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Published on Mar 01, 2014

Never cruised before? Here's what you need to know

The world of cruise travel is a vast one. There are literally hundreds of options with more itineraries and ships than ever before. It's an industry enjoying massive growth and innovation, so if you haven't travelled on a cruise ship and are planning to do so, here's the top 10 tips for newbies. Just a handy little guide before you get onboard:
1. The carry-on bag: This is perhaps the handiest tip we can offer. Whether it's a drawstring or backpack, a bag is essential. Your cabin and luggage may not be available for a number of hours when you board. Therefore you need things to hand, such as a passport, credit cards, change of clothes, toiletries and essentials for the kids. It's also handy if you're travelling to the Pacific Islands or anywhere with a beach. Perhaps the family want to take a dip in one of the pools onboard, (see Pacific Jewel above). What about sunscreen, a beach towel and toiletries? Another handy tip for families is to remember that your luggage is taken away the night before disembarkation. So stuff for the kids, clothes for bed and a toilet bag will all need to be put somewhere. Grab that bag.
2. Cover yourself: Cruise Sale Finder recommends you take out travel insurance when you pay your deposit. If you do incur medical expenses, they can mount up. An overnight stay in a medical centre can cost around $3000, while consultations with a doctor start from around $85.
3. Practical packing: A great tip for those travelling in a group is to use soft-shell suitcases, sports bags or softer bags for your packing. It's always nice to have space in the cabin and it's more preferable to stowaway your luggage under the bed or out of the way. The standard, heavier suitcase is not designed for this. Also, don't over-pack. You're OK to wear the odd pair of shorts or top for a few days. 
4. What about sleeping? Where exactly is your cabin? You may find yourself above the casino or close to a somewhat noisy nightclub, which could affect your sleeping patterns. Talk to an expert at Cruise Sale Finder to take you through your deck plan. If you are a light sleeper, don't book a cabin on guarantee status. This is only a guarantee of cabin category, not your exact location on the ship.
5. Is your passport OK? This one trips up many first-timers. A number of cruise lines need your passport to have at least six months' validity. Also, check if visas are required for your itinerary. Make sure all your papers are in order when booking!
6. Try something new: You are on a beautiful ship on the open seas, so step out of your comfort zone. Maybe take an educational class or have a wee gamble at the casino. How about dining out on l'escargot or get up and sing a karaoke number! There's always a great atmosphere onboard, so just let yourself go. You will not regret it! You could even give a try to a luxury cruise and indulge yourself!
7. Dealing with seasickness: Are you worried about feeling unwell onboard? Perhaps consider getting a cabin in a central location on the ship, rather than towards the front or rear, where any movement is more emphasised. There are numerous medical options, including bracelets, patches and tablets. Talk to your GP for more information. The last thing you want is to be stuck in your cabin.
8. Get your just desserts: The standard of food on cruise ships is outstanding, so why not indulge a little. There may be a big queue at the lunchtime buffet, so just head to one of the restaurants. If you don't like your main dish, ask for another one. It's not like being in a regular restaurant, where you may feel uncomfortable about asking for a new meal, the outstanding dining service onboard gives you that freedom. And go on, have a second dessert. You're on holiday!
9. Money matters: Be aware that cruise lines operate a cashless system, where all passengers are issued with a Cruise Card. This is your method of purchasing things such as drinks, shore tours and other extras. It's also used as your room key and identification around the ship. To activate your card you will need to provide the cruise line with a credit card, or within the first 24 hours of embarking you can opt to put cash against your account. Some lines also accept debit cards and travellers cheques. Take a small amount of the currency of the ship with you. You may need self-service laundry, or perhaps you are travelling to another country. It's easier to exchange, for example, Australian dollars to New Zealand dollars.
10. Have you got the power? In the modern world of travelling, phones, gadgets and computers are everywhere. So, if you are getting onboard with iPads, iPods, tablets, cameras and a hairdryer, a powerboard is a very handy accessory. Your cabin will not be equipped with a number of power-points and this will relieve a lot of angst, especially for youngsters when their batteries run out and stress levels rise. However, they're not allowed on Royal Caribbean ships. 
If you have any questions about our tips, or simply want some advice, the friendly Cruise Sale Finder customer service team are here for you. 

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