13th Aug 2012
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Beginner’s guide to cruising
Author: YourLifeChoices
Beginner’s Guide to Cruising, Australia, New Zealand, International, Beautiful, Cruises, Seniors

All aboard! There has never been a better time for cruising. If you're thinking of setting sail for the first time, Brian Johnston has some tips for a fun time at sea.

Sit on the deck with the sun on your face and a glass of bubbly in hand. Gaze over blue bays and beautiful harbours, mighty fjords or shimmering reefs. Better yet, do it all without having to lug a suitcase, read a map, traipse from hotel to hotel or worry about where to eat.

Cruising is surely the ultimate in relaxing holidays and is now more exciting than it has never been, with something for everyone. Spectacular mega-ships cater to those hankering for glittering entertainment and a sociable nightlife. Boutique and river ships offer a more intimate atmosphere, while floating resorts cater to families or those holidaying with grandchildren.

Meanwhile, adventure cruises head to remote destinations, themed cruises absorb you in art history or culinary pleasures, and river cruises enable you to explore far inland. Have fun, improve your skills, indulge your enquiring mind: that's modern life on an ocean wave.

The only drawback is that so many options can be confusing. Don't worry. A good travel agent can point you to a cruise line that suits your interests and budget, and there's a wealth of information online.

Here's what to think about when booking your first cruise:

1. Start early. Last-minute cruise deals are becoming rare. Plan at least four months in advance to get the best price and cabin choice.

2. Choose the ship. Size, amenities, entertainment options, luxury levels and ambience vary greatly, so do your research.

3. Choose the cruise. Destination, style of shore tour and cruise length – from three days to many months – should be considered.

4. Check inclusions. Most package deals cover meals and onboard activities and entertainment. But you usually pay extra for drinks, shore excursions or speciality restaurants.

5. Upgrade. Pay for the best cabin category you can afford, especially if marking a special occasion. A larger cabin, higher deck and larger external window (even a balcony) is worth the extra.

6. Think about excursions. Standard city tours can be enjoyable – and cheaper – on your own. Spend money on more interesting options, such as scenic flights or cultural visits.

7. Make plans. You don't have to pre-book shore excursions, spa treatments or speciality restaurants, but doing so beats the onboard rush and can save you money.

8. Book travel insurance. It covers you against costly cancellation fees, delays and medical emergencies.

9. Extend. Often you get little scheduled time in departure and arrival ports, so consider booking hotel nights, so you can relax before and afterwards.

Before you sail, you get a package of information giving details of your itinerary, ship and what to expect. Keep luggage to a minimum, since cabin storage can be limited. However, bear in mind that some ships have an evening dress code, while shore excursions may require recreational wear.

There's something thrilling about pulling away from the dock and setting sail. The first night usually comes with an extra buzz and party-like atmosphere. Next day, passengers settle into their own rhythm, whether it's a busy social round or quiet time for two.

Many people cruise just to enjoy the resort-like facilities of the ship: not only swimming pools, spas, casinos and cinemas but everything from ice-rinks to climbing walls and croquet lawns. You can attend cooking or language workshops, dance lessons or trivia competitions. Comedy clubs, Broadway-style shows and circuses provide evening entertainment. It's entirely your choice to do as much or as little as you like.

Shore excursions are also optional so, if you want, you can stay on board or go ashore by yourself. These organised, pre-planned group tours cover sightseeing in ports, inland trips, or activities such as snorkelling, scenic flights, beach barbecues or white-water rafting. Time in port may be a few hours or the entire day and evening in larger cities.

Most of all, as you embark on your first cruise, don't worry too much: first-timer cruisers aren't uncommon. Cruise staff are generally very helpful, while regular cruisers – those old salts with the wind in their hair – are happy to explain how things work. Just relax and enjoy. If you think sailing into the sunset is something that only happens in romance novels, it's about time you tried it for yourself.

CONSIDER THIS: TOP CRUISES

Start your cruising in Australia or New Zealand. From short trips to major journeys, large cruise liners to intimate ships, our own backyard offers an affordable experience for everyone.

  • QUEENSLAND: P&O Cruises takes in the pleasures of the Whitsundays, Cairns and Port Douglas
  • BARRIER REEF: Short, small-ship cruises with Coral Princess to Cairns, Townsville and Lizard Island. 
  • NORTHERN COAST: The Barrier Reef, Cape York, Arnhemland and Kakadu on a remarkable journey with Coral Princess.
  • KIMBERLEY: Orion Expedition Cruises combines luxury and adventure; some itineraries focus on Aboriginal art. 
  • TASMANIA: P&O Cruises sets sail to colonial history and national parks.
  • GORDON RIVER: Lady Jane Franklin II explores southwest Tasmania's rugged wilderness on day cruises.
  • MURRAY RIVER: Captain Cook Cruises offers a four-night float on a paddle steamer.
  • AUSTRALIAN CIRCUMNAVIGATION: Sail around the entire continent from Sydney in 28 nights on Dawn Princess.
  • AUSTRALIA TO NEW ZEALAND: Cruise from Sydney to Auckland over 12 nights on Celebrity Century.
  • NEW ZEALAND: Mid-size MS Zaandam takes in New Zealand's superb scenery, including Milford Sound and Bay of Islands.

