The time has arrived - there is 0 days left on your countdown, you’ve got through the tedious packing and you have arrived at the port where your ship stands eagerly waiting for you.
With your heart racing and your excitement levels at an all-time high, check-in is already a distant memory and you have stepped onboard for the cruise holiday of a lifetime. But with so much to do and see, where do you start? Where do you go first? Do you want to eat already? Can you get into your cabin yet? What activities are starting?
Although extremely exciting, the first day onboard can be slightly daunting for some. Once you’ve found your cabin, had some lunch, participated in the guest muster drill, and taken a minute to reflect on the journey you are about to encounter – your holiday officially starts.
People often wonder what to do during their first day onboard and worry about missing out on something. After years of experience, both as a crew member and a guest, I wanted to put together a small guide to help you get the most from your first day onboard.
Unpack – After not long packing your cases ready for your cruise, the thought of unpacking is far from appealing . However, my advice would be to unpack straight away and then you will not have to worry about wasting valuable exploring time during your second day. I guarantee you will feel relieved and settled in your cabin once it’s complete.
Meet your cabin steward – Your cabin steward will become your best friend during a cruise. They are likely to come and introduce themselves within the first few hours of being onboard and make you feel extremely welcome. By the time your cruise is over, they will be one of the most memorable people of your cruise.
Check your dining arrangements – Dining arrangements are organised by the cruise line before you cruise so it is important to express your seating preferences and dining times to your agent. However, this will only be a request and can not always be catered for. I advise you to check the dining times you have been allocated (normally found on your cruise card) and if you are not satisfied with them, try to have it amended as soon as possible. Normally a dining room co-coordinator will be available at a certain time slot during the first day for dining inquires.
Go to the sail away party – Sailing away from port is one of the most memorable experiences of a cruise, especially the first sail away. With everyone in high spirits, cocktail in hand, and congregating on the top deck to marvel at the incredible passing skylines - the sail away party kicks off your cruise in style.
Know your way – If a few years ago someone would have said to me "I like to know my way around the ship" I would of rolled my eyes in the opinion that not knowing the way is part of the fun. However, I now realise what a good idea it is to gather your bearings at the beginning of you cruise. I do not think you need to get your ship map out and know exactly where everything is but it is a good idea to work out where your cabin is in comparison to the dining room, outer decks, pool etc.
Book shows – Not all, but some cruise lines require you to make reservations for shows onboard only and not before hand. Yes, do expect ques of people getting their tickets on day one, but isn’t it better to stand in a line for a little while on the first day then waste sun-bathing time on day two?
Make dining arrangements – Cruise ships offer an array of speciality dining restaurants with everything from Italian bistros, sushi bars and luxurious steak houses. These are normally popular with guests, especially those wanting to experience something different or celebrating a special occasion. Therefore, I would recommend making a reservation in advance if you want to dine at one of these exclusive restaurants.
Take a selfie – I know this may sound like a silly thing to do, well not for those who have jumped on the latest craze of taking a selfie at every single opportunity! Taking a selfie, or more appropriately getting someone to take a picture of you on the first day of the cruise is a great idea for so many reasons. At the end of your cruise take a little look back at this picture and I guarantee it will make you giggle. Have you developed a tan? Increased the size of your smile? Gained fresher looking skin?
Have an early night – After a busy day of travelling and the excitement of your first day exploring onboard, take advantage of the first night to retire to your bed early. The remaining nights of the cruise will have all sorts of entertainment going on until the early hours of the morning and you will find this far more appealing than sleeping!
By Sally Grimes
I write lots of blogs about cruising, but it came to my attention today that we all spend a-lot of time focusing on what we do before a cruise, whilst choosing a cruise and when onboard…but what about when it's over?
You have spent weeks, months or even a whole year dreaming about this cruise and unfortunately it can be tempting to slip into the 'cruise blues' when your feet reach home.
A cruise gives you a holiday of a lifetime, creates everlasting memories and takes you on a much-needed escape, so for many people like myself, arriving home is the worst part of a cruise holiday. So to get you back on your feet, here are my top 10 tips to fighting the cruise blues...
