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10 Great Tips For First-Time Cruisers

Updated on June 25, 2012

You finally decided to take that cruise that you had been thinking about for a long time. You look at these cruise ads and everything looks absolutely perfect. And indeed, what can go wrong? A beautiful boat filled with entertainments, restaurants, pools and nice accommodations; different ports full of great places to visit and etc. In reality, a lot of things can go wrong if you go on a cruise unprepared. Plus, if you do your research in advance, you can tremendously improve your cruise vacation and even save some money. I did my research before my first cruise and I found that following tips were very helpful. I hope these tips will help you too. Bon voyage!

Book your cruise in advance

Whatever you read about last minute booking, if you are planning a cruise on a popular route in a ‘hot time’, you won’t find last minute discounts. Generally, six month in advance booking can give you a variety of choices and even lower rates.

Hire a cruise-only travel agent

Even if you usually book everything on-line, booking a cruise is much more complicated than booking a flight or a hotel. There are many cruise-only travel agencies, which sell nothing but cruises. And often these agencies can offer discounted fares and different types of onboard credits. Plus, the cruise travel agent will advise you on anything about a cruise from cruise itineraries to cabin configurations to buffet selections.

Book your flight and pre-embarkation hotel by yourself

Your travel agent or cruise line representative would probably try to book your airfare and pre-embarkation hotel for you. But you can save some money if you do it on-line by yourself. Or at least try to shop around and compare prices.

Don’t miss the boat

Fly into the port city a day or two before the cruise begins to make sure that any possible flight delays or cancellations wouldn’t affect your cruise vacation.

Not everything is included

You’re almost always charged extra for soft drinks, bottled water and alcohol on a cruise. As I learn, most of cruise lines offer free juices at meal time, but otherwise you’ll pay for those too. But most of cruise lines allow bringing some amount of your own alcohol on board. So, choose wisely. Bring your favorite wine or Champagne - you will save a lot of money.

Learn more about cruise destinations

With limited time in port, it is better to know in advance where you would like to go and what you would like to see. You can be overwhelmed in a big port without any idea what to do for the next few hours. Even if you’ve booked an excursion, you still can have some time left. So, use this time wisely and have fun!

Book your own shore excursions

Even though everything you need on a cruise is neatly arrange: food, entertainment, ports and etc. you can design your own ‘land itinerary’. And usually you can get better deal on a day trip if you arrange it by yourself rather than through the cruise line.

Make your cabin more livable

It could be wise to bring your own alarm clock (some cruise lines’ cabins don’t have it), power strip (many cabins have only one outlet), fragrance beads (just to make your cabin smell nice) and etc.

Don’t get seasick

If you go on a cruise for a first-time, it is better to be prepared (just in case) for a possible seasickness. Bring your own medicine. Some avid cruisers suggest that candied ginger is a good remedy for seasickness. And some cruise lines offer it with after-dinner mints. Others suggest that Sea-Bands (special bracelets that apply pressure to the inside of the wrist) are very effective to prevent seasickness.

Check-out the day before disembarking

In order to avoid the check-out traffic jam, ask for your bill the day before disembarking. If there are any discrepancies, you can resolve them earlier and then enjoy your last hours on a boat.

Please, share your cruise experience and add your tips for first-time cruisers to the list.


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    • Lisas-thoughts101 profile image


      6 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Wanderlust, thanks for the great tips. There are some cruises that include drinks other than alcohol. I'd never thought of bringing alcohol on board, however. Good tip. The booking your own excursions is an excellent tip as it can save you over half!! Very nice hub. Voted up and useful.

      Take care,


    • Sandy Frost profile image

      Sandy Frost 

      6 years ago from India

      I have never experienced cruising but always wish to have some adventurous trip in a luxurious and royal cruise. Being a traveller in a cruise and enjoying some delicious meal on it's open air eating-lounge can be an awesome experience while you find yourself being surrounded by water everywhere. Thanks for writing such a helpful hub, I keep it for future purposes. Many thanks. :)

    • profile image

      J Yoder 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the great tips, Wanderlust! My husband and I are excited to be taking our first cruise next April, and I am thankful for this advice! Very helpful. I'm voting this up.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New York City

      Thanks everybody for commenting.

      BkCreative, have a great cruise and 40 cruises is an impressive number! Wow! Some people knows how to live...:)

    • BkCreative profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Would you believe I have 2 cousins who have been on about 40 cruises in the last 6-7 years, they love it and are now cruising Norway after just leaving Iceland. They travel the world. Two tips my cousins said (when I finally decided to do this) are a must, and you've listed them - book your own excursions - you get a far better deal and go where you want (just get back on time because the ship won't wait for you) - and have fun personalizing your room.