To find out more about cruises in Australia and New Zealand, go to individual cruise-line websites, or browse these useful pages:

www.cruisingaustralia.com covers Australia only, from the big ships all the way to scenic harbour cruises.

www.cruiseaway.com.au is clear and comprehensive, with a useful overview of cruise lines and destinations.

www.cruising.com.au includes the detailed itineraries of just about every cruise imaginable.

www.cruises.com.au has a news section to keep you abreast of the latest in cruising.

www.creativecruising.com.au highlights some smaller, more interesting cruise options.





    COMMENTS

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    Busybee
    31st Mar 2012
    7:54pm
    The information is good, I know nothing about cruises but am considering doing one.Busybee.
    OLD MILL
    1st Jun 2012
    6:11pm
    Good information, wondering about tips and gratitudes, are they included in price?
    OLDMILL
    pixii
    4th Jun 2012
    9:49am
    Tips usually direct to your cabin steward and waiter in dining room

    , but most big ships have a daily amount they
    add to your account which is for all other crew to share, people you don't see.

    You have the right to have the amount deleted or altered on your account at end when cruise ends

    Pixi. Previous passenger & soon again in August. Enjoy if you go
    Dany
    27th Feb 2013
    5:23pm
    I am cruising since 5 years now so I know, ,the tips and gratitudes are included with P@O all other cruises charge you $11,50 or $12.00 US a day.I gave normally additional Tips,like $20 cash to waitress 2013 cruise and to our roomservice.I ordered also Breakfast in the room especially if we were on land and I had a Tour booked and gave $1 US normally tip. I always changed cash into small notes for that reason.
    Sweet pea
    4th May 2013
    9:52pm
    Does anyone have any information about spending a few months or longer on a ship? I feel that I need a life changing experience before its too late.
    Gra
    2nd Sep 2013
    11:21am
    Perhaps you should enquire with one of the cruise lines regarding employment. From what I learned while talking with crew on my last cruise ship, they are usually employed on short term contracts. The pay isn't great but if you pick the right company, you could be in for the time of your life.
    Helen-gran
    23rd Sep 2013
    7:04pm
    I was fortunate enough to do a world cruise, Sydney to Sydney, last year - 104 days, with Princess. Met many pensioners, some of whom go every second year or so - depends on your savings priorities! A wonderful life, visiting new places & also having relaxing sea days. Advantages of cruising (ocean & river) is that you unpack once & all meals are included.
    Golfer
    24th Jun 2013
    1:18pm
    I'm thinking about a European river cruise. You know, the typical Amsterdam to Budapest 15 day cruise.
    Has anyone done that cruise or similar. If so, which cruise company (there's so many) and how was the experience?
    Helen-gran
    23rd Sep 2013
    7:12pm
    Wonderful river cruising between Amsterdam & Budapest. All shore excursions (choice of 2 every day) plus all meals & lovely local wines with dinner - all included. For Aussies, the Aussie companies are best because there are more Aussies on board! I've travelled with APT (Budapest to Amsterdam) & Scenic Tours (Basel to Amsterdam) - both were excellent in every way. I've also done the 7 nights between Budapest & the Black Sea, but with another company, that doesn't attract as many Aussies. It's long flights to Europe, so do as much as you can before facing the long flights back home.
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    3:59pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    3:59pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    3:59pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    3:59pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    4:00pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    4:00pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    4:02pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    4:02pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    4:02pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Fran
    17th Aug 2015
    4:02pm
    I wish I had the money to do this cruise "Golfer" however my Brother and his wife did it last year with APT, they never stop talking about it. They will be backing up again for sure. So that to me speaks volumes, as they watch their pennies!!
    So go and have a wonderful time. Just reading the brochures makes me salivate!!
    Gra
    2nd Sep 2013
    11:31am
    This is good information. Regarding tipping, as pixii said, most cruise lines charge a set amount per day which on our last cruise our travel agent included in the fare, some others on the cruise had it deducted from the onboard account that was set up at the time of boarding.
    The tips collected this way are divided up among the behind the scene crew. Other crew such as bar staff and cabin stewards rely on tips from the passengers.
    Any shore excursions should be booked with the cruise line rather than on shore. This way you can be sure you are going to be back onboard before the ship sails. Go on a shore excursion with anyone else and you are totally reliant on them getting you back to the dock on time and there is no guarantee that is going to happen.
    Helen-gran
    23rd Sep 2013
    8:52pm
    Quite often the shore tours offered by local companies are much cheaper, more flexible & very few problems with return to ship - they do it all the time. You can check the reviews on TripAdvisor or join the conversations for your particular ship/cruise on Cruise Critic & make new friends even before you board! I've successfully done "private tours" with small groups (organised through the Cruise Critic members) in Mumbai, Jordan & Iceland. The itineraries are very flexible to the group's needs.
    Blossom
    6th Apr 2016
    2:33pm
    With some cruise companies you can pay a set amount added into your account when booking.
    Sweet pea
    23rd Sep 2013
    7:21pm
    Gran. Somehow I don't think the Cruise lines will employ someone of my age! but thanks.

