You’re about to discover how to ensure you have a more relaxing and enjoyable cruise vacation. How? By avoiding the 5 things I see passengers repeatedly doing wrong on every single cruise I have been on for the last 10 years. I’m going to tell you what they are, how to spot if you are doing them, and what to do if you ARE doing any of them
On my last Holland America Caribbean cruise, which I loved, I met a delightful young newlywed couple who were in their early twenties, and on their very first cruise. They were having a miserable time. They weren’t surrounded by people like them, they couldn’t party like they wanted, and said they didn’t feel catered for.
It reminded me of when I was having a great time on a Cunard Queen Mary 2 cruise out of Sydney. I met an Australian family who were going crazy, as they said there wasn’t anything they liked to do on board.
The focus on the ship was on enrichment lectures and formal nights. They wanted pool deck frolics, with belly flop competitions, drinking games and big disco parties late into the night like they had on their last cruise on Carnival. They hated wearing a jacket for all dinners.
They told to me, they were so bored they were considering leaving halfway through the cruise and flying home.
Virtually every discontented passenger I meet on cruises agree with me that the big thing they did wrong was choosing the wrong cruise line.
Why do people make the mistake of going on the wrong cruise line for them?
Most agree it is because they booked their cruise based on deals and prices, and not thinking about what was important to them. That was the case, for example, with both the young couple and the Australian family who had seen a great deal and leap on it.
Focus on what is important to you first, and then see how you can get that for the best price or value.
One trick I like to use is to find copies of the daily program online for any cruise line I have not been on. That gives good insight into what you will find on board. Of course, online reviews, YouTube videos and using a travel agent to check the line is right makes sense too.
But once you find a line that works for you, there is another thing I did that I should not have- and see many others doing too.
When I started cruising, I used one line, which was P&O Cruises as that was my first and worked just fine for me. I had no issues. It’s what I though cruising should be.
After many P&O Cruises, I went on Cunard, only because I wanted to do one of their famous Transatlantic Crossings. That was a revelation and eye-opener. I saw so many differences on the ship and in how things were done. There were many more things that I enjoyed more than on P&O, and found they met my needs better. And so, I then started only doing Cunard cruises for the next few years,
However, I was repeating the same mistake I made with P&O. I did not keep looking to see if another line was even better than Cunard in meeting my needs. The thing that opened my eyes to this was this channel, as I felt I needed to cover other lines and started trying them. I quickly found so many more lines that suited me.
Now when I book a cruise, I first review what is important to me, and ask which line currently best meets that. With lines and ships constantly introducing new features and facilitates, it may be a line I have not tried.
Next, I then dive deeper to see if that line or lines has the best itinerary in that destination.
For example, although many lines that meet my needs cruise in Alaska, I tend to book either Holland America or Princess, as they have been there longer and get better berths, get into Glacier Bay and own their own inland resorts for pre- and post-stays.
In the Caribbean, I like to cruise on a line like say Oceania on their smaller ships, as they call into smaller ports, and I don’t have to navigate the crowds on the bigger ships that mostly sail here.
You always need to always make sure you are on a cruise line that is right for you first. But then once you find one, don’t make the mistake of constantly revisiting your options – as I did with P&O and then Cunard.
Once you’ve found the right line, don’t mess things up by being pressurised into doing this next thing.
I asked one lady on my last cruise how her cruise was going, and she said “It’s a nightmare, we’re cruising with my mother-in-law. and she’s driving me crazy”.
A few days later I started talking to a guy on deck, and when I asked how his cruise was going, he said they were travelling with a couple for the first time who were their next-door neighbours. It was driving him nuts because the other couple insisted on doing everything together. Dining, going for drinks, to the shows, on the same excursion, sitting by the pool and so on.
I also met an extended family group travelling together that seemed to be having a great time. That was not that case I found when one of the younger guys in the group told me this was his least enjoyable cruise, as there was a constant battle around what they were all going to do and when and trying to balance out and satisfy everyone was proving challenging, and although he and his girlfriend wanted some time to themselves, they felt they could not do that without it causing a fuss and offence.
These encounters did get me thinking. Once a year, my partner and I take our mothers on a cruise. It dawned on me that those Mum cruises we approach differently to when we cruise as a couple. The Mum Cruises are all structured around where they want to go, what they want to do, when they want to do it – and not what we want.
I do not resent that, and we take them as they love it so much. But we do see and structure these trips as different and make compromises with them as priority, willingly.
To make trips with friend and family work you should insist on having a good and open discussion before you go (as difficulty as that may be). You need to agree how things will work, how decisions about what you do will be made, how much you will do together and any other ground rules.
We do that with our mothers before our trips. Better to do it before you go, than having the tension and resentment build that I saw in those other people I spoke that was getting in the way of a great cruise.
Being well prepared in other ways before a cruise can help avoid the next thing I see go wrong too
When I met Fran on a Mediterranean cruise, she was disappointed with how her cruise had played out, as she couldn’t go on the shore excursions she wanted to do and had missed out on seeing and doing lots of things she wanted to.
She told me she hadn’t really understood what was included and not included on a cruise, and only once on board realised that gratuities were being added to her account, that she had to pay for drinks, that the Wi-Fi that she needed was a cost. Her budget for excursions was blown and she ended up losing out seeing the things she came on the cruise for.
I probably didn’t help when I pointed out she had on the other hand missed out on some things that she hadn’t realised were included, like ice cream at the pool, pizza in a restaurant she had assumed had a charge and the shuttle bus into town.
She had made the mistake of not researching her cruise fully, and especially what was and was not included.
But even as a regular traveller I keep checking every cruise, as it keeps changing as lines keep adding and removing items from the included and exclusion lists.
And then what’s included often differs based on the grade I book. For example, on Celebrity a classic drinks package and standard Wi-Fi was included for the booking I made for one cruise in a standard balcony cabin, but a suite I booked on another has the premium drinks package and fast-streaming Wi-Fi included.
Not researching, checking out and exploring everything available and in detail is a mistake easily made, but, as one channel follower said to me, bloggers and vloggers like me help enormously because passengers have multiple ship tours, tips and advice videos and articles that do get into the nitty gritty – and so there is lots of help to avoid making this mistake.
Many of the cruises I did as cruising shutdown eased, were cruises to nowhere with no ports to work around the various rules and regulations. I got into numerous discussions on those trips about the merits of sea days.
And this revealed something that I had not fully thought through before.
It was best summed up by Frank, who I met on my Viking Venus cruise. He said when he started cruising the mistake, he made was thinking that every single day of cruise must have port.
After a few, he realised that was tiring and he wasn’t chilling out and getting to enjoy all the ship has to offer and do. Now he tries to book a cruise with a sea day or two as it builds in time to relax, unwind and take advantage of all those things that you might have discovered that are available on the ship that you won’t have time to do otherwise.
So many people since then have also said to me once they got into the hang of cruising, they now choose cruise itineraries that include sea days because they just have a much better vacation.
Pace yourself, breathe a little bit, relax a little bit, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that a sea day is a wasted day. It could add to your vacation.
If you want to know what very experienced cruise passengers told me they do to ensure an unforgettable cruise vacation, watch this video where i start with the one single most important thing they do. See you over there.
ABOUT TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Gary Bembridge’s Tips For Travellers aims to help you make more of your precious travel time and money on land and when cruising the oceans or rivers of the world. To help you, in every video I draw on my first-hand tips and advice from travelling every month for over 20 years and average of 10 cruises a year.
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