Everyone should go on a cruise. Travelling by sea is so unlike any other way of travelling like by plane, train or automobile and a truly eye-opening experience. While it’s hard to truly encapsulate the adventure in a blog post, I want to share the things I've learnt through my experience with P&O with you. Alternatively, you can see all of these featured posts on my personal blog, Delizabethx.
For seven days my travelling party and I embarked on P&O’s Pacific Dawn ship to cruise around the south pacific islands including New Caledonia and Vanuatu. This was my first cruise, and looking back I believe many of the reviews I read in advance and information I got was misleading so I want to set it right, and while being my first cruise my advice is limited most of the information I’m sharing can be applied to other cruise lines and tours.
This first post is specifically targeting the basics and a few frequently asked questions you might be asking. Throughout the week I’ll be getting into more specific topics like shore tours, island stop offs, eating and drinking, and of course entertainment for all ages groups, from children to seniors.
- How expensive is it?
I suggest booking through a travel agent because you have access to competitive prices and information you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Some cruise lines are cheaper than others, some fares are all-inclusive and some aren’t and it’s important to shop around and find out what you’re entitled to. With P&O our meals, entertainment and cabin were all looked after but certain restaurants, activities, drinks and shore tours came at a price.
When you consider how expensive travelling can be after booking accommodation, meals, entertainment and getting around cruises can be significantly better value and more relaxing too because there’s less stress of organising your time.
- Aren’t cruises for newlyweds and the nearly dead?
No, and yes. Cruises cater to all ages and all different kinds of people. For children and teenagers, there are age appropriate activities and groups they can join which I’ll talk more about later. There are activities too that cater to seniors like ballroom dancing and bingo (but of course anyone can join in on) and for everyone else in between you can choose to see comedy acts, live music gigs and stage shows, wine and tequila tasting, high tea and competitions.
P&O cruise line too offers the largest adventure park at sea which was incredibly popular with children and teenagers, for the more active cruise-goers there’s a running track on the top deck and down below a spa and fitness centre.
- Will I get seasick?
Whether you do or you don’t it’s always better to be prepared because the truth is seasickness comes down the individual and the weather. Most ships have stabilisers installed and due to their incredible size also, you can hardly tell that you’re moving. Certain stretches of the ocean are more or less notorious for rocky sailing and the whole way out to the south pacific islands the rhythm of the boat went unnoticed, it wasn’t until the last day coming back to Brisbane that it was at its worse and a significant amount of people seemed unwell – including myself.
I suggest before setting off you get your hands on some ginger tablets, for a more natural way of dealing with nausea which unlike medicinal brands offers your body the chance to adjust to the ships movements and do not cause drowsiness. For times when the ship is at its worst medicated sea sickness tablets, such as Kwells, are great because the best thing to do is take them and go to bed then hopefully when you wake up you’ll feel better or be in a more stable position.
To avoid picking up or spreading any nasty bugs too it’s important you wash your hands often, and with P&O there was hand sanitizing stations all across the ship to ensure you’re clean and doing all you can to avoid getting ill.
- How safe are cruises?
All Titanic references aside, I’m convinced cruises are one of the safest ways to travel. They are governed by a rigorous amount of checks and regulations and on your first day, you have to undergo a guest emergency drill so you know what to do in the unlikely event that something goes wrong from the very start. In addition to a well-trained band of staff, there are medical professionals on board who can help you if you get into trouble and security cameras all around the ship so if something goes wrong, it is more than likely documented. You should still take necessary precautions like you would travelling on land, such as keeping important documents in provided safes, keeping an eye on children and not answering the door to strangers.
When you stop off at different destinations you have to think even more about security as you’re not protected by the ships procedures which I’ll touch on later.
- What if I get bored?
Only boring people get bored, and if you get bored with the never ending amount of things on offer then you are a very boring person. As mentioned above there are activities for all different kinds of people and if worse comes to worse I suggest bringing a good book and laying out on one of the sun-soaked decks.
- Will I get fat?
Whether you gain or lose weight on board is up to you. I actually lost weight from walking up and down several flights of stairs and swimming, but if you’re using the elevators and making poor food choices then you’ll probably gain. There are plenty of healthy food options and there’s a ship gym, jogging track and climbing walls to get plenty of exercise whilst on board.
- Can I stay in touch with home?
Every day a pamphlet with daily Australian news was available from reception and you can purchase internet access to get online if need be. While it wasn’t necessary for me to organise roaming with my service provider, I’m sure this can be arranged if need be. Though one of the most amazing things socially on board was that unlike resorts on the land, being in the sea with no phone connection makes people engage with one another differently and that was one of the most beautiful things about being on the ship and something to consider and appreciate.
- What is the food like?
There are so many options including lighter meals, vegan or vegetarian options and different dining experiences to be had that even if you’re a fussy eater like myself, you’re more than likely going to find something that appeals to you and most of the different eateries are included in your fare so you have room to check them all out.
- Do I need a passport?
Only if your cruise stops in foreign countries so be sure to check if a passport is required for your trip.
- Will I fall overboard?
Probably not. Millions of people cruise every year and very few of them fall overboard. To put this into context, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning (0.00014% chance) than fall off the ship, and in case you do the staff is trained and does drills to practice for that specific emergency.
- How do I pay for things on board?
This is taken care of with your cruise card. Your cruise card is you’re on board ID, room card and method of payment on the ship.
- What are the rooms like?
There are different kinds of rooms to choose from that accommodate different parties but the truth is you spend little time in your cabin aside from sleeping, showering and dressing. In my cabin there were two sets of bunks to sleep my mum, two sisters and I, a modest bathroom, dressing table, porthole and lots of hanging space. It was a small room, arguably fairly outdated but it was comfortable and clean. I met people onboard who spent thousands on suites and private balconies and most of them seemed to agree that it wasn’t worth it.
- What should I pack?
I’m going to make a detailed list of things I think you’d need on a cruise, some I was grateful to have with me and some things I wish I didn’t forget to take (which is which I’ll let you guess) but things like sunscreen, bathers, comfortable shoes and costumes for the onboard parties make up part of that list. The rest you’re going to have to wait and see.
Published by Deanne Elizabeth