21 Things To Know Before Going on a Cruise for the First Time

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Are you planning on going on your first cruise soon? If so, you’re in for a treat! But before you set sail, there are a few things to know before going on a cruise for the first time

things to know before going on a cruise

If you want to make your first cruise experience even better, check out these top 21 tips of things we wish we had known going into our first cruise.

We recently went on our first cruise as totally newbies and learned SO much. Everything we wish we had known are in these 21 tips. Take them and enjoy your first cruise that much more!

We’ll cover things to know before going on a cruise, XX, and more!

This post is all about the top things to know before going on a cruise for the first time!

21 Things To Know Before Going on a Cruise

1. Check what ship your booking

Make sure to check the amenities available and the age of the ship before you book. Different ships offer different amenities and experiences, so it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re booking the right ship for you. Some newer ships may have features like virtual reality experiences or waterslides, while older ships may have more classic amenities like a movie theater or live music. Even though you may be booking a great cruise line, each ship within the line may be vastly different.

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2. Drink Package Tips

If you plan on drinking alcohol (or soda, espresso, or smoothies) during your cruise, consider getting the drink package ahead of time to save money. Many cruise lines offer drink packages that include unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but it’s important to purchase them more than 48 hours before your cruise as the prices go up once you are on the ship and even the 48 hours before you embark. This will give you plenty of time to take advantage of the package and save money on your overall bar tab. Be sure to do the math though and see if it’s actually worth the price and it won’t be better to purchase on a per drink basis. It may be fun to drink unlimited drinks by the pool, but it’s more fun to remember the trip after you get off the boat.

3. Bring Reusable water bottles and coffee mugs

Bringing your own water bottle and coffee mug can save you money and help reduce waste. Most cruise ships offer free water, but it’s often in small cups that usually stay in the dining area. Bringing your own bottles or mugs can get you more per serving and allow you to explore the ship with a coffee in hand. Plus, many cruise ships have self-serve beverage stations, so you can easily refill your water bottle or coffee mug throughout the day.

OUR FAVORITE mugs & bottles:

4. Bring the alcohol limit for the room

Before you set sail, check the alcohol limit for your room and make sure to bring your own if you plan on drinking in your room. Most cruise lines have limits on how much alcohol you can bring onboard, so it’s important to check ahead of time. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pack any alcohol in your carry-on luggage, as it’s not allowed in checked luggage. It’s nice after a long day exploring to come back to the room for a glass of wine on the balcony. And it will certainly be much cheaper than purchasing a bottle of wine on board.

5. Make dinner reservations ahead of time

To avoid long wait times, make dinner reservations ahead of time. Many cruise lines allow you to make reservations online or through their app, so be sure to check this option out. Keep in mind that some specialty restaurants may have an additional fee, so be sure to check the prices before making your reservation.

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6. Bring Snacks

While most cruises offer a variety of food options, it’s always a good idea to bring some snacks with you. Since most of the food offered on board are meals, it’s a bit harder to come by a bag of chips or your favorite cookies. You should also pack some ziplock baggies so you can bring a few snacks with you around the ship like to the pool. You may also want to pack some non-perishable snacks like  trail mix or granola bars for those times when you’re off the ship and exploring a new port.

OUR FAVORITE snack bags:

7. Check themed dinner nights

Some cruises have themed dinner nights, so make sure to check ahead of time and pack accordingly. For example, some cruises may have a formal night, where you’ll need to dress up in your fanciest attire. Other cruises may have a pirate night or a tropical night, where you can dress up in a fun costume or Hawaiian shirt.

OUR FAVORITE themed go tos:

8. Bring a handheld steamer

A handheld steamer can help you quickly get rid of wrinkles in your clothes as there are usually no irons in the room. While most cruise ships offer laundry services, they can be expensive. Bringing a handheld steamer can help you avoid these costs and keep your clothes looking fresh. Plus, it’s a compact and easy-to-pack item that can make a big difference in your appearance.

OUR FAVORITE travel steamer:

9. Bring cruise-related accessories

Towel clips and luggage tags can help you keep track of your belongings and make your experience more enjoyable. Towel clips can be used to secure your towel to your chair on the pool deck. This is helpful when it’s windy and allow you to easily spot where you are sitting. Believe it or not but there are luggage tags made specifically for cruising. Since you need to print out your luggage tags before boarding, they make tags that can hold the luggage tags and make it easier to spot yours and keep the paper from ripping or becoming wet. You may also want to pack a small backpack or tote bag for carrying around your essentials during shore excursions.