    Gra. Could you be more specific about your cruise Sydney-Sydney with Princess? Which one and how much please.
    Helen-gran
    23rd Sep 2013
    8:57pm
    Sweet pea - Princess is currently advertising for the 2014 world cruise (check their website). They depart the southern hemisphere in May, in order to be in the northern hemisphere during summer. Cheapest price for 104 nights is about $19,000 per person, twin share inside cabin.
    Whatsnext
    31st Jan 2014
    6:26pm
    I am about to depart on my first long cruise on QE2 and am wondering how much local currency I should get before departing. Has anyone got a suggestion?
    Helen-gran
    31st Jan 2014
    11:45pm
    These ships are "cashless" in that everything you spend on board, including the price of any booked shore tours, is put on your ship card. You settle your account by credit card either at the end of the cruise, or after each segment on a long cruise. For Europe these days, it's great with just the Euro, though if you want to spend on-shore in UK, you would need UK Pounds. American dollars go a long way in many ports. But I find it's acceptable these days to use a credit (or even debit card) on-shore. I have made great use of the GE Money 28 degrees Mastercard - no annual fee & no exchange rate charges. Enjoy your cruise - a great ship with great itineraries!
    Sweet pea
    31st Jan 2014
    10:28pm
    Thank you for all the suggestions you gave re. cruising; I really appreciate it. I have done a complete turn around in that I decided to sell my home, move up to the Gold Coast and live stress free in a Retirement village.
    Helen-gran
    31st Jan 2014
    11:38pm
    Hi Sweet pea - I hope you are enjoying retirement village life. I have also recently sold home & moved into a retirement village. Loving the lifestyle but still cruising as well. About to book for "around Australia" at the end of this year.
    gypsyfeet
    1st Feb 2014
    7:53pm
    From the above list, I cannot understand why you have not mentioned Princess Cruises. They have won heaps of awards. I did my very 1st cruise with them just a 4 nighter test cruise to find out what sort of cruiser I would make. It was magic, I even had breakfast in bed, my biggest treat. So much was included I came back with enough money to put a deposit on my next & longer cruise - I'm Hooked!
    also take a look at: www.ozcruiseclub.com.au a free social club for cruise addicts, so helpful & friendly.
    Helen-gran
    1st Feb 2014
    10:13pm
    You're right about Princess, gypsyfeet. I have cruised enough days with them to reach the "elite" status where you get lots of extra perks. P&O as well. But everyone has their own favourite cruise lines. My next cruise is with Holland America (my 3rd with them) & have also done 2 earlier cruises with Costa. Loved them all! With sailings starting out of Australian ports, the currency is usually in Australian dollars so your onboard account requires no conversion. They also realise that Aussies do not like to tip - and we don't want to change that because things are expensive enough for us as it is! So their tipping is included within the fare structure. I'll look up the link that you gave. Following your ship's Roll Call on Cruise Critic is also great, as you get to "know" people before you even board & they always arrange a get-together to put faces to names. Where are you going on your "longer cruise"?
    Mary
    1st Mar 2014
    9:45am
    Having just come home from a 35 day cruise with Princess - the things I noticed are -

    All ships are different - even with the same Company e.g. Princess so unable to definitely recommend one over the other

    Every port on the itinerary is not guaranteed - some are only accessible by tender boat (no dock) and often are unable to go into because of weather e.g. Easter Island, Norfolk Island, ( always check if tender port)
    Longer cruises (outside school holidays) more mature passengers - shorter cruises more children and more younger crowd who may indulge in more alcohol
    There are cabins available for handicapped passengers, with the staff very helpful to those in wheelchairs and with walking difficulties
    The lower midship decks have definitely less movement and therefore better for those with slight seasickness tendencies (doctor on board will be able to assist with seasickness etc.)
    Mary
    1st Mar 2014
    9:45am
    Having just come home from a 35 day cruise with Princess - the things I noticed are -

    All ships are different - even with the same Company e.g. Princess so unable to definitely recommend one over the other

