Cruise ships have always fascinated Smita Swamy. She takes us along with her on her first cruise and gives a flavour of what to do and what to expect if you’re planning one. So hop aboard and find out more!
Like in fairy tales, cruise ships are huge and magical. And when I first entered this huge ship with over two thousand passengers – it seemed like stepping into the fairy tale land!
Costa Luminosa was the cruise ship I had entered – and it had 1,130 cabins, four dining areas, a theatre, a cinema and other passenger facilities.
It was quite an experience, and I’m here to share this cruise with you, along with the facilities, food, and travellers’ tips; especially for families with kids.
You will find many cruise-related blogs online. I read a lot before we started making our checklist. The blogs helped. And I summarise my learnings for you here to further ease up your cruise plans.
I recommend you start looking for good prices almost a year ahead of your planned cruise vacation. For good deals, consult agencies like Costa, MSC, etc directly.
You will find different price deals for the types of cabins: The innermost cabin (no balcony no window), outer cabin (either with or without balcony). Food is included on board, but not the drinks. For that, you have a different package. So while bargaining for the right room, try to find out about the packages, and see if you can ask for a sort of ‘merged package’ that might include the drink package within the room price. We managed to get the all-inclusive drink package called ‘Piu Gusto’ included in our price, which is great when you prefer soft or hard drinks. Kids can enjoy their share of drinks offered in the ‘Giovani package’.
Planning and Packing
Start planning the trip a month before your travel by booking your trips on the day the cruise halts: the evening theme attires, dinner slot bookings and, of course, your packing checklist. Do plan on taking along medicines for seasickness – just in case… Honestly, the ship is so big that you hardly feel it move. And if it’s a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a calm one.
Packing – you might think that you will need everything you can think of for this cruise because you won’t have a chance to buy en-route. But get practical – check out where your ship will halt and consider your packing requirements based on those countries, the planned activities and weather conditions. So if on Mediterranean Sea, then in Italy and Greece, dress for your evenings, and don’t forget your gym, spa and swimming gear, which will be very useful after the regular heavy eating during your stay in the ship.
Of course, personal medicines, baby food, or any special needs should be accounted for and addressed. Usually, you’re allowed any number bags per person with no weight limit; but there is a recommendation of 23 kgs per baggage.
Pack in sun hats, sunscreen lotions, cardigans to enjoy the sundeck – and don’t forget your comfortable house shoes.
Onboard and ready to sail
On the first day, the crew schedules an evacuation drill in which every passenger has to participate. There is also an information evening, where you get detailed information about your stay in ship (like onboarding and deboarding formalities, about the drinking and internet packages and many more). Don’t miss this.
All ships usually have an app which will give you all currents news.
You will have loads of options.You can learn various dances, enrol into on-the-spot exercises and games. Cookery shows, like pizza-making, are a big hit.
A team gets involved in entertaining the guests every evening with the mesmerizing dance shows, music performances and acrobatics. There are theatres and 4D shows, too. Casinos, bars and discos are an addition to the flashy side of entertainment.
A children’s club showcases a number of awesome programmes for kids through the day. They have a meet-and-greet-the-captain event and a number of fun, disco and party evenings. Yes, for kids!
The cruise spa facilities offer a wide range of massages and other beauty treatments as well as a nice thermal area. They have some great offers after half the journey is completed!
As mentioned earlier, do look for good offers on your drink package, don’t worry about the food. There is a wide variety available at all three meals. The breakfast buffet or the restaurant’s menu – both are essentially the same, however, in the restaurant, one can order some warm dishes, too. All the passengers are allocated one restaurant and a table for dinner on all days. You can book a time-slot prior to the cruise. Dinner in the restaurant is 5-course meal, served at the table by the same allocated waiter each day.
Special tips for vegetarians: The lunch buffet has some good options like salads, focaccia, pastas, gratins, etc. For dinner, you could request for vegetarian food, and even Indian dishes. A lot of Indian chefs work on these ships and they are happy to serve you.
Day trips at the harbours
The cruise has pre-arranged day or half-day trips at the places where they halt. You are, of course, free to plan your own trips. However, if you’re with your family I recommend to take the package they offer. I recommend selecting their 8-day cruise that gives you an opportunity to choose one trip per stop. The advantage of booking the trips that are arranged by the cruise organisers is that they make sure you board the ship back again on time and, as in some ports the ship cannot reach the port, they organise boats and buses according to the trip timings.
For us, this was a wonderful experience – a perfect balance of fun and relaxation.
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