15 Essential Tips for the First Time Cruiser

Sep 7, 2022 | MONEY SAVING IDEAS | 0 comments

First Time Cruise Tips

Introduction for First Time Cruisers

When booking your first cruise, there is so much to consider, and it is sometimes hard to know where to start. Regular Cruisers will tell you it’s easy.

Enjoy our first-time cruiser tips which are designed to help you make the right decision.

The best thing is you only have to unpack once, all the time visiting different country’s ports or cities.  Also, you have a selection of restaurants to choose from, so you don’t have to hunt for one every night. Entertainment is another bonus – it’s all there on the ship.

But even in its simplicity, cruising still can be daunting for a first-timer. So who better to share information about cruising than someone who has just completed their first voyage?

So we have put together a list of the most popular Essential Tips for First-time cruisers based on all the feedback we receive and have learned by ourselves over our years of cruising. Hopefully, these first time cruise tips and other cruise ship tips and secrets will help you to a better cruise

First Time Cuise Tips

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1. Book Through a Specialist Cruise Travel Agent

For the first-time cruiser, it is easy to imagine that booking direct with the cruise line is the right solution to get the best deal and value for money.

With TV, social media, and online offers, cheap cruise offers make it easy to be seduced into booking. If this is your first voyage, we always recommend using a specialist cruise travel agent as they can help ensure you choose the right cruise line and a ship that suits you. Travel agents who focus on selling cruises will likely have the best understanding of what is available. The best cruise travel agents will create a profile of your likes, dislikes, tastes, and age range to enable them to curate the best cruise for you.

Related: Important Reasons to use a Specialist Cruise Travel Agent to Book your Cruise
Related: How to get the Best Cruise Deals

2. Try a Mini Cruise or Taster Cruise

Number 2 in our first-time cruise tips is the mini cruise, sometimes also known as a taster cruise and can be the perfect introduction to cruising if you haven’t cruised before. This is also a good option if you would like to try a different cruise line or ship for the first time. Mini cruises also make super short breaks to introduce in between your main vacation.

A mini cruise is normally assumed to be anything under 7 nights, but the typical duration is usually 2-4 nights with just 1 or 2 ports of call on the itinerary.

Cruises to nowhere have become popular just recently and make fantastic mini cruises! Once on board, you can enjoy all of the same accommodation, entertainment, dining, fitness and spa options that you would expect on a longer cruise.

Related: Important Reasons to use a Specialist Cruise Travel Agent to Book Your Cruise
Related: How to get the Best Cruise Deals

3 – Always pre-book activities before leaving home

Once onboard, you will find everyone is rushing to book everything they should have booked before leaving home. The cruise lines promote everything they want to sell, so onboard reservations sell out quickly. The best solution is to book them in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on a particular activity like a speciality restaurant, shore excursion, or spa service. Peak times like spring, summer breaks, and the holiday season are always the worst. The bigger the ship, the worse the problem can be.

If you can book ahead, you can budget more accurately instead of making uninformed spur-of-the-moment purchases onboard. Always check the cost of shore excursions, as these can be very expensive, as can speciality restaurants. Note that shore excursions can be costly, but there are ways to save money on shore excursions by using independent companies. A great read is a book called “Cruising With Confidence: How to Be a First Time Cruiser Without Looking Like One

Cruising with Confidence: How to be a First Time Cruiser without Looking Like O
Cruising with Confidence: How to be a First Time Cruiser without Looking Like O
Pfeifer, Deb (Author); English (Publication Language)

Related: Secret Ways to Save on Shore Excursions

4 – Don’t be afraid to complain

There is no need to be concerned about complaining if something is not quite right. But if you get onboard and you’re not happy with something, for example, your cabin’s location, or your table arrangement at dinner (if you are on fixed seating dining), don’t suffer in silence. Most things can be fixed.

For dining room problems, have a quiet word with the maitre d’. It happens all the time, and they’re used to dealing with tricky situations, including people who don’t get on with their dining companions. For anything else, the crew behind the reception desk are there to help. If something is missing in your cabin, ask your cabin steward.

Related: The Top 25 Cruise Complaints Revealed

5 – Arrive at least a day early at your departure port

If your cruise ship is scheduled to leave in the late afternoon, and your flight gets delayed, or unexpected traffic delays affect your journey, this will not be an excellent start to your cruise. Understandably, the cruise lines have a schedule to keep and even contend with tides and other restrictions. Make no mistake; if you are late, the ship will sail without you.

