reduces the chances of you being disappointed, as these sell out pretty quickly once everyone is on the ship and dining options can be a squeeze before you even for the ship.

Having every moment of a cruise planned out can quickly suck the fun from it, but having expectations that aren't met means disappointment and even regret. So if you've been dying to eat at the speciality restaurants or get a treatment at the spa, then be sure to book.

A little planning will mean more opportunity for laying back on a sun lounge with a good book and a cold drink.


Be Flexible and Don't Stress Out

Get the most out of your cruise vacation by keeping it loose. By loose, I don't mean your clothing (though that can help with the buffets), but be a little flexible. This will reduce the chances of killing those holiday vibes because of unnecessary stress.

No one wants their holiday to be stressful so be prepared and a little flexible with showtimes and activities. For example, you don't always have to go to the first one in to the shows on the ship and you don’t always have to sit at the front row all of the time. Try sitting a few seats back, you never know you might actually enjoy that angle more.

If you plan ahead, go for the anytime dining options. This allows you to, as the name suggests, dine at any time. Set time dining can be fine, but it will mean that you are likely dumped with half a table of people you don't know every evening that you dine in the dining hall. I like the intimacy of a smaller table, even if it means a few minutes' wait time occasionally.

A perfect example of the benefit of being flexible whilst on holidays was on my first cruise where I almost missed out ongoing to my favorite Island, Amedee Island.

Through being nice to the staff and flexible within what I was happy to do, they were able to help me get those tickets to the island, even though it meant a bit of legwork for them because they had to change booking back and forward.

I am forever thankful to those staff on the Carnival Spirit, their help made for a truly amazing first cruise

Even if I hadn't been able to visit Amedee Island, being flexible with my plans meant that, had I missed out I still would have had options, just at another island.

So keep it cool people and you will enjoy your trip more.

Want more tips?

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    After a couple of cruises, you learn which rooms are best. To save you from making the same trial-and-error mistakes I have, here are my tips on how to pick the best cabin the first time around.
  • 19 Tips for Staying Safe and Well on a Cruise Ship
    Cruising can be a little intimidating, especially the first time around. These tips can help you feel safer and more secure whilst on a cruise so that you can get down to the business of having fun.
  • How to Take the Stress out of Embarkation Day on You...
    Ahoy there, my fellow cruisers! Embarkation day can be stressful, but it doesn't need to be. In this article, I'll tell you what to expect and share some tips to help make the first day of your cruise holiday a breeze. So sit back and enjoy!

Plan Your Naps and the Way You Attack the Snacks

It is easy to party all night long on a cruise. The problem though is when you have a port day the next morning. Trust me I have seen a few green-looking faces making a b-line to the buffet to get at the greasy breakfast hangover cure. Burning the candle at both ends can mean that you miss out on things because you are feeling poorly.

Going straight to your tour the next morning hungover or still drunk is the worst. So unless you have the strength of five people, be mindful not to party too hard every night. Especially on those longer cruises.

I always make sure that I get a good night's sleep and lay off the booze at least on the nights before shore days. Otherwise, you'll end up falling asleep on your tour guide or worse.

If for you the party goes all night long, make sure to book tours for later in the morning or afternoon to save yourself any trouble or having wasted opportunities because you were too tired to enjoy them fully.

Eat properly at least some of the time and try to keep your mealtimes semi-regular. For one thing, you will ensure that you know what time it is as there is a tendency to become lost in time on a cruise ship and secondly it will keep your energy levels up and give you the opportunity to sample the wonder that is cruise ship food. My personal favorites are steakhouses, like Celebrity's Tuscan Grille or Royal Caribbean's Chops Grille.

If entertainment trumps food in your book I would suggest skipping the dining rooms and specialty restaurants unless you booked an early seating and heading for the buffets for faster feeds or there is always room service if you can't bring yourself to leave the comfort of your stateroom.

All these tips should help ensure you get the most out of your trip.

If you have any more tips or tricks for getting the most out of your cruise journeys, please comment below as I would love to hear from you.

Bon voyage

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Paddy Michelson


Paddy Michelson (author) from Australia on January 31, 2021:

COVID-19 has certainly messed up a lot of peoples travel plans... among other things :(

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 31, 2021:

I have only been on one cruise, on P&O’s Pacific Aria, in 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We were anxious to go on another, and mentioned we may like to go on a cruise every second year, but Covid-19 put an end to that. At least for now. Your article offers great tips for the future however.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 31, 2021:

Many of our friends have enjoyed multiple cruises in the past. We have just received a new brochure. The cruise industry is desperate to get going again. This article uses your experience to give valuable tips for future trips.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 30, 2021:

Nice article.

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