Going On 100 Cruises Taught Me 7 CRUCIAL Cruise Tricks

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

I’ve Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

My first cruise was with P&O Cruises in 2004, and I loyally stuck with them for many cruises. Then, I tried Cunard – only because I wanted to do their famous Transatlantic crossing – and everything changed. That learning experience set in motion the projection of my cruising journey, as I’m going to explain.

#1 Friends and Enemies

My Cunard experience was so different, and better, than my P&O ones and I wondered if by not constantly trying different cruise lines I would miss out.

I came to think of cruise lines like I do my friends. While I have a best friend and a close group of friends I hang out with a lot, I have other friends I turn to for different occasions. Some are better to party with, others to go to the theatre, hike or just hang out with. That’s how I see cruise lines.

I have some that are like close friends and spend more time with. Cunard, as I love the Britishness, formality, dressing up, and the enrichment program. Oceania with its smaller ships and incredible food. Holland America with its global destination immersion, classic ships, and the Music Walk. Silversea for their incredible expedition teams and stylish ships. AmaWaterways for river cruises with smart ships, good food and local immersion excursions.

However, I still go on many others. Just over 30 different lines on 70 different ships so far.

And that’s because I’ve found that choosing the right cruise line is so important trip by trip.

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

Right cruise line trip-by-trip

I lean towards Holland America and Princess when going to Alaska, as they are as the two longest established lines there.  Azamara, Oceania, and Windstar when going to a region I have been to before, as their smaller ships take me to more out of the way places I’ve not been that the bigger ships cannot.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises when doing a multi-generational trip with Mark, my partner, and his Mum, sister, and her late teen daughters – so there’s something for all of us.

Personally, I love going on small ships, but if I’m cruising with Mark, we go on bigger ships because he wants big shows and a busy casino with lots of people playing.

I learnt that having one favourite or only line is not the way to get the most from cruising.

Some push back when I say this. They argue sticking with a cruise line to build up loyalty and benefits is better. I am not as convinced, as the added credits, discounts, Wi-Fi, or dining don’t beat the experiences from changing and working cleverly to book deals that can more than compensate.

By the way, I have only been on one cruise that I have hated. And that is the one that taught me a second big lesson!

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

#2 Cabin Fever

On that first P&O Aurora cruise, I didn’t choose my cabin, it was a guaranteed one. I was allocated a great one, so kept doing that with great outcomes. I didn’t think about there being bad cabins until I went on a Costa Mediterranean trip and barely slept during the sailing due to the nightclub above.

That taught me that despite what anyone says, a cabin location will make or break a cruise.

Ever since this experience, I never go on a cruise without choosing my cabin. Over time I found a formula that works best to keep me away from potentially noisy venues. It’s booking a cabin surrounded on five sides by other cabins. Above, below, either side (with no interconnecting door to the next cabin) and always now opposite.

Having a cabin opposite also cuts the risk of noise and disturbances from crew access areas. Just two cruises ago, on a Cunard Queen Elizabeth Western Mediterranean, I forgot and despite having splashed out on a Princess Grill suite, opposite my door was the entrance to the crew area.

Cabin Stewards for the deck would come rattling in and out with their trollies, room service banging the day and night, and clattering of suitcases in and our on embarkation and disembarkation day.

Another thing I learnt is how great having a cabin midships is. We were allocated one on that first transatlantic and found it was brilliant to help avoid motion and seasickness.

But, I soon found being midship means being in the centre of the ship and equidistant to almost everything.

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

#3 Exploring The World

On that first cruise and for many cruises afterwards, I constrained myself by getting lured into the security of cruise line excursions because they’re convenient, vetted, and the ship would wait for me if they ran late.

Once I built the confidence to not get stressed about not getting back before all aboard time, it transformed my cruising experience.

Some of my best memories are the unexpected ones, not the carefully scheduled jog around local highlights on cruise line excursions.

