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Taking a cruise is unlike any other vacation. There are a lot of things you should know, before you cruise.
With over 30+ cruises, we know a little bit about cruising. We want to share 24 first time cruise tips to help you have an amazing cruise vacation.
Table of Contents
Cruise Tips for 1st Time Cruisers
No Cash or Credit Cards on Ship
One of the biggest surprises for first time cruises is money during your vacation. Did you know that cruise ships do not take cash or credit card payments on board the ships?
All payments are charged via your room key. The cruise ships also call this your stateroom account. You will use your room key to pay for alcoholic beverages, souvenirs in the shops, speciality restaurants, and more. Anytime you will need to pay for anything during your cruise, you will just use your room key to add it to your stateroom account.
Limited TV in Your Stateroom
Do you want to relax in your stateroom watching TV or catching a big football game during your cruise? If you are, you may be shocked to know that television on cruises are very limited. In your stateroom, you may only have a few channels in your stateroom.
These channels may be even more limited in certain countries that block the use of that channel. Many of the cruise lines do offer the opportunity for in room movies for free or a nominal fee. If you cannot watch tv, maybe you can catch up on some movies.
The limited tv is also in the main areas like sports bars. Many of the sports bars may only show a few football games via satellite. Keep in in mind if you want to catch an important game during your cruise. If the game is super important, you may want to reschedule to another date (just to be sure)
Your luggage on a cruise can be super confusing. When you arrive to the port to check in to your cruise line, you will leave your luggage with a porter. The porter will deliver your luggage to the cruise ship. Your stateroom host will then deliver your luggage to your room, before dinner.
One the last evening of your cruise, you will actually pack everything (except your last day essentials). You will then leave your luggage outside your stateroom (usually before 10 PM depending on the cruise ship). You will not see your luggage until the following day at customs.
One important thing to remember when packing, be sure you pack any essentials you will need on that last morning.
Before you book your cruise and especially before you leave for your cruise vacation, make sure you have the proper documentation to cruise. At this time, cruise lines require a passport or an original birth certificate and a government (picture) ID. You must have this documentation or you will not be cruising.
Pack a Day Bag
I mentioned earlier the luggage process for cruises. For the 1st day of your cruise, you always want to carry on board a day bag. Your day bag can include your swim suits and sunblock, so you can enjoy the pool on the first day of your cruise. You also want to include any essentials; like medicines, documentation, baby suppliers, jewelry, etc.
One of our best cruise tips is pack Wrinkle Releaser. Cruise ships do not have irons in their staterooms. There are several laundry rooms on select decks throughout the cruise ships. In these laundry rooms, you will find washer/dryers and irons/ironing boards. These rooms can get popular in the evening hours with everyone preparing for dinner. Pack your clothes that do not wrinkle easily or bring Wrinkle Releaser to get the wrinkles out in your stateroom.
Order Room Service
Did you know that almost every cruise line has complimentary room service? If you have a busy day at port and want to enjoy a burger and french fries in your stateroom for dinner, you can do that. Many entrees are complimentary. You just need to leave a small tip. I love ordering room service for breakfast, especially days at sea. It is a nice way to wake up in your leisure on the off days.
Watch Out for Internet
All of the cruise lines offer internet access via your own computer or smart device on cruise ships. However, not all cruise lines have the same service. One of the worst is Disney Cruise Line. For internet on Disney Cruise, you pay for the amount of service.
This means if you use your smartphone for internet and upload one picture to Facebook, you could use your entire service plan in just a few minutes. With smartphones, you have things running in the background that will use up your service. Social marketing is one of the worst!
Other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have amazing internet access. They even have plans that only include your social marketing, so you can post pics your entire cruise for a nominal cost.
Take the time to review the internet plans before your purchase. Just keep in mind that not all plans are the same.
Turn Phone on Airplane Mode
One of the biggest tips during a cruise is setting your phone on airplane mode. As soon as you leave a port in the United States, you are in international waters. This means you are instantly on international roaming.
We had a fellow YouTuber friend that racked up an insane phone bill when she went on a cruise. She just did not know to turn her phone on airplane mode. So, either turn your entire families phones on airplane mode or turn them off. We turn ours on airplane mode.
Many cruise lines have activities and port excursions that you can book before you cruise. If you can, pre-book as many activities and excursions as you can before your cruise. One the super popular Norwegian Encore, activities like go-carts and laser tag will book up before you even board the ship.
If you did not get the opportunity to pre-book your favorite activity, you can always sign up for the waitlist. You can always check any pre-book activities with the online check in for the cruise line.
Arrive a Day Before You Cruise
If you can, we highly recommend arriving the day before your cruise. You can enjoy a night near the port or city. Most of the Disney Cruises leave out of amazing cities. Why not come a night early and enjoy the city. Plus, it is a lot less stress knowing you have time (just in case there are any delays.)