      Great tips. I'll do it soon. Maybe 4 days to start.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Awesome hub, the best vacation was a cruise to Jamaica, Grand Caymans, and Cazamal. Thank for a terffic hub

    • Lady_E profile image


      8 years ago from London, UK

      Great Hubs - Great Tips.

      I've always wondered how one can prevent sea sickness. Finally, I found the answer today in your Hub. Thanks.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New York City

      Hahaha! James, thank you for stopping by :) Well, then another tip for cruisers - choose your travel agent carefully :)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      Excellent advice. I have been on one cruise—Mediterranean—and needless to say it was the most incredible two weeks of my life. I just read in the news yesterday that a cruise travel agent was arrested. It seems she would send customers on cruises and her boyfriend would rob their home while they were gone.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New York City

      drbj, thank you for your tip. You are absolutely right, on a countrary to a regular traveling, on a cruise you would never get your checked-in bag, so you are in a lot of trouble if you don't have important things with you :)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Wanderlust - Here's one more important tip. Always, always take a carry-on bag with you on a cruise even if you can cram everything you need into one checked-in bag.

      Why? Because in addition to having your most valuable valuables with you and your vitamins and meds, also pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, (basic cosmetics for women),your PJs if you wear them, and a change of clothing.

      Another why? Just in case your checked-in bag goes missing. Sometimes your luggage is found a day later; sometimes never. On a few occasions (I have witnessed it myself having taken 24 cruises within a 2-year time span when I was consulting with an international cruise line) - sometimes, luggage falls into the sea when being transferred from the port to ship. Not often, thankfully, but it can and does happen.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New York City

      lilian_sg, thank you for stopping by and have a great cruise someday :)

      Barry McConnell, thank you very much for great tips. I am sure that all first time cruisers would appreciate them.

    • profile image

      Barry McConnell 

      8 years ago

      Good advice. If I may offer a couple more:

      Bring Two Credit Cards

      Use two credit cards for your cruise: one for your shipboard account and a separate one for shopping. The reason is authorizations. When you check in, the credit card you use for your onboard account will get an authorization request for about $200 per day for however long your cruise lasts. This authorization freezes that much of your available credit line so an 8-day cruise has just frozen $1,600 of your available credit – even if you don’t spend a dime. The authorization will expire some time after your cruise has finished and you are home. Oh yeah, remember that hotel room you stayed in the night before sailing? They did the same thing when you checked in. So did that rental car company. Regardless of the actual charges, all those authorizations have sucked up your credit line and you may get that embarrassing ”I’m sorry your card was denied” when you try to buy that absolutely darling sapphire and diamond necklace in Grand Cayman.

      When you’re using a credit card in foreign countries you may also get charged a currency conversion fee and a 2-3% processing fee. Check with your card company before leaving as not all cards charge this. Make sure you bring cash with you for incidental expenses and shops that don’t take your credit card. MC and Visa are pretty universal but AMEX and Discover are not. Don’t put all your money in traveler’s checks because you’ll have to find a bank to cash them in port. What do you do if the banks aren’t open or you don’t have time before the tour leaves to find a bank? Cabins have safes in them if you’re worried about taking a lot of cash with you.

      Medication Preparation

      Get your medications refilled two weeks before your cruise and bring extras with you in your carry-on. Never pack your medications in checked luggage. For any medical conditions you may have (e.g. heart conditions, allergies, contraindicated drugs, etc), bring a copy of your medical records. Your doctor can provide this for you but will need a few days to a week’s advance notice to get it ready. Having this kind of information available can be invaluable when something goes wrong in a foreign country. Make sure you have at least two photocopies in separate places.

      Assign An Emergency Contact Person

      Designate one person back home as the point of contact while you’re on board and let everyone know that this person is the one to contact you if needed. Cell phones generally don’t work at sea and can charge astronomical roaming fees when they do work. Ship to shore phone rates can often exceed $10/minute. Email is probably going to be cheaper for non-emergency communications but expect to pay a fee for Internet access onboard. Internet cafes in port can be significantly cheaper. The good news is that the cruise line loyalty program for repeat cruisers often includes free Internet onboard.

      Listen to this podcast ( for tips on saving money once you've booked your cruise. David spent ten years as a senior officer and tells you how to save big money.

    • lilian_sg profile image


      8 years ago from Singapore

      Great tips! I haven't been on a cruise yet. Maybe someday!

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New York City

      breakfastpop, thank you for stopping by and thank you for a great tip!

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub. I love cruising. What I found is that I did much better, cost wise dealing directly with the cruise line. I have always used a cruise only agent and the last time I cruised, I realized that I overpaid by a lot.


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