There is something very special about stepping onto the ship for your first cruise. The grandeur of the vessel, the salt in the air, the buzz of the people… it's all just so exciting. You might have an idea of what to expect, but there's no doubt you'll be surprised in myriad ways before you disembark for the final time.
Here are five things that will surprise you during your first oceanic holiday.
1. How big the ship is
Before taking your first cruise, you might have admired the majestically massive ships as they sat in port or sailed by in the harbour. Logically, you know that if they can accommodate waterslides, skating rinks and rock climbing walls, they must be large. But you'll only truly appreciate how big they are once you get inside and take it all in for the first time.
Even if you're on a relatively small ship, it will still take a day or two to get your bearings and learn your way around. With multiple decks, dining areas, pools, shopping areas and more, it's hard not to be blown away by the enormity of it all. On a ship such as the Oasis of the Seas, which is one of the largest in the world, you'll likely need to use the touchscreen Wayfinders for the first few days so you don't get too lost on this massive floating city.
2. How much there is to do onboard
No doubt you'll have heard that your cruise ship offers onboard activities such as spas, gyms, and theatres - but it will likely come as a surprise just how much there is to do while you're at sea.
Each night, you'll receive a daily report for the following day. This sheet will include a detailed schedule with all the activities on throughout the day, often with multiple happenings on around the boat at any one time. So yes, while you can go for a dip in the pool, shop up a storm or work out in the gym, you can also attend a cocktail-making class, watch a live performance, play trivia, take a yoga class, gamble at the casino, take part in a ping pong tournament, or so much more.
3. How everyone really dresses up
Aside from the occasional wedding, it's rare to find an excuse to really dress up in your nicest suits and dresses. On board a cruise ship however, you'll find that the tradition of dressing to the nines is still honoured and it's a joy to see everyone out having a great time in their finery.
Most ships will include formal evenings in the main dining hall, which is your time to wear the most elegant clothes you own. You don't have to partake in this tradition of course; if you prefer to dress down, you may opt for a more casual dining experience in another part of the ship. (Or, there's always room service!)
4. How incredible the food is
Some ships can carry more than 7,000 people including crew, so it would be easy to assume that the chefs would opt for meals that are tasty, albeit prepared quickly in bulk with more thought for quantity over quality.
Out of all the surprising things onboard your cruise, the exceptional food standards may be the most amazing of them all. Whether you head to the main dining room, book a seat in a speciality restaurant, or fill up a plate at the buffet, you are all but guaranteed a delicious, well-presented and filling meal that will knock your socks off. And not only is the food provided scrumptiously good, it also never ends. You could be eating every minute of the voyage if you wanted to (and many often do).
5. How expensive WiFi is
Cruise ships are one of the last places where WiFi is not either free or cheap, so it pays to plan ahead for this one. In many cases, cruisers simply switch off their phones or only use them to take pictures of everything from the sights to the cocktails. This break from social media and emails can even be a welcome surprise as it helps you to switch off from real life - and jump start that holiday feeling.
However, if you need to keep in touch with work or family while at sea, be prepared to shell out for the service. While cruise ship internet connectivity has come a long way in the last couple of years, it remains relatively expensive and not the most reliable. If you're planning on using the roaming function on your phone instead, be sure to check how much your carrier charges for data and note that it's only useful near land.
If you only require sporadic contact, you'll usually find WiFi in cafes and shops during port days.
What will surprise you about your first cruise? Take a look at the hot deals on voyages at Cruise Sale Finder to find out.