12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise

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I love to cruise. No, I really, really love to cruise! Cruising has totally changed my perspective on vacationing in recent years. My standard for dining has risen, my sense of adventure has expanded and my passion for turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches has grown exponentially with each port of call I’ve visited. I’ve been on enough cruises to know the basics, so I typically lend my expertise to friends and family who are experiencing a cruise for the first time. For today’s post, I asked a group of friends to give me their biggest question about cruising, and I think that these 12 things to know before your first cruise should go a long way in helping you prepare for your first cruise!

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise


1. What do I wear?

By and far, this is the question I hear the most often. First, check your itinerary to see how many formal nights you’ll have. Men can wear a suit or tux – but they can also get away with slacks and a button down shirt and tie. Women can wear a nice dress (think “Sunday Best”) or go ALL OUT in a gown fit for prom, it’s up to you! Dinner in the formal dining room is business casual with the exception of formal night. Pretty much anything goes except for shorts, sandals and tank tops.

2. How do I get the best deal on a cruise?

Sign up for your favorite cruise line’s newsletter! Most cruise lines have special sales, as well as offer discounts for previous guests, state residents, military personnel and special affiliations. Once you subscribe, you’ll receive notification whenever there is a special sale happening and you’ll never miss the opportunity to save on that cruise you’ve been day dreaming about!

3. What happens if there is an emergency (medical, family accident, etc.)? What steps do you take to get home quickly?

Most cruise lines will allow you to get off the ship at a port of call to catch a flight in case of emergency but you MUST have your passport and photo ID – you can’t do this if you only have a birth certificate. Carnival Cruise Lines offers a Great Vacation Guarantee, where you can receive a full refund(plus 10 percent and all travel expenses), if you decide you want to leave the cruise. Just keep in mind – you must notify Guest Services within the first 24 hours of the cruise and you can only get off the ship at a port of call, never at sea.

4. What cruises are better with kids?

I LOVE this question because I had the pleasure of experiencing the new Seuss at Sea and Camp Ocean programs on the Carnival Freedom this past summer, and I was blown away by how much fun they are – for the kids and the parents! When searching for a cruise with children, check to make sure they have children’s programs that your children will enjoy.

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise

5. How do you prevent getting motion sickness?

This is probably one of the most common questions I hear when it comes to cruising. I recommend buying Sea Bands, the little elastics that you wear on your wrists. They press against your pressure points and help keep sea sickness at bay. You can also bring along Bonine or Dramamine, and when taken before you get on the ship, they help prevent motion sickness. You can also take them if motion sickness strikes. Make sure to buy the non-drowsy formula, or you’ll wind up sleeping through your vacation!

6. How do I book/pick a room for the person who easily gets motion sickness?

If you are prone to motion sickness, choose a cabin in the middle to lower decks, mid-ship. The higher up you go, the better your view, so keep that in mind!

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise

7. Is a cruise a good idea with toddlers/how does cruising with toddlers work best?

Carnival Cruise Lines offers free camp and babysitting services for children 2 and up,including for kids who aren’t potty trained(staffers will change diapers as long as they’re provided by parents). Angeline absolutely loved Camp Carnival – now Camp Ocean – when she was younger and still spends most of her time in the camp for teens, Club O2.

8. How much can I take part in WITH my toddlers?

If your toddleris enrolled in camp during a cruise, there are some times where parents are welcome to join them. This is usually referred to as “Family play.”

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise

9. When is the best time to sign up for your shore excursion, before the cruise or once you get on the ship?

I highly recommend that you book your shore excursion BEFORE you set sail. Popular excursions sell out quickly!

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise

10. I want to know how to find out what’s included in the price and what’s extra?

This varies depending on the cruise line. Most cruise lines offer your stateroom, all meals in the casual dining spaces and dining rooms, musical shows, club entrances, karaoke and pool area for the price of your cruise. Many cruise lines offer upgraded dining options in specialty restaurants, spa services and some fun extras like martini classes or dance lessons. Getting off the ship at port of call is always free of course, but if you’d like to take an organized shore excursion, there is always an additional fee.

