Your first time on a cruise ship can be quite overwhelming. Cruising is so much different than other forms of vacation and sometimes it can be stressful going in without knowing anything. Even though I know you’ll enjoy, there are some things to consider before hopping on board. Here are the top 15 things to know your first time on a cruise ship.
1. Don't Overpack
Yes, there are things you want to make sure you bring-which I will address later-but in general, don’t overpack! You’re not moving into a new house. You’re living in a small space for a week. When you come home with all your souvenirs that you just HAD to buy because you’re on vacation, you’ll be banging your head at the airport having to pay the overweight suitcase fee.
2. Book a room based on how much you’ll use it
I’m all for a beautiful room with a beautiful balcony and a beautiful lounge space. Of course, it’s a perk to sit out on your personal balcony and watch the sunrise peacefully at the beginning of your day….if you’re going to be up at the beginning of the day. If you’re never in your cabin, book a small one and use the extra funds to buy food or drinks as I do.
3. Bring your formal wear
I have no idea what your agency may or may not have informed you, but cruising is advertised as a high end and luxurious way to travel. There WILL be a gala night and depending on your ship, you may not even be allowed in the restaurants if you’re out of dress code. If your cool hanging by the buffet, do as you wish, but no matter what was on your packing list you googled online, just know that there is ALWAYS a formal night.
4. Look up the theme nights
There are so many agencies that help to fill up empty cabins on cruise lines. Even when well informed, every single detail for your cruise will not always be provided to agencies or online. Take a little time to research. Ask in a Facebook group or fan group online to know what things to pack for theme nights. Other than a gala, you’ll more than likely have all kinds of other parties, (etc. 70’s, Latin, Scary Nights….) which you may want to go all out for. 1.) You’re on a cruise 2.) It’s fun and 3.) No one will ever see you again so enjoy it.
5. Check-in procedure will take some time
Remember, you’re not the only passenger that will be coming on the day you embark. It’s not only giving you a key to your cabin and welcoming you on board. The crew has to deal with passports and visas from all over the world to meet the standards of every country you’ll be traveling to. After your visas are checked, all your bags need to be checked to keep everybody onboard safe
6. Be patient when getting on and off the ship
There are only so many doors....to avoid the whole flooding and ship sinking thing….and there are a lot of passengers even on the smallest cruise ships. No matter how efficient the security and disembarkation/embarkation teams are, it will take time to get everyone off the ship. (Remember, for safety reasons you will enter and exit one by one. You’re face and card are checked for I hope obvious reasons.)
7. Actually, in general, just be patient
You’re on vacation, why are you even in a rush? The ship will not arrive in the next port any faster because you decided that you wanted to cut to the front of the breakfast line.
8. Research the security guidelines
The last thing you want is to get stuck in the security line even longer-or to make the people behind you wait even longer. Know what you can and cannot bring on board. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t bring it into a school, you won’t be able to bring it on board. Buy whatever alcohol or foods outside as you want but realize they will be quarantined until the end of your cruise. Safety-first folks.
9. Avoid reception during prime times
Guest services already have their work cut out for themselves and if your thought process is to run to the back of the line the first second you get on board, you’re in for a lot of waiting throughout your week. So many crew members are around to help answer questions and if you HAVE to go to the reception, and if possible, go while you’re at sea, or during the daytime hours. Usually right upon embarkation, and right as people are starting to disembark you’ll find the reception quite full.
10. Buy the drinks package
Even if you don’t drink alcohol look into getting a drink package. It could save you a lot of money in the long run. With most cruise lines, everything outside of juices and waters you’re going to have to pay for. Yes, that included coffee and soda. If you don’t want to stress about swiping your card every once in a while for an overpriced, cruise beverage, do the math at the beginning of your week and invest. In most cases, unless you genuinely only drink water (you still might be stuck drinking tap instead of bottles), it will be in your favor to purchase a package.
If you drink alcohol, even if only a few drinks a day, you will hit yourself later if you opt-out of buying a package. Remember, everything on the ship is going to cost quite a bit more than on land.
11. Scout out all the lounges
Maybe you don’t like the vibe of the first place you walk into. Your first couple of days, explore all the parts of the ship. Cruise companies work towards making all different kinds of people, tastes, nationalities, and cultures happy. This means that if one lounge is full of salsa and merengue, the next one over could be jazz or even an English pub. Don’t wait until the last day to find the place you wish you would have spent your whole week at. Always ask around. Crew members know more than you even want to know.
12. Involve yourself
Unless you want to, you will never see anyone you meet on the cruise ever again. Involve yourself in the games. Interact with the crew. Try new things and embarrass yourself.
No one goes home telling the story of how they sat in the back of the bar all-night and watched everybody else have fun.
No matter how hard the crew works, involving yourself and making an effort to enjoy could completely change your entire vacation.
13. Don’t be late coming back to the ship
I can’t even stress how important it is to be on time for your all-on board. Yes, you’re on vacation, yes you will have all the freedom in the world choosing how to spend your time. And yes, the ship will leave you. It’s not because you’re not the coolest person in the world or because someone has a personal grudge against you, but even if the ship has not even begun to move yet, if the gangways are coming down you’ve already missed your opportunity.
Sometimes you get lucky. If the captain thinks it’s possible to wait for a missing group he’ll stay as long as possible to make sure they get back safely. Sometimes you’re not so lucky. If weather looks potentially dangerous during the following day’s navigation, if it’s already a tight schedule to get to the next port on time, or if local laws and authorities have differing security and immigration procedures, you’ll be left standing on the pier and googling flights to try to catch the ship in the next port. Not fun and definitely a mood kill for your vacation.
14. Remember the staff and crew are humans too
Not only is your rude and deserving attitude already unnecessary, but some of the crew have been helping you and similar guests with a smile and a lot of patience for months and months without even a day to take a break. They probably rarely get to see their family or talk to their kids or do anything that someone with a “normal” life is accustomed to. Use your words kindly, if someone was extra helpful, make sure to tell them and if they don’t understand you when you speak quickly, remember they probably also speak at least twice as many languages as you, deal with a ridiculous amount of accents and cultures every day AND THEN ON TOP OF IT ALL, have to put up with your privileged attitude.
15. Try something new-Take advantage of the amenities
The coolest thing about cruising is all of a sudden you will be surrounded by new foods, styles of entertainment, people, locations…all of it if not brand new, different from what you have back at home. Splurge a little and use some of the amenities onboard. Try food in the restaurant that you can’t get at your home and realize traveling is all about expanding your horizons. Even if you don’t like something, you’ll be proud of yourself you tried.
At the end of the day, as long as you go looking to have fun and have an open mind, you will enjoy your cruise no matter what. Vacationing via cruise ship is such a fun and exciting experience that I promise after your first time you'll be hooked just like I was!
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Is there anything else you wish you knew before your first cruise? What is the best advice you were given that you're so glad you took, or you wish you had when it comes to cruising!
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As always, God Bless and I hope to see you somewhere around the world.