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Ocean cruising, is it for you? Visiting several ports without concern for baggage, observing ever-changing scenery and having the option to party, read, sleep or be entertained all on a single ship? That does sound attractive. The question is, with the many cruise companies around, how do you choose with whom to cruise?

Here are some tips for first timers from first timers to save you research hours before you board your experience of a lifetime.

Cruising Alaska
Welcome!

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) was not only recommended, they offered a point of difference. “Freestyle Cruising” is just that, unstructured, free to do as you please cruising. Choose when and where to dine, what to see and do; a broadway show, a film, an art auction or party til the wee hours. Some enjoy the organisation of other cruise lines, and NCL do provide plenty of scheduled activities, it’s simply up to you what you do and when you do it.

Cruising Alaska
Space Needle Seattle.

NCL’s 7 and 10-day Alaska cruises depart from Seattle. 7-day cruises return to Seattle while 10-day cruises disembark in Vancouver. As first-timers, 7 days was great to test the water. Book online and to save hassle, check in online too. Print bag tags, boarding info and select your bag drop time slot. Be sure to arrive within your allotted time, with 2,376 potential passengers on the Norwegian Jewel, traffic flow is the priority. Hotel check-out is usually 12:00 so select 12:00-12:30. Drop your bags with time to enjoy a last look at Puget Sound and delicious seafood at Anthony’s before registering and collecting keycards around 14:45.

Cruising Alaska
Salmon salad: Sockeye Salmon, beetroot, rhubarb, avocado, strawberries etc @ Anthony’s Pier 66, Seattle

Now let’s talk cabins? When booking, be mindful of what 13-14 square metres actually feels like. 7 nights in the cost effective inside stateroom may see the walls closing in. By opting for an Ocean View, you gain space and you get a window.

Our recommendation: a balcony or higher. The extra space with full-length sliding glass doors opening onto your private balcony allows fresh air and ocean sounds to enter, plus you can add 2 free packages.

Cruising Alaska
Balcony Stateroom on Norwegian Jewel

Advance purchase packages are a great way to save and NCL offers a choice of 5 free options. Inside stateroom: select 1 free offer, Ocean Views, Balconies, and Mini-Suites: choose 2 free offers and when booking a suite or penthouse you get all 5.

The Ultimate Beverage Package is well worth it if you enjoy a tipple. (Alcohol pricing is at a premium on the ship with mixed drinks, glasses of wine and cocktails between USD $10 and $15 a pop). Oh, and don’t try to bring your own, they’ll find it and confiscate, but you can take on water and soft drinks which will save a packet.

The Specialty Dining Package includes a la carte restaurants, a great way to break up the complimentary buffet and dining rooms.

Take the time to read the fine print; service charges and shore taxes are charged on alcoholic beverages; dining package frequency is limited; shore excursion savings apply to the cabin, not individuals; wi-fi minutes are capped and extra guests sail free applies to the 3rd and 4th guest in the same cabin. Regardless of these stipulations, the free packages make for significant savings.

Cruising Alaska
Norwegian Jewel

Now you’re onboard, your keycard is the only thing you need to concern yourself with. No cash or credit cards are used on the ship so this not only opens your cabin door but is scanned with every purchase. It’s your ID to leave and board the ship, it remembers your free packages and it tells you your safety assembly station. Hopefully, you’ll only go there once for the pre-sailing safety demonstration then you’ll be free as a bird.

Cruising Alaska
Freestyle Daily, for everything you need to know & the “can not live without” keycard

Bags are delivered to your cabin by 18:30. While you wait, check out the “Freestyle Daily”, a paper covering everything you need to know about events on the ship and what to expect and prepare for in the days ahead. Freestyle dining is explained and locations for complimentary dining and featured cuisines outlined. Take note of the full list of onshore excursions and it’s here you’ll find discounts for laundry and pressing, massage and salon packages and any other daily deals. There’s the NCL app too so download, log-in and the next 7 days are at your fingertips.

Cruising Alaska
Top Deck (13) on the Norwegian Jewel

Was that the ship’s horn? A welcome party is in full swing with mojitos and a BBQ by the pool. What better place to wave goodbye to Seattle than the top deck of the Norwegian Jewel? Bon Voyage!

An “at sea” day is next so we’ll explore the ship and work out the lay of the land, (erm….sea!). Freestyle cruising: it’s now a thing we love….

Are you a cruiser? What do you do to prep for your journey? We’re nosey at paraphernalia.co, so let us in on your secrets in the comments below.