1. Unpack right away – Unpacking is the tedious part of a holiday, but trust me (someone who has spent the majority of my life living out of suitcases) do not leave it! Upon returning, have a cup of tea and get to the unpacking. Once it is complete you will not have to stare at suitcases overcrowding your living room - remember you do not have a room attendant anymore that will do it for you! You are only going to feel sadder about being home if you are reminded by suitcases, piles of washing and the inconvenience of having to delve through bags to find your toiletries.
2. Spend some time in the kitchen – Still have the taste of exquisite food in your mouth? Wish you had your own chef at home to make you meals like you had onboard? Now is the time to don your apron, experiment with food and try to recreate some of your favourite dishes of the cruise. My tip would be to buy a recipe book onboard. Most cruise lines sell cookery books that feature their best onboard recipes to enable guests to take the tastes of their cruise home with them.
3. Buy a photo album – I suspect you will have taken lots of photographs during your cruise, well I hope you did! Have your pictures printed (apologies if this sounds slightly old fashioned) and display them in a photo album or scrap book. Have the album with you when you meet up with friends and family, pictures are the best way to share memories.
4. Invest in some luxurious bedding – Did you have the best sleep you’ve ever had while you were away? However many pillows and blankets you add to your bed at home, it just does not feel the same as the bed you had onboard. Purchasing some comforters to add to your mattress and some fresh linen smelling fabric softer will hopefully help recreate your onboard bed.
5. Treat every day of the week the same – When on a cruise it is normal to forget what day of the week it is and we all know what a great feeling that is. Not having to worry if you need to get up for work in the morning or not, perfect! Although this is hard to do in everyday life, try not to count days until Friday and live every day as though you enjoy it as much as the weekend.
6. Relive the memories – Everyone loves to talk about their holiday when they get back so make sure you share your cruise experience with friends, family and work colleagues. Talking about it will enable you to reminisce on the trip even more and relive those special moments.
7. Try something new – Did you dare a new adventure on your cruise - snorkel, rock climb or even try a new food? Why only do this when you are away? With a sense of venture after your holiday, it is the perfect time for you to delve into something new. It could be learning a new language, take up a new hobby or simply making the effort to take an hour out of your day for some 'me' time. A cruise should not be the only time you do things you have always wanted to.
8. Bring the sounds of the sea home – If only we could just step out of our bedroom onto a balcony and breathe in the fresh sea air, but unfortunately most of us do not have this. Even if you have a large pond or river in your back garden, it’s just not going to cut it! The calming sound of the sea can stimulate the senses and lift your spirits so I think purchasing some 'calming sea' music is a great idea.
9. Stay connected with the cruise world – Just because your cruise is over it doesn’t mean you cannot join in the fun. Talking about experiences with other cruisers can be as entertaining as talking to others onboard and is a great way of sharing opinions. Writing reviews, joining forums and engaging on social media are great ways to give you a constant cruise fix.
10. Have another cruise to look forward to –We all function better in life when we have something to look forward to. After coming back from a cruise I guarantee you are already dreaming about your next one. If you did not already book your next one on onboard (this is a great idea by the way) then start planning now. With low deposits and early booking offers, you should definitely think about your next one as soon as possible and enjoy thinking about it every day :-)
1,112 feet long, 15 passenger decks high and bursting with the most innovate features at sea, Independence of the Seas raised every industry bar when she made her grand entrance in 2008.
This floating master-piece by Royal Caribbean has dominated the Mediterranean since her arrival. Gaining the title of Southampton’s most popular ship she has docked with pride in this busy UK port. Boasting a host of industry firsts she gives British cruisers the chance to experience one of the most innovative ships afloat - right from their doorstep.
With various cruise line’s bringing ships to Southampton to take advantage of the fascinating cities that line the sun-drenched Mediterranean during the summer, she has helped cater to the rapidly growing UK cruising market. Independence of the Seas, commonly known as Indy, has been the largest ship to sail from here and docked alongside other popular ships including Celebrity Eclipse, P&O Cruises Azura and Emerald Princess.
With British holiday-makers craving to cruise and experience new ships, it was no surprise that when the largest ship in the world Oasis of the Seas announced a one off sailing from Southampton, it sold out in record time. Did this spark an idea in Royal Caribbean’s head - Do we need a newer ship in Southampton?
