Onboard some of the world’s largest cruise ships, you will have the opportunity to visit the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and even Alaska. Cruising on these mega-ships does take some extra planning though. If you are ready to “upgrade” your cruise experience, we have you covered. With mega-ships being our specialty, we have learned a thing or two about cruising on these larger than life vessels over the years. To help you make the most of your next super-sized vacation, we have our 12 Insider Tips for Sailing on the Largest Cruise Ships in the World.
12 Insider Tips for Sailing on the Largest Cruise Ships in the World
Research the Cruise Lines
All of the major cruise lines now have cruise ships that are among the largest afloat. So, before you pick out a ship, you should do some research on the cruise lines themselves. Each brand has its own unique style of cruising. Depending on your travel party’s ages and preferences, some brands might provide a better fit than others. We firmly believe that there is a cruise ship out there for everyone, even those who aren’t keen on the idea of cruising.
Book Early for Best Prices
You will want to book your room early given the popularity of these mega-ships. Booking early also ensures that you get a great price and a better selection of cabins. Popular cabin types/locations can sell out or escalate quickly in price. Given the size of these ships, we always opt for a mid-ship room. While it will cost you a bit more, the central location is key to navigating the ship. If you do notice a price drop after you book, you can always contact the cruise line for a price adjustment.
Review the Deck Plans Before You Cruise
We are self-confessed over-planners. However, even if you are the “go with the flow” type of person, you should still do some prep before setting foot onboard the largest cruise ships in the world. By reviewing the ship’s deck plans on the cruise line’s website, you will get a sense of the basic layout of the ship and where certain venues and activities are located. This will save you a lot of aimless wandering during your vacation.
Look For Discounts and Sales Before Your Trip
Some cruise lines offer great promotions and perks to get you on the newest and biggest cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line often runs specials that include free Beverage Packages and Specialty Dining Packages. Royal Caribbean too will often have Cruise Planner sales including discounted drink packages and shore excursions if booked pre-cruise. We have been able to score deals of more than 20% off prices on these packages before our sailings, including on Symphony of the Seas, the current largest ship in the world.
Be Sure to Book Your Entertainment Pre-Cruise
The size of these ships means they are packed with plenty of entertainment options. From Broadway style shows, to comedy clubs, interactive games, and dinner review shows, these mega-ships offer it all, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on any of the signature events, so booking your entertainment ahead of time is crucial. For most cruise lines, you can make reservations about 90 days prior to your sailing for many of the signature shows. Plan early, as they will book up quickly.
Have a Completely Packed Carry-On
Veteran cruisers will tell you that you should always have some essentials packed in your carry-on bag. Along with all of your documents and essentials such as medication, you might also want to have a bathing suit handy on embarkation day. Remember, you probably won’t be getting your luggage until the late afternoon. You will want to use the same approach when going ashore at your ports of call, making sure you pack these essential items in your carry-on for a fun-filled day at your destinations.
Check the Daily Activity Guide
Besides the signature entertainment, there will be many other exciting activities happening onboard, including game shows, trivia contests, dancing, bingo, and of course some karaoke. To ensure you don’t miss a thing, you should review a copy of the Daily Activity Guide (Cruise Compass, Freestyle Daily, etc.) that is left in your room. Better yet, you can download the cruise line’s app so this guide will be in the palm of your hand. Many cruise line apps also let you make reservations and provide you with ship maps and other helpful tips.
Get There Early
And speaking of activities, whatever you do, make sure to arrive to these events early. You and the thousands of other cruisers onboard these mega-ships will be trying to make the most of this vacation. That means getting to the same shows, entertainment, and other events being held all week long. We recommend you arrive to signature shows about 30 minutes prior to showtime- even if you have reservations. If you want a premium spot on the pool decks, plan on waking up early to claim a spot as well. Vacation shouldn’t be stressful, but a little know-how can go a long way.
Front Load the Cruise
We can’t overstate enough the benefits of doing things early in the cruise. Whether it is the number of rookie cruisers on most mega-ships or just the sheer shock value, you might wonder where everybody is during the first few days of the cruise. Take advantage of this down time to check-off things on that to-do list. Test out the zip line, race down the waterslides, check-out the IMAX theater, as the crowds will be much worse towards the end of the cruise.
Eat at the Main Dining Room
We are fans of traditional dining. Yes, we know some people prefer more flexible dining options or want to splurge on the occasional specialty restaurant, but you will want to take advantage of the three course meals served nightly in the main dining room at least a few times during the course of the week. This is especially true on some of the “formal nights” during which the menu features enhanced items. After a long day ashore, be pampered by the top notch service you will receive from your waitstaff.
Avoid the Crowds
Make your cruise hassle-free by planning to avoid the crowds. You could start by taking the stairs. Along with alleviating the stress of waiting for an elevator, it also helps to burn some extra calories. You should also avoid eating at peak times- like noon on a sea day. These mega-ships often have several venues open for breakfast and lunch which are hidden gems and great alternatives to the buffet. Undoubtedly, there will be certain bars that are less busy depending on the time of day, so sneak in for a drink during the lull. When you do things during off times, it really is a completely different experience.
Be Courteous to the Staff
These hardworking crew members often go above and beyond everyday to offer you a memorable cruise experience. Pay it forward by being friendly to all the staff you encounter. Often times, they will return the kindness. Being rude doesn’t get you anywhere. Yes, you will inevitably have to wait in a few lines on these mega-ships, but be patient and relax. After all, you are on vacation. Additional gratuities for exceptional service are also very much appreciated.
Above All, Have a Blast!
We simply can not get enough of cruising on these massive ships. Don’t let the gross tonnage scare you. With these handy tips, you will have “tons” of fun and a one of a kind experience. With the right ship, itinerary, and a little preparation, you can set sail on an unforgettable cruise vacation. It will certainly be one for the record books.
Have you sailed on any of the largest cruise ships in the world? What are your tips for cruising on these mega-ships? Drop us an anchor below to tell us what you like and dislike about these massive floating cities.