10 Tips for Your First Time on a Cruise

If you are a seasoned vet when it comes to vacationing on cruise ships, you’re probably intimately aware of the ins and outs of cruising. But those who are on the eve of their very first cruise may be riddled with questions about what to bring (or not bring), what to do, what they will see and what they’ll experience on the ship. Well, ponder no more. Read on for our tips for first-time cruisers. Bon voyage!

Be prepared to go through security before boarding the ship.

Much like airport travel, you will have to go through a screening process with x-ray machines for you and your belongings. The length of the security line can vary depending on when you board, but if you board as early as is allowed, lines are likely to be short and move quickly.

Our tips for getting through airline security quickly will be helpful here, too. Also be prepared to go through Customs on your way back into the US.

Don’t check your bags if you’ll need anything in them right away.

When you pull up to the port, skycaps from the cruise ship will ask if you’d like to check your bags to be delivered to your room later. Unless your bags are too heavy or you have too many of them to handle, you might consider keeping your bags with you.

When you check a bag it can take a few hours to be delivered to your room. If you’d like to change clothes or freshen up soon after boarding the ship, keep the items you’ll need on your person. The same is also true for medications, baby formula, diapers or anything else you can’t afford to wait for.

Treat your passport like gold, and give it a special holding place.

You passport is not only necessary for visiting other countries while on your cruise, but you’ll also need it to re-enter the US. It’s the one thing you absolutely cannot afford to lose. Keep your passport and any other photo ID in the same secure place, so you will always know where it is. Make sure you take it with you when the ship docks and you’re out sightseeing, in the event you’ll need it to re-board the ship.

Bring a watch and set it to the local time.

Making it back to the ship at the designated time is critical if you don’t want to be left behind. Set it to the local time as you’re leaving the ship and make sure to keep an eye on the time throughout the day.

Plan for unexpected days on board the ship instead of on land.

On occasion, the ship will run into a storm out at sea and the ship’s captain will make a detour and drop anchor at sea.  Use these long days at sea as an opportunity to explore your cruise ship and all it has to offer.

Cruise lines typically have activities planned on board each day, and usually have even more at times such as this. Make the most of it and take advantage of the various entertainment venues and activities on board.

Motion sickness medications will be your best friend.

Don’t underestimate the power of motion sickness. Ocean waves are more powerful than you may realize and can make you queasy in no time. Motion sickness can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, so be sure to pack motion sickness medication in your luggage (you never want to assume the ship will have it). Take it before the ship sets sail according to the package directions and you’ll enjoy your cruise nausea-free!

Take advantage of all eateries on ship.

Try everything from the casual buffets to upscale restaurants, but be sure to make a reservation for fine dining establishments. There are thousands of people on board the ship and only a handful of upscale dining restaurants, so make sure you secure a table. Bon appétit!

Pack layerable clothing for the varying weather. 

Depending on where your cruise is headed, you can count on warm, sunny weather, but it’s never a bad idea to pack a light sweater or long pants in the event of inclement weather.

Also, it may be sunny and 86 degrees at the tropical destination you’re headed to, but sandals and shorts may not be the best attire when you touch down at your hometown airport. Wearing layers ensures that you can easily add or remove clothing to your comfort.

Pack travel sized toiletries.

Although you won’t have the 3-3-3 rule to contend with as you do with air travel, you may not want to bring full-sized toiletries if you can avoid it. Most cruise ship bathrooms are very compact with very little counter and shower space. Make the most of the space you have by keeping it clutter free. Also, check ahead of time for stocked blow dryers if you think you’ll need one.

Pack an extra tote or bag for souvenirs and duty free purchases.

Duty free shopping is one of the most popular aspects of cruising. Cruise ship veterans will tell you that you can score great deals on liquor, tobacco products, designer fragrances and cosmetics, and jewelry with duty free shopping. Bring an empty duffel bag or other luggage if you’d like to do some shopping.

Have you vacationed on a cruise ship before? What advice would you give a first-timer?

Stacey is a writer with an eye for design. She’s been with Global Discovery Vacations since 2004, directing the creative department. Her passion for the written word is equal only to that of rescuing dogs and playing volleyball.