Looking at going on your first cruise? Make sure you know what you should and shouldn’t do to make it a wonderful vacation.

My first cruise was 27 years ago on Royal Caribbean. This cruise was our honeymoon and we both were both young and unsure what to expect. 

The one thing that we did know was that money was tight, and we did not want to spend more than we had to. This was before Google, Facebook, or another social media (at least that I can remember). So I did not have a lot of places to reach out to, but what I could get my hands on I was sure to read. Mostly, these were things from the cruise line themselves. 

I do remember that I knew that if we brought our water bottles we could get coffee, tea, water, and some juices for free. Also, we did not need to pack towels. Other than that, we were going in blind. 

I believe we went out of Ft. Lauderdale and even flew in that morning of the cruise. See I told you real novices. But as soon as I got my first taste of cruising I knew I was hooked. I am not a relax and see where the world takes you kind of gal but on a ship sailing out in the big blue ocean that is exactly what I become.

I do think that as I look back I probably had a better time because I was going into is blind and it was my honeymoon. In this day and age of social media and knowledge at our fingertips, I feel like people research everything. I hope that this list of do’s and don’ts will help you to make your first cruise not your last.


Tips for First-Time Cruisers

1. Don’t Blindly Book Any Cruise Line & Cruise Ship

Choosing the right cruise line is an important part of planning your vacation. Each cruise line has its unique features, style, and amenities, which can make a big difference in your overall experience. Some cruise lines cater to families with children, while others are more geared towards couples or older travelers. You should also consider the type of itinerary you are looking for. Do you want to visit exotic destinations or popular tourist spots? Are you interested in cultural experiences or outdoor activities? Once you have determined your preferences, you can research different cruise lines and compare their offerings. Look at the size of the ship, the quality and variety of dining options, onboard entertainment, and the overall level of service and amenities. Don’t forget to read reviews from past passengers to get a better idea of what you can expect. With so many options available, it’s important to do your research to ensure you find the right cruise line for your needs and preferences.

I have mentioned before that learning, and asking questions is the best plan. Because what works for Aunt Sue and Uncle Bill might not work for you. This is why I feel that using a travel agent that has experienced deferent cruise lines can help point you in the right direction. 

While Royal Caribbean was amazing for us as a young newly wed couple, Disney Cruise Line became our go to once we had a child, we are now looking at other cruise lines now that our son is and adult. Royal Caribbean is great for our family but I do enjoy learning about other lines and will be exploring Celerity Cruise Line later this year and my dream cruise would be on Viking Cruise Line. I have knowledge of Viking and Norwegian through clients and really love to hear their experiences and options so I can pasthem on.

2. Don’t Overlook the Ports

I always say there are 2 types of cruisers; one that cruises for the cruise and the other that cruise for the ports. I happen to be a cruiser for the cruise; I will get off at a port but normally do not do a lot of exploring. Only once was this not true and that was when we went to Europe, I was all about seeing as much as I can. It was a great way to get a taste of locations so that I know where I would like to go back to and stay longer. 

Ports during a cruise can be some of the most exciting places to explore. From historical landmarks to local cuisine, there’s always something new to discover. Don’t forget to research and plan ahead to make the most of your time onshore. 

Look at the number of sea days on the itinerary as well. You may want to pick a different sailing if there are too many. Too many sea days can be boring for some, while others enjoy them. You won’t know if you will love sea days until you take your first cruise.

3. Don’t Forget to Read the Fine Print

When you book a cruise, there is always fine print that most people don’t bother reading. But some things in the fine print can be important, especially for first-time cruisers.

One thing to look for is the cancellation policy. What is the cruise line’s policy if you need to cancel your cruise for any reason? Most have a strict cancellation policy, but some may be more flexible. 

In the fine print, you’ll also find that itineraries are subject to change. The cruise line may need to change the itinerary for various reasons, including weather. If port changes or cancellations occur, the cruise line will try to substitute another port. But if that’s not possible, they may give you a partial refund or credit for a future cruise.

Check when the final payment is due. Cruise lines expect final payment 4-6 months in advance.

4. Always Buy Travel Insurance

One of the most important tips for first-time cruisers is to purchase travel insurance. It’s common for first-time cruisers to either decline or not realize the importance of travel insurance.

