I’ve just got back from my very first cruise with the MSC Orchestra on her maiden voyage to Australia from Dubai. As a cruising newbie, I have to be upfront and admit I was somewhat sceptical before boarding the ship as to how I would take to this unfamiliar way of travel. Would I enjoy it? What would I actually do on board the ship for all that time? Would I have long enough to explore the cities we stopped in? How would this differ from my usual experience of travel?
As I would soon find out, cruising is a great way to travel. It has an effortless appeal that will leave you longing for your return to the ship at the end of the day, thankful for the opportunities to explore with such ease, and incredibly nostalgic the minute you depart from your cruise. I would even go so far as to say that once you start cruising, its hard to ever want to stop. Thus explains the phrase “once a cruiser always a cruiser”.
Cruising is to a great extent a community of travellers who enjoy a more comfortable, reliable, and surprisingly affordable way to travel. Forget the days of airport security, immigration, visas, checking in and out of hotels, finding somewhere to eat or sourcing a local Laundromat… cruises have completely changed the ease and possibility of travel.
Of course cruising is nothing new, it is indeed one of the original styles of travel from way back in the early 19th Century. Yet still, for someone in their early 20’s, it is completely and utterly new. All of it.
Here’s what you need to know before you go on your first cruise
Despite the Stigma, cruising is for young people too
As mentioned previously, cruising has been around for decades. As such, those who typically cruise as their preferred way of travel are an older crowd – but this is changing to some extent. Whilst on my cruise through the Arabian Peninsula I met a lot of young couples, honeymooners, and even a few fellow solo travellers. As mentioned in this blog post, cruising the Arabian Peninsula as a solo female traveller was a much more comfortable way to visit this part of the world on my own. Albeit only a few, I met a couple of other solo female travellers on board, leading me to conclude that this may just be the start of a new generation of cruisers.
You will definitely meet people as a solo traveller
On the flip side of the generational gap, I couldn’t have had a better time with the people I did meet who were 20-50 years my senior! As a bit of an old soul myself, I found there was so much to learn from the older generation of cruisers on board. We talked travel mostly and I gained some insight into new destinations that have long been on my radar (the minute I get a chance to visit Alaska or Antarctica, I’m outta here!).
(Almost) Everything is Included
As a cruise newbie, I had no idea what was or wasn’t included in the package price. There are a range of different price tiers of course, so you can choose a package that suits your needs and preferences. The all-inclusive base price means that what you pay for your cruise includes:
- your accommodation
- all food, all the time (restaurants, buffet, in-room continental breakfast)
- entertainment shows twice per evening
- on-board entertainment including swimming pools, tennis court, basketball court, some ships even have zip lining and rock climbing!
- Access to fitness facilities
Additional costs for the cruise (which can be purchased for a discount at the time of booking or for a higher price once on board):
- On shore excursions (I would highly recommend opting for these! Although they are more expensive than what you’d pay to hire a taxi driver to take you around for the day, they include incredibly informative guides and the peace of mind that you won’t miss the ship leaving port that evening!)
- Drinks (If you plan to drink a lot, consider a drinks package. These can range from an all-inclusive package with unlimited alcohol through to water vouchers)
- Spa services
- On-board shopping
- Internet Access (pricey but that is to be expected)
Some questions you may have regarding the optional extras:
Are the drinks expensive?
Yes and no. The price per individual drink sits around $10 (or 7 euros) which will soon add up. Drinks packages are a much cheaper option if you plan to drink a lot. According to my inside sources guests who purchase these packages far outdrink the price they pay for them.
Are the on-shore excursions worth it?
It totally depends on what type of traveller you are. Many people on board my cruise would venture off and do their own thing and they had a fabulous time. Personally as a solo traveller I really enjoyed the group tours to meet people. I also learned WAY more from my guides this way and walked away feeling like I really got an appreciation for each destination, despite only having one day in port.
Does the Internet actually work?
Incredibly, yes! I was stunned by the fast connection. The only place I wasn’t able to connect was throughout the Indian Ocean as the local authorities had required the ship turn off all wi-fi capabilities. Other than that, it was great!
Once on-board, you are bound to have fun
Before embarking on my first cruise I was convinced that my time on board would be spent in my room catching up on blog writing or connecting to the internet world and disconnecting from the ship. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s so much to do on board that I barely had a spare minute to scratch my head let alone get any work done. During the days at sea I would busy myself with spa appointments, personal training sessions, steaming away in the Turkish Hammam or going for a wander around the ship to see what I could discover. In the evenings I would sit down for an extravagant three-course meal, followed by an evening entertainment show and sometimes a cocktail or two afterwards. There was also everything on board from ping pong tables through to a library, cigar lounge, casino… you name it, it was there! Each day the ship also delivers a newsletter (delivered in your room the night before) filled with a list of scheduled activities such as games tournaments, arts and handicrafts, dance lessons and so much more. There is absolutely no way you will be able to do everything on board – there’s a lot to choose from!
There’s free food 20 hours of the day
Even reading this now scares me. Yes, you’re bound to over-indulge. Once in a routine on board the ship I found myself ordering in-room breakfast each morning, making my way to the buffet for lunch, indulging in an afternoon pick-me-up detox drink at the spa bar, followed by an early evening meal at the restaurant. Whenever I was feeling peckish there was oodles (perhaps too much) of yummy food available to me, just a staircase away. Dangerous!
You can travel the world without leaving the ship
Something I simply cannot forego mentioning is the incredible staff who choose a career in cruising. Onboard my MSC Orchestra voyage I met so many lovely staff members from around the world who would teach me a few words in Italian, speak fondly about their home country in Eastern Europe, or entice me with ideas and images of what to do when I reached their hometown in India. The guests were also very international and while I met many Australians, I also met many Italians, Brits, and even had a couple of great evenings with a couple from Hong Kong. The daily announcements were in English, Deutsche, French, Italian and Spanish – showing how truly international the ship passengers were!
But you certainly should leave the ship!
The biggest reason why I loved my first cruise so much was the ease and comfort of travelling part way around the world without the hassles of visas, airport security, long cues, unpacking and repacking…. The list is truly endless. Cruising took the hassle out of travel entirely. For those who would like a taste of different countries and cities, cruising is the way to go. But of course it is just that – an introduction to new places. I would highly advise travelling to new areas on a cruise to find out what you like and don’t like, combined with returning to these places to explore them further in-depth. There’s only so much you can do in one day in port, after all! But that was what made it so exciting – a different city every day, a different country every second day. It felt as though the world was truly my oyster whilst at sea – an experience I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
World of Wanderlust cruised with the MSC Orchestra on her maiden voyage to Australia as an invited guest. My opinions are as always, my own.