30 Top Tips for First-Time Cruisers

30 November, 2023

Prepare for Smooth Sailing

Embarking on your first cruise is an exciting adventure that promises relaxation, exploration, and unforgettable experiences. To ensure smooth sailing, it’s essential to be well-prepared and informed. Whether you’re setting sail to the Caribbean, Alaska, or any other exotic destination, these 30 essential travel tips for first-time cruisers will help you make the most of your voyage.

1. Research Your Cruise Line

Not all cruise lines are created equal. Research and choose a cruise line that aligns with your preferences, whether you seek luxury, family-friendly options, or adventure cruises. Read reviews, compare amenities, and consider the onboard atmosphere to find the perfect fit for your cruise.


Pictured: cruise ships from Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International

2. Choose the Right Itinerary

Selecting the right itinerary is crucial for an enjoyable cruise experience. Consider the destinations, shore excursions, and the length of the cruise. Whether you’re interested in cultural exploration, scenic landscapes, or adventure activities, pick an itinerary that matches your interests.

3. Consider Booking with a Travel Agent

A knowledgeable travel agent can simplify the booking process, offer valuable advice, and help you find the best deals. Their expertise can be especially beneficial for first-time cruisers navigating the vast sea of options available.

4. Don’t Leave It Too Late to Book

While last-minute deals do exist, it’s advisable to book your cruise well in advance to secure your preferred cabin and itinerary. This also allows ample time for planning and preparation before you embark on your first cruise.

5. Get Travel Insurance

We recommend protecting your investment and ensuring peace of mind by purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that includes cruises. This coverage can help in cases of trip cancellations, medical emergencies, or other unexpected events that could occur during your cruise.

6. Research Your Ship and Ports

Do some homework before you leave. Learn about your cruise ship’s amenities, layout, and dining options so that you know what to expect on board. Similarly, research the ports of call to familiarise yourself with local attractions and customs, as well as what types of shore excursions you can do. This will ensure you pack everything you may need – like gear for snorkelling, or the right shoes for hiking.

Mother, kid in snorkeling mask dive underwater with tropical fishes

Snorkelling with tropical fishes on a shore excursion

7. Sign Up for Activities in Advance or Soon After Boarding

Popular onboard activities, specialty dining and shows may have limited availability, so sign up in advance or shortly after boarding to secure your spot. Also, consider planning and booking shore excursions in advance so that you can maximise your time ashore. Popular excursions can fill up quickly, so secure your spots early to avoid disappointment.

8. Pack Strategically

Packing efficiently is an art when it comes to cruising. Check the weather for your destinations, follow the cruise line’s dress code, and pack essentials like swimwear, comfortable shoes, and formal attire for special evenings. Don’t forget travel-sized toiletries, medications, and any necessary documents.

Check out our handy cruise packing checklist for more tips on what to include (and not include) in your luggage.

9. Budget for Onboard Expenses

Your base cruise fare includes your accommodation, transport, main meals and some activities and entertainment, but be prepared for additional expenses such as gratuities, specialty dining, alcoholic drinks, and optional excursions. Set a budget to manage your spending and avoid surprises when settling your final bill.

10. Download the Cruise Line App

If your cruise line has their own app, download it so that you can stay organised and informed. These apps often include daily schedules, ship maps, and important announcements to enhance your onboard experience. They can even help you locate your other cruise companions if you’ve split up for different activities.

11. Bring Your Own Drinks Onboard

Some cruise lines allow passengers to bring a limited quantity of beverages onboard. Check your cruise line’s policy and consider bringing your preferred drinks to save on costs.

12. Bring Extra Toiletries

Your cruise ship stateroom will be stocked with basic toiletries, but it’s always a good idea to bring extras, especially if you have specific preferences or need particular items. These may be difficult (or expensive) to get once you’ve embarked.

13. Be Mindful of Motion Sickness

If you’re prone to motion sickness, consider bringing over-the-counter remedies or wristbands to alleviate symptoms. When you’re selecting your stateroom, you can also try to choose one in the middle of the ship, where motion is typically less noticeable.

14. Arrive a Day Early

To avoid the stress of last-minute travel disruptions, plan to arrive at your departure city at least one day before your cruise embarkation. This precaution provides a buffer against flight delays or other unexpected issues, ensuring you board your cruise ship with ease.

15. Ask for an Upgrade

Sometimes, upgrades are available at a reasonable cost or even as a complimentary perk. Politely inquire about upgrades at check-in to potentially enhance your cruise experience.