Travel insurance can provide coverage for unexpected events that may occur before or during your trip, such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, medical emergencies, and lost or stolen luggage. It can also offer protection against travel-related financial risks, such as airline bankruptcy or supplier default. There are many different types of travel insurance policies available, so it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of each policy to ensure that it meets your specific needs. Some policies may offer coverage for specific activities, such as adventure sports or skiing, while others may include additional benefits, such as emergency medical transportation or 24-hour travel assistance. It’s also important to note that some travel insurance policies may have exclusions or limitations, so it’s important to read the fine print and ask questions if there is anything you are unsure about. Overall, purchasing travel insurance can provide peace of mind and protect you from unexpected financial losses while traveling.

5. Don’t Wait to Book Your Cruise

When it comes to booking your cruise, don’t procrastinate. The earlier you book, the better. Not only will you have a better chance of getting the cabin type you want, but you may also get a lower price. This is whin having a travel agent can be a big help; they are able to let you know when that booking window opens and also help by keeping watch on great deals. Once you have a Travel agent that knows your wants’ and needs they can keep watch for you and notify you if something comes along. 

Yes, there are often options for last minute deals but not many are able to take advantaged of these. If you are great go for it but remember that you will have limitations on many things that as a first time cruise you may not to compromise on. 

6. Don’t Book the Wrong Cabin-Type

Cruise ships offer a variety of cabin types to suit different preferences and budgets. The most basic cabin type is an inside cabin, which is located in the interior of the ship and does not have a window or natural light. Oceanview cabins have a window or porthole that allows natural light to enter the room and provides a view of the ocean. Balcony cabins have a private balcony that allows passengers to enjoy the fresh air and the ocean views in privacy. Suite cabins are larger and more luxurious, with extra amenities such as a separate living area, a larger balcony, and a butler service. Some cruise ships also offer special cabin types such as family cabins, solo traveler cabins, and accessible cabins designed for passengers with disabilities.

There can be deferent ways to save money too. If you are a large family sometimes playing with the types of cabins can save you money while still giving you the space you need.

8. Don’t Fly on the Day of Your Cruise

Flying in on the day of a cruise can be risky as unexpected flight delays or cancellations can cause you to miss the ship’s departure. It’s always recommended to arrive at the port city a day before the cruise and spend the night in a hotel. This way, you can ensure that you have enough time to get to the port, check-in, and board the ship without any stress or rush. Additionally, arriving a day early gives you the opportunity to explore the port city and enjoy some of its attractions before embarking on your cruise adventure.

9. Don’t Overpack

Overpacking for a cruise is a common mistake that many travelers make. It’s important to remember that cruise cabins are generally smaller than hotel rooms, and you don’t want to be tripping over your bags during your trip. To avoid overpacking, start by making a list of essential items that you’ll need for the trip, such as clothing, toiletries, and medications. Then, lay out everything you plan to bring and ask yourself if you really need it. Consider packing versatile clothing that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits, and bring only a few pairs of shoes. Finally, try to pack light and choose a suitcase that is easy to transport around the ship. Remember, you can always do laundry on the ship if needed, so you don’t have to bring a separate outfit for every day of the trip. By packing smart, you’ll have a more enjoyable and stress-free cruise experience.

That being said I have a habit of over packing. I have been getting better as I travel more and more; my biggest tip is if you do not wear it in your day to day life you will most likely not want to wear it on vacation. 

10. Don’t Forget to Bring the Essentials

There are some things you should never forget to bring on a cruise. These items will make your life much easier onboard.

  • sunscreen
  • aloe
  • motion sickness medication
  • hat or visor
  • sunglasses
  • appropriate shoes
  • your swimsuit!

11. Print Out Your Cruise Documents

In this time of everything being on our phones it’s hard to believe that you should print out your travel documents. 

Really you don’t have to print it out but I have seen many people get to the port and their phone wont connect or they cant find their forms. You just never know with technology so I would rather take a minute to print out my forms then watch the ship sail away with out me. 

12. Arrive at the Cruise Port on Time!


Before covid you could show up early for your port arrival time (PAT) but since covid things are deferent and showing up early could mean that you will be turned away until your PAT happens. If you are traveling with kids keep this in mind so that you are not sitting at the port trying to entertain them until you can access the port and ship. 

