A Cruise? What To Expect When You Are Expecting

“We go on the cruise in a month!” “This time next week, we will be on the cruise!” “Tomorrow we will go on the cruise!”

It is amazing how quickly time flies by in the last few weeks leading up to your cruise. Especially so when it is your first cruising adventure. Not only that, but it can also become a little daunting for the would-be newbie. How does the baggage work? Will it be too noisy to sleep? Is the food any good? Will we hit 45 foot waves? Will the toilets block up and we have to endure the smell of poo for the entirety of our cruise?

Honestly, reading some of the facebook groups about cruising in the lead up had us wondering what exactly we had got ourselves in for. Had we made some gargantuan mistake? Happy to report that no we did not! Below are some of our “must knows” for the newbie cruiser.

Our cruising journey began in Brisbane on the Pacific Dawn. Our cruise of choice was with P&O Australia on their Pacific Island Hopper. It had been a toss up between a cruise or heading to Fiji for the wife’s 40th birthday. After a quick cost benefit analysis, the cruise won hands down. And now here we were, heading off under the Gateway Bridge on a big boat with wide eyes and full of a mix of optimism and nerves. Here is what we learned and wish we had known before boarding.

The Planning For Your Cruise

1) Book early. If you are in the first 200 passengers to book onto a cruise you will receive priority boarding and priority tenders. This in truth was a godsend. We were in the first group to board the Pacific Dawn. This allowed us to quickly get to our cabin, set up, have a quick look around before heading up to deck 12 to grab some lunch in The Pantry. Not to mention enjoying some nasty looks as we were able to bypass the huge line for the tenders and board when we wanted to.

2) After booking early, check your passports. Specifically expiration date. If any are nearing expiry, renew them immediately and avoid the priority processing fee’s which are ridiculously high! A lesson learned for us. 6 month validity! Upon your return date your passport needs to have a period of no less than 6 months validity remaining. Have 4 months remaining? Sorry, you can not go on your cruise. Fortunately, we realised this with 3 weeks remaining and I managed to get priority processing. $400 later and a nice new shiny passport arrived. $400 better spent than getting to the terminal and being told you can not go.

3) Drinks package. Get it. That is all. Thank me later.

4) Drop your baggage off upon arrival. Wave good bye to your baggage! As if by magic they will reappear later at your cabin door.

So, you have booked early, checked all is in order with your passports and you have dropped your baggage off. What about now that you have boarded?

Boarded – Now What?

5) “I am onboard, cocktails here we come!” Slow down, cowboy. You ain’t ready for that just yet. Head to your cabin. This can seem daunting at first. 14 decks to choose from -where the hell is my room, where do I go? Fortunately there are many crew members around to welcome you aboard and direct you to your cabin. It really is not hard however once you decipher how it works.

Let’s assume our cabin number is 9152

The first 1 or 2 numbers of your cabin number relates to your deck number. So in the case of our example, our deck would be “9”. If the cabin number was 11143, the deck number would be “11”

Grab a lift down/up to your deck number. On the walls near the lifts will be signs pointing to the left or the right (port or starboard) indicating which side is odd or even room numbers. Head to your relevant side then simply find your room number which are conveniently numbered in order – who’d have thought?

6) “Sweet, found my cabin. Where the hell is my baggage???” Chill, it is still coming.

7) “Ok cool, cocktail time!” Yeah, no not yet. Meet your room stewards. We had not been in our room more than 5 minutes before our two stewards had come forth to introduce themselves. Treat these guys with respect and courtesy and they will ensure your cabin will always feel home away from home. And remember, tip them well at the end of your cruise (I have seen suggestions of between $50-$100 per steward). Make sure you hand them the tips (in the supplied envelopes from reception) personally.

8) “Right, room found and met my stewards. Where is that bar?” I wonder how many alcoholics have been created on cruises? No! No cocktails yet! Book your restaurants straight away. Find your cabin, drop your carry on and go book some dinner seatings. These can book out quickly so act fast.

9) “Are we ready to go get that first cocktail yet?” Nope, don’t forget about the kids. Head to the relevant kids club area and register your kids. Trust us, the kids will be begging you to let them go back again and again.

