How to book your first cruise
Top tips for first time cruisers
Sailing on your first Cunard cruise? Here are our top tips to make the process a little less daunting - from before you sail to disembarkation day. Take it from us - we are the experts, after all.
Getting ready to embark on your first cruise is an exciting experience, but for first-timers, it can be difficult to know exactly what to expect and prepare accordingly.
We’ve curated a list of must-know information and top tips for first-time cruisers, to help ensure you’re ready to step on board with confidence.
Before your cruise
For many, plenty of time spent researching and planning before you embark can make for an even more relaxing and enjoyable cruise.
Check your details and documents
Between booking your cruise and sailing, make sure you visit My Cunard (log in using your booking reference) and ensure all your details are correct. 21 days before you sail, online check-in will open - complete this at home to speed up embarkation process at the cruise terminal.
If you have children coming on the cruise, and wish to make use of our fantastic children's clubs on board, you will need to register them via My Cunard before sailing too.
In terms of documentation, check that your passport is within date, you have any required vaccinations (this will depend on your itinerary; speak with your doctor for advice if you're not sure) and visas, and that you have proof of travel insurance (which is mandatory for UK guests). Lastly, if you have checked in online, print out your boarding pass, or have it ready on your mobile phone to show to terminal staff.
Research your ports of call
Take some time to learn about the different ports of call you’ll visit during your cruise. For instance, you may find it useful to find out about the language, culture, weather, and the types of food and drink you can expect to sample in port. My Cunard is a good place to start: on there you can find guides to each port on your itinerary.
Pre-book your Shore Experiences...
Each port of call will come with its own myriad of unmissable excursions to experience, from cultural experiences to food-based tours to more active adventures. Log in to My Cunard to explore the different options available and make a note of any that spark your interest. Many excursions sell out fairly quickly, so be prepared to book any must-dos in advance to avoid disappointment. You can book your Shore Experiences on My Cunard up to 3 days before your departure date. If you miss the boat here don't worry - you can book once on board, but availability will be more limited.
...and other activities too!
My Cunard will be updated in the lead up to your cruise to enable pre-booking for many other exciting on board activities, including Mareel Wellness and Beauty, alternative dining, drinks options, and internet packages. Check regularly to see what is available, or keep an eye on your inbox for helpful emails prompting you when new items are added, and remember; many products are slightly cheaper when booked online versus on board. It pays to be organised!
Inform us of any allergies or intolerances
It is vital that, if you suffer from any food intolerances or allergies, you inform us as soon as possible (call our Contact Centre to do this). This way we can make the necessary arrangements and avoid any disruption to your dining experience on board.
Familiarise yourself with your ship
You can begin to explore your cruise ship before you’ve even taken your first step on board.
Take a virtual look around our staterooms, discover a range of stylish bars and restaurants, and discover some of the fabulous activities and events you can expect to see throughout your cruise. Of course, you can also read more Cunard Stories to whet your appetite, with guides, recipes, features and more to get you in the holiday mood.
Packing for your cruise
Choose layers for daytime
Both during your time on board and throughout your days in port, the weather could be unpredictable. Therefore, it’s always wise to choose outfits that you can easily mix and match to optimise your wardrobe options. Choose items such as linen shirts, scarves, and thin cardigans that you can use to layer up on chilly evenings, or take off and carry as you stroll around your port destination. You can find out more about what to pack for your cruise with our handy packing list.
Check dress codes for evenings
Gala Evenings on board come with an invitation to dress in your finest eveningwear and enjoy a spectacular evening of music and celebration. Allow yourself to be swept away by the majesty of our themed evenings, as your ship becomes awash with stunning décor and wonderful entertainment. There is always at least one Gala Evening on cruises of three nights or more, each with its own theme, from the Black and White Ball to Roaring 20s.
You can check how many Gala Evenings you have on your itinerary, when they fall, and what theme to follow, in your calendar on My Cunard, so you have time to prepare your outfit; whether you choose to go all-out, or just give a subtle nod to the theme.
Pack some sea-sickness medication
Even the most experienced cruisers can suffer from a spot of seasickness every now and again, so it’s always advisable to carry some anti-seasickness medication with you – especially if you know you are prone. Even if you've never travelled by water before, it doesn't hurt to be prepared!
