Before I’d ever been on a cruise, my main worry was “What if I don’t like it – I’m stuck on a boat!” or “What if I meet someone I’d rather avoid – there’s nowhere to hide!”
Not that I avoid people often, it’s just the thought of being ‘trapped’ as I saw it, meant that my options might be limited. Now I’ve been on 4 cruises, I can honestly say from experience that a cruise holiday is definitely not boring, limited or lacking in places to hide!
This summer my family and I are going on an 8 night Mediterranean cruise on Carnival’s newest ship – Vista. This superlunar boasts a waterpark called Waterworks with a 455ft tube slide of speedy twists and turns as well as the regular ‘lane’ or splash swimming pools you find on deck. There is also a high-altitude SkyRide feature if you are really daring. You can cycle the 800ft track on the first ever cruise ship aerial pedal powered ride, taking in breathtaking 360 degree views from 150ft above the sea.
Vista is big on experiences as it brings us the first ever IMAX cinema at sea, allowing movie goers to feel like part of the action with a big screen spanning three whole decks! Or if relaxing is more your thing, they created Havana – a bar and dance spot complete with a pod and hot tubs so you can enjoy the cocktails and Cuban snacks in an atmosphere reminiscent of paradise.
It is just 191 days until our cruise holiday and I am really looking forward to it as I know what to expect but I thought It’d be useful to put together a handy guide on tips for first time cruisers so you can see what a family holiday at sea is all about!
Packing for cruises is just like packing for any land-based holiday. You’ll need swimwear, casual clothes and also some smart casual dress for evenings out. But on a cruise you will also have several ‘Formal Nights’ to pack for too! These are black tie events and a great excuse to dress up. Bring your cocktail dresses, high heels and bling. The men should pack a formal suit and tie or a tuxedo and bow tie, you can’t be too overdressed on a formal night (these nights are called ‘Cruise Elegant Night’ onboard Carnival Vista).
Formal nights are when the ship’s photographers are out in force with pitches at the best locations onboard and also portable studio backdrops so Cruise Elegant nights are the perfect occasion to get your up to date family portraits done. You can purchase the photography from the ship’s gallery the next day and at around the £15 to £20 per print price point (depending on the cruise company you are with), it makes a cost effective way to get your family prints versus a few hundred pounds for an hour’s studio time at a photographers near home.
Kids also dress up on formal nights unless they are going to remain in the kids club for the evening, but the dress codes are relaxed for children and smart casual attire will be fine for them.
Don’t pack a beach towel – save your suitcase space! On cruises you can access fresh pool towels daily and on the Vista, you have to sign out however many towels you want each day and ensure you return the same number of towels at the end of the day.
Bring your own toiletries. They are usually more expensive to buy on board and it may be a few days until your first port day when you can get off the ship and find a supermarket on land. The Vista will have shampoo and soap in the state rooms but I also need a conditioner for my long hair so I will make sure to take my own so I have what I need!
Prepare your reading material in advance! Load up your Kindle with books and buy your newspaper and any magazines before you board as none of the shops on Vista will sell magazines or a daily newspaper. There is a library on board so you can borrow books and the ship has it’s own daily newsletter which you will receive in your stateroom daily to give a full itinerary for that day. This is things like special events, celebrity appearances or the day’s duty free special offers. But as I keen reader, I always need more to consume than this so I always have a spree on Amazon loading up my Kindle before I leave my home. Here is a bonus tip: If you buy e-books, be sure to actually download them whilst you are still on your home wifi! They may appear in your device library once you buy them but they actually also need downloading before you can read. To connect to the wifi on a ship incurs a charge and it’s cheaper to download everything at home before you travel!
There is a hairdryer in each stateroom so no need to pack a travel one but if you like your curlers or hair straighteners like me, bring them with you! Cruise ships are normally wired with the North American two prong 110 US plug sockets and on the Vista you get two of them on the vanity desk plus a USB post for charging a phone or tablet so you will need a UK adapter to use the plug outlets.
Before you go:
Cruises feel different the minute you step on board. The first main difference from a land based holiday is that once you have handed over your suitcases – you don’t see them again until they appear in your stateroom later that day! If you join the cruise at the dock, you will hand your cases to the ship’s porters but if your cruise line representative is meeting you at the airport you’ll put your cases onto the coach that is taking you to the post and that’s the last you’ll see of them until they appear in your room. Therefore keep any medications or nappies and a change of clothes for babies and toddlers in your hand luggage.
Once you get on board the ship you have free rein and many people head to find their rooms. My tip – DON’T! Your cases won’t appear until later that day anyway and you will have plenty of time to check out your room later – your room may not even be ready yet if the stateroom steward is still turning the rooms around from the guests who left that morning. I’d advise to go to the top deck dining room and get some lunch! The restaurant staff will have plenty of food available from salads and a jacket spud to full carvery style dinners and there is always a pudding and a cup of tea to enjoy too, so after your long journey to get there, go enjoy yourself! It’s what we always do!
All your food and selected beverages (such as tea, coffee, water and often juice at breakfast) is included in the fare you paid for the holiday and there are no annoying ‘time limits’ where food isn’t available during some hours like you get at some European ‘all inclusive’ resorts. On a cruise, the food is available round the clock- whenever you want and drinks too. However soft drinks and alcohol are chargeable so check out any drinks packages before you go or when you first board to save some money on your holiday drinking.
Laundry: The last thing you want to think about on holiday is doing the laundry but if you are travelling with children it may comfort you to know that you can do a wash-load on a cruise ship! When I was toilet training my kids, I went through loads of sets of clothes each day and when you are on holiday you are also trying to pack light usually – especially when you have airline baggage weight restrictions before you get there! The Carnival Vista has a laundrette on board and there is a charge to use the washers and dryers. I would however advise packing some of those 2-in-1 laundry capsules of detergent and fabric softener before you arrive so you don’t have to also buy washing powder on board!!
Lastly after the ‘Muster Drill’ which is a mandatory event upon boarding all cruise ships (it is a safety drill) there is always a ‘Sailaway’ party on the Lido deck (the deck with the swimming pools on) when all passengers are on and the ship sails away from post for the first time on the cruise! It is usually a fun event with music, cocktails and dancing where you will see the ship’s entertainment crew for the first time so it’s worth attending.
I hope that has helped some first time cruisers – cruising with a family is such fun and really does have something for everyone, whether you have babies, school age children or teenagers. No-one I’ve ever met who has been on a cruise has said “Never again’! So there must be something in it, plus many families who cruise wouldn’t do anything else! We love our cruise holidays and always have some fabulous memories afterwards.
2015-2016 Blog Ambassador: JuggleMum is proud to be an official ambassador for Carnival Cruise Lines and to bring you exclusive news and information about their newest ship – Carnival Vista. Carnival is ‘The World’s Most Popular Cruise Line®’ operating 24 ships. Learn more at their website
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