My First Cruise – 5 Things you need to know about travelling on a cruise

Norwegian-spirit-cruise-ship
Norwegian-spirit-cruise-ship
Norwegian Spirit Cruiseship

My mum called me one day and said: “Let’s go on a cruise ship together.“

While I thought this is only for retired people, I soon learned that it can actually be quite fun for my age group as well, and actually seems to be the new upcoming trend.

What you need to know about travelling on a cruise

If you have never been on a cruise before, it is important to know about the following things up front, so you don’t have unpleasant surprises. 

Drink Packages 

When booking a cruise make sure to book the correct drink package, otherwise you will have unpleasant surprises.

There are Soda packages, which basically means a flatrate for all non alcoholic drinks. Sometimes though this package excludes hot drinks like tea or coffee.

Then there are different alcohol packages with different values. So, just make sure to read the small print to know whats included exactly. 

Enjoying a drink on the cruise deck

Tips are included automatically 

You don’t have to give tips for service as there is an automatic service charge per day on your card, which can be pretty high (15$ per person per day in our case).

However, since this tip is optional, you can opt out anytime and pay none or decide that only one person per room pays it. All up to you.

Of course, if you use privat services such as buttlers on your room, extra tip is welcome. 

Shaking and sea sickness

There are all kind of sizes when it comes to cruises. A smaller ship can hold around 2000 people. Bigger cruises may hold up to 4000+. 

If you are prone for dizziness when on sea, then it would be a good idea to book a bigger cruise as on those the shaking is felt way less than on a smaller one.

Furthermore, it also helps to book a room in the middle of the cruise since the shaking is felt much less there.

Norwegian-spirit-cruiseship
Norwegian Spirit Cruise ship

Booking tours on the cruise can be expensive

Before every stop you are able to book tours on the cruise. Be aware that they are usually overpriced and you are probably better off leaving the cruise, and then book a tour yourself on the spot.

Most of the time tour providers are already waiting in front of the port where you will arrive. Alternatively, you can also book a tour or car yourself up front.

Emergency Exercise

Before the trip even starts, you have to get together for an emergency exercise. This is mandatory and similar to the plane, where you will get demonstrations on how to behave in the event of an incident. Definitely do not miss it.

Our Cruiseship Destinations

Our cruise route mainly went through the Mediterranean including Spain, Portugal and Morocco. In total we had 7 stops.

On each stop we had between 8-10h to explore the place as we often arrived in the early morning around 7-8am and left between 4-6pm. 

Barcelona, Spain

Our cruise started and ended in Barcelona, so you could either arrive earlier (before the cruise left) and or stay afterwards (once then cruise came back).

Since I have already lived in Barcelona 6 months, it was not the most important destination for me. You can check out my post about 9 Barcelona Sights for Free or Little Money.

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca is the biggest city in Morocco. We booked a bus tour in advance on the cruise. This way we had a tour guide to show us around.

The most important stops were: Hassan II Mosque, Olive market, Rick’s Cafe and Anfar neighbourhood. 

olive-market-casablanca
Olive market Casablanca
Hassan-mosque-casablanca-morocco
Hassan Mosque Casablanca in Morocco

 Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

This time we did not book a tour in advance but took a sightseeing hop on hop off bus. We did some shopping, walked around the city center, and enjoyed some fresh juices and tapas. You could have also signed up for a volcano hiking walk 

Gran-Canaria-Las-Palmas
 Las Palmas in Gran Canaria

Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

Once again we did not book a tour in advance but asked a taxi driver to show us around the city for a fixed price, as the day we were there most shops were closed due to Easter weekend.

We stopped at the city La Laguna for some shopping and enjoyed some local bites, visited a shop where famous sand portraits were displayed, which was pretty impressive. 

sand-image-tenerife
Sand image in Tenerife

Generally speaking, Tenerife is known for its beautiful gardens, fauna, and mountains (Teide) you can climb up. Over 80% of the island is actually considered natural area. In 2012 it has been amongst the 5 best places in the world to live. 

Tenerife-Santa-Cruz
Santa Cruz Tenerife

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 

The name of the city actually means fennel. You will find this taste in liquor, candy, sweeteners and much more. Furthermore, the hilly island is also known for its small banana trees and dishes. 

Once again we took a hop on hop off bus and went to a very beautiful view point with a glass bridge all the way on the top of the island.

Then we had a delicious lunch in a fisher village before we went back on the cruise.

Glass-bridge-Funchal-Madeira-Portugal
Glass bridge in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Some things we did not do, due to time restraints, but I would highly recommend are the following:

  • Take a cable car up the mountain or the Botanical Gardens.
  • Don’t miss out on the fun in going down a hill on a Monte sledge, a popular form of transportation back.
  • Finally, try the drink Poncha, an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane, honey, sugar, lemon juice. 
fisher-village-funchal-madeira
Fisher village in Funchal

Malaga, Spain

My mother and me skipped this stop as we have already visited Malaga before. Many people, however, visited the Alhambra – a  huge city fort where you can spend hours walking around.

Alicante, Spain

We never arrived in Alicante due to incident on the boat. A man jumped off the cruise and we had to look for him for around 6-8h.

My personal opinion about travelling on a cruise

I was positively surprised and overcame my prejudices. There is a lot to do when it comes to entertainment for all age groups. You will find lots of families, but also younger people and older ones on board, and it is super easy to connect and meet new people.

From daily shows, Spa & gym facilities, games rooms, workshops, and much more, you will not get bored and can actually make this a relaxing as well as an educational trip.

Not to mention the availability of delicious food will round up your trip as there is a big variety for everyones’ taste. 

Top-deck-on-norwegian-spirit-cruise-ship
Top Deck on Norwegian Spirit

However, since most of our stops were in Spain and I have lived there quite awhile, the stops were rather a bit boring for me.

Next time, I will definitely book another route, probably more towards South America, Asia or the Caribbean. 

Have you ever been on a cruise and if yes, how was your experience? 

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