You Will Receive Stateroom Bill on Last Morning
I know I talked a bit about buying things on a cruise. As you purchase items during your cruise, it is added to your stateroom account. On the last morning of your cruise, you will receive a bill on your door. This bill shows all of the purchases you made during your entire cruise. All of these charges will be added to the credit card you left on file when you checked in at the beginning of your cruise.
Use the Stairs
You will eat a lot during your cruise. You probably will not be doing a lot of exercising either. We recommend skipping the elevators and taking the stairs. This will help work off some of endless ice cream you eat.
Your Departure Times on the Last Day of Your Cruise are Early
I know you are tired and do not want to get off the cruise ship on your last day. However, departure times on your last day are super super early. Be prepared for times like 7:45 or 8:15 for departure times. Most cruise lines want all guests off the ship by 9 AM.
I know the times are early, but the crew need time to get the ship ready for another set of guests in just a few hours.
Bring a Tervis Cup or Water Bottle
You want to stay hydrated during your cruise. Most cruise lines will either have a beverage station or unlimited tea/water in the buffet. We recommend bringing a tervis cup, Yeti, or water bottle. You can then keep these larger cups filled with beverages to enjoy in your stateroom, by the pool, or during your excursions at ports of call.
Bring Tip Money for Excursions
If you are taking a shore excursion or port adventure, be sure you bring cash for tip money. Most excursions do expect you to tip the guide, driver, captain, etc. Bring a little bit of cash to tip during your excursions.
Don’t Plug Your Phone Directly Into Outlet
With over 30+ cruises, this is a lesson I learned the hard way! Do not plug your phone directly into the outlet. Cruise lines often have surges. That is what happened to my last iPhone on Royal Caribbean. Instead pack charging blocks. Charge your charging block and then use the charging block to charge your phone.
Cruise Excursions Will Not Leave Your Behind When Booked with Cruise Lines
This is a tip I love sharing to cruisers. If you book your excursion directly with the cruise line, the ships will not leave you! I learned this tip with the Cruise Director on the Disney Dream recently. I verified it with other cruise lines, too.
This is another perk to booking your shore excursion or port adventure directly with the cruise line. You will never get left behind if the activity is running a little late or you get caught up in traffic.
Book Trip Insurance
We always recommend booking trip insurance with cruises. Cruise payment and cancellation policies are so strict. Adding trip insurance will protect you if anything happens and you have to cancel your cruise. In addition, trip insurance comes in handy if your luggage is lost, if someone gets sick or injured during your cruise, or if something happens and you have to fly home.
It’s a Ship Not a Boat
Before you hop on your cruise ship, you should know one thing…it is a ship not a boat. I know this seems like a silly thing to share, but crew members take this personally. When talking about the cruise ship, be sure you refer to it as a ship.
Choose the Right Ship for your Family – Not All are the Same
One of the biggest things to know, before you cruise is not all ships are the same. Some ships will be better for your family than others. For example, we love the newer Carnival Cruise Ships but the longer cruises are better for families. The shorter cruises are more party type ships. You want to hire an expert to help navigate which cruise ships are the best for your family vacation.
This is when a travel professional is key to planning your vacation. They are familiar with all of the cruise lines and cruise ships. They can give you guidance on which ships are the best for your girlfriend getaway, honeymoon, or family reunion cruise.
Click the eye in the sky for our favorite travel professionals. They can help you plan your next cruise vacation.
Take Time for the Kids Clubs
One of the biggest perks with cruises is built in babysitting for FREE! The kids clubs are included with the price of your cruise, so take advantage of it. I know sometimes the kids do not want to leave mom and dad. I recommend going to an open house on the first day of your cruise so the whole family can check out the kids clubs. This will make the kids more comfortable. I promise you, once they go into the kids clubs, they will never want to hang out with you again. They will want to spend all of their time in the kids club.
This finally allows mom and dad time to relax by the pool or have a date night. Take advantage of the kids club activities.
You Must Attend a Muster Drill on 1st Day
One the first day of your cruise, you will attend something called a muster drill. This is just a safety drill. Most cruise lines do not require you to wear your life jacket, but you must attend. It is a mandatory safety drill.
When you check in for your cruise, you will receive your room key. Your muster drill location will be on your key card. I recommend going to your stateroom about 15 minutes before your muster drill. Once the announcement is made and they sound the alarm, you can walk outside your stateroom. Crew members will be there in brightly colored attire to show you where to go for your muster drill.
The muster drill is about 30 minutes, but is an important safety demonstration to get you ready for your cruise.
Doors are Metal
The doors on board cruise ships are made out of metal. This is an interesting cruise fact. On cruise ships like Disney Cruise Line, guests have created a fun activity called door decorating. You can use magnets to create decorations for your stateroom door. You can even decorate your door based on the seasons like Halloween or Christmas.
Door decorating is a fun activity that is solely done by the guests in the staterooms. Disney does not decorate the doors. This is something that anyone on board the cruise ships can do themselves. It is fun for the whole family.
We hope these first time cruise tips help you have an amazing vacation. Bon Voyage!