10) “I get the feeling its still not cocktail time yet?” Well, you could. “Hurrah!” But we suggest heading to the Pantry asap and grab your lunch. It will get very crowded later as more and more passengers board the vessel so grab a table and fill your belly’s first.

11) “Now?” Yes…now you can go get your cocktail and get ready for the sail away party! Your cruise has just begun!

What else is useful to know for your cruise?

12) “I heard the toilets will clog up and all I will smell is poo the entire trip” “I heard the food is disgusting”. I also heard Santa is closing down his workshop and the Easter Bunny will be taking over Christmas deliveries from now on. There are a ton of stories on social media, and I am constantly amazed at the amount of people replying to some of these stories “oh, we may cancel our cruise.”

People, opinions are like a butt crack – everyone has one. Just because one cruise had blocked up toilets does not mean that that happens on every cruise. Only flush the supplied loo paper down the toilets. If everyone does that, happy days!

It is the same with food. If you are reading a comment regarding the food on social media just remember the person writing might be used to 5-star dining. We found the food perfectly adequate. The Pantry is fine, simple, hearty food that will keep you full. 5 star it is not and by the end of the cruise might start to feel a little same-same but its filling and that’s the main thing. Other options for dining are available for those with more refined tastes.

Watch out on Roast Pork night – the line up for that will be insane so if you want double helping of that dish, grab two plates at the start!

It’s fine to read others opinions on a cruise but in the end, the only opinion that should matter to your holiday is your own.

13) Get to know your ship and be in it to win it. On the first day there will be a treasure hunt “collect the stamps” activity. This is designed to teach you where everything is on the ship but you also get the chance to win some prizes. Given 2000 people on the ship, we were not going to do this draw. 1 hour before the prizes were drawn, we raced around the ship and got into the raffle just in time. Low and behold – boom, first prize and a dinner for two in Salt, the onboard restaurant by Luke Mangan.

14) A pre-conceived notion I had before going on the cruise that you would feel like a sardine on a ship with 2000 people all over the top of each other. This was so far from the truth. There is so many entertainment areas, so many activities and so much to do never did you feel overcrowded.

15) Seasickness. If you are unlucky enough to suffer from this I would suggest avoiding the stairs. The wife would feel the effects worse if using the stairs during rougher seas. Now, if you are being sick – do not set up camp over the toilet. While this may seem like a top idea, you will learn the water in the toilet will follow the rocking of the ship and in turn not help your situation one bit! Similarly with the shower. The water will wash back and forth as the ship rocks, not totally being sensitive to your plight.

16) What cabin to choose? We were initially disappointed when balcony cabins had been sold out leaving us with an ocean view cabin as next best option. In hindsight, we would not book balcony rooms now. The only time we were in our cabin was to shower, get changed or sleep. A balcony would have been useless for us. Same with the TV in the cabin. We did not need to use it once. If you are wondering if there are DVD players in the cabins, forget it. You wont need it.

17) Do as much or as little as you like. Each night you will get the ships newsletter on your bed outlining the activities for the next day. Make sure you pack a pen and a highlighter. This will help you plan your next day and fill out any forms that may come your way. Our nights would usually consist of taking the kids to the kids dinner at 4:30pm, in kids club by 5:30pm. We parents head off for dinner, catch the 7pm show in the theatre then enjoy drinks at one of the bars until it was time to pick our spawn up from kids club. On the subject of the live shows…

18) Catch the shows. These were fantastic and were all very different in terms of tone and style each night. Well worth it. Each show goes for just under 1 hour.

19) Kids dinner. Served in The Pantry from 4:30pm each day. Pick from typical kid-style meals for the little ones.

20) Theme parties. Enjoy and take part. Definitely an experience. The onboard shops will have theme items available for purchase but you are better off bringing with you, as the markups are HUGE

21) Shore tours. On our cruise we did a mix of activities. Noumea, we did a P&O organised tour (your tickets for which, assuming you book before your trip, will be in your cabin when you arrive), Lifou we did our own thing and in Port Vila we used the services of a very good and reliable local tour operator. If booking with P&O, book early via Cruise Control so that you can get a choice of the best tour times.

