First time going on a cruise? Here are some tips

Most Israelis vacation during the summer or around the Jewish holidays. However, off-season cruise travel is usually cheaper and less crowded – both on the ship and on shore.

Royal Caribbean cruise (photo credit: Courtesy)
Royal Caribbean cruise
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Here are some tips for those planning their first cruise.

Just as with airline seats, prices for the same class of cabin on the same cruise can vary considerably.

You can book a cruise up to several years in advance with a small deposit. The balance is generally due around 90 days before the sailing. Keep an eye on the cruise line’s website. If the price goes down, you can either cancel and rebook at a lower price or get an upgraded cabin for the same price.

Bargains are also available close to the cruise date or even upon arrival at the dock. For example, on the inaugural cruise of the Norwegian Epic from Haifa, it was possible to upgrade from a single interior studio to a double balcony cabin for only $100.

When should you go on a cruise?

Most Israelis vacation during the summer or around the Jewish holidays. However, off-season cruise travel is usually cheaper and less crowded – both on the ship and on shore.

 The 'Wonder of the Seas' cruise ship of the company Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise ship, is docked at a port in Malaga, Spain, April 30, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/JON NAZCA) The 'Wonder of the Seas' cruise ship of the company Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise ship, is docked at a port in Malaga, Spain, April 30, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/JON NAZCA)

To help decide what cruise line, ship, cabin and itinerary to pick, an excellent source of information are the Facebook groups set up by the passengers themselves. These groups can also help you meet people on board.

Another way to see what a ship or cabin looks like is to search for YouTube videos made by previous travelers and cruise vloggers.

When picking a cabin, you can review ship floor plans online. Cabins nearest the elevators, theaters and nightclubs might be noisier. For those concerned about seasickness, it’s best to book a cabin in the middle of the ship on a lower deck. It’s also a good idea to book a cabin with a window or balcony, rather than an inside room.

However, even those who suffer from seasickness on small boats may find that they hardly notice the motion on a giant cruise ship.

Excursions arranged by the cruise lines are usually the most expensive way to explore ashore. Often, it’s much cheaper and almost as easy to take public transportation or a hop-on tourist bus from the cruise terminal. However, the upside of an official shore excursion is that the ship won’t leave without you if a bus full of passengers gets stuck in traffic.

On-board Internet is available for a fee or included in some cruise packages. Don’t expect it to be 100% reliable if you need to make a Zoom call for work or stream your favorite show or sporting event. Any day that a ship is in port, if you have a roaming plan, you can use your phone as a hotspot for your laptop.

You may be able to book ship restaurant reservations, shore excursions and entertainment in advance using the cruise line’s website or app. If not, it’s a good idea to do it as soon as you get on board, especially if the ship is full.

Some ships have self-service washers and dryers, while others offer only expensive laundry service priced on a per-item basis. Some cruise lines offer a special deal once or twice during a cruise in which they’ll wash a full bag of laundry for around $29. Tide Pods are a good option if you want to hand wash items in your bathroom sink.