13. Don’t Miss the Safety Drill

Every cruise ship must do a safety drill before setting sail. Don’t think you can skip it. You must attend and participate.

Since returning to service, many cruise lines have evolved, making it easier to do the safety drill. For example, you may have to watch a short video on your stateroom TV or app before attending the muster station in person.

14. Make Reservations for Specialty Dining and Shows


Depending on the cruise line will depend on when you can book reservations. On Royal Caribbean you are not able to book shows and other on board events until the month before. However you can book specialty dining as soon as you book your cruise. On Disney Cruise it would depend on your cruise status (how many cruises you have been on) that will let you know when you can make reservations. So make sure you are aware of your cruise lines policies on reservations.

15. Don’t Forget to Bring Cash

While most things onboard a cruise ship are cashless, there are still some times when you will need cash.

For tips, most people still prefer to give cash tips. You can also use cash at the casino. And if you want to buy things from the gift shops or excursions in port, you may need cash.

16. Don’t Do Anything Stupid

You’re on vacation, so have fun. But don’t do anything that will get you off the cruise ship. That’s not fun.

Here are some things you should not do on a cruise:

  • Don’t bring drugs on board. Just don’t do it.
  • Don’t get too drunk. Yes, you’re on vacation, but you don’t want to be the one puking or passing out in public.
  • Don’t bring weapons onboard.
  • Don’t stand on any of the railings on the ship.
  • Don’t try to climb the ship.

17. Don’t Miss the All Aboard Time

Missing all aboard time and returning to the cruise port after or just as the cruise is about to depart is one of the worst cruise mistakes first-timers can make.

The cruise ship will not wait for you. They will leave without you. If you miss the departure, you will have to find your own way back to the next port city, which can be expensive, and you will not get a refund for your cruise.

All aboard time is repeatedly announced in the morning as cruisers disembark at the port-of-call, the time is also listed in the daily cruise planner, and there is always a sign in the gangway on your way out. It is always 30 minutes before departure time on your itinerary.

 I recommend not cutting it close and making sure you are back at the cruise port at least 1 hour before the cruise ship departure, just in case.

18. Don’t Forget to Check the Weather

Checking the weather is something you should do before any trip. But it’s especially important to check the weather before a cruise. If a hurricane is in the forecast, your cruise could be delayed, re-routed, or canceled. You will want to be prepared.

This is when travel insurance can play a huge factor.

19. Don’t Be Shy in the Dining Room


Many first-time cruisers don’t know they can order as much as they want in the main dining room. One of the tips for first-time cruisers is to order that second appetizer or share a second entree. It’s all included!

Nobody is saying you should overeat and waste food. The servings are usually small or of normal size, so it’s easy to order extra and even share with your party if you like. Some cruise lines have started to charge so certain items if you order more than one serving of it so please be aware of this policy if they do this on your cruise line.

20. Don’t Forget to Check Your Bill Daily

Checking your bill daily on a cruise is a good practice to ensure that you are aware of all the expenses you are incurring on the ship. Most cruise lines offer a system that allows you to check your onboard account balance and charges through the interactive TV in your cabin or through the cruise line’s mobile app. It’s a good idea to review your account regularly to avoid any unexpected charges at the end of your cruise. You can also keep track of your spending by saving receipts and keeping a record of your expenses. By monitoring your onboard account and expenses, you can better manage your budget and avoid overspending on your cruise vacation. 

Cruising is a popular way to travel and explore the world’s oceans, rivers, and waterways. A cruise offers a unique vacation experience, combining the excitement of traveling to different destinations with the comfort and luxury of staying on a floating hotel. Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes, offering a variety of amenities and activities to cater to different interests and preferences. From onboard entertainment shows, swimming pools, spas, and fitness centers to shore excursions, sightseeing tours, and cultural experiences, there is something for everyone on a cruise vacation. One of the best things about cruising is that it allows you to visit multiple destinations in one trip without having to deal with the hassle of packing and unpacking or navigating through unfamiliar airports and train stations. Instead, you can wake up daily in a new port of call, ready to explore and discover new sights, sounds, and flavors. Whether you are looking to relax and unwind or you want to be active and adventurous, cruising has it all. From tropical island paradises to historic European cities, there is a cruise itinerary to suit every taste and budget. So, why set sail on your next vacation and experience the magic of cruising for yourself?

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