A cruise is ultimately holiday on water in a floating hotel. It offers you a chance to escape the daily grind and relax in a hassle and worry-free environment. You get to “check out” from the real world and social activities, sports facilities, meals, parks and entertainment abound. The great thing about cruising is that all your necessities are on board and at your service

So you’ve taken the plunge and booked a cruise. What can you expect from this type of holiday? Everything!

All meals are included

It is standard for a cruise ship to have all meals included, although some charge extra for specialty restaurants. Almost all of the larger ships will have a main dining room offering self-serve buffets where you can eat when, and with whom, you like.

Other ships (especially the high-end cruise lines) offer a range of “alternative” dining experiences. It is almost always essential to book prior to embarkation, or at the beginning of your cruise as these often book out, especially if the restaurant has a good reputation! Most cruise lines have a surcharge for alternative dining venues – anywhere between $15 and $50 a person.

Will I get ‘cabin fever’?

We can’t answer for everyone, obviously, but there is much more to do on board than you would expect. There is plenty of entertainment, whether it be Broadway-style performances, cocktail parties, well-stocked libraries, movie nights and kids clubs. This varies hugely between ships and you’ll find larger ones have an abundance of entertainment, while smaller ships focus on quiet leisure time. There is plenty of open space on the top decks and promenades, but look at a ship plan before you choose.

How inclusive is all-inclusive?

This really depends on the ship and line you are cruising with. Sometimes this could be as much as airfares, transfers, all a la carte meals, minibar and an open bar (top-shelf liquor may come at an extra charge). However, even though your cruise could say “all-inclusive” it does not mean everything is going to be free. Laundry, spa treatments and medical treatments are all examples of things that you will need to pay extra for. On standard cruise ships, drinks are not included so check this out with your travel agent before you book.

Am I going to be able to contact back home?

Most ships offer internet access although it can be expensive and unreliable. However, more and more ships are offering wi-fi, either in certain areas of the ship or sometimes in cabins, which is helpful if you’re a busy person who still needs to be in touch while on holidays. Also, while most rooms have a television on board, unless they were built within five years only bulky CRT sets are standard. Your cell phone will work on the ship, but chances are when you dock you’ll have to pay the local rate for mobile calls.

What about the noise?

Yes, especially the larger ones. Between music, announcements, and constant activities there is a lot going on in one day and a lot of people going about their holidays. It’s always a good idea to bring some earplugs or your own iPod if you want to get away from all the background banter for a little while.

If you’re after a quieter experience you may prefer smaller boutique ships as they have less, or no, loud announcements.

Am I going to be stuck on board?

Unless you’ve booked an ocean crossing or a cruise to nowhere, you’ll be able to get off the ship in port almost every day. Excursions are also a big part of the cruising experience and many options are offered in each port, even on smaller ships. These can be expensive also and sometimes it’s fun to grab a map and explore a port on your own. And no, you don’t have to get off in port if you’re having too much fun!

Most importantly, remember to make the most of your time on board and enjoy your cruise. The best thing about a cruise hip holiday is that you can do as little or as much as you like and you’ll undoubtedly meet lots of like-minded travelers along the way. Check out our five tips for a first time cruiser

Will I get seasick?

Unless you get very bad weather, the chances are slim as today’s ships have giant stabilisers on each side of the hull to counteract the rocking. The Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise ships says that less than three per cent of people get seasickness. However, if you do begin to feel ill try some of these age-old remedies:

Go to the centre of the ship as close to the water as possible as this is where there is less rocking.

Get outside to the fresh air for a walk around. This will stabilise your legs and get them used to the motions.

Focus on a steady point – the horizon is the best place.

Eat lightly and minimise alcohol intake.

Ginger is said to be a good antidote for seasickness so chew on some dried ginger or sip some tea. If all else fails, take a seasickness tablet!

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