Best memories

Things like Mark and I being driven about by a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur trying to scam us into buying fake Petronas Twin Tower tickets, and then us getting lost on the chaotic Metro system yet finding an amazing food market for lunch and the server telling us about a nearby alternative tower to visit to view the city.

Navigating the Tokyo metro while using a badly translated local App and stumbling across Pachinko Pinball arcades, and hitting a jackpot playing without any idea how or why.

I learnt strolling and exploring reveal the best port experiences ever.

You’ll know if you’ve watched any of my videos, I use the hop-on hop-off bus to assist this exploring, as they take me to the highlights or essential places, I get just enough background from the commentary, and I then jump off and explore.

Maybe it’s because I have done so many cruises and after being stuck at home for so long during pandemic shutdowns, but I have also learnt that places and ports are what makes cruising amazing.

Of course, the ship is still key and a destination too, but the places and the ports are more important. Discovery, exploring and seeing as many new ones is what I’ve learnt is best. Fewer sea days and more ports is what I have changed to through my cruising journey.

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

#4 Repetition

That’s why, when I chose itineraries, I’ve learnt to avoid going back to a place, and make sure I get the most from it the first time.

It first struck me on my second Mediterranean cruise. It was a different cruise line and ship, and we were excited, but we went to Livorno and visited Florence and Pisa, again, back to Monte Carlo, Barcelona, St Tropez, and Civitavecchia, for Rome.

As great as they all are, there are so many other places I could and should have been seeing in the Mediterranean. So now, I try to find itineraries with as many different ports – that’s when switching it up with big and small ship lines helps.

Even when I’m going to the Caribbean, which I love, I always try to get as many new islands and as many new places in as possible.

I found that cruising is better when every port is to be a new adventure. I don’t want to become a slightly jaded cruiser saying, “I’m not getting off today as I’ve been here 3 times before”. Every day should bring something new.

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

#5 Bucket Lists

I do have a caution about something I learnt, as I did more and more cruises.

That is the more places I went to, the list of places I wanted to go got longer, not shorter. Even though I have done 100 cruises, my list of where I want to go has never reduced.

Meeting other passengers and talking to crew always reveals new must-see places.

For example, I had always wanted to go to the Caribbean. But once I went on my first Caribbean cruise, I quickly realised it wasn’t enough. I spoke to people who highlighted trips and islands on Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, and Caribbean with partial Panama Canal cruises. Instead of crossing the Caribbean off my list, I came back with more islands and places to go.

When I did my first expedition cruise, I went to the Arctic, but the expedition team told exciting stories about Antarctica, the Galapagos and Greenland. They all went on the list.

And then I went on a river cruise on the Danube, and the list grew with rivers from around the world fellow guests insisted I must see.

I've Sailed On 100 Cruises And Learned These 7 Things

#6 Passion

Before I get to one of the biggest learnings about how cruising caters uniquely for people like me, I must mention that I learnt about halfway through my cruising journey that I could turn my cruising passion into a full-time venture with this Tips For Travellers channel – one that funds my cruising from the advertising YouTube runs.

And I am not the only one as there are others who gone full-time with their cruising channels on YouTube.  Perhaps you could too?

#7 Myself

One big thing I have learnt is that it’s okay, in fact, it’s great to cruise as a solo traveller.

All my early cruises were with Mark or friends. That all changed when I started to build the channel and started to cruise by myself.

Now 9 out of 10 of my cruises I go solo and while the massive downside is I still often pay the same price as if Mark was coming with me, the lines have over the years been changing from just being a place for couples.

Things like solo cabins and more solo deals are slowly coming, and there’s been a change of the experience once on board that is more welcoming. Cruise lines are learning to cater beyond just couples that it was when I started, and now better address needs of different travellers like solos, families (with Kids clubs, waterparks, baby changing toilets and menus), those with accessibility needs, multi-generational and even LGBT travellers.





Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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