Europe & Britain | Travel Tips & News

Cruising 101: Everything you need to know for an unforgettable sailing experience

If you haven’t been on a cruise, then you’re missing out on a vacation of a lifetime. Minimizing the stresses of practical planning and maximizing meaningful experiences in a destination make sailing vacations a much more enjoyable experience for travelers who don’t want to waste precious time being bored in transit.

No matter if it’s your first-time or your first sailing in forever, we’ve got the cruise tips and tricks you need to know.

Why Cruise?

boat on water in Alaska with snow capped mountains

Why not? 

Whether you’re a chill traveler who loves the pace of slow travel or an intrepid voyager who wants to see as much as the world has to offer, cruising offers a great alternative to overland and air travel. We got a list longer than a cruise ship conga line, but here are our top five benefits of cruising:

  1. Sleep (comfortably) while in transit. No neck pillow or bus station snoozes here. Spend every night in a comfortable bed in your own private room.
  2. Less meal planning, more me planning. A variety of dining options from buffet banquets to slow eating sit downs let you quickly grab a meal and get back to planning your shore excursions.
  3. Strategic downtime. It’s not all go-go-go. Days at sea are the perfect opportunities to rest your legs and feel recharged for the next port.
  4. Time to mingle, time to be alone. You can spend all day on the pool deck with new friends who wouldn’t believe you’re an introvert, then just as smoothly skedaddle back into your cabin for much-needed quiet time.
  5. Multiple bucket list destinations in one vacation. See Rome’s Colosseum, Athens’ Acropolis, and Dubrovnik’s Walled City in a single week, no plane tickets or long bus rides required

Read next: 8 natural wonders in Eastern Europe you should visit this summer

Cruise Tips & Tricks for First-Timers

Overlooking the sea from onboard a cruise ship

The thrill of boarding your first cruise will put butterflies in your belly; but the first flutters you’ll feel will hatch from nervousness. Here are some solid cruise tips if it’s your maiden voyage:

  • Avoid sea sickness. Of the many first time cruise tips, the most important involves avoiding getting sea sick. Over the counter medicine helps some, a full stomach and a full night of rest help others. When in doubt, head to the middle of the ship and order a ginger ale from the bar.
  • Don’t go overboard. In a literal sense and a figurative sense. Having perks like an all-you-can-eat buffet, open bar, and full-days of activities can tempt you to indulge without shame. Know your limits though, if for no other reason than you want to feel healthy, rested, and ready for shore excursions.
  • Take advantage of free cruise programs. From bingo to free shows, even the smallest cabin bookings get access to a number of cruise amenities. These activities make at-sea days especially enjoyable.
  • Mix and mingle. A cruise can be a splendid social experience so don’t feel awkward about striking up conversation with your shipmates. You might spend the next two weeks sailing the world together; a couple of cruise friends can make the experience even more unforgettable. 

Cruise Tips & Tricks for Families

children enjoying a gondola cruise, Venice, Italy

Cruising is a convenient vacation for families, including multigenerational groups and parents with little ones. Here are a few cruise tips to keep in mind:

  • Pack “boat” shoes. They could be cheap flip flops or slip ons, but having a pair of shoes kids can quickly throw on and off to wander around the boat ensures they don’t lose their main pair somewhere on the ship.
  • Download streaming shows. While you may have WiFi, international distribution rights may mean kids’ faves Cocomelon and Ms. Rachel have to stay back at home. Download your kids favorite shows so you have go-to entertainment at the ready.
  • Agree on which sites are most important. A long cruise can be a test of patience for families. Agreeing beforehand which shore excursions can’t be missed can help you balance your shore days in a way that lets you engage with the destination without overtaxing the children or older adults. 

Learn more: 8 reasons why families will love holidays with a cruise element

First Time Cruise Tips for Shore Excursion

 couples looking at coastline from sailboat

Shore excursions are the headline act. The main event. The reason most of your fellow passengers booked the cruise in the first place. 

  • Don’t assume you can do it yourself. Cruise companies and tour guides are professionals who have decades of experience. They know the ins and outs of logistics that’ll ensure you don’t miss out on the site you want to see the most.
  • Don’t be afraid to go it alone. On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned traveler who is confident enough to navigate a shore excursion alone, go for it. This allows you to see and do what you want at your own pace and price point. 
  • Time your shore excursions. Whether it’s free time on a group tour or if you’re riding solo, you need to keep an eye on the time. Start heading back to your ship around 90 minutes before your deadline. The ship will leave without you if you’re late.

Tips for Your Next Trafalgar Cruise

Let’s take a look at some of our coolest vacations with sailing elements and highlight the cruise tips and tricks to use to maximize your time on and off shore. 

Pearls of the Adriatic | 9 Days | Croatia

Nine days in Croatia is a great way to dig into its culture and cuisine. When in Croatia with our Dubrovnik to Split route, remember that there’s more to Dubrovnik than Old Town. We recommend taking the funicular up to the hilltop for a full view of the city walls. 

See Croatia’s stunning coastline, islands, and medieval towns.

Best of Italy and Greece | 14 Days | Italy, Vatican City & Greece

While soaking up the ancient culture in Italy and Greece, the wealth of attractions can feel overwhelming. Make the most of your two-week cruise without feeling overwhelmed by doing a little research into what exactly to see at specific sites. For instance, the Vatican Museum is huge and overstimulating, but many-a-traveler have blogged about where to find the best exhibits.

Put all of those high school history notes to good use in Rome, Athens, and more.

Majestic Alaska | 17 Days | USA & Canada

Over half of a month in Alaska will have you immersed in the serenity of the landscape and longing to explore the wilderness. Keep an equal balance of both when you make a pros and cons list of the optional excursions available. Limited time at sea means it’ll be tough to do it all without stopping to catch your breath. For instance, you might choose to do a low-impact helicopter ride in Valdez and go big with a wilderness walking tour in Denali. 

Discover a wilderness where even the latest phone can’t capture Alaska’s striking beauty.

Land of the Incas | 18 Days | Peru & Ecuador

Nearly three weeks spent in Peru and Ecuador will introduce you to incredibly diverse cultures and communities. You’ll be tempted to load up on souvenirs before you even leave Lima, but we recommend going for quality over quantity. Instead of spending too much time shopping at the handicraft markets, immerse yourself in the moment. You’ll always look fondly at a souvenir, but it’s the memories and photographs that you’ll hold dearest. 

From Machu Picchu to the Galapagos, explore two of South America’s iconic sites.

Best of China with Yangtze Cruise | 15 Days | China

The Yangtze River Cruise lasts for only three nights, so it’ll fly by before you know it. We recommend an early-to-bed, early-to-rise strategy so you’re ready to take full advantage of excursions like motorboating through the Goddess Stream and visiting the Ghost City of Fengdu.

Planes, trains, and cruise ships allow you to truly see the best of China’s landscape. 

There’s never been a better time to board a cruise ship and discover your new favorite vacation spots on the world’s coastline. Book your cruise with Trafalgar today and say ahoy to adventure.

Take it from Craig: Travel Unlocked Award winner shares his surprise proposal in Paris

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