Going on your first cruise from the UK is an exhilarating experience, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. From booking your cruise to disembarking at the end of your journey, these tips will ensure you have a smooth and enjoyable adventure.

With so many different destinations and types of ships available, it can be difficult to find a cruise that’s right for you – and to ‘learn the ropes’ once you climb aboard. Lets us find a cruise at the right price for you, just fill in our form and we’ll get right back to you.

 

Choose the Right Cruise Line and Itinerary

Choose the Right Cruise Line and Itinerary

The first step in your cruise adventure is selecting the perfect cruise line and itinerary.

Choose an itinerary that suits your interests. If you love history and culture, consider a cruise around the British Isles. If you’re after stunning landscapes, a Norwegian fjords cruise might be perfect.

Book Early for the Best Deals

Seasoned travellers know that booking early often secures the best deals and the most desirable cabins. Many cruise lines offer early bird discounts and additional perks like onboard credits or free excursions. If you’re flexible with your dates, look for shoulder season cruises (just before or after peak season) for better prices and fewer crowds.

Packing smart for a cruise from the UK

Pack Smart and Light

Packing for a cruise can be tricky, but with these tips, you’ll be ready for any situation:

  • Layers: The weather can vary greatly, so pack layers to stay comfortable.
  • Formal Wear: Most cruises have formal nights, so bring at least one elegant outfit.
  • Day Bag: A small backpack or tote for excursions is essential.
  • Power Strip: Cruise cabins often have limited outlets, so a power strip can be handy.
  • Medication: Pack any prescription medications and basic first-aid supplies.
Couple walking around town before they get on a cruise from the UK

Arrive a Day Early

One of the golden rules of cruising is to arrive at your embarkation port a day early. This allows you to avoid travel delays and start your holiday stress-free. Plus, you’ll have a chance to explore the departure city. If you’re sailing from Southampton, for example, you can visit the historic dockyard or take a stroll along the waterfront.

Lady reading the daily newsletter on her cruise from the uk

Maximise Onboard Experience

To get the most out of your cruise, take advantage of all the onboard amenities and activities. Here are a few tips:

  • Read the Daily Newsletter: Each day, you’ll receive a newsletter detailing activities, events, and special offers. Don’t miss out on interesting lectures, cooking classes, or entertainment shows.
  • Book Specialty Dining Early: If your ship has specialty restaurants, book your reservations as soon as possible. These venues can fill up quickly.
  • Join a Cruise Critic Roll Call: Connect with fellow passengers before your cruise through online forums like Cruise Critic. This can lead to shared excursions and new friendships.
As a first-time cruiser, booking our holiday was daunting. I couldn't be bothered looking through lists of cruises, i didn't know enough so I just filled in a form on the about2cruise website and they got back to me with a short list of options, all i have to say were perfect, it was hard to make a decision. Saved me tons of time though. I chose a 10-day British Isles cruise for us, and it was fantastic. The ship was beautiful with lots of things for me and my husband to do, and the excursions to places like Edinburgh and Dublin were really well-organised. The About2Cruise team even arranged a special welcome package, which was a lovely touch. Thanks guys.
Bettrice & hubby
from Bristol
People getting on a tour bus for their shore excursion from the cruise ship

Excursions: Plan Ahead or DIY

Shore excursions are a highlight of any cruise, but they can also be costly. Research and book your excursions in advance to secure the best options.

Alternatively, consider exploring ports on your own. Often, a bit of research can reveal hidden gems that aren’t part of standard tours. For instance, in Edinburgh, you might prefer wandering the Royal Mile and visiting the hidden closes rather than joining a large group tour.

Remember there will be 100’s of people trying to get off the ship at the same time, get down to the docking bay as early as you can to be first off. You can be waiting over an hour to get off.

Man looking at his onboard account on the cruise ship

Manage Your Onboard Account Wisely

Seasoned cruisers know to keep an eye on their onboard spending. Set a budget and stick to it to avoid surprises at the end of your trip. Many cruise lines offer pre-paid drink packages, which can be a cost-effective option if you enjoy a few cocktails or specialty coffees each day.

Opt out of compulsory tipping as soon as you get onboard if you don’t want to pay these to the ship. Go to the main desk and ask for this to be changed.

