Tips for Newbie ‘Cruisers’: A Guide to Setting Sail Your First Time

First of all – Congratulations!

Cruising is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to travel these days and there are plenty of reasons for that. Aside from the overall luxury of being on the open ocean – the pricing, food options, and multi port destinations are the best way to spend a week away on vacation. If you still have young children, cruising is a fantastic way to keep them occupied, and you sane. If you are an Entrepreneur, leaving on a vacation can be harder to do than if you work a normal ‘job’ – cruising is a great way to ‘get away’ on a budget, under 10 days and feel like you’ve been on a wonderful exotic vacation. It really offers the best option for busy business moms.

Since it is your first time, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed and daunted by the process since it is a LOT different than traveling by land. Don’t worry, and don’t panic. After your first time, you will be well versed in the the protocol and process. I’ve identified a few of the biggest differences to traveling by cruise ship from land travel. And it doesn’t matter what cruise line you book with, the process is pretty much the same.

Tips for First Time Cruiser

Don’t miss your ship

Tips for First Time Cruisers

I know – that seems very obvious, but it is more easily done than you can imagine AND it has got to be the worst experience ever. It’s one of the biggest tips to keep in mind when booking your entire vacation. If you are a newbie at this, I suggest booking a flight that has you coming in a day BEFORE your cruise leaves if you are coming a long way from the port.  This way you don’t have to worry about flight delays, malfunctions or other issues causing you to be late. 90% of the time, things go as planned. BUT for that other 10% it can be disastrous if you have a cruise to catch. Leave out that stress and worry on your first cruise – you don’t need it. Book a hotel, relax for the evening and take the extra time to see the sites at the port City and get organized. You’ll be happy you did.

Travel to the Cruise Ship port a day earlier than sailing and stay the night in a Hotel.

[tweetthis]Newbie #Cruise Tip: Travel to the Cruise Port the day before Sailing #travel[/tweetthis]
Have all your Documents printed ahead of time

Tips for the First Time Cruiser

Most cruise lines have boarding passes and other documents for you to print and bring with you – many also have luggage tags. Do yourself a favour and print all of these items out and use as directed. Put these items in your travel folder ( where you carry your boarding passes and other important itinerary information). DO NOT put the luggage tags on your luggage if you are traveling by plane first. Print them out, fold them as they instruct. ( One thing I do is put clear tape of them before I fold them so they are stronger and won’t rip) and put them in your travel folder. Borrow some tape or a stapler from the Hotel where you are staying and put the tags on the luggage just before you board the ship. This will save you getting them ripped off in flight travel – it happens.

Print all boarding documents ahead of time and put them in a folder. Save putting luggage tags on until you arrive at the Cruise Port.

Carry on Luggage

Tips for First Time Cruisers

Cruise lines have a process for boarding thousands of people on efficiently. Part of what they do is have porters available as soon as you arrive at the Cruise Port to whisk your larger luggage ( with the tags on!) from you and deliver it to your room. This is why it is important to have a carry on suitcase with you so that you can access all of your important items while you wait for your bigger luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.

You’ll want to have these items in your carry on:

  • Passport
  • Any medication you need
  • Cruise Documents
  • Camera
  • Bathing Suit
  • Hat and Sunscreen
  • A change of clothes ( shoes too – time to put on those flip flops!)

You can never tell when the rest of your luggage will arrive, so this one tip will keep you comfortable until it does. NOTE: Many cruise lines allow you to take on one bottle of wine in your carry on. Check the rules of you cruise line – if you are inclined, purchase a bottle from the cruise port and put it in your carry on.

Pack a carry on for embarkation day with essentials, a bathing suit, sunscreen and hat as well as a change of clothes.

[tweetthis]First Time #Cruise Tips: Be sure to pack a carry on for embarkation day! [/tweetthis]
Be Ready for a Cashless System

Tips for First Time Cruisers


All ships, no matter what line have cashless systems. Once you have boarded your ship, you will not longer be using money they way you usually do. You will be issued an all purpose credit card style room key that functions as your ‘everything’

  • They are your money on the ship – they allow you to purchase items on the ship
  • They are your room key
  • They are your disembarkation and embarkation passes
  • They accompany your passport in port locations as identification

These keys are very important, so it’s wise to have a system in place to ensure you will have it with you at all times. I don’t carry a purse with me on the ship, so I put my card in a lanyard so it is always safe, and always accessible. The cruise ship gift stores sell these lanyards and you can get any style you like. I prefer to purchase mine before I leave home to save a bit of money. But, if that’s not an issue for you, you can get some pretty nifty ones on the ship. They also serve as a keepsake after the cruise. NOTE: I recommend not wearing the lanyard while on shore, put it in your purse or back when you leave the ship – I like to do as much as possible to take the TOURIST stamp of my forehead when I travel into the port location. 

Purchase a lanyard at home before you leave, or get one on the ship to keep your key card safe and accessible.

All the food! Dining on a Cruise Ship

Tips for the First Time Cruiser

This has got to be one of they many, but BEST things about cruising. The food is all part of your initial cruise fee that you paid. So, pretty much everything on the ship is fair game. For a first time cruiser it is important to totally indulge, but also be mindful of eating too much ( yes, it happens more than you can imagine right now) and making yourself sick. Being sick on a cruise is no fun at all.

Food options range from the casual – buffet style –  to the more elegant – Dining Room. Prior to your cruise you would have chosen a dining time, or your ‘own time’ to have dinner. There are formal evenings on all cruise ships where you get to dress up and be fancy, as well as more casual nights – BUT the dining room is a no ‘flip flop’ and shorts zone. It is a sit down supper.

Buffet – Check out your daily cruise newsletter ( a magazine like information package delivered daily to your room) for what the buffet options are during the day. Try everything once.

Dining Room – This is your chance to really explore. If you’ve never tried a food item before, try it! Most cruise ships have excellent food – even the lower budget cruise lines. Enjoy this opportunity to brave new territory. If you’ve never tried ‘escargot’ before – give it a try!

Other ‘Pay’ Food Options – Most cruise lines have a higher level dining option that is available for a small fee – usually a Steakhouse or Italian Food – this is a MUST! The price add on is minimal, but what you get is MAXIMUS! – no joke – it is something you don’t want to miss out on. Book your evening before you leave on the cruise to ensure you get a table – these restaurants fill up quick.

Food on a Cruise Ship is an adventure to itself. Explore, have fun and take advantage of the ‘extra fee’ restaurants.

Disembarkation Blues

Tips for First Time Cruisers

It’s a sad time – trust me, you will be feeling a bit depressed. Expect this and be prepared for it. The time comes faster than you would like and it can be an overwhelming and stressful time. Waiting to get off the ship can seem like an eternity and often you’ll be getting right on a flight home immediately after. If you can, I would suggest booking a hotel room for one more night in your cruise port destination. This alleviates the stress a bit and helps you relax.

A good trick for combating the depression that is inevitable is to put a deposit down on your next cruise – you’ll more than likely enjoy it so much you’ll be aching to come back already. Many cruise lines offer this on board – you can use it at any time, and towards any cruise you like – but it is like a promise to yourself that you’ll be back. That always helps me battle the disembarkation blues.

Disembarkation Blues are real – expect it and be prepared to deal with it

These are some of the most important things to know on your first cruise. ENJOY! And be sure to let me know where you went, how it went and when you are going again!

Questions? Ask away in the comment section below!

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