Tips for your first day onboard

With a blast on the ships horn we head off on a short three night wine and food cruise, safely onboard P & O’s Pacific Dawn. Having only completed longer cruises, this quick little trip was going to be interesting. Ive been researching for questions from those who have never cruised, this article is number one in a little cruising series I’m going to do. Be interesting to see what you learn.

Let’s start with why we choose a cruise holiday over staying at a resort?

Because we love cruising and no matter what level cabin you choose, your holiday is as packed or chilled as you would like it to be. Everything is done for you. Accommodation, travel, meals and entertainment are all included, except for a few specialty restaurants or some activities onboard which have a surcharge. Added to which you have the bonus of a changing landscape, and, if you’re on one of the longer cruises, different ports to visit without having to pack and unpack.

P & O have a handy little login called cruise control which becomes available once you’ve booked. From this site, you can monitor your payments prepay and order onshore activities, purchase spa voucher/s, or pre order special packages. For instance birthday or special occasion package, or even a bucket of prawns and bottle of wine. Something for everyone. Your final cruise payment is 75 days prior to boarding. After this why not go in and prepay in the months leading up to your vacation, its really worthwhile.

Boarding procedures are the same, no matter what style of cruise. For those who think of they turn up a couple of hours prior to their boarding time they will board the ship early, don’t bother. You won’t. There’s a process starting with priority boarding, depending on your cabin choice. The lower value cabins board last, higher value first.

With priority boarding we were amongst the first keen cruisers to embark. Quickly drop your cabin to drop off hand luggage, meet the cabin stewards, these are the people who work at keeping your cabin clean and ensuring you have what you need, so look aft them.

Do not forget the onboard daily activities guide, (trust me on this one, that guide will become your lifeline), then head straight up on pool deck to the bar! Nothing like being first in line!

From here, consider your dining options and duck into Salt Grill to ensure you book any desired special evenings before their bookings fill up. After which, cruise by the Pantry for lunch. Choose your cuisine and staff will serve you. Gone is the old help yourself buffet, no more dirty spoons contaminating other foods. As a tip, the food on the other side of the buffet is the same as this side. Keep that in mind.

Peruse the activities guide whilst partaking of a leisurely lunch. Eventually, time to leave the table and head off to the entrance to Waterfront restaurant. Here, put names down for activity bookings, or dinner reservations. As a side note, you could enjoy lunch here too which is an a al carte menu, with sit down service. A tip here, you will need to reserve your dining space for the evening meal if you wish to dine at the Waterfront. The Pantry does not require bookings, just go on in whenever you are hungry. They are only closed a couple of hours throughout the day.

For the Waterfront, Breakfast and lunch are walk ins, however dinner is pre booked only. Same applies to specialty restaurants onboard, for example Salt Grill, all which must be booked in advance.

Swing back past the cabin, pick up the life jackets, and work out your muster station. Trust me, yes you need these jackets today. If its a beautiful day, head back up on the pool deck whilst you wait for all passengers to embark and the ship to set sail.

Of course if you are one of the last ones to board, my tip to you would be to head straight to the cabin, pick up your life jacket and keep it with you until the drill begins.

Once all are on board, everyone has to present to their muster station, including crew, for the mandatory emergency drill. This is where you must have your life jacket. Your cruise card is scanned so they do know who is there. Don’t be the person holding everyone else’s holiday up trying to get out of it, the crew will find you.

Formalities over its time to drop those life jackets off and enjoy your time on this floating resort!

Now you explore, drink in hand if you so wish. Check out the bars, the spaces, spa, gym, adults only area. If you spend your first afternoon orientating yourself to the ships facilities and their location, it will make your onboard life so much easier…..Work out where your favourite spot might be, there’s so many comfy areas to choose from. For the smokers, there will be one corner of seats allocated up on pool deck plus usually one side of ship around a middle deck. Strictly no smoking anywhere else, including your balconies.

Remember that activities guide? Yes? Well make sure you take some time each day to go through tomorrow’s guide and work out what you’d like to do. The guide will appear in your cabin mailbox each afternoon/evening. The choices in this four page publication are phenomenal. Some activities are free, some have a charge. Another tip, if you like a drink, sign up for the cocktail making or tasting classes, They are great value.For the wine drinker, this is the most expensive drink on board. On 7 day or longer cruises, consider the drink packages, they do represent good value. Another option is to prepay and preorder packages prior to boarding.

On our short cruise, I had three bottles of wine included in packages we ordered, already paid for, with some delivered to cabin before we boarded, others arrive when you ordered your package to be delivered to your cabin.

One last question for this article, what sort of cabin should we have booked? My answer, entirely up to you. But, consider why you are going cruising. If, like us, you like to have some quiet time away from it all, then yes highly recommend a balcony. We love to sit for a an hour or two each day and just chill out in privacy.

But, if you’re a party animal or some one with kids who will always be on the go, then go the cheaper inside cabins, you’re not going to be spending any time there anyway so what pay for the balcony privilege if you don’t need it.

Enjoy your cruise! Watch out for the next in this little series and comment any questions you would like answered!