How to Enjoy your first cruise in 10 simple steps

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At the time of writing this post, I have just returned home from a glorious 3 week vacation on board the MSC Orchestra for its’ maiden voyage to Australia. While I had prior preconceptions before hopping on board, as it turns out my first cruise experience was so thoroughly enjoyable that I’d jumped at the opportunity to cruise again. But after a few weeks at sea, I did uncover some truths to cruising – so here are the 10 simple steps to help you learn how to enjoy your first cruise!

my first cruise

A Balcony Suite is worth every penny

I’ll start with the booking process because its this simple foundation of choosing the correct room that will highly influence your cruise experience. Despite being slightly more expensive, having a balcony suite is an absolute must if you wish to enjoy your first cruise. Although there are many great outdoor public areas on the ship, you are bound to want a moment of silence or retreat (likely once a day!) and without a balcony you run the risk of feeling trapped or even claustrophobic. The rooms are small as is to be expected, so its nice to have a mini-oasis to retreat to for some fresh sea air.

Do Your Research (Cruise lines)

Throughout my first cruise experience I spoke to many avid cruisers about their favourite trips, destinations, and cruise lines. It was soon clear to me that the cruise experience differs drastically depending on which cruise line you choose. Much like hotel star ratings, cruises vary depending on their target market. My first experience with MSC Cruises was in the mid-range price point, meaning that it was an incredibly affordable option but far from the five star service some guests preferred with alternative cruise lines. So long as you do your research and know what to expect, you won’t walk away disappointed.

Do Your Research #2 (Know what’s on board)

Once you’ve chosen your preferred cruise line, cruise route and dates, its important to take the time to learn about your new home for the next few days, weeks or months on-board. There’s so much to do on cruise ships that is included in your package price, including swimming pools, tennis courts, football, basketball, ping pong, boardgames, libraries, spa, sauna… the list is truly endless. Be sure to read up about the activities before you board the ship and have some idea of how you’ll spend your time on the ship. That way you can pack accordingly and leave the heavy novels at home.


Be Prepared to Switch Off

As a full time travel blogger, I don’t really ever take a ‘day off’ to sit back and switch off. However for many this is one of the perks of cruising, so I decided to dedicate a day to ‘switch off’ and enjoy the ocean views, wander around the ship aimlessly and soak up some Arabian sun. It is of course also a possibility to stay connected should that be more your style, as the ships are well equipped with surprisingly fast wi-fi services. The connection is considered by most to be expensive, however I was quite pleasantly surprised to connect for 8 hours of log-in, log-out wifi for a mere $70. Sure, it’s not cheap!!! But when you can log-in, open up a browser and load all of your emails in a couple of minutes, log-off and read them offline…. Before you know it your 8-hour connection has lasted an entire 7-day cruise. For $10 a day to stay connected, I’d say that’s pretty reasonable.

Know Your Body (and come prepared)

As someone who doesn’t get seasick, its hard for me to provide adequate advice on preparation coming into your first cruise. But a great place to start would be to pack motion sickness tablets just in case! Its good to know that most people don’t experience nausea throughout any point of their cruise, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most.

Once on-board, Explore the Ship

One of the biggest mistakes I made in the first 2-3 days of cruising was being too content in my private little oasis that was cabin #10172. My cabin was larger than I had anticipated and because I was travelling solo, it felt even more spacious! Having a private balcony made it all too easy to want to stay in my room and relax instead of getting out to explore the ship. However once I did make it out of my cabin, it was hard to ever want to come back! There was oodles to do on-board with daily activities, an extensive spa and beauty menu, great fitness facilities (although dumbbell weights are HARD on a moving ship) and so many great entertainment shows in the evenings.

