BEGINNER CRUISE TIPS
Learn what to expect on a cruise with this first-time cruiser guide.
We will learn right along with you in this beginner cruise guide. So far, Nick and I have only been on a dinner cruise and a short river cruise. If we want to seriously consider becoming cruise planners we need to educate ourselves not just on the different franchise opportunities but what life on a cruise ship is really all about.
Climb aboard one of many world-renowned cruise ships and you’ll never go without exceptional dining and service.
According to a recent travel study 75% of Americans have never been on a cruise before. Cruises offer world-class entertainment, plus loads of fun and exciting activities fit for all types of passengers. Add a shore excursion to your vacation plans and you’ve scored 2 trips for the price of 1.
How do you find your ideal first cruise? Think about whether your ideal cruise ship would focus on fine dining, a party scene, adrenaline-pumping activities, nonstop socializing or just endless opportunities to sleep. You should also factor in your budget, the nearest departure port and the length of the trip.
To the untrained eye most cruise ships look the same. Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line both sound exotic and European, but the former offers a classic vibe catering to a more mature clientele, while the latter has resort-style mega-ships with a family-friendly bent, says Andrea Sachs, Cruise Critic Contributor in her article ‘12 Best Cruises For First Timers‘.
What’s Included In A Typical Cruise
- Stateroom or suite accommodations
- Transportation to 1 or more ports
- Gourmet dining
- Supervised kids programs
- Vegas- or Broadway-style shows
- Entry to nightclubs, piano bars & more
- Activities like yoga & basketball
- Gym, pool & hot tubs
- Port charges
Nearly everyone has a favorite cruise ship and the amenities and activities vary from ship to ship. Do your research or contact a cruise planner to find the cruise ship that is right for you.
Special Features That Might Be On The Cruise Ship
- Rock-climbing wall
- Ice skating rink
- Martini & champagne bars
- Teen discos
- Wave pool
- Bowling lounges
- Zip line
- Ice bar
- Casino gaming
- Cooking/enrichment classes
- Spiral water slide
- Shops & boutiques
- Butler service
- Miniature golf
- Poolside movies
The next big questions after booking your cruise is “What do I wear?”.
For the most part, cruising has become a much more casual vacation than what you might remember from old TV shows, even on luxury or traditional cruise liners. Plus, airlines charging to check bags (with extra fees for overweight luggage), it just makes sense to pack as light as possible. Check out our ‘How to pack like a pro‘ article to help ‘stuff’ as much as possible into your suitcase.
Most cruise ships assign daily dress codes from casual, informal, resort casual to formal. This takes effect in public rooms and restaurants from 6 p.m. onward. Daytime wear is always casual so bring outfits that are comfortable and appropriate to the cruise environment (i.e. bring warm clothes for an Alaskan cruise and shorts and bathing suits for tropical cruises).
Bonus Cruise Tip: Wear your swimming trunks or bathing suit under your clothes when boarding so you can hop in the pool while everyone else is waiting for their luggage.
Don’t Forget Your Passport
Whenever you book an overseas vacation, it’s important to research any passport or visa requirements. The US Department of State offers detailed information regarding visa requirements of countries throughout the world. Be sure you carry the right credentials.
It’s important to remember each cruise line is different so do a bit of research or talk with your cruise planner to find out about shore excursions, port talks, specialty restaurants, beverage packages, laundry service, Internet access, and more.
Cruising 101 – What I learned in my research:
1 – Pay attention to where your cabin or suite is located! You might be right under the dance floor or smoking deck if you don’t watch out.
2 – Consider bringing a brand new power strip (still in packaging), cruise line personnel can confiscate a power strip that’s deemed unsafe. Never fight over the outlets in your cabin!
3 – Check out your cruise ship’s alcohol policy before boarding and BYOBooze if you like to tipple during vacation.
4 – Fill an empty mouthwash bottle with alcohol, add a few drops of food coloring and say goodbye to your bar tab.
5 – Bring ibuprofen, aspirin, cough syrup or whatever other medicine you might need. Everything is expensive on board!
6 – Take advantage of “embarkation day” specials when you board. Spas and restaurants most always have an embarkation day special.
7 – Bring a cheap pair of water/canvas shoes for shore excursions or activities where closed-toe shoes are required.
8 – Bring a roll of quarters, a couple of detergent packs and use the laundromat on a port day.
9 – Stash some cash in an inconspicuous place like an empty shampoo bottle for the casino or while on land.
10 – Keep your watch set on ship’s time. Don’t rely on your cell phone, which may switch to local time if you are in port.
11 – Take a pair of walkie talkies. They work great for keeping in contact on ship or while on shore.
12 – Before leaving on a long cruise purchase an international cell package if you use your phone a lot.
13 – Bring a carry-on bag with your bathing suit and a change of clothes, checked luggage may take quite some time to arrive to your stateroom.
14 – Pack a large compression storage bag, add a couple of dryer sheets, and use it for your dirty laundry. On the last day of your cruise seal and roll it to get the air out. Open it at home directly into your washing machine.
Kia and Peter, bloggers from Atlas & Boots, have put together a great guide after their first cruise to help fellow first-timers like you and I. Check out their 20 cruise tips for the uninitiated before you move on.
Get the most out of your cruise trip while avoiding confusion and potential embarrassment. PACK SEASICKNESS PILLS. Kia says she’s been on many a boat and was confident she would be fine on an ocean liner. Alas, on two separate occasions she felt queasy enough to leave dinner early. So pack some pills as a precaution. Good to know, right?
Do you have a cruising tip or advice to add? Sound off in the comment section below.