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise

11. How do cruises handle food allergies?

Most cruise lines can work with a range of food allergies, but only in the formal dining rooms. I highly recommend that you speak with a vacation planner at the cruise line of your choice about this topic, as each cruise line handles food allergies differently.

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise - Carnival Liberty Steakhouse

12. Can I bring food or beverages on board?

Each cruise ship is different with respect to what you can and can not bring on board. Some cruise lines allow you to bring in a case of water, a 6 pack of soda, 2 bottles of wine – and some don’t allow you to bring ANY sodas. Check with your cruise line before packing!

12 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise - Carnival Sun and Fun


This post was created as part of my collaboration with Carnival. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are my own.

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  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    The best advice I ever got before I went on my first one was to pack my bathing suit in my carryon because the luggage doesn’t get delivered until later.

      • Mac says

        YOUR CARRY ON BAG – Don’t forget to also place dependence meds in & carry @ least 3 extra days meds…
        A changing of casual clothing, just in case YOUR luggage is re-routed inadvertently along w/PAPER COPIES of Your itinerary INSIDE YOUR LUGGAGE…
        Another ‘seasickness’ med is named scopolamine, charm worker for sure w/little to no side effects…
        Contact YOUR mobile Phone carrier & have the International Calling feature activated for the time period of Your cruise or even the month (mine w/AT&T was an additional $5 for the month – MUCH CHEAPER THAN SHIP TO SHORE PHONE CHARGES…!!! Portable/emergency phone charger will provide 1 full charge using only Your cord – no plug in necessary & especially valuable in emergency circumstances & AWAY FROM THE SHIP…!!!

        • MaryD says

          Scopolamine *does* have side effects for many people- ranging from dry mouth and eyesight problems while using it to severe withdrawal symptoms (nausea, dizziness, irregular heartbeat) after removing the patch.

    • carl says

      abosolutely true also pack shorts and sandals esp. if traveing from a cold location where you where jeans to the air port causee it usually does take most of the day to getyour luggage. love cruising been on 11+

      • Dale says

        We fly out of Minnesota during the Winter months already wearing shorts and short sleeves.

        Sandals in the carry on until we board the ship.

      • Keith says

        While packing some items in your carry on is a good idea. I would take it a step further. Always divide your clothing in the luggage. Example if just a couple is going put half of his clothing and half of hers in one bag and vice versa. If it is a family of 4 do the same with the kids. If family of 3 I would go 1/3 in each piece of luggage. So if your luggage gets lost it is not a big deal. If you don’t do this than plan to spend an enormous amount of money in the ship shops to get something to wear.

        Also if your port of departure is far away from home. Check the price to fly on Thursday and pay for a hotel at the port of departure. I did a 7 day out of Puerto Rico that left and returned on Sunday. We to a flight down on Thursday and a Flight back on Monday for a family of 4. The savings in airfare paid for a 3 star hotel a block from the beach for the days we were in Puerto Rico.

        • Laura says

          Very smart idea about pack half and half, I sadly had my bag lost on my last cruise and had to survive on the few items I had in my smaller bag, the cruise line was nice enough to pick up my laundry daily BUT I was stuck in flip flops and my feet were swollen and sore so I had to spend more than I liked on shoes that I really did not care for..I would also pack an extra pair of shoes for each person in those bags! I still have lumps on my feet from the swelling!

    • Renee says

      Great advise, thank you! And I just wanted to add that packing a few first aide and basic cold remedies is helpful. My daughter got sick and had a terrible cold on our cruise and I was grateful for the vending machine that I could purchase cold medicine for her at, but it was very expensive. So for our upcoming cruise I am packing a pretty complete first aide and over the counter cold and pain remedy kit. Water proof band-aides are a good idea too.

      And if you buy new shoes make sure you break them in first:)

      Happy sailing to all!