A couple of months ago the big announcement was made - new ship Anthem of the Seas will call Southampton her home. It did not take long for speculation to start – will she replace the much loved Indy?
With no 2015 itineraries being released for Independence of the Seas and calling the 13th October 2013 sailing her 'farewell' cruise, we know Anthem is set to be the new 'cool kid' of Southampton.
With this in mind, I wanted to make a short comparison for you to see the changes you can expect in Southampton for 2015…
Independence of the Seas
Gross tonnage: 154,407 GRT
Length: 1,112 feet
Width: 185 feet
Passenger Decks: 15
Guest Capacity: 4,375
Anthem of the Seas
Gross tonnage: 167,800 GRT
Length: 1,141 feet
Width: 136 feet
Passenger Decks: 16
Guest Capacity: 4,905
Independence of the Seas – Home to one of the largest entertainment programmes at sea, Independence of the Seas has you covered from morning to night. The Alhambra Theatre seats 1,200 guests and showcases the best in musicals, Broadway style shows, comedians and other exciting productions. Studio B, the innovative ice-rink boasts spectacular ice-shows from a world-class international cast. The Olive or Twist Jazz Club enables guests to simply sit back and take in the idyllic sounds of a live pianist. As-well as a large casino, pub with live music, karaoke, nightclub and intimate champagne bar, the entertainment programme caters for every single taste.
My entertainment rating – 9/10
Anthem of the Seas – Set to raise every bar in cruise ship entertainment, Anthem of the Seas is expected to boast the most exciting array of entertainment at sea. The main theatre will showcase the smash hit musical, MAMMIA MIA! Making its debut at sea it is set to unveil the best singers and dancers the fleet has had. Music Hall will be a bold, spacious venue with an electric atmosphere. This will be the place to experience great bands, fantastic solo acts, party nights and world-class Dj’s. The place I am most excited about it Two70. A venue like this has never been built on land, let alone at sea. A panoramic venue to admire 270° ocean views during the day, then turn into a spectacular entertainment venue in the evening. As the sun goes down the walls will transform into hi-tech digital projection screens with breath-taking performances from gymnasts, aerialists and dancers. As-well as these new venues, she will boast Royal Caribbean favourites such as the nightclub, casino, cocktail bars and more.
My entertainment predicted rating - 10/10
Synopsis - Whilst Independence of the Seas offered a feast of entertaining options, Anthem of the Seas will utilise the very latest in entertainment technology to bring onboard experiences like you've never seen before. Balancing innovative developments with classic favourites are sure to strike the right chord with passengers.
Independence of the Seas – One of the first ships in the fleet to feature such a large dining selection, she sends guests on an exciting culinary journey. The three-tier main dining room with its deep red and gold décor is the perfect place for cherished family meal times. For alternative dining the options are endless, from a casual burger in Johnny Rockets to a juicy steak in Chops Grille. After her upgrade in April 2013 she gained my favourite onboard restaurant, Italian bistro - Giovanni’s.
My dining rating – 10/10
Anthem of the Seas – Royal Caribbean appear to remain tight-lipped about the dining onboard Anthem of the Seas, which makes me think they have something amazing up their sleeve. I wonder if she will boast more of a British cuisine experience as she will be sailing from Southampton? I am sure she will offer a host of restaurants, cafes and dining rooms to stun us once again.
My dining predicted rating – Hard to predict at the moment.
Things to do
Independence of the Seas – The Freedom class ships really changed things in the cruising industry, making the impossible possible. From wave machines, ice rinks and water parks, so much adventure can be had. The first ships to introduce the H2O Water Park, she allows children to have as much fun as adults. The rock climbing wall, mini golf, Flowrider and ice-skating are great for adventure-seeking families, couples and singles. For the more relaxing cruiser, she is home to a large spa, whirlpools, cupcake classes and the adult-only Solarium.