Lady reading her cruise newsletter on the deck of a cruise ship

Disembarkation Day: Be Prepared

Disembarkation can be a hectic process, but a little preparation goes a long way. Pack your bags the night before and keep essential items in a carry-on. Make sure to settle any outstanding bills and review your disembarkation instructions carefully. If you have a later flight or train, consider booking a post-cruise excursion to make the most of your time.

Let us wade through the 1000’s of cruises for you!

Jo, our cruise travel agent will personally search for the right cruise for you.

First time cruises on a cruise from the UK

FAQ's for first time cruises

how long is a cruise?

Cruises can last anywhere from two nights to over 200 nights, but most people go for trips between seven and twenty-three days, with seven to sixteen nights at sea being the most popular choice.

How long your cruise is will depend a lot on where you’re going. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense to fly all the way from London to the bottom of Argentina for just a three-day cruise to Antarctica, so those cruises usually last ten to fourteen nights at sea. On the other hand, Caribbean cruises are easier to get to and offer more flexibility in duration. In the end, how long you cruise will depend on your family needs, how much time you can take off, and your budget.

Lovely couple dancing on a cruise ship

🛳️ Biggest cruise ship in the world:

As of now, the biggest cruise ship in the world is the Icon of the Seas by Royal Caribbean International. It can carry a total of 7,600 passengers at maximum occupancy and has a crew capacity of around 2,350, making its total capacity approximately 9,950 people.

First time young cruises on a cruise from the UK

Aren't Cruises for the retired?

No. The average age of a cruiser in Europe is around 54 years of age, but on a worldwide basis only 45 years. It is true that older or retired people (i.e. those who have the time) tend to be the passengers on longer sailings such as a World cruise, but on cruises of one to three weeks in length in Europe or the Americas, you’ll find adult cruisers from 20 years upwards.

As a matter of fact 32% of all cabins booked in the Caribbean last year were for families travelling with children.

People enjoying the bar on a cruise ship

Aren't Cruises expensive?

When you break down the cost of your holiday to a per-night amount, you’ll see that it’s surprisingly affordable. When you consider what’s included, a cruise holiday offers great value for money.

You can eat whenever you want, catch a show, hit the casino, enjoy live music, and not worry about cover charges, drink minimums, or taxi fares. Plus, you get to visit multiple destinations without the hassle of unpacking and packing multiple times.

Cocktail drinks on a cruise from the UK

What's included in the price of a cruise?

Almost everything is covered! All your meals are included, with about 7 or 8 options throughout the day. You’ll also get your accommodations, onboard entertainment, and taxes covered. In some cases, even your airfare and ground transportation to and from the port are included.

However, you’ll need to pay for extras like alcohol (some cruises have special drink packages), shore excursions, tips, photos, souvenirs, and gambling.

Paying for tipping on a cruise from the UK

do I need to tip? If so, how much?

Tipping is generally expected on most cruises, but the amount is up to you. Typically, $10 to $15 per day per person will cover your waiter, busboy, and cabin steward. You can tip other ship personnel at your discretion.

Some cruise lines include gratuities in the fare or have a “no tipping” policy, so it’s a good idea to check with your specific cruise line for their tipping policy beforehand.

Cabin with a balcony on a cruise from the UK

Picking the right cabin

Your budget and where you’re planning to cruise will help you decide on the best cabin.

For warm-weather cruises like those in the Caribbean, many people are happy with an inside cabin with air conditioning. With so many different ports to explore each day, you’ll likely spend most of your time out and about and only need a place to sleep.

If seeing the horizon is a must for you, then an outside cabin might be the way to go on the same type of cruise.

In the end, it’s all about personal preference. There’s no right or wrong choice. Some people like to travel as often as possible and opt for the cheapest cabin that fits their needs. Others prefer more space and choose cabins with balconies, or even suites. It really depends on what you’re looking for in your cruise experience.

Do you need a passport?

This depends on the type of cruise and your destination. Generally, you will need a valid passport as proof of citizenship. Prior to your departure, you will receive an information pack outlining all required documents.

Since obtaining a passport can take several weeks, especially if it’s your first one, you should start the process as soon as possible. It’s always a good idea to have a valid passport on hand to take advantage of any last-minute deals.

Lady packing for her cruise holiday

what should i pack?