      • Walt says

        We learned on our last cruise (Celebrity) that the medical facility would sell us over the counter meds for almost half the price as the shops. Both my wife and I went through a lot of cough medicine over 14 days.

    • Tammie says

      I don’t care what time of year, where you are going or how hot out it is: TAKE A SWEATER! It gets chilly, and breezy, on deck.

    • Ric says

      Always be nice to your server, househkeeping give them a nice tip they will give you extra too!!l Like bar waiter or waiters at deck they give us a couple of free drinks for being a nice guest remember try not to comain too much as they can get back at you

      • Greg says

        Thank you for that advice I’m going on cruise in May and my friend( this is both our first time ) told me that we didn’t have to tip. Who else do we need to tip or is it just server housekeeper and bartender? I believe it’s very important to tip and thank you for posting this.

        • don says

          you will be charged tips to your onboard account for everyday. usually $12-15 a day per person. that gets divided up between housekeeping and wait staff. the matre de (not sure how to spell it) will want you to tip as well but unless you ask for something special from them i see no need to tip, i have never tipped a manager at a restaurant when i go out to eat so i am not sure why this would be any different. we have been on 12 cruises and going again this weekend.

          • says

            That’s not necessarily true – with Carnival Cruise Lines, you can have it added on when you book your cruise and it’s built into your final price. I have cruised about ten times with Carnival and never had an envelope left in my room.

          • Larry says

            15% is normally automatically added to your bar tab at the time of sale, so no need to tip the bartender unless you have a favorite

            And if you have a beverage package, the tip was included in the price of your package – so again, tip only if you wish to reward a favorite person.

        • K says

          Tipping is automatically put onto your credit card. On Carnival, you can go to the desk and have that removed and tell them you want to leave cash. Then you can tip whoever you want to. Employees have shared that they are a month behind on tips so cash upfront is welcomed.

        • Dale says

          When you board the ship, go to the Purser’s desk and ask to opt-out of automatic tipping.
          This way you can only tip the people that truly gave you service while on board. Housekeeping, bartenders etc.
          If you are like us and don’t eat in the formal dining room at all, why tip their staff?

          • Barb says

            The ones who serve @dinner They are paid very little buy cruise shipThey
            have famlies & may not see them for months. They send most of what
            the make home If you can afford to cruise you should tip. I was on a
            cruise Holland etc. I was emperested at how cheap people were.

        • Kim Jones says

          The travel company that we used told us that we had the option to pre-pay all of our tips and it was added into the cost of our cruise. Glad that we did so we didn’t have to worry about it later. We did tip our room attendant extra because he was great.

    • Demi says

      These cruise are like a vacation with all you want to get away from–a whole city packed with people. YUCK! Small ships, shorter lines, less chance of a floating germ factory. Who needs a rock climbing wall?

      • chattyone says

        Your comment is my greatest concern and therefore I have never taken a cruise. Like vacationing on a floating mall, right?

        • amygee says

          Cruising is awesome. Sure it is a prepackaged vacation but you only need to unpack and repack once. much more interesting than an all inclusive and certainly more variety. There is little better than sitting out on your private veranda, in a bathrobe, after a nice swim with a cocktail, while leaving port on a beautiful caribbean day. I have cruised the med, the north sea, the caribbean, europe and scandinavia. All beautiful and relaxing. If you can afford it spend the extra moey for a private veranda. Nice way to start and end your day.

        • Lee says

          Chattyone: Please keep an open mind about cruising! You hear about Norovirus on ships because it makes great sensational headlines. Cruise lines strive very hard to keep everything as sanitary as possible.

          I have been on 14 cruises and have never gotten ill (other than a touch of sea sickness once). I can guarantee that you will have the best vacation money can buy by experiencing a cruise. The price benefit of it being all inclusive is amazing.

          Please try it once. If you don’t enjoy it then you can opine from first hand experience rather than only someone else’s opinion.

