Above all things, cruising is convenient - when your hotel, restaurants, entertainment and other facilities all move to each destination with you, there is much less margin for error in your travel plans. However, there are a few things you can keep in mind to ensure that the sailing is as smooth as possible.
1 . Missing out on special experiences
Some specialty eateries and shore excursions are hot favourites - think P&O Cruises's Salt Grill, or that unmissable Sydney bridge climb adventure. They generally have limited spots available, and sell out quick.
If there is something you don't want to miss out on, be it a tour or a culinary experience, we suggest booking as far in advance as possible. If you can lock it in before boarding, do so - and if you can't, make sure to do it as soon as you board the ship - it'll be worth the slight delay in unpacking!
Of course, booking your cruise highlights in advance takes a bit of research. Find out well before you sail what is offered, and decide what takes your fancy.
2 . Picking the wrong cabin
This is another one you need to think about well before you get onboard. Choosing the right cabin means taking into account several factors - and although price is an important one, we suggest it's not the only consideration which should influence your decision if you want a perfect cruise holiday.
First, ponder how you will likely use your stateroom. Are you planning to enjoy some downtime in your own digs, or are you likely to be out and about all day and well into the evening? If you like to relax in your own space, you will likely want a higher category of cabin, an oceanview at the least and perhaps a balcony so you can enjoy some fresh air. However, if you are planning to be on the go all day, and especially if you like to sleep late, a windowless inside cabin could be perfect. If that sounds a little claustrophobic but you're not too concerned about the view, an obstructed view cabin is a perfect option.
You will also, of course, need to consider the group with which you travel. Those cruising with a family of up to four (or even a group of friends) can fit into a quad cabin, but might be more comfortable with two interconnected doubles. Only you know what your limits are - so have a good think about it before you sail!
3 . Passports and visas, oh my!
You'd be surprised how many forget that their cruise entails leaving the country, and they are responsible for all the documentation that foreign travel requires. Non-domestic cruises, such as those to New Zealand or the South Pacific islands, are overseas trips, and just like getting on a plane, involve customs and immigration rules.
Make sure before you depart that your passport is valid and has the necessary time left before it expires - you may have to find the regulations for each destination country on their respective immigration websites. While you're there, find out whether you will need a visa to go ashore. In most cases you won't, but it's very important to check.
Your travel agent or cruise line can likely help you out with information and tips, but remember that it is still your responsibility to have all travel documents in order. Double check your itinerary, especially for longer cruises, to make sure you know every country you will visit! Pro tip: For peace of mind, confirm the visa information provided with two relevant sources - these requirements can change and doesn't always flow on through as quickly as we would like!
4 . Neglecting your health
Although cruising is certainly a time to indulge, you'd be a fool to completely forget about looking after yourself. It's a fine balance between taking advantage of everything that's available and having a little moderation to ensure you aren't bloated, sunburnt, tired and hungover by day 2.
What can you do to avoid ending up in a sorry state? Most of it is obvious - wear sunscreen and cover up in the sun occasionally, get enough sleep, don't treat the "all you can eat buffet" as a challenge. We also suggest drinking water between alcoholic beverages to remain hydrated, and spend a bit of time in the gym or even just walking around the decks for a little exercise. Be careful to wash your hands and make use of the hand sanitizer located around the ship. Plus, if you are heading somewhere that requires vaccinations, don't forget to get them.
Take a look at our top tips for staying well onboard for more detail!
5 . Overspending
Unless you're on an all-inclusive luxury cruise (in which case, go nuts), things such as drinks, shore tours and specialty restaurants are at extra cost - and they can add up. While it's entirely possible to have an enjoyable cruise with zero added extras, they can certainly enhance the experience - you just don't want to ruin your cruise right at the end with a huge bill to settle.
There are plenty of ways you can avoid such a situation. The first and most obvious is to set a budget taking into consideration which expenses are necessary to your enjoyment, and balance them out - do you prefer expensive wine with dinner, or is the money better spent on a shore tour the next day? Maybe pick one specialty restaurant which appeals to you the most, and otherwise make the most of what the main dining room has to offer.
Drinking is probably the easiest way to overspend without realising it - especially when you are swiping your cruise card rather than handling cash. In addition to drinking water between cocktails, which as mentioned above is good for wellbeing as well as wallet, have a think about cheaper beverage options, seek out freebies, and BYO - many lines allow each passenger to bring a bottle of wine each which can be consumed in the cabin, so check the rules for your cruise.
Take a look at our guide to saving money onboard for more detailed ideas!
Ready to cruise like a pro? Find a cruise that suits you, and you're all set! Seasoned cruisers, do you have any foolproof tips to add?