Expert Tips for First-Time Cruisers

Going on a cruise for the first time might be exciting, but many people who are cruising for the first time can be at a loss about what to expect. Things that may seem obvious to veteran cruisers can be difficult to understand for first-timers. If you’re taking a cruise for the first time, check out some of the top tips from industry experts that will help make your first cruise an unforgettable and enjoyable experience.

Plan Ahead

This tip almost goes without saying, but it is important to know to plan ahead when taking a cruise for the very first time. Delays do not always occur, but it’s best to plan as if they will. Make a plan to arrive in your city of departure the day before your cruise sets sail. Even if your cruise leaves later in the afternoon or evening, flight delays or traffic slowdowns can quickly ruin your plans. It’s wise to factor an extra day of lodging and meals into your total cruise budget.

All-Inclusive Cruises

One of the biggest draws to cruising is the fact that many of them are all-inclusive. However, first-time cruisers may not be aware that not everything is included. Generally, all-inclusive refers to cruise accommodations, onboard entertainment, and traditional meals. Some popular cruise packages even include alcoholic beverages.

Things that are not typically included in an all-inclusive cruise package are any onboard purchases such as souvenirs, professional photos, and/or specialty dining or beverage experiences. It is also not uncommon to pay additional gratuities as well as fees for Internet access, land excursions, and taxes and port charges.

Always discuss what is included in your cruise with your cruise planner before making a final decision. When trying to book your cruise on your own, these extra charges may not be immediately apparent, so it is advisable to consult with a professional travel agent or cruise planner so that you know exactly what to expect in terms of cost.

Pack Strategically

When going on a cruise for the first time, a lot of people will pack as they normally would for a land vacation, but this may not be the wisest choice. Since staterooms are typically compact, it’s best to pack extra adapters for outlets, as it may be difficult to charge multiple devices for multiple people. For excursions such as beach outings, make sure to bring dry bags as well as sand-less beach towels that are easy to fold.

On many cruise ships, guests are required to keep identification on them at all times, so be sure to bring a lanyard to hold room keys and identification. For Caribbean or Mexican vacations that involve sea excursions, always bring biodegradable sunscreen, which is required by law to protect coral reefs as well as your skin.

Everything in Moderation

Speaking of all-inclusive, many people tend to overindulge when they take a cruise, especially for the first time. Being aboard a ship that includes all food and most beverages, it is easy to overeat savory dishes and rich desserts. It is not uncommon to gain several pounds after a cruise vacation, so it is advised to indulge a little bit—but not too much. To counter the effects of unlimited food and drinks, try to engage in included onboard fitness activities, take walks around the cruise deck, or take the stairs whenever you can.

Do Your Research

As with any major purchase, especially a vacation, it is critical to do your research before making a final decision. Always research the port of departure well in advance of your anticipated trip date and read as much as possible about common issues experienced with particular cruise lines or departure ports. If your cruise will be docking in a certain location but doesn’t include land excursions, be sure to research activities that you can participate in on your own.

Your cruise planner or travel agent will help you figure out the best departure port and arrange transportation ahead of time. Once you have purchased your cruise and know the exact ship you will be on, take some time to head over to the cruise line’s website and download a map of the ship. This will be invaluable when navigating the massive cruise ship, and it will help you learn exactly where your must-see destinations are located. Some major cruise lines even have mobile apps that allow you to access a map of the ship right from your smartphone.

If you need assistance choosing a cruise itinerary, always check with your cruise planner, who can assist you in finding activities that suit your interests and budget. No matter how you choose to spend your first cruise vacation, following these tips will help you make your first time more enjoyable.