A cruise is a great way to travel and with the amount of sales that are often happening you can get your room and food for 7 nights as well transport to some incredible islands for about 500 USD (700 AU). My experience is based on traveling with P&O cruises from Australia but after speaking to some people who have travelled on other cruises out of America and Europe I think my travel tips on how to get the most out of your cruise are still pretty relevant and useful.
Firstly… the food!
There are so many options on board but I was about 3 cruises in before I discovered I could live like a hobbit and enjoy breakfast and second breakfast and elevenses. The ships that I have been on have restaurant as well as the buffet. I was under the impression you had to pick one. This is not true. You can do both. You can go back as often as you want. When you are in the restaurant you may get whatever you want. You don’t have to pick 1 entrée, 1 main and 1 dessert. You want 4 entrees and no main and 2 desserts… you order it. If you have special dietary requirements you are often more restricted to the restaurant and you generally have to put your order in the previous night. Which makes you the star of the table because you get a preview of the next days menu before everyone else.
Secondly… the drinks packages!
If your cruise offers a drinks package… take it. Even if you are not a heavy drinker you can still benefit from getting the soft drinks package. You can get free soft drinks at meal times however if you’re like we are that’s not enough and it’s good to be able to get soft drinks, coffees and bottled water throughout the cruise at any time of day. The cocktail package is also highly recommended if the cruise you are on offers one then take it. This is only available on 7 day P&O cruises and I am not sure what other cruise companies offer, but basically if you plan on having more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day it will save you money.
Cruise ship staff
Make them your friend. They work long days and spend long periods of time away from their family and friends. Want your glass kept full? Your room to have that extra special touch? Your bath towels made into swans? Wanna be reminded what recreational activities are coming up? Be nice. Go that extra mile for them and they’ll go that extra mile for you. Keep in mind they can’t do everything you ask but if you ask nicely enough and they’ll definitely try to. We got pretty lucky on one of our cruises when we made such good friends with the Cruise ship staff that one of them knew our routine and would bring our cocktails to us when we sat down and we even got an exclusive invite to the Captains party by befriending one of the Entertainment staff.
Cruise ship activities
These are usually always free except Bingo and Shore Tours. Listen out for them and check out the daily schedule as it comes around to get the most out of your cruise. Many of them have some pretty cool prizes or you could end up with a number of key-rings and magnets. We were lucky enough to win $200 off a shore tour on our honeymoon just because I went along to one of the activities I normally would have skipped over. So we got to do the fancy tour that we didn’t think we would be able to.
I always love the photo packages they cruise ships offer and if you are just a couple the USB of every photo you get is a great deal. If you’re part of a larger group you will have to go with one of the per photo packages which are a more expensive. Make sure to check their deals as there are two types of photographers and you can’t mix and match between packs. Also keep your eyes peeled for comps and events that offer prizes for the photos. Obviously this is not an essential item but it’s something I always love to do. So I suggest getting the USB only pack and printing your own later or let’s be honest, pics are mainly for social media these days anyway. You’ll find professional photo opportunities around every corner on your cruise. They are usually always at theme nights, at the entry to the ship, at every shore you stop at and available almost every night at dinner.
Cruise Travel Insurance
Get travel insurance! No if’s or buts about it. Once you leave your country and you are in international waters everything is a million times more expensive. We were unfortunate enough to experience getting very unwell on a cruise and had to see the onboard doctor who made us get off the ship, fly home and go straight to hospital. The total cost was $3500 but luckily our insurance was able to cover it for us or we would have been in a terrible position. I was always of the mind of “It won’t happen to me.” “It’s a cruise what could possibly happen.” Thankfully my partner was always of the mind of “Let’s get travel insurance just in case.” Now I would not travel without it.
What to pack to get the most out of your cruise
- Snacks – In case all the meals aren’t enough or if you are like me and need something to eat after drinking. Know that what is $1-2 in your local store is $8 on the ship.
- Travelcalm – Even if you don’t think you get travel sick a stormy night can change that entirely and unless you have recently won the lottery buying them on board will break the bank.
- Lanyard – This is a great way to not lose your room pass and once again more expensive to buy on board. However I say this every time and I always end up getting one on board because I like the diamanté ones that P&O sells.
After three and a half cruises the most important piece of advise I can offer on how to get the most out of your cruise ship trip is to just relax and have fun. Eat, drink and see this wonderful world in perhaps the most convenient and stress-free way possible. Happy cruising!
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