        • Larry says

          Cruising is not a one size fits . You can book a moderately priced cruise with from about 2000 passengers up to about 5000. Or you can pay somewhat more to be on a 200 to 600 passenger ship. You can cruise tropical islands or tour historical or exotic ports of call.

          Although moderately priced cruises are not totally all inclusive, in my opinion they do present the best vacation value for transportation, room and board.

          On a recent Baltic Sea cruise with a balcony, we were able to visit major cities in six countries at about $300 per day per couple. That included round-trip travel from England, room and board.

          Try doing that with seven airline flights, six hotels and many restaurant meals for $300 per couple per day!

  2. says

    Even though I was a travel agent for almost 15 yrs, I have never been on a cruise! These are great tips, but I especially like #10, so I heard there were so many “hidden” fees on cruises. Thanks for breaking it down!

    • John Tomasovich says

      Just got back from a Carnival Cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Carnival charges 12.00/day per occupant, for the cleaning staff tip. They add 15% to every bar tab. I was told that I shouldn’t pay more than 12.00/day tip for one room, even though there is two people in it. Will question that next time. In Jamaica carry exact change, take cab not bus, we paid for both ways for the bus, but it wasn’t “available” on the trip back to port , Exact change, so you won’t have an argument with the driver over the tip. Then tip then what you want. I had not budgeted 168.00 for my weekly tip, so that was a bit of a surprise, just a heads up.

        • Jodie says

          This is industry standard – $12 per person per day for tips. This breaks out to $4/person/day for the stateroom host (who is cleaning your room, turning down the bed, delivering newsletters, etc), $4/person/day for your dining room server (and yes, these servers work in areas other than dining rooms so even if you don’t eat in the main dining room, you should still tip the server because they are also serving you at the buffets, etc), $3/person/day for the assistant server (same comments as your other server), and $1/person/day for the Head Server (sometimes also called the Maitre’d – this person watches over the whole dining room so even if you haven’t asked for something special directly from him/her, s/he is working to make sure everything is running smoothly for you).
          Bar and spa visits should be tipped. Some cruise lines automatically add 18% to the bill for you but you can adjust it as needed.
          These people work very hard, long hours to take care of you while you are cruising. They are typically away from their families for months at a time and just like American restaurant servers, they are paid a meager hourly wage. Their pay is primarily from tips. Most crew members will bend over backwards to help you with any request.

      • Dale says

        Next time if you go, stop at the Purser’s desk and ask to opt-out of automatic tipping. Then tip who you what, what you want.

    • Dj says

      Just came back from cruise—- me the wife and 3 kids—-9,6, and 18 months—–everything was awesome went to coco cay, then on to st Thomas, then finally to st marttin—– that was also the order as far as liking them and having fun—– as soon as you get off the boat in st Martin the locals hounded us so much that after an hour or so we went back to the ship with them making remarks like yeah if you aren’t going to spend money you should go back—— when we obviously we’re spending money but we refused to be bullied into where we spent it

      • says

        WHOA! That is just crazy! I’ve never been to Saint Maarten but I will keep that in mind if I ever go there! I am glad you had fun on your cruise, despite that! :)

        • jody says

          I was in St. Maarten in Feb and thought the town was good and the taxi service to the beach was acceptable but there were six cruise ships in port that day and Orient Beach was horrible. It is about thirty feet from water’s edge to the fence for Club Orient and there were hundreds of people there, elbow-to-elbow. I kid you not!

          If you go, go when there are no other ships there.

      • Bill says

        We just got back from a cruise a couple of weeks ago and found exactly the opposite. St. Maarten was pretty laid back, a lot of shops right off the port, but not much pressure (although not much haggling over prices either). In St. Thomas the streets were lined with Jewelry stores, and the proprietors stood in the doorways promising that their prices were ALWAYS lower than anyone! The last time we were in St. Thomas, three years ago, my wife bought a relatively inexpensive loose diamond. When we got back home I took it to a jeweler friend, and he confirmed that it was worth about twice what she paid for it — so there are bargains out there. Just FYI, we were told by the specialists on the ship that St. Thomas is better for shopping, and St. Maarten is better for the beaches.