Your destination, and the weather at the time year you visit, have a great bearing on what clothes to pack for ‘outside’. ‘Inside’ the dress code by day on all ships is casual – though shorts and swim wear are seldom allowed in restaurants. By night, informal means shirt and jacket, formal means jacket and tie or dinner jacket. 

The cruise brochure and the travel tips sent out by the operator before your tickets arrive will help you plan what to pack.

Men should always pack one dark suit which will usually suffice even on “formal night.” If you need a tuxedo we recommend that you hire one either on board the ship (most ships offer this service) or from a company that specialises in cruise hire, as  – it avoids having to carry all that “extra baggage”.

Ladies can take cocktail dresses or a full length formal dress.

There are usually 1 to 2 formal nights on a 7 night cruise, only 1 on 3 & 4 night cruises. The rest of the time is typically very casual. Even on “non-formal” nights, men should wear a collared shirt to dinner and slacks or skirts for the ladies.

Formal wear on a cruise ship

will i need a tuxedo?

Possibly. Again, check the requirements of your cruise. On some ships, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun. But don’t buy a tuxedo just for the trip. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions.

If you do want to dress up, we recommend that you hire one either on board the ship (most ships offer this service) or from a company that specialises in cruise hire.

Man reading a book in the library on a cruise ship

will i get bored?

Today’s cruise ships are like floating resorts packed with activities and amenities. If you’re looking for some quiet time, head to the library, card rooms, lounges, or deck areas. For something more active, there are spas, jacuzzis, pools, gyms, and sports decks.

Modern ships also offer rock climbing walls, zip lines, mini-golf, surf simulators, basketball courts, and even ice skating rinks. When it comes to entertainment, you’ve got nightclubs, casinos, dancing to live bands or orchestras, concerts, cinemas, cabaret shows, guest lectures, floor shows, and various demonstrations. You can even join educational activities, like learning about computers and the Internet.

On top of all this, you’ll enjoy stunning scenery, the experience of life at sea, delicious food, excellent service, port lectures, and new places to visit. With so many options, if you ever find yourself bored, maybe cruising isn’t your thing!

Couple walking around town in a port-of-call

what is a port-of-Call?

When the ship docks in a port other than the starting point, it’s called a port-of-call. You usually have the option to leave the ship during this time, which can last from a few hours to several days.

There’s so much to do during a port-of-call that you’ll have a hard time choosing where to start! This is where you take a shore excusion.

For example, if you’re in Nassau, you can explore on your own or take a guided tour. In Cancun, you can visit ancient Mayan ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. In Alaska, you can raft over river rapids or cycle down the side of a 12,000-foot volcano.

And that’s just the beginning! You can ride a horse across miles of hills and beaches, climb a waterfall or pyramid, follow historical trails, or feel the wind in your face as you trail behind a water-skiing boat.

You can learn how to windsurf, sunbathe and swim at some of the world’s best beaches, catch a record marlin, sail, snorkel or scuba dive, or take a cable car to the top of a mountain. You can even explore dark catacombs. And if that’s not enough, and there’s still time, you can play golf or tennis!

Do I have to Participate in the activities?

Absolutely not! On a cruise, you can choose to do as much as you want, as little as you want, or nothing at all. It’s your holiday!

Kids on a cruise from the UK

What about Kids?

Many ships have year round programs for children of all ages, with fully trained child counsellors and nursery nurses onboard. Activities range from ship to ship, but if you’re travelling with children it’s best to choose a family friendly cruise.

Dinner for one on a cruise ship

Travelling Alone

A cruise is perfect for single travellers. You’ll never feel alone at meals and will have plenty of opportunities to meet new friends and fellow travellers. Most ships assign passengers to dinner tables, with experienced restaurant managers making sure to mix people by age, gender, and background. This helps solo travellers feel comfortable and included.

There are usually more solo women than men on cruises, so there are always plenty of potential dance partners. Many liners even have gentleman hosts, so solo female travellers can enjoy dancing, a game of cards, a chat, or a liqueur with well-groomed, friendly men without any complications.

People at the theatre on a cruise ship

Is Cruising safe?

Yes. Modern cruise ships are built to exacting standards regulated by international convention to ensure your safety.

As a cruise ship is a self-contained world, a cruise holiday is one of the few occasions when treasured pieces of jewellery can be worn and when you can stroll around after dark without fear of interference.

Lady feeling a bit sea sick on a cruise ship

Will I get Seasick?