Cruise life

Shore Excursions are a Must

Its easy to get caught up in all the on-board fun on days at sea – there really is so much to do! But be sure to save some energy for the days at port, as there is so much to discover in each stopover. Despite being more expensive than ordinary day trips or the price of hiring a taxi driver for the day, the on-shore excursions are incredibly informative and tailored to ensure guests get a well-rounded experience of the city or country in just one day. There’s also the added peace of mind that you won’t miss the ship when it leaves port in the evening, of which I almost did when I took a day to myself in Dubai!

Embrace the Cruise-itude

There’s a certain cruise attitude that should be adopted once on-board. It’s a great opportunity to get dressed up and have fun with all the themed evenings such as carnival, white night, Arabic night or even a Gala Dinner! Be sure to pack some fancy evening wear as well as your toggs to enjoy the daily cruise life at sea.

Packing: Less is More

While it is important to remember a diverse wardrobe, packing less is still more when it comes to cruising. The on-board laundry services are quite reasonable when it comes time to refresh your wardrobe, so don’t get too wound up in overpacking. Also be sure to leave the heavy books at home as you’ll find a library on board and many free magazines to keep you occupied. They’ve really thought of everything and anything you do need can be found in the shops on board.

Once a cruiser, always a cruiser!

Before coming on my first cruise I was understandably sceptical. Would I enjoy it? Was I crazy to be cruising solo? Was I crazy to be cruising solo IN MY TWENTIES!? I had loads of preconceptions before coming on my first cruise – as you are likely to have, too, before departing on your first cruise. But I truly had such a fantastic time on board the MSC Orchestra. It was so good, in fact, that I’ll be jumping at the opportunity to cruise again! Although this is a very different way to travel than I am accustomed to, it was such a fantastic first cruise experience. There are both pros and cons to cruising, it doesn’t suit all, but it is an experience worth having at least once before coming to a conclusion without trying it out first. Who knows, you may be lured in to the cruise lifestyle for good!


What do you think of cruising? Did you try it and walk away pleasantly surprised or are you a cruise newbie too!? Join the discussion in the comments below.

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    March 12, 2016 at 3:26 am

    wonderful site, i love it.. nice picture and content very use full

    July 8, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Really enjoyed this post, as I am working on one of the pretty “little” cruise ships.
    I´m sure some of my guests should be reading it who are far too stressed to enjoy their cruise.
    In the end it´s all about standing on deck and watching the sun set over the waves.

    Alda Lopes Moreira
    April 27, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Cruising is my favourite way of travelling!The secret is to chose the right cruiseline for your taste .I love Royal caribbean, NCL and Carnival for the fun and mega ships, but I cruise in several cruise lines (the only ones that I disliked were P&O and Holand A., because it seemed that everybody was older than me and the ambience was more formal than fun…).

    Amanda Tinney
    March 25, 2015 at 3:17 am

    I just returned from my 7th cruise in 12 months. Another great tip is to find forums and Facebook groups related to your specific cruise dates. It’s fun to meet fellow passengers online and then run into them on the ship once you’ve set sail…especially if you are traveling solo.

    March 18, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Love your article.

    I was just on the same cruise as you! But only for a short time (Brisbane to Sydney). I’ve written my own personal review of the ship if anyone is interested in reading it 🙂


    March 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Loved your article. You are so right about knowing the cruise line and the ships. My husband and I have been on many cruises and each one is a different experience. Princess for upscale service and very few children, RCL for a fun time and great ships with many options, Carnival has good pricing (but not my favorite at all). We have never been on an MSC, sounds nice! Thanks for the info.

    March 14, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Great article! I have never cruised before but I think that it’s because part of me says ‘twenty-something’s don’t beling on cruise ships!’ But there you go proving me wrong. Maybe I should look at cruising the fjords in Norway, a thought that has been tickling my mind…

    March 14, 2015 at 12:47 am

    I absolutely love cruising! I did my first cruise 2 years ago around Asia which was amazing! such a way to visit a number of places in a short amount of time without the constant stress of having to unpack and repack your bags, as well as not having to change hotel rooms. I have two cruises planned for this year which I am so excited about! One up the Western Australian coast next month and another in the Mediterranean in July

    Adelaide Haynes
    March 13, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    I’ve never been cruising but it’s definitely something I’d love to do, especially with some girlfriends around the pacific islands. Looks like you had a fantastic time.

