Top 12 Tips to Make Your First Cruise A Memorable Experience
Greetings on reserving your first cruise! Now, it’s time to plan all the exciting activities and experiences both on and off the ship. Just like any new endeavor, gathering some helpful tips is wise.
We’ve pooled our decades of cruising experience to provide you with essential advice, covering everything from dining reservations to luggage handling. Read on for 12 invaluable tips to ensure you make the most of your first cruise adventure.
Best Tips For A Hassle-Free Cruise
Ensure your travel documents are organized:
For international travel, carry a passport, even if it is not mandatory for ports. It simplifies unexpected flights home. Ensure it’s valid six months post-cruise and check visa rules for each stop.
Communicate with banks and acquire local currency:
Before your cruise, inform your bank about your travel plans to prevent card issues. Use your bank’s online system or call customer service for each card. Also, get local currency for foreign ports to save time.
Reach your leaving port a day prior to the timetable:
The key advice here is crucial: to avoid missing your cruise, arrive at the port a couple of days early, especially for overseas journeys. While afternoon departures may tempt last-minute travelers, unforeseen delays like flight hiccups or traffic jams can disrupt plans, and ships won’t wait.
Arriving a few days ahead not only ensures you won’t miss the ship but also allows time to overcome jet lag.
For instance, Galapagos cruises, known for their packed itineraries, demand you to be fresh and energized from the get-go, ready to explore as soon as your cruise kicks off. Don’t risk missing the boat; plan ahead!
Don’t overstuff your bags:
When packing luggage for a cruise, simplify your wardrobe by halving your initial clothing choices; you won’t require the excess. Most ships offer onboard laundry facilities or laundry services, ensuring cleanliness during your voyage.
Embracing this convenience is a minor expense compared to the freedom of traveling without a massive suitcase. Leave space for the souvenirs you’ll undoubtedly collect during your journey.
Start with a ship outing on Embarkation Day:
Cruise ships are huge, so it’s smart to explore soon after boarding to know your way around. Make a list of venues you’re interested in.
Start on the highest deck you like, typically the pool deck, and walk down deck by deck to familiarize yourself with amenities and prevent getting lost on your vacation while getting some exercise.
Rely on your cruise daily planner as your ultimate companion:
Cruise lines provide daily calendars in both paper and electronic formats to help you plan your day. These schedules are packed with activities such as dance classes, trivia, and theater shows. Some apps allow you to save events and send reminders to your phone.
A highlighter can help you stay organized if you prefer a paper planner. Keep in mind that shows are often offered twice daily, letting you pick the time that suits your schedule—no need to fear missing out (FOMO).
Enroll in exclusive private tours:
Booking shore excursions through your cruise line is convenient but not always the best choice. Opting for independent tour operators or services can save money and provide a superior experience. Independent tours are often more intimate, using smaller vehicles and accommodating fewer travelers.
Private tours are even an option for larger groups. These tours can also take you to unique destinations overlooked by cruise line tours. Operators often offer 24/7 support and a return-to-ship guarantee, easing concerns about missing your cruise.
So, consider exploring your options beyond the cruise line for a more personalized and rewarding adventure.
Activate airplane mode for your phone:
Many cruise ship horror stories involve newcomers amassing hefty cellphone bills due to unchecked data usage. Cruise ships often lack affordable phone plans, resulting in costly roaming charges on your bill later. Consider purchasing onboard Wi-Fi packages for FaceTime calls and video streaming to avoid this.
For those who frequently travel by plane and need a convenient backpack for carrying drones and related equipment, check out our guide on the Best Backpack for Drone.
Some carriers offer cruise-specific plans, but a more straightforward approach is to activate airplane mode upon boarding, switch to Wi-Fi, and utilize Wi-Fi packages for all communication and internet activities. This strategy ensures no surprise expenses come your way.
Note that cruise internet could be sluggish and costly:
Expect slow speeds when cruising with purchased internet, especially on older ships. Seek out routers placed in the ship’s hallways or public spaces; proximity improves signal for a better online experience.
Avoid double-tipping for drinks and spa services:
Cruise ships typically include 18% to 20% gratuity on bar bills and spa services. Some cruisers unknowingly add extra tips. Always check for included gratuities to avoid double-tipping.
Secure specialty dining reservations promptly:
Book early to secure specialty dining on a cruise; popular restaurants fill up fast. Delaying can result in limited options.
Inquire about a chef’s table experience:
Check if your ship offers a chef’s table for those seeking immersive culinary adventures. Enjoy a 3-4-hour tasting menu with 8-10 guests, guided by the chef and sommelier. Reserve your place early to avoid missing out.