Modern cruise ships have several ways to help you manage and prevent seasickness. Here are some of the best options:

  1. Advanced Stabilizers: Modern ships are equipped with advanced stabilizers that reduce the rocking motion, making your ride smoother and minimizing the chance of seasickness.

  2. Onboard Medical Staff: There are doctors and nurses on board who can provide medications and even give injections if necessary. They’re there 24/7 to help with any medical needs.

  3. Pressure Point Wristbands: You can use acupressure wristbands, like Sea-Bands, which apply pressure to specific points on your wrist to help prevent nausea. These are easy to find on the ship and can be very effective.

  4. Prescription Medications: Ships often carry prescription medications like scopolamine patches, which you place behind your ear. These are very effective at preventing seasickness and are available from the ship’s doctor.

  5. Natural Remedies: Many people find ginger to be a great natural remedy for seasickness. You can find ginger candies, ginger tea, and other ginger products on board to help settle your stomach.

  6. Stay Hydrated and Eat Light Snacks: Keeping hydrated and eating light snacks like crackers can help prevent nausea. Avoiding heavy, fatty, or spicy foods is also a good idea.

  7. Engaging Activities: Keeping yourself busy with onboard activities can help distract you from feeling seasick. Whether it’s watching a movie, attending a fitness class, or enjoying the entertainment, staying active can make a big difference.

  8. Fresh Air and Looking at the Horizon: Spending time outside and looking at the horizon can help reduce the feeling of seasickness. The fresh air and steady view can help keep your balance in check.

Let us wade through the 1000’s of cruises for you!

Jo, our cruise travel agent will personally search for the right cruise for you.

Couple feeling well on a cruise holiday

are Medical Services available?

Virtually every major cruise ship will have a staffed medical facility to handle emergencies. If you suffer from a medical condition, check with your travel company before booking to make sure the ship on which you are cruising can handle your condition.

Here are a few tips to ensure a smooth cruise:

  • Bring Enough Medication: Make sure you have enough medication for the entire duration of the cruise, plus a few extra days in case of any delays.

  • Keep Medications in Original Packaging: It’s a good idea to keep medications in their original packaging with the prescription labels intact. This helps with identification and avoids any potential issues at customs.

  • Carry a Doctor’s Note: If you have a specific medical condition, carrying a note from your doctor detailing your medications and any special requirements can be helpful, especially if you need to explain your medications to security or medical staff on board.

  • Pack Medications in Your Carry-On: Always pack your medications in your carry-on bag. This ensures they are readily accessible and prevents them from being lost if your checked luggage is delayed or misplaced.

  • Inform the Ship’s Medical Staff: Once on board, inform the ship’s medical staff about your condition and the medications you are taking. This is important in case of any medical emergencies where they need to be aware of your existing medications.

  • Check for Specific Regulations: Some countries have restrictions on certain medications. Check the regulations of the destinations you’ll be visiting to ensure your medications are allowed.

Honeymoon couple on a cruise from the UK

Is Cruising right for honeymooners?

Cruising is the holiday of choice among newlyweds, offering an atmosphere that’s just right for romance – cozy dinners for two, strolling on the deck at sunset or dancing the night away.

Most cruiselines provide special services — from Sunday or Monday departures, to welcome baskets of champagne and breakfast in bed.

And if getting married at sea is part of your dream, some cruiselines offer special programmes for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing your marriage vows.

Special celebration on a cruise from the UK

Can we celebrate a special occasion?

Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of “Happy Whatever” to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers, or canapé… you can even arrange for a special private party, for an extra fee. All you have to do is advise us in advance, and verify the arrangements with the concierge or pursers’ office once on the ship.

A lady staying connected to the internet on a cruise from the UK

Staying Connected on Modern Cruise Ships

Staying in touch with the outside world while on a cruise is easier than ever. Here’s how you can stay connected:

  1. TV and News: Your stateroom will likely have a flat-screen TV with access to news channels like CNN and BBC, as well as sports channels such as ESPN. Some ships even offer their own onboard channels for cruise updates and entertainment.

  2. Wi-Fi: Most modern cruise ships provide Wi-Fi. While it used to be slow and expensive, many cruise lines now offer faster and more reasonably priced internet packages, with some even offering unlimited plans, however ship internet can be very expensive.

