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Top 10 Tips for First Time Cruisers In Their Twenties

Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life 😎 I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea 🌊 Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise 🚢 I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! 😩I think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me 🐬 Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

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If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few months you’ll know that I booked the holiday of a lifetime a year ago, way back in August 2017, and have been banging on about it ever since! My mum’s 50th and my grandad’s 80th birthday’s had to be pretty special, right? So when 12 of us decided we wanted a mega family holiday to celebrate these two milestones, a cruise was right at the top of our list, although it may not be the obvious holiday choice for me as a young 25 year old! I made no secret of the fact that I’d never been on a cruise before, and that I suffer with horrendous travel/motion sickness everywhere I go, so volunteering for a cruise may have seemed plain stupid, and I was very nervous prior to travel. My nerves were short lived though as my first cruise experience was absolutely INCREDIBLE! I travelled with TUI on their Marella Celebration ship and loved everything about being at sea, from waking up in a new destination each day, to watching glorious sunsets every evening from the top deck, feeling the wind in my hair and gazing into the blue waters below. It really opened my eyes to a new way of travelling, and completely dispelled the myth that cruising is ‘only for old people (!)’. If, like me, you’re in your twenties and are a little nervous about taking your first cruise, hopefully this blog post will help to put your mind at rest as I talk you through what to expect from your first experience at sea, and share some top tips to help you prepare for your holiday.

 

Dress for all occasions

Whatever the weather, and whatever the time of year, you’ll still need to take plenty of clothes for your cruise holiday, especially if (like me) you change outfits three times a day when you’re away! I packed as if I was going on a beach holiday as it was mid-end August and 30-33 degrees in most places we visited, so took tonnes of tops, shorts, skirts, playsuits, swimwear, sandals etc etc. You can generally wear whatever you like during the day, but I know dress codes vary in the evening depending on which cruise liner you’re travelling on. Marella Cruises are very laid back with their dress code, so I just took party clothes and all the ladies I saw wore dresses each evening out, whilst the men were in trousers/jeans and a top/shirt, but I saw lots of men wearing tailored shorts in the evening too. We had one ‘formal night’ which wasn’t that posh and, although lots of women wore long dresses (not ball gowns) and the men wore suits, not everyone did and you certainly didn’t have to. It can get a little chilly up on the deck when you’re sailing at night, so take a light cardi with you if you’re planning on heading out on top, otherwise the climate depends on where you go but I found the Med in August to be super warm even at midnight!

 

Plan your time in each port

I wish I’d done more of this so I could have maximised the time I had in each stop, but looking back I just kinda went with the flow and enjoyed not being super organised during my first cruise. I am SUCH a planner so I really should have thought this through more, but I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do in each destination until I stepped off the boat after docking. Before you travel you’ll get sent a detailed itinerary of your route, and suggested excursions/things to do in each port. I didn’t pay much attention to this until I was actually on board, which was a mistake as often with the excursions you needed to book up to 48hrs in advance, so by the time I thought about booking a trip it was often too late. I did however come across lots of local tour companies that can be found ashore and their trips are often cheaper than if you were booking through the cruise ship directly, so you can save some pennies but just make sure you’re back in time before the ship departs for the next stop! I was travelling in a group of 12 and not all of us wanted to spend loads of time in the ports, so we tended to get up early to watch the sail in (a must if you love sunrises!) and then had breakfast on the deck before getting off the ship around 10, exploring the port for a few hours and then heading back to the ship for a late lunch and an afternoon of sunbathing. I would have been more adventurous and spent more time in each port if I’d have planned my time properly, but it was quite nice to get a taster of each destination and then spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the best of what the boat had to offer –  it was a holiday and not a sightseeing trip after all!

 

 

Look up the entertainment on board

Obviously each ship/cruise liner varies, but Marella Cruises offer a fantastic selection of on-board entertainment both in the daytime and in the evening. We loved the relaxed and friendly atmosphere round the pool areas, which was created by the musical trivia, pub quizzes, bingo and various other games that were played throughout the day. If you decide not to get off a the port and just spend time on the ship instead you’ll find you’re never short of something to do. On our day at sea I was worried I was going to get cabin fever and would be bored but it was actually really nice to spend some time sunbathing, exploring parts of the ship we hadn’t seen yet, and swimming in the pool. I even booked a spa day for my mum and I which was soooo needed! Other liners will undoubtedly have plenty of things to see and do whilst on board, and the evening entertainment is usually fantastic, with Broadway theatre shows, duty free shopping, live music and casinos aplenty. Most cruise liners offer top notch entertainment, with high quality dancers, singers and actors etc so you needn’t worry about planning your evenings whilst on board.