22) All ports/islands accepted Australian currency, but only notes. Make sure you take small denominations ($5 and $10) as change will usually be given in local currency.

23) Laundry. Washers and drawers using gold coins are available on the ship. There are also free-to-use irons in the laundry.

24) Duty Free. Our suggestion is to wait til Port Vila (if it is on your stop). Prices are cheaper on alcohol then what they were on the ship. We used our credit card for duty free shopping in Vila

25) How much money will you need? In all honesty, if you have the drinks package you could quite easily not spend another cent. All up we spent about $1,500. This included our Chou Chou train tour in Noumea, local tour in Port Vila, souvenirs, buying the P&O photos, duty free alcohol and ice cream. We spent more this trip being our first ever cruise, on our next cruise I’d expect to spend well less than this as we would not get the photos etc.

26) Glen 20 and wipes.  Spray your cabin / air con vents etc. Keep those bugs away!

27) When you get back….book your next cruise!

What other tips would you have for the first time cruiser? Leave your comments below.

45 thoughts on “A Cruise? What To Expect When You Are Expecting

  1. We always take a disinfectant spray such as Glen20 to spray the shower floor & air conditioning unit outlets, switches & handles! & packs of disinfectant wipes for public area handles, buttons, switches and railings!

    1. Great one! I will add this to the post!

  2. I have never been on a cruise but now I will plan for a cruise trip. Nice post!

  3. My husband and I love to travel yet have never gone on a cruise. We have looked at Disney cruises before and just haven’t pulled the trigger yet on booking one. Great advice for me, thank you!

  4. This post was perfect timing for me. I am 35 days out from my cruise and your tips will be super helpful. Thank you and happy new year!!

  5. I love cruises, and these are great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Love cruises! We just did Bermuda cruise in October and had a wonderful time! Great tips shared here, it’s exciting! Can’t wait to go again!

  7. I love cruising! Great post

  8. I have never been on a cruise during days, only on Ha Long Bay for a night, it was an amazing experience. Nice article!

  9. Oh wow… what a great experience! I never been cruising. I would definitely to go cruising one day. The problem is I have seasick. 😫

  10. So… That’s how cruise works. Damn, totally not exactly what I thought! How systematic, many events, considerations and marathon booking to do. Oh well, at least I acquired new knowledge from this.

    Your article will make a fine addition to my collection.

  11. What a wonderful write up!
    I’ve now clocked up 3 Cruises and this nails it! Ironically , hubby, our daughter (14) and myself have just booked the same cruise you just wrote about and it’s for my 40th (in June) 😀😀
    Cheers Ang

    1. Thanks for the great feedback! The island hopper is a great introduction to cruising. Can’t wait for our next one (also in June!) but heading to Fiji

  12. great travel hacks–will def use these tips

  13. I recently took my first cruise, my better half suggested it as she loved her first one on the Pacific Dawn, we took the Pacific Jewel down around Tasmania, I had the advantage of travelling with someone who had already done it and as well some knowledge of dealing with shipborne hygiene as I had worked at the Port of Brisbane for a while and often interacted with the merchant sailors who would come ashore while in port, the hand sanitiser is a must! don’t rely solely on the sanitiser provided, but do use it, I saw people ignoring it and waltzing through the pantry like it was a free-for-all in a pigstye. we carried pocket-sized sanitiser with us. and since we bothered to interact with the staff I can tell you they won’t care if you use your own, they will appreciate that it is being used and you are being cautious and considerate.