  3. Mobile Phones: Cruise ships are equipped with cellular service, so you can use your mobile phone as you would on land. Check with your mobile provider about international roaming rates and packages before you go.

  4. Phone and Messaging: Every stateroom has a phone for making and receiving calls. Many ships also have apps that allow you to message other passengers and crew members.

  5. Email and Fax: Ships typically have business centers where you can send emails and faxes. Some staterooms also have these capabilities.

  6. Newspapers: While some luxury cruises still deliver printed newspapers, many now offer digital versions that you can read on your devices.

  7. Contact Info for Family and Friends: Before your cruise, you’ll receive details on how friends and family can reach you on board. This usually includes direct dial instructions to your stateroom phone and emergency contact numbers.

Doing the laundry on a cruise ship

are there laundry services onboard?

Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and most provide dry-cleaning services. There is, however, an additional charge for professional laundry and dry-cleaning services. Most ships also have self-service launderettes.

On most modern cruise ships, self-service laundry facilities typically cost around $3 to $3.50 per load for washing and the same amount for drying. Detergent and fabric softener are usually available for about $1 to $2 per box. Payments can generally be made using your cruise card or tokens purchased onboard​.

Business meeting on a cruise ship from the UK

Are Cruise Ships Good for Work Meetings?

Absolutely, cruise ships can be a great option for work meetings. They offer modern meeting rooms, conference centers, and necessary tech like AV equipment and Wi-Fi. You get all-inclusive packages that cover accommodations, meals, and entertainment, making planning easier.

The unique setting helps with networking and team-building. For smaller groups, booking individual meeting spaces is perfect, while larger groups might find chartering the whole ship useful for privacy and customisation, however, it can be pricey.

Let us wade through the 1000’s of cruises for you!

Jo, our cruise travel agent will personally search for the right cruise for you.

Can You Take Pets on a Cruise?

While most cruise lines do not allow pets onboard, service animals are generally permitted. The Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 is a notable exception, offering kennel services for dogs and cats. Always check with your cruise line for specific policies and required documentation if you plan to travel with a pet.

Power adapter on a cruise ship from the UK

Will I need to take power adapters?

The type of power outlets on board may differ from those in the UK. Bringing a universal power adapter means you can charge your devices without any issues.

I find its a good idea to take a multi board with 4 plug sockets in it. This way you only need one universal adapter and all of your gadets can plug into the board.

Do I need travel insurance?

Standard travel insurance might not cover all aspects of your cruise, such as missed port departures or shipboard medical expenses. It’s important to get cruise-specific travel insurance to ensure you’re fully covered​.

Lady holding British pound notes on a cruise ship from the UK

What is the currency onboard?

While many cruises from the UK will accept British pounds, onboard transactions might be in US dollars or euros. It’s helpful to know the currency used onboard to avoid any confusion.

Lady holding a bottle of wine on a cruise ship from the UK

Can I take my own booze?

Many first-time cruisers are curious about bringing their own alcohol onboard to save money. Policies vary by cruise line, with some allowing a limited amount of wine or champagne and others enforcing strict bans. 

Speciality restaurant on a cruise ship

What is speciality dining?

Specialty restaurants on cruise ships are exclusive dining venues that offer a unique and elevated culinary experience compared to the main dining rooms and buffets. These restaurants often feature gourmet cuisine, specialized menus, and higher-quality ingredients. Here are a few key aspects of specialty restaurants:

  1. Diverse Cuisines: They offer a variety of international and specialty cuisines, such as steakhouses, sushi bars, Italian trattorias, French bistros, and seafood restaurants.

  2. Enhanced Service: Specialty restaurants provide a more personalized and higher level of service, often with attentive waitstaff and sometimes even tableside preparations.

  3. Exclusive Menus: The menus at these restaurants are usually curated by renowned chefs and offer dishes that are not available elsewhere on the ship.

  4. Intimate Atmosphere: These venues often have a more intimate and upscale ambiance, making them perfect for special occasions like anniversaries or romantic dinners.

  5. Additional Fees: Dining at specialty restaurants typically incurs an extra charge, either as a flat cover fee or à la carte pricing, as these experiences are above and beyond what is included in the standard cruise fare.

Let us wade through the 1000’s of cruises for you!

Jo, our cruise travel agent will personally search for the right cruise for you.