 

Take limited cash

I wish I had known this before I travelled, but every day is a learning day! I took 300 euros with me for my trip and only ended up spending 200, which is pretty good going but I stupidly thought you could only pay in local currency, and didn’t realise that you set up your account when you first arrive on board as everything is operated using a cashless system. This is great if you’re not wanting to take large amounts of cash abroad with you, and I know most cruise liners operate in this way. Your account is open from the minute you dock to the moment you disembark the ship at the end of the holiday, and can be used to buy drinks at the bar, items in the shops and photos in the lab. I loved this idea, but as everything I bought was in pounds, I didn’t realise that when I wanted to settle my account at the end of the trip in cash, paying euros meant that I lost out on the exchange rate and ended up paying more than I needed to. You can pay in pounds in cash or by using your debit/credit card, and in hindsight I kinda wish I had done that as my bill came to £167, but I wanted to get rid of my euros and ended up spending €216 which is a huge difference when you compare the two currencies side by side. Either way I knew I wanted to get rid of my cash euros, but next time I will just take small amounts of cash and use it for spending in the ports, rather than using it to pay my bill, and will pay that off using pounds instead. Hopefully this tip will help you guys to avoid the mistake that I made!

 

Opt for an all-inclusive food and drinks package

Packages vary with different cruise liners, but I would 100% recommend booking an all-inclusive food and drinks package for your first cruise. Most packages can be purchased before travel, or you can upgrade during your trip, but Marella Cruises had a reasonable rate for their packages, and ours was actually included within our price as we got a special group deal when booking a year in advance. The best thing about an all-inclusive package is that you don’t have to get your wallet out and pay any money for drinks/additional extras during your holiday. I mean, I know you’ve kinda already paid for it before travel, but soft drinks, cocktails and beers etc all add up, and I loved drinking as much as I wanted each day without feeling like I was spending any money. If you don’t drink a lot then maybe the package isn’t worth it, but drinks on their own were around £5-£8 per drink, so even if you have 2-3 a day the cost soon adds up! I loved the feeling of not spending physical cash when I was on-board, and will definitely opt for the all-inclusive package next time I go cruising.

 

 

Stick to adults only cruising

A no-brainer for us, as we were travelling in a large group of 12, and I was nervous enough about getting close to the edge of ship without worrying about 8 million children running around! I really loved the chilled out vibe of our Marella Cruise, and I think it really helped that there were no children on board. Queues at food stations and the bars were generally not as long, and all entertainment/trips were geared towards adults not kids meaning everything appealed to us. I would advise booking an adults only cruise for your first one just because everything is much more laid back, and I can imagine kids running around the deck is quite annoying! Not to mention the fact that I’d never have got in the pool if there were kids in it! Adults only, for the win.

 

Be aware of the tipping policy

Again, every cruise-liner is different, so check with your travel agent about this before you go, but tipping is either included or not included on-board and it is best to be prepared before you travel so you know what to expect. I think more expensive liners like Princess and Royal Caribbean operate a tipping policy, but on our Marella cruise we were told that all tips are included within your package, so there was no need to pay extra. We did however receive outstanding service from our waiters and cabin cleaners during our trip and, because we were a group of 12, we wanted to give them a little extra to say thank you. This is completely optional though and not compulsory at all given that all tips are included with Marella cruises.

