6 things I wish I'd known before going on a luxury cruise for the first time

Mikhaila on Queen Elizabeth. Mikhaila Friel/Insider
Cunard's Western Europe 5-night cruise was my first international trip since the pandemic.

My first cruise ship experience was in October when I was vaccinated.

There were so many things I didn’t know about cruising, from tipping to dining to how to dine.

1. I could have avoided seasickness by choosing a cabin in another area of the ship.

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth Ship in Amsterdam. Mikhaila Friel/Insider

I stayed in an $856 standard interior stateroom on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth ship.

The room was located on Deck 6, at the back of ship. It had everything I needed. Seasickness was the only thing that I didn't like. I experienced it most often at night, when I went to sleep.

Mike, who was part of the entertainment team, told me later that you can avoid this by choosing a cabin on the lower level of the ship. This will make it less likely that the ship is swaying.

2. I did not know I would be among the youngest passengers onboard.

Mikhaila and fellow passengers Celia Steele (78) and Jannet Russell (70) in Amsterdam. Mikhaila Friel/Insider

Cunard, the popular British cruise line that Carnival owns, is one of Britain's more formal cruise lines. It caters to older guests, something that I didn't know until I stepped on board.

I was 25 years old and one of the youngest passengers. Cunard's press office informed me later that the average passenger age was 61.

Other guests asked me why I didn't choose another cruise line like P&O or Royal Caribbean. They said they had a younger audience.

3. I didn't know that guests sat at the same table each night in the restaurant.

Mikhaila at Britannia Restaurant during the ship’s black-and white themed Gala Night. Mikhaila Friel/Insider

Cunard made a reservation for me at the Britannia restaurant of the ship on the first night. This is something that all guests do at the beginning of the voyage.

A staff member asked me if I would prefer to sit alone or in a group when I arrived. I answered alone thinking that I would be allowed to join a group later in the evening. However, I was never again asked.

It was not something I knew that all guests sat at the same table every night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the couples sitting next to me were happy to have a chat.

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4. If you know where to search, there are often hidden freebies aboard.

Complimentary teas and pastries Mikhaila Friel/Insider

Although I was aware that meals onboard were included in the ticket price, I didn't know about the other freebies available.

A passenger told me that they had complimentary pastries available onboard in the late morning. These pastries aren't included with the breakfast buffet.

I was also informed that the Lido buffet offers a late-night service where guests can get a complimentary cup or coffee along with a sweet treat following dinner.

5. You didn't need to dress in certain areas on the ship.

Afternoon tea at Lido Buffet Mikhaila Friel/Insider

Before I left for Cunard, I researched the formal dress code and was sure to bring appropriate evening wear.

The pamphlet I received on board stated that "smart attire" meant trousers with a collared top for men and trousers with skirts and dresses for women.

The pamphlet stated that there were areas of the ship where the dress code was not necessary. These included the Lido buffet, the Golden Lion pub and the Casino.

6. You have the option to tip a select few crew members instead of paying the service fee at the end of your voyage

Bert, my cabin steward. Mikhaila Friel/Insider

I was not informed that I would be charged a $57.50 service fee at the end my five-night voyage.

A passenger on multiple cruises shared with me that the fee is not mandatory and that she always requests that the company remove it from her final bill. She explained that she does this because the cost is too high and she prefers to tip a few employees like her steward.

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