  14. I went on a cruise so many years ago but this post made me want to go on one again! Such a long list but it’s very helpful! Thanks for this. 🙂

  15. Lee-Anne Muntelwit January 4, 2018 — 12:17 am

    Great blog, great advice! We are leaving on our 3rd cruise in 44 days from Brisbane to Cairns, celebrating my daughters 21st.
    One extra thing I always carry is hand sanitiser. Small bottle on a carabiner clip on the belt or lanyard. Use it wisely and often. Especially after leaving the public rest room areas. Unless you can leave the room without touching anything after you’ve washed your hands.
    Another… If you have mobility issues (as I do) be prepared to ask for assistance! The staff and crew are amazing and helpful. Don’t struggle and miss out on things. Enjoy! You have a right to it too!
    KoalaLee-Anne 🐨🤓

    1. Great additions, thank you!

  16. You covered really greats tips to know before choosing a cruise. I have never been on a cruise however I was checking few times some offers. But after deciding on the cabine the price changed drastically – 2 – 3 times more expensive.

  17. Every South Pacific and PNG port I have ever been to has taken gold Aussie coins, not just notes.
    If you were in the first 200 to book then you would’ve been able to get a balcony.
    The best deals are found when you book later – $2000 for 11 nights PNG for four in an oceanview room, can’t beat it.

    1. Seems you’ve had some different experiences then we did so thanks for sharing! Re the balcony – nope. Best get in early I guess.

  18. Great blog & thank you for your advice. We are cruising in September “the island hopper also” & can’t wait. Your tips are much appreciated to ensure a great holiday.
    Happy new year 🎉🍹💃

  19. I had an issue with seasickness, but luckily they sell little patches to put behind your eat that stops it!

  20. Wow I never knew how complicated a cruise was. This was so informative, will definitely use this post as a reference when booking my first cruise.

  21. If you suffer from sea sickness take avomine for two nights before the cruise. Works a treat was told to me by an old yachtie

  22. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise but I get so worried about the “what ifs” I am not a huge fan of being out on the big open water, but I still want to look into going on a cruise.

  23. Actually going to cruise for the first time ever next month and I’m so damn exited about it. Ur post is great, so informative xx

  24. Really greats tips to know before choosing a cruise. I have never been on a cruise however, THIS HELPS A LOT.

  25. Great post! I am glad to see a very realistic and honest post. Now I know what to expect.

  26. This is so informative if planning for cruise …I will share with my cousin who is planning for the same

  27. I really dislike cruises, because I feel like they limit my freedom of navigation of desired destination and take away my time through travel by water. But, if I ever venture to a cruise, I will make sure to put this information to good use. Thank you!

  28. This is certainly very helpful for people who are going on a cruise for the first time. Too bad I cannot do it – I can’t get over the fact that this sort of travels is destroying the Oceans.

  29. What a great and honest guide about a cruise for first-time cruise-goers! I really want to go on a cruise someday because there is a lot of great things to do!

  30. You just made me want to book a cruise. I’m so ready to go on vacation!

  31. I’m kind of guilty of number 5. HAHAH! During my first cruise, I was itching to hit the bar and grab some drinks, immediately. Also I remember a few passengers when they off-load, they NEARLY got left by the cruise. I guess they weren’t aware of the schedule? I’ve scheduled one this December and I’ll be sure to grab some more drinks… I mean, remember all these! Thanks for the tips!

    1. Haha those drinks have a habit of calling to you

  32. I’ve never done a cruise so this was super helpful! I love how much humor you add to your writing, especially since I would totally be eager to get that first cocktail! Slow down, cowboy… haha. Thanks for the helpful info!

  33. Wow! This is a very thorough guide! And I love that you keep talking about NOT getting a cocktail yet. Because, you’re right! That’s where my mind would totally go first. haha I’m definitely saving this one for later!

  34. Never been on a cruise, so this was a very interesting read. Sure to keep these points in mind.

  35. It was amazing read as it is based on real life experiences. Adventure create the passion to do some challenging.

  36. Going on a cruise is my lifelong dream. Wow, I could never imagine that they could be so much fun, stamp collecting activities, meeting new people and themed parties. We will plan a trip soon.

  37. This is interesting. I’ve never been cruising or riding in a cruise ship.❤️

  38. Very useful tips. I will definitely refer them when I plan my next cruise!


  39. Two and six had me laughing away, such great tips for newbies to the world of cruise ship vacations.
    XO, MJ

  40. I went on a cruise 2 years ago to the Bahamas and it was so much fun. I loved it. Nice blog post on cruising.

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