OUR FAVORITE cruise accessories:

10. Pack your Carry On properly

In case your checked luggage is delayed (as is often the case), make sure to pack a change of clothes, your swimsuit, toiletries, and any other essentials you’ll need on your first day in your carry-on bag. This way, you’ll be prepared for any delays or issues with your checked luggage. You may also want to pack any important documents, medications, or electronics in your carry-on bag as well.

OUR FAVORITE carry-ons:

11. Book excursions ahead of time

Booking excursions ahead of time can save you time and money. Even if you are booking with the cruise line, they may sell out of their best excursions or have bad service on board and be unable to book any excursions. Just keep in mind that cruise excursions are often more expensive than other options but are certainly more convenient. It’s a good idea to research and compare prices before booking your excursions. You may also want to consider booking excursions through a third-party company, which can often offer more affordable and personalized tours.

Cruise Excursions Bahamas

12. Book Disembarkation Early

To avoid long lines and delays, book your departure time as early in the day as possible. This will help you get off the ship quickly and easily when it’s time to disembark. You may also want to consider a self-assist disembarkation, which allows you to carry your own luggage off the ship and avoid the wait for luggage to be unloaded and distributed.

13. Understand tipping expectations

Make sure to know what the tipping expectations are before you set sail. While some cruise lines include gratuities in their price, others do not, so it’s important to know what to expect. You may also want to bring extra cash for tipping any tour guides or drivers during shore excursions. It’s always a good idea to bring small bills to leave a little extra tip for housekeeping or your favorite server.

14. Know port currency

Some ports may not accept US currency, so make sure to bring the appropriate currency or exchange it ahead of time. This will help you avoid any issues when you’re trying to pay for things at port. You may also want to research the exchange rate ahead of time to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. There may be an ATM on board the ship to pull out money or an exchange place to exchange any US money you have for the local currency.

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15. Get non-drowsy seasickness meds

If you’re prone to seasickness, consider bringing non-drowsy medication to fight off the horrible seasickness and normal tiredness that comes with the medicine. The medication can help you avoid feeling nauseous or dizzy on the ship as some days are certainly more rocky than others, especially if you are deep inside the ship. You may also want to try natural remedies like ginger or acupressure wristbands. Booking a room with a balcony is the best option for those that get seasick. As is going outside in the fresh air and focusing on the horizon. I’ve been using the behind-the-ear patches and they’ve been a god-send. 

My FAVORITE seasick remedies:

16. Check the weather at port

Before you book your cruise, check the seasons for your destination to avoid any nasty surprises like rainy weather. This will help you pack appropriately and plan your activities accordingly. You may also want to research weather-related issues like hurricanes or tropical storms that may affect your itinerary. Cruises are likely cheaper in the off-season but could cause an unpleasant trip.

17. Midship to aft is more stable

If you’re worried about seasickness, choosing a cabin midship to aft (the back of the boat) can help you feel more stable. These cabins are less likely to experience the rocking motion of the ship. You may also want to choose a cabin on a lower deck, as higher decks may experience more movement.

18. Pay bills ahead of time

To avoid any overdue fees or interest, be sure to pay all your bills ahead of time. You may not have any service on the trip and if you do get the internet package, there is no guarantee that it will be reliable. It’s best to have no worries or stresses on your trip so be sure to pay your credit cards or utilities ahead of time.

19. Download the cruise app

Many cruise lines have apps that can help you keep track of your itinerary, activities, and expenses, so make sure to download it ahead of time. This will help you stay organized and informed throughout your cruise. You may also want to download any maps or travel guides for your destination ahead of time to help you plan your activities.

20. Prep for no internet

Some cruises don’t offer internet or charge a lot for it, so make sure to prepare accordingly. If you need to stay connected, consider purchasing an internet package ahead of time. You may also want to consider using offline maps or apps to help you navigate your destination without using data. If you like to read Kindle books or listen to music and podcasts, be sure to download everything ahead of time so you don’t have to wait for the slow internet speeds to listen. You can also download YouTube videos with YouTube Premium or select movies and TV shows with Netflix.

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21. Adult Pool seats are hard to come by

If you’re looking to relax by the pool, keep in mind that the nicer seats near the adult’s only pool can be hard to come by. To make sure you get a spot, plan to arrive early or consider booking a cabana or private area. You may also want to explore other areas of the ship, like the spa or quiet lounges, for a more peaceful retreat as the main pool usually has events, live music, or is extremely crowded.

This post was all about the top things to know before going on a cruise for the first time! Bon Voyage!

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