    Maria C.
    March 11, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    I loved your blog post Brooke. And the fact that the cruise you took was to Australia. Just a few days ago I was saying to hubby that we could go to Australia that way as I´m terribly scared of flying. I must take a look at the MSC website. I do tend to get a bit seasick but I´ll take the seasickness pills just in case. I did the cruise (only five days) of the Galapagos Islands and I absolutely loved it. It was at the time the best cruise ship that did the tour and I had a smashing time. Thanks for a fabulously informative post. The dressing up for dinner is not at all up my street but I´m sure one doesn´t need to dress up to be able to have dinner so I´m sure I´ll be fine!

    March 10, 2015 at 11:45 pm

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  • Olga
    March 10, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Oh, I went on a boat trip when I was on the Galapagos Islands this year, and it was supposed to be easier on your body than a cruise… But I got sooooo sea sick!! It was horrible 🙁 And nausea pills don’t help that much once you’ve already been vomiting.. So yeah, knowing your body is really important before you decide to go for a trip into the ocean!

    March 9, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Great tips needless to say. I love cruises they are one of my favorites when there is nice food, on board entertainment, opportunity to relax on the balcony, etc.

    Brandon @ Green Global Travel
    March 9, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Thanks for sharing this post. These are some really good travel tips. Being aware of what is on the ship is definitely very important.

    March 7, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I took a carnival cruise to Alaska a few years ago. I really enjoyed it, but I think your cruise sounds more my speed (specifically, the weather being warm enough to actually use the outdoor facilities!).

    March 7, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    cruised for the first time to Alaska with my family last June and got hooked (now at 3)! not a great way to experience a new destination but such a nice escape with no internet. also did a music festival onboard Groove Cruise…. now it will never be the same again!


    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    March 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    I’ve only heard good things about cruising, even from the sceptics! Glad you enjoyed it Brooke.

    March 7, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve never cruised before but I’ve been considering it lately. The problem for me is I have to travel solo a lot and most cruise lines have a single supplement or you have to pay double. That just doesn’t equal out to economical traveling for me at the moment.

    March 7, 2015 at 8:16 am

    This definitely gets me excited for my first cruise. Some of my family members go every year and I’m itching to try the cruise life myself.


    Marie @ Marie Away
    March 7, 2015 at 5:49 am

    This is great. I know so little about cruises, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’m not planning one anytime soon, but I’ll definitely be checking back here if I change my mind 🙂

    March 7, 2015 at 5:00 am

    I have just returned from my first cruise ever and my verdict is – yes! Cruises are fun! As long as you have the right attitude, of course!

    I wrote a post about my cruise experience as well and maybe it will get you encouraged to hop on board 🙂

    March 7, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I love cruises too!! I have been on Royal Caribbean and Carnival Conquest and they we’re both awesome but I did like Carnival more. What I love about it is that you can have a “taste” of each country and then decide if you would like to go back to explore it more one day, you have your “hotel” room included and unlimited food that is Sooooooo goooood!!! and endless activities. My husband and I just came back from a cruise to Mexico, Honduras, Cayman Islands and Belize and it was our best trip ever. We never felt unsafe, we did excursions to pass the day and ate like pigs. We have to say our favorite country was Honduras. It was absolutely beautiful and even though here in the US it’s always on news because of the horrible killings and poverty, we saw the complete opposite and felt safe and comfy walking around. The ONLY bad thing about it, is that you always gain 5-10 pounds because of the food :p But who cares!! We are already planning our next cruise 😉

    March 7, 2015 at 3:21 am

    Thats really cool I always wondered how it would be on a cruise ship and if it would feel a bit cabin feverish.

    March 7, 2015 at 1:39 am

    Just done an MSC cruise – i loved it, we cruised round the Canary Islands, what a great trip for you to get to do.. 3 weeks is long though isnt it.. sea sickness is not fun!

