7 Tips Every First Time Cruiser Should Know

Last Updated on 1/27/2023

One of the most fun and unique ways to experience new destinations is on a cruise ship, which will take you from port to port over the course of several days on a vessel that is more like a luxury hotel than a boat. If you’re planning to take a cruise, there’s a lot that you should know before you set sail. Here are seven cruise tips that every first-time cruiser should know:


Learn about the extras your cruise line offers

Most cruise ships offer a number of unique and helpful extras that aren’t openly advertised. If you’re concerned about the comfortability of your bed, for example, many cruise lines will offer additional padding and blankets upon request. Or if you’re prone to seasickness, like many other first-time cruisers, you can often find several remedies on board free of charge, such as green apples (the go-to solution for many cruise veterans!) and plain crackers through room service, or seasickness medication at the purser’s desk.

If you’re hoping to enjoy a spa experience on your cruise without extra fees, there are often extra luxury showers, saunas, and steam rooms outside of the fancy spas that don’t cost extra. Do some research to find out what your ship has to offer before you book your trip.


Plan for the beginning of the travel experience

For many, the cruise itself is the second part of your travel experience, with the first being your flight from home to the city where your boarding port is located. While we hope your travels go as smoothly as possible, it’s always best to make a plan for any bumps in the road – especially when you’re embarking on a cruise that will take you away from shopping opportunities.

One of the most important first-time cruise tips is to be thoughtful when you pack your carry-on bag for the trip to your port of call. We know, it’s a tip to use even before your sailing has begun, but can prevent much-unneeded stress. As we know, luggage can get lost in air transit. If you’re going directly from the airport to your port of call, you might not be able to get your luggage until later, when it can be shipped to a later port of call. Be sure to pack a spare change of clothes, your essential toiletries and medications, and anything else you might need in your carry-on in case your bag doesn’t arrive with you.


Bring the correct travel documents

If your cruise ship departs from a location in the United States, you may not know which travel documents will be necessary for your trip. This is an important cruise tip not to put on the back burner. If your cruise ship is traveling internationally, you’ll need your passport and any other documents required by the countries that you’ll be visiting. Make sure you know which documents will be necessary on your trip ahead of time – they can take some time to procure if you don’t already have them.

Then, once you have your documents, keep them on your person as often as possible. They’ll often be necessary for getting back on the ship after a shore excursion, as well as for entry back into the United States.


Make sure you’re covered

While most cruise lines have decent policies around reimbursement for mechanical problems and other issues that occur on their end, there are a number of other circumstances that could arise that aren’t covered. For example, personal illness or the illness of a family member, airline delays, and lost baggage are things the cruise ship would not be responsible to reimburse you for.

Because of the limited insurance offered by cruise lines, you’ll likely want to get your own coverage before you depart. In fact, you should look into travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, to ensure that any unexpected cancellations are covered. You can find out more about cruise-specific travel insurance and find your best options.

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Prepare your tech

These days, most cruise lines offer Internet, but often, it’s at a steep cost. Charges vary from line to line, so be sure to do your research before setting sail if you’d like to stay connected during your cruise. One great tip in this area is that if you do want to purchase an Internet package, do it on the first day – most cruise lines will offer a discount if you take care of it right away. Another valuable cruise tip for those cruising for the first time is that some cruise lines offer branded apps that allow passengers to communicate with each other while on board. If this is your main objective, may not have to opt for an expensive package.

Many find that cruise ship charging stations are insufficient, with only a few outlets in each room. If you plan to bring electronics with you, consider bringing your own charging station or power strip, if they’re allowed on your cruise. If not, be sure to ask your cabin attendant if they have something else available.


Research all of the free activities and opportunities your cruise has to offer

Most cruise ships offer a wide variety of free experiences to cruisers. One is onboard entertainment, which often includes musical performances, theater, magic shows and more. While these shows sometimes sell out, you can often get tickets at the door if those who signed up in advance don’t show up. Your cruise ship might offer other entertainment at no cost, such as karaoke and dance parties.

In addition, many of the dining experiences available to you are part of your cruise ticket. Free choices often include the main dining room, the buffet, and one formal dining experience. Be sure to look into which dining experiences are included and what your ticket includes in terms of courses, so you can make sure you take full advantage.


Book appointments, reservations, and excursions in advance

If you’re interested in receiving a spa treatment while on your cruise, be sure to schedule ahead of time whenever possible – they often book up quickly. Though they can be pricey, spa treatments are sometimes more affordable on port days, when many passengers are away from the boat on excursions. On some cruise ships, you can rent sun deck spaces and cabanas on board as well, so you can have some privacy while lounging outside on the boat.

If you’re planning on participating in shore tours and excursions when you’re at port, be sure to plan those in advance as well. They aren’t required, but some of them are a lot of fun. Finally, most cruise ships often have specialty dining experiences and restaurants in addition to the included choices mentioned above. You’ll want to do some research on what the “no extra cost” choices are, as well as what extras you want to try while. On some cruise lines, you can book restaurant packages that will save you money if you’d like to try a few specialty options. If you just want to try one or two, look for specials on those restaurants – some offer decreased cover charges for particular days or times.

Are you an experienced cruiser with tips to share? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (@insureyonder)!

Kate's authoritative voice in travel writing is backed by years of extensive travel experience, allowing her to infuse her writing with the tips and tricks she has gathered over time. This wealth of experience enhances her ability to write authoritatively on travel-related topics.

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