What not to pack for your cruise
There are some things that you are asked not to bring on board with you, and it is advisable to check our list of prohibited items before you zip up your suitacse for the final time. Failure to comply with this may result in confiscation of items at the terminal.
Check our packing guide
We've compiled more detailed information about the above, and more, in our useful packing guide. Some destinations even have their own guide too, so you can pick the perfect wardrobe depending on your itinerary!
Allow plenty of time
The embarkation process can take some time. Queues for security and luggage drop off can get busy, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time, so you aren’t hurrying during the day. You will be assigned a time to arrive at the terminal: for the best chance at not being caught in a queue, ensure you arrive within this window.
Take hand luggage
Before you board, you can drop off your luggage outside the terminal to be delivered to your stateroom. However, it's worth keeping a small bag with you for your documents, valuables, drinks, and snacks for the terminal. Should you beat your luggage on board, you can take some additional items for your first afternoon on board. If you feel like a refreshing dip, bring a swimsuit and change of clothing, as well as any medication or other essentials you may need.
Familiarise yourself with your suite or stateroom
Spend some time on arrival getting comfortable and familiarising yourself with your stateroom. If there is anything you are uncertain about, or have any issues with, raise these with your stateroom steward (or butler, if you are a Queens Grill guest), or another member of the crew.
Complete safety procedure
Before sailing you will need to report to your muster station, watch safety information on your stateroom television, and listen to the Captain's announcement. All will educate you on emergency procedure on board.
Explore your cruise ship
Once you’re unpacked, take the opportunity for a stroll around the decks to help you learn the layout of the ship. Discover where bars and restaurants are located, and perhaps pick the perfect spot for a refreshing cocktail during sailaway. The buffet and restaurants will also be open for you to tuck in to your first Cunard meal - the question is, which will you choose?
On board your cruise ship
Open up My Voyage
My Voyage is our personal digital planner. You will find instrictions on how to set this up and use it in your stateroom, once you board. Using this simple tool, on your own mobile device, you can book dining, Shore Experiences and more, plus view ship information and check your on board account balance in real time.
Keep your phone in aeroplane mode
Depending on your network, accidental roaming charges can soon add up during a cruise. Avoid a nasty surprise when you get home by keeping your mobile devices on aeroplane mode and instead, should you wish to use the internet, check which Wi-Fi packages are available to purchase on board. But don't worry: My Voyage, our digital planner, is free to use for all our guests!
Book activities as early as possible
Also in your stateroom or suite will be a Daily Programme - a generous list of on board activities to keep you entertained day and night, whatever your preferred pace. The programme changes daily, and a copy will be delivered to you each evening for the following day. Some activities may have a set number of places available, so make sure to check My Voyage or call up reception to book your place in plenty of time.
Book your next voyage!
It's never too soon to start planning your next voyage. Each Cunard Queen has a sales office on board, with a fantastic team to find the perfect second voyage for you and your loved ones. Booking this far in advance means less planning later - and often prices are better when booking on board too.
Don’t be afraid to ask
If there’s any aspect of your cruise that you’re uncertain about, or maybe you would simply like a recommendation for dinner, don’t hesitate to ask. Our crew are on hand to provide you with our famed White Star Service throughout your voyage - from your steward to the reception staff, to the waiters and officers.
Pack the night before
Enjoy a restful final evening on board and make disembarkation as smooth as possible by spending some time preparing your suitcase, documents, and hand luggage the day before you leave.
You are invited to leave your larger, packed, luggage outside your suite or stateroom on the day before disembarkation (with luggage labels attached). A steward will collect this during the evening, and it will be awaiting you in the cruise terminal when you get there.
When packing your luggage, make sure you keep anything you think you may need on your final evening and on the day of disembarkation in your hand luggage.
Check your on board account
Double-check your on board account and make sure you're happy with everything listed. You can do this on My Voyage, or you can check the paper statement that will appear outside your stateroom on the last evening. If you have any concerns or questions about your charges, just ask your steward or contact reception. Your account will be paid automatically via the card you registered at check-in.
Don't skip breakfast!
Savour your last Cunard meal - at least for this voyage - with a leisurely breakfast. Choose to use your complimentary room service one last time with breakfast in bed, or visit your usual restaurant for a filling meal before you report to your disembarkation point. On your way, say goodbye to the beautiful surroundings that have been your home – until your next cruise!