My A to Z of Cruising

cruise shipAnimal towels – I’m sure you will have seen towels folded into animals in posh hotels but it is also the norm, in all cabin grades, on cruise ships. I think my favourite was the monkey hanging from the ceiling when we walked in. My Aspie brain loves working out how the animals were made and recreating them.

Bars – a great place to socialise. We Aspies do like to socialise you know. The bars are generally where all the quizzes, games and activities take place. They can also be very quiet during the day so a nice place to relax if you are not bothered for the busyness of the top deck and the swimming pools.

Cinema – some cruise ships have cinemas on board. I like films but find cinemas too loud which leads to sensory overload. One cruise ship had a screen on deck. This was better because the noise was less oppressive out in the open, on the other hand there were a lot of people on deck for other reasons so processing out their noise was difficult. You just can’t win.

Dressing up for formal evenings. I used to hate dresses and skirts but now I actually enjoy getting dressed up in an evening and own two dresses (we have two formal nights on board)

Embark – getting on board the ship. Usually every time you get on the ship your bags go through an x-ray machine and you go through a metal detector. I don’t like metal detectors. I think it’s because I don’t want them to go off and somebody to do a pat down search – that’s too much physical contact for me.

Flights – I’m not a fan of flying but on the one fly cruise I have been on I found the process easy as all the transfers were sorted and included and they told you where to meet. The only problem was on the final day you arrive at the airport with fifty other people so the queues to check in are quite long. I don’t like queues, people seem to get too close and this makes me anxious – I don’t like being touched.

Gratuities – in my opinion it is worth paying the daily gratuities as they get split between everyone who provides service. Not only the people you see like waiters or waitresses and cabin stewards but what about the people who vac the public areas, cook or the people who wash up after meals? By paying the gratuities the cruise ship set you ensure everyone gets their share and not just front of house staff. I’m very into fairness.

Horizon – one name of the daily newsletter. I love these daily newspapers. We used to get them every evening either just before dinner or just after. I think the reason I love them is because they are like timetables (as well as providing information about ports, currency, time difference, what to wear in the evening etc.) I love timetables – they allow me to plan my day and that’s important to me – it helps me feel less anxious. On the other hand I do find it difficult when they advertise something I plan on going to and then it gets cancelled. This change of plans can really throw me.

Inside cabins – they are the cheapest grade of cabin but the one we usually go for because I would rather spend my money on excursions and souvenirs than on a cabin I don’t spend much time in.

Jumpers – take some it can get cool on deck in the middle of the ocean at night. Even inside with all the air conditioning you might need something.

Keys – your key, on most ships we have been on, is your cruise card that you are given when you first embark. This card is so important you will see lots of people wearing lanyards so they don’t lose their card. This card is the key to your room, the method of paying but also the card that lets you on and off the ship. One of my tips is to make sure you have plenty of pockets especially in eveningwear. I am rubbish at carrying a handbag, especially when the phone doesn’t work and you don’t need money. It’s great travelling with Dad; men’s clothes seem to have more pockets!

Leaving the boat – if you don’t fancy an excursion (see x) you can always just get off the boat and wander. On our cruise around the UK we did this several times and just exploring was fun. Each time we got off the boat we found a tourist information and got a map (for me). Some cruise liners will put on shuttle busses to the nearest town but otherwise you will need to walk or get a taxi. Some places you feel safe enough to do this and other places you would feel much safer on an excursion.

Muster – the most boring part of the cruise holiday. Everyone gathers around, usually with their life jackets, and gets told what to do if the ship were to get into difficulties. It’s boring and very crowded – not great for somebody with Asperger’s when they try and squeeze too many people into the bar area.

Navigation – some of the cruise ships are enormous and navigating can be a bit daunting. One cruise ship had different coloured carpets at the front and back of the ship so you knew where you were. Another ship, at least one in fact, put odd numbered cabins at one side and even numbered cabins at the other side so you could tell if you were walking down the right corridor – especially when they are do identical. My favourite part has to be getting a map of the ship though. I am a big fan of maps.

Oriana – I think this has been my favourite ship so far. It is with P and O and is for adults only. This was the first ship I ever went on and I was very nervous. I had always wanted to go on a cruise but the unknown is still unnerving. It was beautiful however and the wooden deck just made it feel old-fashioned and familiar. We are going back on the Oriana so I hope it’s as nice second time around.

Packing – I have done a whole post on packing for cruises. It’s one of my skills. See the post here: Packing for cruising

Quizzes – I am rubbish at quizzes, I have a lot of knowledge but it is not general, not topical and certainly not based on celebrities. I do terribly at quizzes but they can be fun and there are prizes on offer!

Restaurants – I prefer the restaurants where you sit at the same table, with the same people every night. This is because you get to know the people and don’t have to have the same introductory conversation every night but you also get to know the waiters or waitresses. As I sometimes have special dietary requirements it is much easier to tell a waiter once and then not have to explain every single night.

Sea creatures – a highlight of my first cruise was seeing dolphins swimming by the side of the boat. I was glad I had my camera ready but they were quite far away and I didn’t get a great picture.

Tender – I don’t mind tenders. Tenders are smaller boats that get you from the big ship to the harbour when the boat is too big (or the harbour too small). On one trip it was very rough and the tender was bouncing about all over the place. This affected me and made me feel a bit sick but then I often get travel sick. It’s something to do with the vestibular sense and it being a bit overactive apparently. I think it’s why theme park pirate ships make me ill as well.

Upgrade – we have received an upgrade. I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. we are still in an inside cabin but now have a bath as well as a shower (I do like baths so I’m not really complaining) but also we are now lower down in the ship and I’m worried this will be noisy. We will see.

View – on one cruise we got upgraded to an outside cabin, I have no idea how. However the sea was so rough that by day three they had shut the porthole off and it might well have been an inside cabin – I’m glad we didn’t pay for outside.

Waiters – they can make or break your cruise. We have been really lucky and have had fantastic waiters, waitresses and Maître D. These can be really helpful as they can help arrange conversations with the kitchen if there is no food you can eat.

eXcursions – I love excursions. I have written about this previously but I will say it again. Being organised works for me and excursions are very organised.

Yachts – one day I’ll cruise on a yacht rather than the big cruise ships. I’ll go to small islands and explore and maybe do some snorkelling or scuba diving. That would be a new cruising experience.

Zone, time – these do change on cruise ships but are well documented on the daily newspaper. Just be aware that your phone or other devices may not change zones at the same time as the cruise does.

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