First time on a cruise? What you need to know?

If you’ve booked to go on your first cruise or are currently browsing options to have a cruise as your next holiday then you may be wondering what things you need to know before you travel on a cruise ship for the first time.

I recently travelled with Princess Cruises from Southampton on my first ever cruise so I’ve put together a handy guide that answers all the questions I had as well as some things I found out on the way.

What do I need to pack?
Obviously this will vary from cruise to cruise but below is a list of general items you will need to pack. Just like a hotel then often you will be provided with a toiletry set in your cabin, equally there will be an on board shop where you can purchase any items that you may have forgotten. Don’t panic if you do forget something as at the port days you’ll also be able to go shopping.

  • Comfortable shoes for hiking/walking on port days
  • Swimwear for the pool
  • Suncream
  • Smart clothing for any formal nights on board (see ‘Formal night’ section.)
  • Travel adapters
  • Camera (obviously) although there will often be on board photographers
  • Gym kit; many cruise ships will have gym facilities that you may wish to use

What is the formal night like?
Many cruise ships have at least one formal night, and whilst it’s not always compulsory that you get involved, it is a fun evening and an excuse to dress a little fancy. Formal nights will be announced in advance so you’ll have time to plan. On my cruise is Princess Cruises on board the Sapphire Princess then many people opted for tuxedos and evening gowns, with a few choosing a more simple shirt and tie.

Our formal night started with a champagne waterfall in the main atrium which was a fun activity where you could volunteer to pour the bottles and was a great photo opportunity.

Can you get laundry done on board?
Just like at a hotel it will more than likely be possible to get your clothes washing done on board. The system will probably include ticking a box to say what needs washing and leaving it for housekeeping to collect.

What about phone signal?
When you’re near a port or of course docked then of course you will be able to get signal on your phone and the normal roaming charges from your network supply will apply. However once you’re out at sea then if your phone joins a maritime network then you’re likely to come back with some pretty hefty charges. Best advice would be to switch the roaming off your phone shortly after you leave a port to avoid any extra costs.

Can I drink the water on board?
Unlike on a plane, there’s no need to worry about the quality of the water on board. It will all have been through rigorous testing to ensure it’s top quality for your to drink straight from the tap.

What kind of activities are on board?
There will be two separate options for your time on the ship.
1. Every ship will of course have the options available every day; for example the swimming pools, perhaps a casino, gym, running track or shuffleboard.
2. There will be daily activities announced on the ship, these will vary but may include shows and live performances, bingo, quiz sessions, art auctions and movie nights (on the Sapphire Princess they had the popular ‘Movies under the stars.’
For the daily activities you will be able to plan your day as you’ll have access to a schedule to see’what’s on’.

What happens on port days?
Of course the ports of call are an exciting part of any cruise. You’ll be informed as to the time of arrival and if the ship is docking right by the port then you’ll be able to disembark when you wish. If you have a tour booked of course you’ll have to ensure you’re off in good time to meet your group/guide. Equally be mindful of the time you need to back on the ship and leave plenty of time to board.

What is a tender?
A ship’s tender or just ‘tender’ is a boat used to transport the passengers to the port when the ship is unable to dock directly by the land. It’s a safe and quick way to get to shore. Sometimes this will involve travelling in lifeboats for example or just smaller boats to reach the ship.
If tenders are being used on a port day you will be informed in advance and sometimes may be given a specific time or group to travel with. Before the ship leaves in the evening you will be informed of the time of the last tender.

What is a muster station?
You’ll be allocated a muster station when you get on board. Put simply, this is the location you need to meet at should there be an emergency. If the emergency alert were to go off then you should make your way to the assigned location (clearly marked) and await further instructions from the crew.

Will I need an adapter for the plug sockets?
This will vary from ship to ship. On board the Sapphire Princess as it was an American ship then the plug sockets were 3 pin US so many people required an adapter, however these were available in the shop to purchase.

Will I feel sea sick?
Generally it’s not common to feel sick on cruise ships, as the larger the ship the less noticeable it will be that you’re slightly swaying. Some people actually find the movement of the ship fairly relaxing as they are going to sleep.

This post was written in AD partnership with Princess Cruises however the article and everything in it of course reflects my opinion and not that of the company.

A day on board Independence of the Seas – Royal Caribbean

Having never been on board a cruise ship before; approaching the Royal Caribbean ship The Independence of the Seas, I was blown away by just how huge it was. Grand, and multicoloured at one end; as the popular top-deck water park Splashaway Bay could be seen even before I reached the terminal.




On a ship this size it only made sense that we were greeted by the largest cake I’d ever seen, but I was saving room as there were plenty of food options ahead such as the amusingly named ‘Fish and Ships’ bar, and the pool side ice cream parlour. I had done some research into the ship before I boarded but I didn’t quite realise how many options for things to do there were. For example, did you know there was an ice rink? On a cruise ship? Crazy fun right?



The Independence of the Seas is like a giant floating city, and indeed it has more to offer than many towns. Even the harshest of cruise cynics wouldn’t run out of things to do. Everywhere you look there are signs to fun activities, places to eat, or simply areas to relax and take in the views. Even in Southampton there were some great views to be had on the top-deck, so one can only imagine what it’s like when approaching a beautiful port in the Med.


There’s a full undercover shopping mall, reminiscent of the grand Dubai centres with their designer shops selling Michael Kors, and brightly coloured sweet shops sure to draw the attention of the kids.


Of the many dining options I chose to eat in Chop’s Grille, a smart steakhouse with a refined menu. I started with the prawns served with a spicy horseradish salsa, as it felt appropriate to eat seafood being ‘at sea’. I followed that with the Filet Mignon, which was rich, tender and generously portioned. Obviously just for this article’s purpose I had ALL the sides, asparagus, a tasty ‘Mac n Cheese’, chips & mash. If you’re not feeling like steak, the options are plentiful; a trendy sushi bar, coffee shops and bars along the ‘shopping street’ and a number of top deck eateries to serve you by the pool. Even on the ‘shopping street’ there are cute cafes and diners with street art style designs above them.


As well as the colourful Splashaway Bay with the numerous loungers surrounding it so parents can always keep an eye out, there are a number of pools and Jacuzzis. Some of these areas host live music, and speakers pumping out Ibiza chill-out tunes make for a fun atmosphere to drink a cocktail in while cooling off in the water.




For those wanting a little more strenuous activity there’s a top deck marked jogging and walking track that heads round the ship, as well a large gym, a basketball court and a climbing wall. No need to worry about eating all the delicious food when there are so many sporting options to keep you busy.


For the kids there are numerous brightly coloured play areas, vibrant climbing frames with netting around so parents need not worry, plus a huge arcade on a lower level spanning numerous rooms. The arcade area is large enough to keep kids (and big kids) occupied for hours, with old classics such as Sonic and a dance mat as well as new games and prize claw machines.


For when the kids are asleep there’s a giant flashy casino, with favourites like roulette and blackjack along with the Vegas style slot machines. There’s even a full sized theatre. The ship is clearly designed to keep guests entertained throughout the day and night, yet it’s not too in your face. Those just wanting to relax are able to do so in great comfort, in the plush lounges and the jacuzzis dotted around the ship.


I didn’t want to get off and a turnaround day isn’t nearly long enough to experience all that the ship has to offer, however it was a lovely taste of what to expect on board. I’m positive those lucky enough to have been sailing off that day will be smiling just as much as I was.