16. Pack a Carry-On Bag

We always recommend to our customers that they pack a small carry-on with essentials like medications, a change of clothes, swimmers, and travel-sized toiletries. Your luggage may take a while to reach your cabin, and having these items on hand can be convenient (and means you can get poolside as soon as you board).

17. Take Yourself on a Ship Tour on Embarkation Day

Cruise ships can seem overwhelming due to their enormous size. Fortunately, many cruise lines offer special ship tours on the first day, but if an organised ship tour doesn’t interest you, just take yourself on one. Start from the highest deck and gradually make your way down, exploring all the main public areas on each deck. This will help you to easily find your way around and make the most of all the wonderful amenities the ship has to offer.

Celebrity Edge in Italy

Familiarise yourself with your ship by exploring deck by deck

18. Get to Know the Crew

The cruise staff is there to make your experience memorable. Take the time to get to know the crew, ask questions, and build connections with those who contribute to your cruise enjoyment. A little politeness can go a long way, as you will find crew will bend over backwards to accommodate your every request.

19. Embrace Onboard Activities

Cruise ships offer a plethora of onboard activities, from entertainment shows to fitness classes. Embrace the variety and explore what the ship has to offer, ensuring there’s never a dull moment during your journey.

20. Stay Hydrated and Sunscreen Ready

Depending on your itinerary, your cruise may involve ample time in the sun. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (a refillable water bottle will definitely come in handy), and don’t forget to pack and regularly apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.

Slip, slop, slap!

21. Keep Your Phone in Airplane Mode

While at sea, cellular charges can be expensive. Keep your phone in airplane mode and connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi to stay in touch without incurring high fees.

22. Stay Connected

Stay connected with loved ones by purchasing an internet package or using Wi-Fi hotspots when in port. Many cruise lines offer communication apps to keep you in touch with fellow passengers.

23. Choose À La Carte Over the Buffet

While cruise buffets are convenient, consider dining at any of the à la carte restaurants for a more personalised and enjoyable culinary experience. On embarkation day especially, the buffet will likely be incredibly busy as many cruisers opt for the easy convenience. Avoid the queues and head to the main dining restaurant instead.

24. Check Your Statement Regularly

Keep track of your onboard expenses by regularly checking your account statement. This helps you stay within budget and ensures you’re aware of any potentially unauthorised charges.

25. Sign Up for the Free Loyalty Program

Many cruise lines offer loyalty programs that provide perks and discounts for frequent cruisers. If you’re loving your cruise line, sign up for their loyalty program while you’re onboard to make the most of any future cruise adventures with them.

26. Don’t Tip Twice for Drinks and Spa Treatments

For first-time cruisers, the world of gratuities can be a confusing one. Typically, your cruise line add a daily tip on to your stateboard account, but some may also add a tip when you pay at the bar or in the spa. Check your final bill before tipping to make sure you’re not tipping twice. We also recommend familiarising yourself with your cruise ship’s tipping policies and what is covered and what isn’t.

Guests enjoying the Sky Pool area

Check if tips are added to your drinks automatically before tipping again

27. Prepare for Port Days

On port days, be mindful of the time to ensure you return to the ship before departure. Also avoid taking food off the ship to comply with local regulations. Many cruise terminals will check your bags for food such as meat, cheese, fruit and so on. Packaged snacks may be okay, but for the most part, fresh food will not be allowed past security.

28. Always Carry the Ship’s Contact Information

Keep a copy of the ship’s contact information with you at all times. This ensures you can easily reach out to the ship if needed, especially when exploring ports of call.

29. Pace Yourself: Don’t Feel Like You Have to Do It All

Cruise ships offer a wealth of activities, and it’s easy to feel like you’ve got to try everything and be everywhere. But also try to remember it’s a holiday. Pace yourself, prioritise what interests you most, and leave room for relaxation. And if you really feel like you didn’t get to experience everything – there’s always next time!

30. Repeat!

After your first cruise, we guaranteed you’ll be as hooked to cruising as we are. So get home, unpack and start planning your next cruise adventure.

A Rock Star Sailor rocking a red swimsuit and red hat enjoys champagne on Richard's Rooftop. Lifestyle imagery

Cheers to that!

A Final View from The Deck

Embarking on your first cruise is a thrilling experience filled with opportunities for relaxation, adventure, and exploration. By following these essential travel tips, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the high seas and create lasting memories on your inaugural cruise. Bon voyage!

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Thank you for your enquiry. We look forward to helping you find the perfect cruise experience.

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