Five things I learned as a first-time cruiser

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

Australia’s summer cruise season is in full swing but as someone who had never cruised before, I finally got to see what all the fuss was about.

Despite the fact that more than 1.34 million Australians went cruising in 2017, I was a complete cruise newbie when I boarded the Majestic Princess for her maiden voyage into Sydney Harbour in September.

And although friends and family gave me a good run-down of what to expect, here are a few things I learned during my two days out at sea.

The Princess Majestic in Sydney for the first time. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle
Your cruise card is your life

When I first checked-in for my cruise with Princess I was given a card with my name on it. It’s also your room key and your cash while on board so it is impossible to do anything without it. If you lose it or it stops working you are basically cash-less, not to mention locked out of your room.

I initially didn’t link my credit card to my account, and regretted it pretty quickly as I soon realised that was the norm. Luckily, they have a reception and customer service area – just like in a hotel – and were able to fix that for me, so I could finally order a cocktail at the pool bar.

There is food everywhere

Depending on which package you buy you can get much of the food and drinks included during your cruise. But I had no idea just how much food was going to be on board.

Between the huge buffet, the various restaurants ranging from simple family-friendly food, to Michelin chef establishments such as Harmony, and La Mer, there was so much to choose from. 13 different options to be exact. Of course, some restaurants had an additional cover charge, but food from the cafes and the buffet was included in my package.

Add to that the option of room service, a soft serve kiosk by the pool, so many bars I lost count, and I basically spent two days eating and drinking my way around the ship.

After a special tour of one of the four kitchen galleys on board as well I really had an appreciation for just how much food is consumed. Think 1600l of soup for each meal time and 700kg of flour a day.

There was a soft serve kiosk on the pool deck. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle
Avoid the lifts if you can

Cruise ships these days are pretty huge and getting between the levels can seem like a daunting task. At 143,700 tonnes, Majestic Princess is equivalent to 126 Sydney Manly ferries, and at 68m she is taller than the Sydney Opera House. The ship had 17 levels all up. My room was on level 8, the spa and main atrium was across levels 5-7, and the pools and buffet were up on level 16 and 17.

But while there are lifts that can take you from top to bottom in four main foyer areas, the trip can sometimes take a really long time. I’m used to waiting for a lift at work regularly, but generally there are peak times in the morning, afternoon, and at lunch time.

On a cruise ship there are no peak times, everyone wants to go everywhere all the time. It took me over 15 minutes on one occasion to get from the spa on level 5 to the pool deck on level 16. I wasn’t very relaxed anymore on arrival.

And it was even worse trying to get anywhere after a show finished. I gave up and eventually climbed nine levels of stairs, which for me is fine. I’m able to do that because I’m relatively fit and still young. But I would hate to think of all the waiting people from older demographics, or less-mobile passengers, have to do while on a cruise.

It sometimes took a long time to make it to the top. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle
You don’t need a highlighter anymore

Before I left for my cruise my mother-in-law told me I should pack a highlighter so that I could go through the program and mark what I wanted to do or see. The daily program that got delivered to my room was super helpful but I quickly found out that, as with most things these days, there is an app for that.

The Princess Cruise app allows you can go through the daily calendar and select everything you might want to do. It then puts it all together in a neat planner for you. No highlighting required. The app also lets you order room-service for breakfast for example.

The maiden voyage is a big deal

On this particular trip it was the maiden voyage for the Majestic Princess, and the first time the ship would come into Sydney Harbour. The captain was super excited about the arrival in Sydney, which you could tell from his enthusiastic announcement the day before.

And the entrance was indeed spectacular. I did have to get up at 4am for it but it was completely worth it. After coming through the heads, the ship came into the harbour on the world’s first floating ‘runway’. It was 1550m long and was illuminated with flares in red, white, and blue. Check out the video above to see what it was like.

The 3560-guest ship will now be based in Sydney for the next six months, carrying close to 70,000 Australian and international travellers on 18 cruises this season.

The ship came into the harbour on a ‘runway’ of flares. Photo: Supplied/Princess/James Morgan
Verdict: I would do it again

Special shout out to the amazing housekeeping staff. In charge of my room was Jessie, who just always seemed to be there whenever I needed anything. Literally a thought would pop into my head, and I would open my door to find him nearby.

Now that I know a little more about cruising I would definitely go again. Maybe four or five days next time around.

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