I’d never been on a cruise before, and since I’d never really had an interest in cruising, I’d also never given much thought to what would actually happen on one. But, I suddenly found myself booked on the Astor on a Cruise to Nowhere for three nights, sailing out of Fremantle and back again. I learned a few things about cruising that I didn’t know (admittedly, I was coming off a very low base).
Here are 10 things I learned:
1. If you can afford it, book an ocean view cabin
One of the things that stopped me from booking a cruise for all those years was the idea of being stuck in a small, dark, confined space with no natural light. On the Astor, we were lucky enough to get a suite, which provided a whole different experience to the one I’d envisioned. The suite was bigger than your average hotel room and the best part was that it had floor to ceiling windows, which allowed us to spend a lot of time just sitting back and watching the ocean roll on by.
2. Travel insurance is mandatory
Since our cruise wasn’t venturing out of Australian waters, it hadn’t really occurred to me to book any travel insurance. In hindsight, this probably should’ve been obvious. It wasn’t until a couple of days before the trip I realised that without insurance, we weren’t goin’ nowhere. I promptly took out a policy with Australian based insurer Fastcover.
3. They take the safety drill VERY seriously
As soon as we boarded the ship, the loud speaker informed us there would be a safety drill for all passengers. We were instructed to grab the life jackets in our room, something warm and something to cover our heads. I joked to my partner about skipping the drill and going to find the bar, but on cue, our stern northern European crew member entered our cabin and made us immediately aware that skipping the drill would not be tolerated. She looked like she might turf us overboard if we didn’t agree, so we got ourselves up to the appointed deck and learned how to put our lifejackets on properly (apparently mine was inside out and back to front).
4. Leave your coolness on the dock
After the seriousness of the safety drill, we were a little shocked when we headed to the back deck and were confronted with the crew mid way through a choreographed dance. Let’s just say, it reminded me of the un-coolest wedding I’ve ever been to. Lots of terrible 80’s music and cheesy dance steps. But, as Anchorman's Ron Burgundy would say “When in Rome…” OK, we didn’t quite join in with Agadoo, push pineapple, shake the tree, but we did decide that if we were going to enjoy the onboard entertainment in the spirit in which it was intended, we had to leave our cool-metre on the dock (this was not a big sacrifice, since we aren’t that cool to start with).
5. Pack a universal charger
This is probably another thing that should’ve occurred to me, but didn’t. The Astor was built in Germany, and so has European wall sockets. My partner and I had to try not to panic as we watched the ‘low battery’ warnings come up on one device after another over the three days. Finally, reception staff took pity on us and charged our phones before we hyperventilated and threw ourselves overboard.
6. Expect some very generous alcohol pours
In Australia, we’re used to wine that comes in a glass with a white measurement line, which is exceeded under NO circumstances. On the Astor, not only was there no such line on the glass, but there was also no room left at the top. Considering a glass of wine was at least $5 less than what you’d pay in Perth, we were pretty stoked with this.
7. Don’t expect free wifi
Before we left, I’d confidently told my boss “don’t worry, there’ll be wifi, so I can work from the ship.” Oops. Since we were not really going anywhere, I’d assumed we would have service, and if we didn’t, there’d be free wifi in all the cabins. There wasn’t. But to be honest, in the times we were out of range, it was a blessing in disguise, because for the first time in a long time, we were NON CONTACTABLE. And that is when we really started to relax.
8. Don’t bring a lot of cash
Before we got on the ship, we were given a personalised card on which to rack up all our onboard purchases (namely, alcohol). This was linked to my credit card and simply deducted at the end. It made everything easy and efficient. The only thing you might need cash for would be tipping, but since we’re Australian (and therefore internationally known as cheap skates), it didn't actually occur to us at the time.
9. Do bring hand luggage
You have the option of getting the porters to take your baggage on and off the ship, which means they may take a while to arrive in your cabin when you get on. On your last night, you have to leave your suitcases outside your cabin door. It definitely helped to have hand luggage to store a few extra things in. And speaking of luggage, it’s a good idea to review the ship’s dress code (which we did not do). We packed evening dresses and suits, which I thought was mandatory on most cruises, but on our particular cruise, we would have stuck out like the proverbial. Oh, and one more thing: pack a jumper or two even if it's a summer cruise, the back deck can get super windy.
10. They take hand sanitising seriously
Since an outbreak of gastro on a ship can be disastrous, there are hand sanitising dispensers all over the ship. For the first day/night, there were also stern looking crew members standing next to said machines blocking our entrance to the restaurants until we had done the required amount of sanitising. It quickly became second nature, and passengers did seem to take note if others tried to by-pass the machines and give them the frowning of a lifetime. No one wants to spend their cruise with their head over the side.
If you're about to take off on your first cruise, I hope this helps. And if you're looking for insurance for your cruise, I used Australian based insurer FastCover. If you're interested, you can get a quote for a policy here: https://fastcover.com.au/ref?id=Wafaraway