20 Simple Tips for the First Time Cruiser
This past summer, I had the opportunity to go on my very first cruise ever! I’m not only a first time cruiser, but this was my first cruise with Frank as a couple and my first time on a Carnival Cruise. It was so much fun! In fact, I was ready to start planning our next cruise the moment we pulled into the Port of Long Beach.
As a first time cruiser, I have to admit I was a little bit anxious. I didn’t know how safe the ship was or where anything was located. I was so glad to have an experienced cruiser (Frank) with me. Here are some tips that will help prepare you for an awesome experience on your cruise.
1 – Get to know your cruise. One of the things I love about the Internet is that I have a ton of information right at my fingertips. The first thing you’ll need to do is explore the website of the cruise line you’re going on. You can also look at pictures and read experiences from other cruisers by checking out blogs (like this one – yay!). I love reading blogs and looking at pictures because they don’t just show stock images, they show real life pictures from the individual’s point of view.
2 – Get the necessary paperwork done. You need to make sure you give yourself ample time to acquire a passport if you don’t have one. You should also verify that your photo id or driver’s license isn’t expiring any time near your trip. You don’t want any hiccups when you come back through Customs. Make sure you also have relevant maps if you are traveling in an unfamiliar area.
3 – Find out what you’re allowed to bring. Most cruise line websites list items you can or can’t bring aboard. For instance, on some ships you cannot bring beer on board, but you can bring 2 bottles of wine for departure. You may be allowed to bring water and sodas aboard, but may not have a fridge in your room. You’ll just want to double check the cruise’s site so you don’t end up carrying around anything extra in your baggage.
4 – Prepare for a semi-formal or formal night. On most cruises, there will be at least one night where you can attend a formal dinner. Be sure to pack a nice dress and nice shoes (for the ladies) or a suit with nice shoes (for the men). Some ships offer tux rental services, so you’ll want to see if yours does before you pack. You’ll also want to inquire as to what the dress code is in your main dining room (i.e. no flip flops). On the formal night, you’ll even have a chance to take some great pictures with professional photographers.
5 – Pack for comfort. While on board, you’ll find yourself walking around the ship a lot. While stylish shoes can look cute and fashionable, they will probably make it less comfortable to walk around the ship. Be sure to bring a comfortable pair of tennis shoes and flip flops. I also brought a pair of jeans and sweats in case I was in a lounge around mood.
6 – Prepare for the sun. Most of the time, you’ll probably find yourself on the outside decks of the cruise line, especially if the weather is gorgeous! Whether you burn or tan, be sure to bring sunscreen. On our trip, it was overcast and I was cold, so I let myself sit in the sun (without sunscreen) to warm up. It’s no surprise that I was sunburned in such a short amount of time. So my tip – pack your sunscreen and actually wear it, even on cloudy days! You may also want to bring a hat with you as well.
7 – Prevent motion sickness. Motion sickness is inevitable when you’re on a big ship in the ocean, but you can help prevent it with a few simple steps. First, stay hydrated. That means, drink water throughout the day. Second, take anti-motion sickness medicines (I like Dramamine or Bonine). Third, bring a pressure point wristband. This may help curb possible motion sickness as well.
8 – Attend the first day’s Muster Drill. Prior to departure, you will need to attend the Muster Drill where you will be given safety instructions on what to do if the ship becomes distressed. Information includes the location of the lifeboats, location of the life preservers, how to proceed if there is an emergency, and more. I know I felt a lot more reassured of the safety of the ship and the crew after attending the Muster Drill.
9 – Be prepared to eat a lot. The first night, Frank and I missed dinner and let me tell you, we will not do that again! The second night we had an amazing dinner! I mean, I’m talking lobster tails, steak, mashed potatoes and more. Plus, you can eat as much as you want. I had 2 lobster tails and a steak and didn’t have to cook it or do the dishes afterwards. Trust me, you’ll want to take advantage of this opportunity while aboard. If you want to do buffet-style meals, I would suggest saving those for lunches or snacks.
10 – Consider getting travel insurance. On past trips, I have automatically turned down travel insurance. It was up until recently when my parents went on a trip out of the country and my stepmom fell and shattered her shoulder in Europe. With the travel insurance, they were able to have their medical bills, hotel and food covered until she got back to the United States. It definitely changed my perspective of the need for travel insurance.
11 – Print out necessary paperwork. Be sure to print out your paperwork at least the day before your departure. You don’t want to be in a hurry at the last minute and forget your boarding passes and cruise information. We like to have a manila file folder or envelope with all relevant information for our trip.
12 – Go to the shows. One of the things Frank and I really enjoyed on the cruise was attending the different shows. We went to comedy shows and stage shows and really enjoyed them. Plus, this amazing entertainment is already included in the cost of your trip, so why not take advantage.
13 – Check your balance frequently. It can be very easy to spend money on the cruise and you definitely do NOT want to be hit with a large balance at the end of the trip. Many ships have Kiosks where all you have to do is swipe your Cruise ID and you can see a list of the charges you’ve made on the trip. We even printed out our bill and paid it the day before return to avoid the long lines at the Customer Service desk.
14 – Budget for parking. You definitely want to make sure you have a budgeted amount for parking because it would really stink to not be able to afford to leave the parking garage. It’s generally about $15-$20 a day. Sometimes, you can find a deal at a nearby hotel where you can stay overnight and then park your car for free while you’re on the cruise.
15 – Get to the ship early. This applies to when you first arrive to your cruise or when you disembark at the destination city the cruise is headed to. You do not want to be left behind…and they will leave with or without you! Getting to the ship early gives you a chance to explore, the ship, unpack and relax before disembarkation.
16 – Take the stairs. As I mentioned earlier, there is a LOT of food and drinks aboard the cruise. Be sure to take the stairs whenever possible so you don’t feel guilty about eating all those calories. You can also participate in classes or work out in the gym on the cruise, which are also included in the cost of your trip.
17 – Pamper yourself. At an additional cost, you can take advantage of spa services on board. These services may include but are not limited to manicures and pedicures, massages, hair salon, facials and more.
18 – Budget for tips. At the end of the trip, be prepared to pay a gratuity to your wait staff and stewards. You’ll also pay tips on any alcoholic drinks you order throughout the cruise.
19 – Explore your destination through excursions. At an extra cost, you can sign up for a wide variety of excursions at your destination city. This is something you’ll want to research in advance online. You can sign up for excursions through the cruise line or on your own.
20 – Buyer Beware. If you decided to disembark the ship at your destination city, be aware that there’s a good chance that the first shops you see will be tourist-friendly, but will come at a higher cost. Scope out souvenirs or items you like on board and inquire about sales that may take place during the trip and when they are. Also, be aware that if you purchase alcohol off the cruise ship, it will be held confiscated and held until you disembark at your home city.
Hope you enjoy your first cruise as much as I did!
Do you have any other tips for first-time cruisers?