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Published September 18th 2014
Hints & tips for a great cruise holiday
Have you thought about taking a cruise but are not sure what is involved? It can be daunting if you've never done it before - what do you pack, will you get sea-sick, will your husband go stir-crazy? To help you get started here is my beginners guide to cruising.
We recently experienced a cruise to New Caledonia on the Carnival Spirit. We had a great time and can not recommend Carnival Cruises enough. Everything on board was well-organised, staff were friendly and helpful, the food was excellent - the list goes on......
But as cruise novices we found there were a few things that we would have liked to have known beforehand. (Note: We did the 8 night cruise from Sydney to New Caledonia stopping at Noumea, Mare & Isle of Pines)
What to take with you: Lanyards - for your room key card / sail & sign charge card. You can buy lanyards on board but if you've got them lying around at home, just take them with you and save a few dollars
Snorkel gear - to use at the ports. You can hire or buy it on board but it can get expensive so if you have some just take it. We didn't worry about flippers, we just took snorkels & masks
Reef shoes - definitely need these for snorkelling and swimming at the ports. You can buy them on board (I think they were 2 pairs for $20) or you can get them from Big W etc before you go.
Insect repellent (RID, Aeroguard) - it needs to be Tropical Strength and contain DEET - to protect against Zika fever which is spread by mozzies.
Glen 20 - to spray the air conditioning vent in your cabin each day. Don't know if it helps but it can't hurt to give it a go
Highlighter - to highlight the activities you are interested & times they are on in the Fun Guide each day
Day of departure You are asked to complete an online check in form before your departure date (you can do this up to 6 months in advance). It is at this time that you choose the time you want to board the ship. It is useful to know that you can use the services on board - swimming pools, bars, buffet etc - from the moment you board and before the ship departs. Just be aware however that your suitcase may not be available until later in the day. It is suggested that you take a small carry-on bag with the essential items (medication, swimming costume, change of clothes) you may need until you are able to get in to your stateroom. Once you arrive at the terminal you are able to leave your suitcases with the baggage staff straight away. This made it possible for us to go and have some lunch at a cafe before boarding without having to drag our suitcases around with us. There were plenty of cruise staff at the terminal to direct us and answer any questions. We found the embarkation process straight forward and it didn't take long at all.
Top Deck - Carnival Spirit
I was worried about this because my daughter gets car sick all the time. However we wore the elastic wrist bands and also had motion-sickness tablets and we were OK. We found the first night and the last night were the roughest on the boat and the worst in regards to feeling sea sick. But we did not throw up, just felt nauseous. (Tip: Don't pay $20 at the Chemist for the wrist bands. You can get them at bargain stores for $2 and they do the same job)
On our 8 night cruise there were two elegant nights, one Mexican night and one Caribbean / beach party night. Dressing up for theme nights is optional but a lot of people did and it just adds to the atmosphere and fun.
The buffet can get very crowded, especially at peak meal times. If you don't do crowds or queues well, then I would suggest going for the "anytime dining" option in the Empire Room. Here you can stroll in at any time from 5.30 - 9.00pm and you will be seated by the wait staff. There is a different 3 course menu every day as well as standard dishes available every day. The service was fantastic and the waiters got to know us by name.
For the kids in the dining room there is a separate kids menu or they can also choose from the adults menu.
Dining in the Empire Room
There is free water, tea & coffee or cordial available at the buffet or there is an unlimited soft drinks & juice package you can purchase. We found it was worthwhile for the kids if they were having 2 or more soft drinks or juices per day.
Our kids weren't that interested in Kids Club as they would have been split up in different age groups but there are a lot of activities available. Age groups are 2 - 5 years, 6 - 8 years, 9 - 11 years, 12 - 14 years and 15-17 years and they are quite strict about it.
The family entertainment we enjoyed on our cruise was a magician, a family comedy show with 2 different comedians & the singer in the piano lounge. The kids also went to a kids movie one afternoon. We also did a lot of trivia.
Overall it was a great relaxing holiday, having all your meals cooked for you and your room serviced twice a day (that's what I call a real holiday). Everything was so well organised at the ports and getting on and off the ship was easy with few delays. We would definitely recommend a cruise to anyone young or old. And with so many cruise ships calling Sydney home now, we really are spoilt for choice.
Thanks for the great info. It really helps as this is my first time and Iam bit confused what to take on board with me as I got 9 and 5 years old children. Atleast got an idea now. Looking fwd for travelling.