Shorter itineraries, fewer ports of call and even sailings to nowhere, are some of the changes you can expect to see when cruising returns. But don't let that deter you if you have never been a great fan of sea days (although many people are). To make the most of days when you're all at sea check out our guide on 10 things that you should not do when you're onboard 24/7 in the current climate.
1. Throw yourself into all the activities on the first day
Yes, we're just as excited as you about getting back onboard and sampling everything cruises have to offer. That said, if you're on a big ship don't burn yourself out on the first day trying to cram everything in. With fewer or even no ports of call you will have plenty of time to pace yourself -- maybe three or five days at sea when it was just one before -- and enjoy everything on offer. To comply with social distancing lines will be putting on extra shows and extending restaurant opening hours so nobody will miss out.
2. Shun speciality dining
In the past you might have steered clear of speciality restaurants, or only dined there on birthdays and special occasions, because of the additional supplements. Now is the time to treat yourself. With all the extra time at sea you'll be saving money on shore excursions and buying drinks and snacks at bars and cafes during free time in ports of call. Instead treat yourself to some leisurely lunches and dinners at the special dining venues, where the extra fee is far less than you'd pay for a similar meal on land. Enjoy!
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3. Leave it too late to book a spa treatment
Sea days are always the times when spas and thermal suites are busiest, and this will stay the same as even more passengers opt for a spot of pampering and relaxation to while away some indulgent hours. Many people don't realise the majority of lines offer the option to pre-book spa treatments online or via the cruise planner app ahead of sailing. This also saves rushing to the spa on embarkation day to join a long queue (and nobody wants that right now) to reserve a treatment on the day and time of your choice. Also, for-fee thermal suites with steam rooms, saunas and splash pools are limited by numbers, so to avoid disappointment and being left out in the cold book them in advance too.
4. Throw away your masks during the first couple of days
We've all got used to wearing face masks right now, and it's going to be no different on a cruise except you're going to need a lot more of them than you do at home. If you use disposable ones work out how many you will need so you don't end up throwing them all away and running out within a couple of days and having to buy more onboard. Some of the more expensive lines will be giving reusable custom masks to passengers (we can see them becoming something of a collector's item in years to come); or consider bringing your own eco-friendly fabric masks. There are some great designs out there and you could make a statement by co-ordinating them with some of your outfits.
5. Say no to things you haven't done before
In the past you've probably skimmed through the daily programme and dismissed some of the free activities on offer because they don't really tickle your fancy or you simply haven't had the time as you've been out and about on shore excursions. You might have taken up a new pastime during lockdown and a cruise is no different. Now is the time to give new things a go -- a beginner's bridge class, craft workshop, guest lecture or gym session, to name just a few. Who knows, you could end up finding a new hobby for life and if you don't try you'll never find out.
6. Log onto the ship's GSM
Even if you're staying in home waters, such as embarking on a round-Britain cruise, don't leave home without sorting out a roaming package with your mobile provider. You don't need to be that far out before the network switches to a cellular at sea service, and with few or no ports of call to pick up your regular service you could end up with eye-watering roaming fees on your next bill. Similarly, if you plan to use a lot of data check out the ship's Wi-Fi set up in advance and opt for the most cost-effective package best suited to your needs, which nowadays will probably be one for the duration of the sailing rather than one based on more expensive hourly or per-day usage when there was the chance to hook up to free Wi-Fi at ports.
7. Pack the wrong things
With limited or no shore excursions, coupled with more time onboard, you need to rethink your packing. It's unlikely you're going to need rugged walking shoes and outdoor gear this time around. Instead pack more casual clothes for days at sea, including several swimsuits, sandals, flip-flops and beach cover-ups such as shorts, T-shirts and kimonos for popping into the restaurant. And if you enjoy getting spruced up at night, now's the ideal time to take more evening clothes as you won't be rushing back from shore excursions and will have plenty of time to dress for dinner. And you don't need to worry about overpacking and taking clean clothes for every day as with more time onboard you'll have time to use the self-service laundry available on larger ships.
8. Make a mess in your cabin
Your stateroom is your floating home from home with the added benefit that you don't have to do any housework. However, spare a thought for the cabin stewards. They will be working harder than ever with more passengers on board for more of the time and increased levels of daily cleaning and enhanced deep cleaning protocols before the next passengers embark. You can make their lives a whole lot easier by keeping everything shipshape and also hang up towels after use as on many lines they will no longer be changed twice daily.
10. Read all your magazines on the first day
Magazines and other items that are handled by multiple people are going to disappear for the foreseeable future, so you'll need to bring your own and make sure you've got enough to last for several days. The same goes for books as libraries are likely to have a restricted operation and you won't be able to browse like before. To save lugging magazines and books in your suitcase -- and running out of thing to read -- download titles onto your tablet or e-reader.
11. Use the lift (unless you have to)
Even in lifts, it can take a long time to get from A to B on sea days when they can stop on every deck along the way, particularly at peak periods such as mealtimes. Also, new protocols will mean the maximum capacity will be reduced to comply with social distancing guidelines; most likely four people in a lift at any one time or only members of one family or travel group. Unless you're physically unable to do so, use the stairs instead. An added bonus is that you'll also walk off some of those indulgent cruise ship calories!