 

Don’t use your phone when you’re at sea

This is probably the single most important piece of advice I can offer. If you’re from the UK and have a phone tariff which allows EU roaming (most of us do) you absolutely MUST turn off your data roaming whilst you’re at sea, otherwise you’ll incur charges for using your data. And the charges are extortionate, trust me! To be honest it is best to just turn the phone off so as not to incur charges from sending/receiving texts and phone calls too. Whilst you’re at sea your phone will run on a maritime tariff which is stupidly expensive! I just used my data when I was at port each day then switched my phone off in the evenings, but if you want to take pictures and use the rest of your phone you can do that just make sure data roaming is OFF! Seriously, my aunty got charged £52 for a 7minute phone call whilst we were at sea. Just don’t risk it guys! There are usually wi-fi packages you can purchase but these can be expensive and often they are low-speed, so I wouldn’t say they are particularly worth the money. Save that Facebook status til later and enjoy a social media detox, that’s what I did!

 

 

Work out which room type is best for you

Inside cabins, outside cabins, balcony cabins, deluxe balcony cabins, suites and luxury suites; the options are endless when cruising, and there are room types to suit all on board! Whether you’re a solo traveller looking for a single room, or a couple needing a double, there are plenty of room types to choose from, and inside and outside cabins differ in size and type too. I really didn’t want a room which felt too confined/claustrophobic as it was my first cruise, so I chose an outside cabin with a porthole. I would have liked to be higher up on the ship, but to be honest being on deck 1 (the lowest) didn’t actually bother me. Having a porthole was nice as it was great to have natural light and have a look when we were sailing, but sometimes I closed the curtain over the window so if it came down to price and there was a significant difference, I actually wouldn’t mind having an inside cabin! Almost everyone in our party had outside cabins (twins/doubles) apart from one who had a balcony at triple the price! I have to say, it was so lovely to see it and my aunty and uncle loved waking up and sitting out on their balcony first thing in the morning, but you’re hardly in your room when you’re cruising so, personally, I really don’t think they are worth the money especially when the decks can be reached in just a few mins and you can be outside in no time! There really are options to suit everyone though, so it’s worth finding out what room types are on offer before you book.

 

Don’t worry if you get sick – you’re in good hands!

I was sooo nervous about my first cruise because I get so sick when I travel, but luckily I was absolutely fine the entire time! Sea-bands work a treat for queasiness by the way, I suffered with that a little but wasn’t actually sick at all during my holiday, I felt worse when I got back on land! If you do get poorly though, fear not because there is a pharmacy and doctors on board, so you’ll be well looked after if you’re in need of some TLC. As bugs and illnesses can spread very quickly on board a cruise there are sanitizing stations at almost every area, both in and out, so please make sure you use these whenever you can to minimise illness and to have a happy, healthy cruise!

 

I could go on forever with the amount of pointers I could share from my first cruise as a twenty something girl, and nothing quite prepares you for your first time at sea, but I hope this post gives you an idea of what to expect as a first time cruiser (whether you’re in your twenties or not), and offers some tips to make the most of your holiday! I absolutely loved my time away and will be posting a full review of the exact itinerary I took with Marella Cruises so you can see where I went and what I got up to. Have you ever been cruising before? Or have you never been but have got one booked? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and do let me know if you have any other questions that I haven’t covered as I would love to try and help!

Love Jess x

 

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My Dubrovnik Bucketlist, Croatia’s Crowning Jewel

 

Croatia has been a popular European country for decades, with harbour front resorts, cosmopolitan cities and busy shipping ports at every corner. Croatia is famed for its blue skies, turquoise waters and charming heritage, but its crowning jewel has got to be the beautiful city of Dubrovnik. Rising in popularity due to its recent appearances in the blockbuster Game of Thrones series, Dubrovnik is one of the hottest places to visit in 2018. Luckily, I’m going to be there for the first time this summer when I embark on a cruise around the Mediterranean, and I can’t wait to explore this pretty place. So when villa rental company James Villas,who offer fantastic Dubrovnik villas in the city, asked me to put together my Dubrovnik bucket list, I jumped at the chance to create my own itinerary…

 

10.00 – Arrive in Dubrovnik 

 

 

I’ll be arriving in Dubrovnik on a flight from Manchester in the early hours so am pleased that I’ll be able to make the most of having a full day in the city. Once our luggage has been safely delivered to the ship and I’ve refreshed from my flight I’ll be ready and raring to explore the first stop on my cruise!