Some of the ultra-luxury cruise lines now include a pre-cruise hotel in their fares as they find this a great way to ensure everyone gets to the ship on time.

Berlitz River Cruising in Europe
Berlitz River Cruising in Europe
Ward, Douglas (Author); English (Publication Language); 256 Pages - 07/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Berlitz Travel (Publisher)

6 – Don’t Over Pack

Seasoned Cruisers have a system for packing and know what to expect.  For First timer cruisers, you should decide on what you think you will need and then put half of it back. You won’t need it.

Almost all cruising these days is casual, and you only need a few outfits to rotate through a voyage. Always check with your cruise line as they all have published dress codes.  Some cruise line do still have formal nights when you are invited to dress up but this is becoming increasingly rare. If things get dirty, no problem. Many ships have launderettes on cabin decks where you can run a load or two of laundry every few days. If not, you can send laundry out to be cleaned on board. It’ll usually come back in a day or two.

The extra cost of doing a few loads of laundry on a ship is a small price to pay for the freedom of not having to lug a giant suitcase around as you travel to and from your ship. Plus, you’ll want to save room in your suitcase for all the little treasures you’re going to find along the way.

Cruise Packing Made Easy: Stress-free and ready to relax
Cruise Packing Made Easy: Stress-free and ready to relax
Ayim, Kyler (Author); English (Publication Language); 66 Pages - 11/28/2018 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
$10.95 Amazon Prime

Related: Eagle Creek Packing System Review

You Might Also Like: Download our FREE Cruise Packing List

7 – Make sure you pack a carry-on bag

Typically, you will be apart from your luggage for most of the trip to the ship, and you’ll board the ship well before your luggage reaches your cabin. It is important to pack any necessities—passports, important documents, medication, a change of clothes, and phone chargers—in a carry-on bag.

If you have additional space, include items like sunscreen and bathing suits so you can immediately jump in the jacuzzi or soak up the sun without waiting for your main luggage. It also makes sense to pack some toiletries like antiperspirant spray, a toothbrush and toothpaste, plus some paper soap in case you are delayed and need to hunker down in an airport lounge.

Related: The Best Carry-on Bags for Cruisers

Best Price Shore Excursions

8 – Turn Data Roaming Off on your Phone

Once onboard, you should always use the ship’s wifi and be sure to turn off data roaming unless you are close to shore and can connect to your provider’s network. If data roaming is left on, you could connect to the ship’s maritime network, which can cost hundreds of dollars without making a single call.

This is because your mobile phone will be using data to update apps, download emails, and many other things you don’t even know are happening. So always turn data roaming off to avoid coming home to an outrageous cellphone bill because you failed to understand how it worked on a cruise ship. You can also put your phone in airplane mode, manually turn Wi-Fi on, and connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi.

Related: 10 Things you should know about Cruise Ship WiFi

9 – Don’t assume your cruise is all-inclusive

Today’s cruise fares typically cover accommodation, meals, onboard activities and entertainment. You should expect to pay extra for gratuities, taxes and port charges, shore excursions, drinks packages, and internet packages. These can add up to a lot and sometimes be more than the original base cruise fare. You must understand what’s included in your cruise fare so that you don’t get a massive shock when it’s time to settle your end of cruise bill.

The best way to deal with these extra charges and avoid the need to keep signing for everything as you go is to choose a cruise line that offers all-inclusive fares. These currently include Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Seabourn.

Related: All-Inclusive Versus Pay as You Go Cruises

10 – Pace yourself through your cruise

Another of our first-time cruise tips concerns how you spend your time. There is always the temptation to do everything you can on your cruise to ensure you get your money’s worth! You can see everything going on from your ship’s daily program. Often, there are so many things to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Everything from dance classes, lectures, movies, arts and crafts, seminars, comedians, bands, and shows-not to mention time for meals, swimming, sunbathing, and wondering how to fit it all in?

The reality is that you won’t, so choose the things you really must do and take a rain check on less critical items. If you are not careful and overdo things, you could need a vacation at the end of your cruise.

11 – Understand automatic gratuities

Not so long ago, gratuities were a very personal thing on cruise ships. You would be given a set of envelopes and decide how much cash to give to various staff members. Traditionally, on the last night, you would personally distribute these to staff who had served you well during your cruise.