My activity rating – 9.5/10
Anthem of the Seas – Anthem of the Seas will completely redefine what there is to do on a cruise ship. Boasting a whole range of industry firsts, guests are sure to be impressed when they see what they can do onboard. Fly onboard? Why not! In true Royal Caribbean style, they just had to push boundaries even further by adding an indoor skydive onboard. RipCord by iFly will allow guests to experience a once in a lifetime skydive simulator. If that has not excited you enough, on top of the ship will be North Star, a pod like capsule that will slowly lift you 300 feet above sea level to enjoy 360° panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding areas. Become a kid again in SeaPlex, the biggest sports and entertainment complex at sea. This ground-breaking venue will home a full sized basketball court, circus school, roller-skating, floating DJ and bumper cars.
My activity predicted rating – 10/10
Synopsis - As industry leaders in onboard innovations it's no surprise that the newest member of the family offers even more unique experiences never attempted at sea before. With so much in one place the ship shall be a new destination in herself.
Independence of the seas – The accommodation on Independence of the Seas offers the perfect selection of stateroom types for every cruiser. From interior, outside, balcony and suite there is something for every taste and budget.
My stateroom rating – 8/10
Anthem of the Seas – As expected, Anthem of the Seas will even spice up the staterooms. Offering the well-known outside, balcony and suite rooms, as-well as a range of new room categories. Interior staterooms will feature virtual balconies that project real-time video footage of the ocean onto an LED screen – a truly innovative design, I cannot wait to see what these look like. Set to have more family accommodation than any other ship, she will be home to the ground-breaking family connected staterooms that allow families the option to be together, as well as take some alone time when needed. The suites are set to raise the bar even further with the hugely spacious two-storey loft suites that give sensational views with their floor-to-ceiling windows.
My stateroom predicted rating – 10/10
Synopsis - Anthem of the Seas is set to offer innovations in stateroom design to cater for all budgets and party arrangements and pays particular attention to families.
Independence of the Seas – Based in Southampton for almost eight years, she has spent many summer months in the UK. Sailing to the fascinating cities that line the charming Mediterranean sea, she has continuously proved to be a popular choice for those wanting a sun-drenched getaway without having to fly. The Norwegian Fjords itineraries have also proven popular with the British market.
My itinerary rating – 10/10
Anthem of the Seas – Much anticipation was circulating about Anthem of the Sea’s itineraries and when they were released last week, everyone was delighted by her sailings. Her schedule includes a range of 2 to 14 night cruises to the popular Mediterranean cities and Canaries. No Norwegian Fjords itineraries will be offered, but Adventure of the Seas is set to return to Southampton in 2015 and offer a range of Mediterranean and Fjord itineraries.
My itinerary predicted rating – 9/10
Synopsis - Whilst Anthem will offer more of the Med, those looking to view the heights of the Fjords from the North Star will have to wait for another season.
Will Anthem of the Seas Fill Indy’s Shoes?
From my comparisons it is clear to see both ships are a floating resort of fun, adventure and new experiences. With both ships carrying almost the same amount of passengers, it will not affect the amount of people that can cruise on Royal Caribbean from Southampton during the summer.
Independence of the Seas has become such a popular ship with the British market that I do wonder if Anthem can match the strong opinion.
I think British cruises will love the fact we are finally getting a new ship debut here, instead of having to fly to experience a new ship. It will be great for us to experience amazing Europe itineraries on a new and innovate ship.
It will be an extremely exciting time to have the most innovative ship right on our doorstep. With the British cruising market rapidly growing I expect Anthem of the Seas to be very successful here and open even more eyes for those new to cruising. Royal Caribbean predict 80,000 will holiday on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton during 2015 alone and expect this will contribute around £50 million to the local economy.
Anthem of the Seas will be an excellent ship for families. To sail from Southampton during the school summer holiday months is a huge advantage for family holiday-makers that prefer not to fly. Independence of the Seas is already a family favourite, so I expect Anthem to easily live up to this with her fantastic array of activities.
I think those who sail on Independence of the Seas that have grown to love her size and onboard amenities may now opt for Adevnture of the Seas from Southampton or some may even fly to reunite with their much-loved Indy. One thing is for sure, I think it will hard for anyone to be disappointed by any Royal Caribbean ship they choose.
With Anthem of the Seas pre-registration proving hugely popular, it appears the whole of England are eagerly waiting to welcome the new sister to their home.
Bring on 2015....
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