    Every port on the itinerary is not guaranteed - some are only accessible by tender boat (no dock) and often are unable to go into because of weather e.g. Easter Island, Norfolk Island, ( always check if tender port)
    Longer cruises (outside school holidays) more mature passengers - shorter cruises more children and more younger crowd who may indulge in more alcohol
    There are cabins available for handicapped passengers, with the staff very helpful to those in wheelchairs and with walking difficulties
    The lower midship decks have definitely less movement and therefore better for those with slight seasickness tendencies (doctor on board will be able to assist with seasickness etc.)
    Helen-gran
    1st Mar 2014
    11:37am
    Some good points, Mary. Hope you enjoyed ALL your cruise!
    I think the choice of ship depends on price, length of time you have to spare & the itinerary. Of course, it's always an advantage if it's a round trip from an Aussie port, but some great destinations can only be achieved after 10 hour flights or so. You limit yourself sadly if only leaving from Australia. I've found the long flights worth it for Europe river cruises, Mauritius & Indian Ocean, Asia - South China Sea.
    RosePerth
    22nd Mar 2014
    12:37pm
    I'm going on my first cruise this September - 2 weeks Mediterranean. I booked nearly a year in advance and got a really good price on an ocean view cabin with a low single supplement so I'm very happy. Can't wait for the departure date to finally arrive! I'm torn between the 28 Degrees card and Cashpassport card. Anyone with thoughts on which is the best?
    anne-marie
    11th Jun 2014
    5:51pm
    Well, Rose. Cash passport card was easy for thieves to break into. My husband's wallet was stolen in Paris and it took the thief about 1/2 to 3/4 hour to take 2,000 Euros from our cash card. They also took over $5,000 from our credit card (master card) and $120 from our Visa debit card. So, take your pick! Good luck.
    Anne-Marie.
    Helen-gran
    11th Jun 2014
    10:52pm
    Rose - If you are mainly in European countries using the Euro, it's easiest to get a supply of Euro before you leave Australia. Post Office now has Amex(?) agency, or try Travelex, or cash through your bank. Your ship's cabin has a safe, so leave most of your cash in that & just take ashore what you may need. I use the 28 Degrees MasterCard as a credit card for larger purchases. They have just made a fee for cash advances, so it's no longer worth putting money into credit on that card before you go. Expensive getting local cash change on board the ship. But as you get all your meals on board, there's not much extra you need, especially if you are doing ship's tours & have booked them to your account. You could keep your debit card in your safe & just take it if you are running short of cash.
    Hasbeen
    29th Sep 2014
    1:05pm
    Better still, buy a yacht, get a few sailing lessons, & go see some of last century's real beauty spots that no cruise ship ever gets anywhere near. It's not really too hard, I've done 53,000 nautical miles, & was only terrified once.

    If that is too much for you, at least book yourself on a yacht or launch [100Ft] operating out of somewhere like Honiara in the Solomons. Nothing like having one of the locals from a village leading you along a path to a creek, then declare, "dis pella [fella] belong drink", pointing up stream, & dis pella belong swim, [bath], pointing down stream.

    Sitting down to a chunk of Spanish Mackerel, done in a genuine stone underground oven at atoll village aint bad either.

    Leaves those big tin boats for dead.
    Helen-gran
    29th Sep 2014
    4:54pm
    "To each their own" as the saying goes. I couldn't imagine anything worse! Love the relaxing & wonderful meals on a cruise ship or river boat ship - not too large. You get to some wonderful places - port tours use the local guides & transport by smaller boat or vehicle to local places. I want a great holiday with places of interest, wonderful scenery & photos to look at in future years. Alaska Inside Passage with glaciers; around Cape Horn & more glaciers; islands of the Pacific, French Polynesia, islands of the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Suez Canal, Panama Canal & lots more! About 200 days at sea, so far, with about 35 days river cruising on the Danube, Main, Rhine & Moselle.

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    23rd May 2015
    12:29pm
    My wife and I have sailed off Australia a number of times with Princess and have found the ship, cabin, crew, food, and entertainment top shelf and real good value for money. We're going again in a few months and are really looking forward to it.
    Anonymous
    26th May 2015
    10:07am
    Relatives are at the moment enjoying a Royal Caribbean cruise in the Pacvific and seem to be loving every minute. Being relatively new to Australia, I would like to do some cruising around Australia. I have plans to do a APT Kimberley cruise in a few months. Has anyone done this cruise?
    randy112
    21st Aug 2015
    9:25am
    I would love to go on a cruise, and with the way things are going, I think writing about SYSTEM_CONFIG_INFO errors, is starting to pay off.
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    9:25am
    I would love to go on a cruise, and with the way things are going, I think writing about SYSTEM_CONFIG_INFO errors, is starting to pay off.
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