These days, most cruise lines operate automatic gratuity systems whereby a charge is levied each day based on the suite grade. These are then pooled and shared among all the cruise ship staff, including housekeeping, restaurant staff, and behind-the-scenes crew members. You can typically request that these charges be removed and tip separately to reward those you feel deserve it.

You will often find that bartenders do not share the automatic gratuities, as tips get added every time you are served a drink. Beware: expect an automatic 15 to 18 per cent gratuity when you partake in your favourite tipple.

Related: Understanding Cruise ship Gratuities

12 – Keep an Eye on the time

When venturing ashore, always keep an eye on the time and make sure you know the “All Aboard Time” which is usually 30 minutes before the ship’s departure. As the local time, the ship’s time, and your watch may differ, make sure you know when you should be back onboard. Remember, the ship won’t wait for you if you are late.

We all chuckle when we see online videos of passengers running down the pier and watching their ship depart. Don’t let it happen to you.

13 – Don’t take food off the ship

Taking food ashore is a no-no for most ports around the world. Most countries ban fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, meats and cheeses, and even baked goods aren’t allowed off the ship.

So if you plan to organise a picnic lunch or simply snacks along the way using food from the ship, be careful. To be safe, stick to prepackaged and sealed snacks, such as nut bars or similar. Some foreign ports have sniffer dogs that check every passenger’s backpacks and handbags.

14 – Be prepared for bad weather

We all hope that bad weather gives us a wide berth when we are on our cruise, but once in a while, you may experience some movement of the ship. If you like us, we now feel disappointed if there is not a least some movement of the ship.

While this is quite normal, with modern design techniques and automated stabilisers, most of the uncomfortable movement of the ship is a thing of the past. Before long, you will get used to it.

The good news is that you don’t need to suffer from the movement of the ship, as there are many ways to prevent motion sickness.

Related: How to Prevent Seasickness on a Cruise

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15 – Relax and enjoy

A cruise is a great way to spend your vacation, and we have found no better way to travel the world whilst enjoying superb accommodations, excellent service, and fantastic food.

As someone once said, always remember that a bad day on a cruise ship is better than a good day at work; relax and enjoy every moment of your cruise experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

How long should my first cruise be?
A week or less is probably the sweet spot for most first-time cruisers, which will likely offer two or three ports. Three-day sampler itineraries won’t allow you to explore more than one destination, but you get a good feel for the ship.
What is the first thing you do when you go on a cruise?
Put away your valuable, freshen up, eat and relax.
What should you not pack on a cruise?
What Not to Pack: Things You Want to Bring on a Cruise But Shouldn’t
  • Don’t Pack: Household Appliances Like Irons and Travel Kettles
  • Don’t Pack: Sharp or Dangerous Objects. …
  • Don’t Pack: Toys That Will Get You in Trouble.
  • Power strips with surge protectors
First time cruise tips carnival
Carnival Cruises are informal and fun. Some key things include:
  • Make sure you get a copy of the Fun Times schedule
  • Sign up for the kid’s program BEFORE the cruise
  • Show up for the Deck Party
  • Make sure to do the water slide on the first day of the cruise
  • Be on the open deck for sail away on the first day of the cruise!

Essential First Time Cruise Tips- Final Thoughts

We all have to start somewhere, and the fact is that most people who go on a cruise love it so much that they become regular cruisers. We hope you will become one of them! Happy cruising to everyone…

We hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Please don’t keep it to yourself. Feel free to share on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter using the share buttons. Thanks so much!  

Last update on 2024-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Mike & Anita

Welcome all cruise enthusiasts!
We’re Mike & Anita, your spirited guides to cruising the high seas (and Rivers), and we’ve clocked in over 600 days at sea.

This blog is dedicated to all you cruise lovers out there. It is a place to dive into the wonderful world of cruising. Join us on this exciting voyage where we share not just tips but insider secrets and money-saving gems about cruising.

Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time cruiser, get ready to explore, learn, and soak up the joy of our seafaring adventures. Happy Cruising! 🚢✨

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A passionate cruiser and photographer with more than 600 days at sea, and just a few, but growing number of Luxury River Cruises. Our expereince as hotel inspectors for a prestigous French brand help us uncover all the good things about luxury cruising. All-Inclusive Food and Wine Cruises always attract our attention!
Mike King - About Luxury Cruising Blog

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