What To Expect - My 1st Cruise Experience

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Some years ago my wife and I decided to take a cruise. We headed for Southampton to join our cruise ship, weighed down with luggage. (Why do women take twice as much as men?) Not knowing what to expect, we arrived at the terminal whereupon our cases were taken from us and firmly assured that they would be sent to our cabin. We checked in with one of the many assistants, boarded the ship and that would be it.

As this was our first cruise, we had been advised to choose an outside cabin which had natural light coming through the 2 portholes in our cabin. (See inside or outside). Once we boarded, we were escorted to our cabin by one of the many cabin stewards. Our luggage had not yet arrived so we decided to wander around the ship to get our bearings. This is always well worth doing as this also helps to get a feeling for the ship and its luxurious surroundings. We had also been advised that we would have to attend a lifeboat drill just after departure that was mandatory.

We wandered back to our cabin to find our luggage had arrived and proceeded to unpack. Yet again my wife managed to take most of the wardrobe space, although space in cabins has increased significantly since our first cruise. The cabin also had a TV, and private facilities that were more than adequate.

The ships alarm sounded and we made our way with life jacket to our muster station, generally shown on the rear of your cabin door. Once finished, we could sit back and totally relax.

The ship had lots to offer with two swimming pools, a casino with Black Jack and Roulette, a card room, show lounge which also doubled up to give advice on forthcoming ports of call and the excursions available, plus a well stocked library.

A misconception of cruising is that it is solely for the elderly. This is far from the truth with many younger couples and even families on board. There are also clubs and meetings for single travelers.

Our first port of call was La Corunna and we arrived one and a half days after departure. We arrived early in the morning which gave us the whole day to explore the Atlantic City. Others had taken the full or half day excursion that are bookable on board. (Prices vary according to content but as a guide ?25 for a half day and ?45 for a full day excursion.) Our cruise took us on to a number of ports including Lisbon, Cadiz, Casablanca, Tenerife and Madeira.

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1st Cruise Holiday Tip

Once you have decided on your excursions try and book these as early as possible as many are on a limited basis and it is easy to miss out on the best excursions.

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Food on board is a major plus and what you would expect from a floating hotel. Breakfast and lunch can either be taken in one of the ships main restaurants or in the open air around the outdoor swimming pool .On board our 3 star ship, the dress code alternated between, formal with dinner jackets and cocktail dresses to informal and casual, although no dress code is compulsory. (If you do not possess a dinner suit, these can be hired on board most ships, although a suit and tie will suffice in most cases.) The food is varied from vegetarian dishes to roast sirloin of beef, from sticky toffee pudding to passion fruit salad. The problem is, not knowing when to stop. If at the end of the day you are still hungry, you can always participate in the midnight buffet, before you wake up and it starts all over again. There was also a range of good wines to suit all tastes, and all drinks are very reasonably priced. (The house red was of a high standard and very good value.)

Life on board is so relaxed and you can either join in all the activity or sit back and watch the world go by. Information came via a daily bulletin with a full timetable of events, weather forecasts and special offers in the many shops on board.

The captain and officers are regularly seen throughout the ship and this commences early in the cruise with The Captain's welcome cocktail party. This generally happens on the first formal night where you are introduced to the captain, and have the pleasure of having your photo taken with him. This ceremony happens again all too soon at the captains farewell party. (If you are lucky you may be invited to dine with the captain one evening.)

Our cruise holiday had gone all too soon when we pulled back in to Southampton. The previous 14 days had been the perfect antidote to the dull grey weather of Good Old England. Some of the passengers on our 14 day adventure became friends who to this day remain in touch. It is certainly a most wonderful way to relax and it transformed my life completely.

I entered the cruise business shortly afterwards and since my first cruise with Fred.Olsen, I have had the pleasure of cruising with P & O, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Festival, Star Clippers, Holland America, Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Orient Lines. In addition I have visited ships from Thomson, Island Cruise Line, Cunard, Discovery Cruises and Costa Cruises.

Our team at 1st Cruise Holidays have a wealth of knowledge and like myself will help where possible to ensure that the cruise you choose is right for you and will I am sure, like many others become a frequent cruiser.

Since his first cruise, John Gibb now works in the Cruise industry and cruises regularly.

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