15 CRUISE TIPS You Need to Know Before Your First Cruise
Are you considering taking your first cruise? That’s very exciting news! We were just like you when we took our first trip together on Royal Caribbean’s Legends of the Seas back in 2007. If only we knew then what we know now. After cruising for over 10 years together on 30 voyages, we’ve learned a thing or two and are happy to share our insider secrets with you.
I’m DB from EatSleepCruise.com and in this video we’ve compiled our top 15 first-time cruise tips every newbie cruiser needs to know. If this is your first time taking a cruise, we highly recommend using a travel agent.
These travel professionals will guide you through the process of finding the right ship, picking the right cabin, and getting the best deal. Travel agents often offer the best promotions and perks that can be combined with other promotions offered from the cruise lines making your total trip less expensive overall.
Before you start packing those suitcases, check your cruise line’s frequently asked questions. There, you will find a list of items that are not allowed onboard like irons, coffee makers, outside food and beverages, as well as other contraband.
Most cruise lines do allow you to take two bottles of wine in your carry-on but may charge you a corkage fee. You’re prohibited items could be confiscated or worst case scenario you could be asked to leave the ship. We recommend booking tours and shore excursions ahead of time.
You can book through the cruise line’s website, local tour companies at your ports of call, or through third-party vendors that sell shore excursions.
For convenience and efficiency, we normally suggest that first-time cruisers book directly with the cruise lines at most ports of call. However, if you find a tour or activity that is not offered by the cruise company, there are alternatives. But, just remember if you book an excursion from an independent provider, it’s your responsibility to return to the ship on time. The cruise line will leave the port at the designated time whether you’ve made it back or not We would hate for you to miss your first ever cruise because you didn’t plan accordingly.
Give yourself enough travel time to and from the ship in case you encounter traffic, severe weather, or other travel delays. We always suggest flying down the day before your cruise to ensure you do not miss the ship. We have encountered numerous flight delays that would have resulted in a missed embarkation day if we did not travel the day before our scheduled cruise. Get to the ship early on embarkation day so you have plenty of time to check in and get prepared for your first ever cruise. Arriving early does not stop at day one, especially if you’re sailing on a newer or larger vessel.
Seasoned cruisers know that popular shows and events fill up quickly and will often begin lining up 30 to 45 minutes before a scheduled activity.
We recommend arriving at least 20 to 30 minutes before even if you have a reservation for the show or activity. Getting there early means you won’t be scrambling to find seats. We also recommend trying to get some of those must-do items checked off your list early in the cruise. This might include such activities as rock climbing, water slides, go-karts, laser tag, escape rooms, or other popular attractions.
We have always found that the first few days of the cruise feel much quieter with smaller crowds. As the week progresses, extra passengers seem to come out of hiding. By getting those must do things done the first few days, you will avoid the crowds and have an optimal experience for the remainder of the trip. Depending on the type of reservation you’ve made, you might want to consider getting a package. These packages are usually cheaper if you book prior to your sailing.
Popular packages include alcoholic drink packages, specialty dining packages, photo packages, and internet packages. Unless you’re sailing on a luxury cruise ship, all those items are usually additional money. Some lines even bundle packages like offering a drink package coupled with unlimited internet. Along with your shore excursions, you will want to consider booking signature entertainment before your cruise. Many newer cruise ships have certain shows and specialty events that take reservations.
Now, a good travel agent will advise you what needs to be booked pre-cruise and might even make the reservations for you when they become available.
Normally, you can book these e-ticket events on the cruise line’s website about 90 days before sailing. We always pre-book our shows and specialty dining to save time and headaches during the voyage. There are plenty of packing guides online with tips on what to take on a cruise. In fact, we have an entire section back at EatSleepCruise.
com full of packing tips. In general, you should consider having at least a few different mix-and-match daytime outfits and nighttime outfits. When it comes to packing clothes, it really depends on your style and preference. We do recommend bringing a well-stocked carry-on for the first day of your trip.
Along with those bottles of wine, you should pack a bathing suit and a change of clothes just in case your luggage does not arrive until later in the afternoon.
You’ll also want to consider packing some essential items which we link to down in the notes section that we always take on a cruise. If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to register them at the ship’s kids club on the first day of your trip even if you’re unsure if they will use the facilities. Going on the first day to meet the staff and see the different amenities is always a good idea. Most programs are complimentary for children who are 3 years of age or older. Pay attention to the daily activity schedule and announcements regarding the time of day.
Depending on your itinerary, you might be crossing multiple time zones during a trip.
The ship may or may not change clocks in some ports of call. This is what’s known as ship time. Time kept on the ship might not be the same as the local time at a particular port of call, so remember to always set your watch or cellphone to ship time. All aboard times are based on that time.
You don’t want to miss a ship because you were in the wrong time zone. You don’t have to attend the Naval Academy before your first cruise, but you should learn some basic ship terms. When finding your way around the ship, venues towards the front of the ship are known as Forward, whereas venues at the back are often referred to as Aft.
When facing forward on the ship, the right side of the ship is known as a starboard side and the left side is referred to as port side. The ship’s speed will be described in knots with one knot being approximately 1.
1 miles per hour. There will certainly be other terms you hear along your travels so don’t be afraid to ask or just google them. On most mainstream and premium cruise lines, your cruise fare covers a lot but not everything.
Meals at included venues, select non-alcoholic beverages, most entertainment, live shows, and access to many of the facilities are often included in your cruise fare. However, as previously mentioned, additional costs apply like alcoholic beverages ,photos, the internet, and of course shore excursions.
Many ships also offer specialty dining venues and upcharge activities like wine tastings or other classes and seminars, spa treatments, and onboard shopping. Now remember, cash is not accepted on board. All your purchases are made with your room key card, so make sure to check the statement on your in room television or at guest services to ensure accuracy.
Depending on your itinerary, you might want to consider not getting off the ship at all ports of call. This is one of our most valuable tips for your first cruise.
if most people are leaving the ship, you’ll have access to a rather vacant pool deck and other venues. Fewer of the onboard venues will be open, but you can relax, explore their ship, and use some of the different amenities with little-to-no wait. If you have a tour that you really want to do, we don’t suggest skipping the port, but if you plan just to just relax on a beach or a pool why not just stay onboard the ship at a particular port of call.
Don’t worry cruise line’s have recently relaxed what is referred to as formal night. Still, at least one of the nights on your cruise will probably be designated as a dress-up event.
This often includes a captain’s toast or a cocktail reception. You don’t need a gown or a tuxedo, but we always recommend packing something a bit more snazzy for these evenings.
We find the experience to be fun and something to look forward to during the trip. It makes your cruise feel a little bit more memorable. There’ll be many picture studios set up during these events to make it feel like it’s a special occasion.
For the remainder of the trip, you can feel free to wear more business casual clothes in the main dining room. And there you have it, that’s our top 15 insider tips for those individuals taking their first cruise. But of course, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below some of your top tips that you want to share with individuals planning their first cruise.
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Read More: Why You Should Choose A Cruise Vacation