 

 11.00 – Head to the Old Town

 

The amazing Old Town of Dubrovnik ~ Photo @ccr135

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Nothing screams history like an old town, and if you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know how much I love exploring a good ancient area! As Dubrovnik has been high up on my bucket list for ages, I’ve got a good idea of what I want to see, and this historic area is definitely the right place to start. I plan on heading to the market square to look at the stalls, food halls and little cafe’s and shops and will go from there. I’ve heard it’s a cultural hub with incredible architecture and endless cobbled streets, so I can’t wait to kick off the day and explore this area.

 

12.00 – Walk along the ancient City Walls

 

Just magnificent! @miikkanevalainen #dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik is famed for its city walls, and rightly so as they wrap around the entire old town and stretch to over 2000 metres in length. Dating back to the 7th century, the fortifcations were built to defend the city from hostile forces and offer a wealth of history. I’ll be walking as far along the walls as I possibly can in the short amount of time I have and am really looking forward to seeing the city from an elevated position, I think it’ll really help me to get my bearings and get those all important Insta pics of the iconic red roofs and stone buildings!

 

2.00 – Stop for lunch at trendy restaurant Nautika

 

🙂

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A regular haunt of VIP’s and a host of celebs, I’ve heard this restaurant is the place to be to enjoy a spot of fine dining. I’m not sure if my budget will allow it, but I hope to pop by and scout it out whilst I’m in Dubrovnik. Apparently the roof terraces offer the most incredible panoramic views over the crystal clear waters below, so I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of that whilst I visit, even if I don’t end up getting a table! I’m sure there will be plenty of other places to eat though, so I can refuel ready for a few more hours of exploring afterwards.

 

4.00 – Take the cable car up Mount Srd

 

 

I’m not sure I’ll have time to do this one, but I will certainly try my best to fit it in! Cable cars are a brilliant way to see a new city as they offer wonderful views from above and are an exhilarating experience at the same time. I’ve heard it’s a little pricey, but am sure it’ll be worth it when I get to the top and the buildings turn to tiny dots as the Adriatic sea dominates the skyline. There’s also a restaurant/cafe at the summit too, which will be just perfect for snapping as many pics as I can and taking in the incredible 360 degree views… Ahhh I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

 

6.00 – Take some time out on Banje beach

 

 

This will probably be a luxury thing and something I’ll only do if I have time to spare as I’d much rather run around and explore the city instead of laze around on a beach, but this one looks really beautiful and I hope to at least take a few pictures of it, even if I don’t get the chance to soak up some rays. With it’s gorgeous white sands, bright turquoise waters and rocky cliffs, Banje beach looks like a sun worshipper’s haven and I can certainly see why!

 

8.00 – Sink a sundowner whilst watching the sunset

 

Chase the sunset 🌅 Photo @dubrovnikboatcharter

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Watching the sunset is without doubt one of my favourite things to do when exploring a new city, and I know Dubrovnik is going to be an amazing place to do this! I’m going to try and head to a bar with a panoramic roof terrace and grab a cocktail or a glass of fizz whilst watching the sun go down as it casts its orange glow over the buildings and the sea shimmers below. Sounds totally dreamy, doesn’t it?!

 

10.00 – Return to your cruise ship ready for departure

 

 

Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about this itinerary! After a busy day of exploring I’ll be ready for a good sleep during my first night at sea and will probably welcome a day of rest on the ship the next day. I’ve certainly packed a lot in, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do all of it, but I’m going to try my best to see as much of Dubrovnik as I possibly can and I think it’ll be a great way to kick start my Meditteranean cruise.

 

So this is what my Dubrovnik bucket list currently looks like, and I’m hoping it’s as every bit jam packed as this when the day comes! As you can see, I literally have 12 hours to explore this Croatian gem and want to see as much of it as I possibly can during my time there. Our cruise starts and ends in Dubrovnik, so I may be able to squeeze in a couple more hours of exploring before I head back to the UK, but here’s hoping I can leave with some wonderful memories from my short time in the city. Have you ever been to Dubrovnik before? Let me know if there are any places I’ve missed that should be on my bucket list itinerary! And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the city, don’t forget to check out Dubrovnik villas with James Villas for a luxury alternative to a traditional hotel break!

NB. This post was sponsored by James Villas, but all thoughts and comments (and this itinerary!) are of course my own.

 

Ready for a sunday walk around the Old Town? Photo @unsettledown

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