    March 6, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I’m a big cruise fan – I have sailed with Disney Cruise Line (yes really and no, I have no kids!) and Royal Caribbean…so far! 🙂

    As you say, I think research is key. A cruise ship is more than a floating hotel, it’s almost a mini-city in a way with a huge amount of diverse things to do, it’s just compacted into a very small space.

    As such there are very different experiences available catering to specific target audiences – different median ages, casual vs formal etc – get that fundamental choice wrong and chances are you’ll be in for a miserable time on board. You’d not go to Vegas if you wanted to experience the Eiffel Tower, you’d go to Paris! Choosing what you want to experience when you cruise is no different.

    One thing I like about cruising is the chance to get a taster of a destination, plus you don’t have to unpack between each port. It offers a lot of variety (for example I’m sailing with DCL to Norway and Iceland this summer) and if you visit somewhere you enjoyed on a brief port stop you can always go back for a proper visit in future.

    Thanks for the insight on MSC 🙂

    Jabeen Waheed
    March 6, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    This was such a good read. I always associate cruising with old people lol- but seems like it’s so much more than that lol!

    March 6, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I was on MSC Armonia once. Loved it as well 🙂
    It’s really cool staying on the ship and being able to see a lot of different destinations at once.

    March 6, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    I’ve done a cruise with Contiki before and it was great! It was pretty standard, mid-range fare and I think that’s more up my alley than luxury cruising (although I can’t imagine I’d complain about that). I’d rather pay less and take in the excursions onshore!

    Kasey LK
    March 6, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    love cruising! this post is so tumblry

    March 6, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    I’m a big fan of cruising. I think a lot of people assume it’s for older people, but having been on my first cruise at 15 I believe it’s one of the best ways to travel the world. Especially when you can visit places that you probably wouldn’t want to stay for safety reasons. You’ve always got the safety of the ship to return to at the end of the day. Plus the amazing food!

    March 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    We’ll be taking an MSC cruise from Santos, Brazil up to Europe after our grand South American trip. We figure it’s a bit different to the usual flight options, and a great chance to recuperate before the European adventure. The big plus is what is called repositioning cruises; you pay a very reasonable price as they need to move the ships up to Europe for the northern hemi-sphere season and vice versa. There are still several amazing stop overs including Rio, Buzios, Salvador, Teneriffe and it ends in Venice! I can’t wait!

    March 6, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve discovered via ferry trips that the bigger the ship, the more seasick I get, so I have regretfully crossed cruises off my to-do list.

    But, wanted to tell you that the at-sea photo you posted is absolutely gorgeous. I feel more relaxed just looking at it! *g*

    Alex Cordato
    March 6, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I took my first cruise as a solo traveller as well in the Greek Islands, I was initially worried I wouldn’t like it but it was such a great experience and the ideal way to travel around the Greek islands in a short period of time. I am definitely keen to go on another cruise! The Arabian one looked pretty amazing…

    March 6, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    My girlfriends and I are planning on going on a cruise soon so this was very helpful. Thanks so much 🙂 were currently in the research process!
    XO Janina

    March 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    We’ve done allready 3 cruises in 3 years and love ist. What I’ve learnd is to get connected to de bar Team 😉 We allways go to the same bars to get our Drinks, and once some of the bar team know you, you will get your faster and extras are no Problem 😉

    Karen Farber
    March 6, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Love these tips! Still need to go on a cruise

    Ellen Faith
    March 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I’m going on my first cruise with P&O in November with three of my girlfriends. We were going for a balcony and then decided against it, but I think we’ll enjoy ourselves of it regardless. But thanks for the tips! I’ll be looking forward to the ‘switching off’ I think. I enjoyed it when I was in Italy (horrible, horrible wifi in some places) and it definitely made me live more in the moment.

    March 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I absolutely LOVE cruising! Glad you’ve found it <3