        • EL says

          We’ve been to St Maarteen many times. The best thing is really to catch a cab or bus to be taken out of downtown to the Maho area for shopping (Riviera for jewelry) or Simpson Bay for some local scenery. You’ll find that a lot of those downtown shops are owned by the same people expecting that if you pass up one you’ll stop into another.

        • Ric says

          I think St. Thomas is tax free most people shop for jewelry and watches there.I like St. Maarten better scenery and electronics shopping like Camera and Celphone and yeah find people more friendlier than St. Thomas

        • Mary says

          I would never make any purchases of so called valuable items on vacation in a foreign country. That diamond could have just as easily been a fake or not nearly worth as much as it appeared. For example many stores have imperfections that are invisible to the naked eye and dramatically reduce the price to almost nothing. The same goes for any type of artwork or “antiques” people purchase on vacation. Most are worthless and the “antiques” are shameless replicas for people who don’t know any better.

          • Nancy says

            I have been to a number of islands but love St Maarten the best. It’s very laid back. I have never been approached by anyone
            and feel free to just stroll around. As far as jewelry I’ve purchased a number of items from Kays International. They have shops on 4 islands and are great to deal with. I’ve also made purchases at Effy’s which is based in New York but they can’t give the discounts you’ll get at Kay’s.
            The cruise line will give a list of stores they back with a guarantee.

      • Ron Campolong says

        Once off ship in port of St, Martin, step past the group at entrance gate, just tell them no thanks. This is my favorite island, people always friendly and helpful. We enjoy taking a taxi over to French side and travel Orient Beach. Fantastic soft sandy beach with restaurants and activities. Taxi only about $7 person each way, depending on number of people in taxi. have been there on 4 cruises and have never had a problem.,

      • Olivetta says

        Unfortunately this happened in Ensenada to us and on a cruise my daughter’s family went on I forget where. They finally retreated to the ship as well.

      • Mike says

        I agree with Bill. We have been to St. Maarten/St. Martin over a dozen times and have never been approached by anyone. In fact, it is our favorite Caribbean island because it has the friendliest people, gorgeous beaches and a wide variety of shops. Beatrix at the Belgium Chocolate Box will vouch that I’m a “regular”. For the very best beach experience take the ferry over to Pinel Island on the French side. There’s no shopping, very few people, a couple of nice cafes for food and drink and THE MOST gorgeous beach. The island is only inhabited for the day for the tourists.

    • Ric says

      There are a lot of more affordable cruises now. Check with Carnival Cruise line they have 3 days Cruise its kike 200 a day cruise.

    • Airborne_fister says

      I am super prone to motion sickness due to having an inner ear crystal missing. So when I cruise the one time I ever have. I was either drunk or puking my brains out. I tried to match the motion of the ocean with drinking. That helped until I passed out. Woke up and puked.

      • Terri says

        I, too, am very prone to motion sickness. But, for some reason cruising is never a problem. First cruise I took 5 bottles of Dramamine and did not use any. Still take some, just in case.

      • Dwyane says

        Crackers (salty or savory, not sweet) are the sailor’s staple, and for good reason – they’re excellent for settling the stomach without triggering nausea. I like to have a bag of pretzels with me. Similarly, dry bread, toast or dry cereals (not heavily sugared ones) are great to nibble on, and are easy to carry with you. Ginger biscuits are also great.

      • Kate says

        In my experience, if seasickness hits, it’s already too late for the Dramamine…it prevents, it doesn’t cure!!!
        Take it BEFORE you board, and then regularly as directed throughout the cruise.

  3. says

    Pinning this — great tips! I don’t love cruises but I do go on one every few years. I just get anxiety out in big bodies of water far away from land. =) I still push myself to go though and I always have a great time!

  4. Pam says

    I have never been on a cruise, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll keep all this in mind if I ever get to book one.

    • Olivetta says

      Are you near a port Pam? The great thing is you don’t have to look for a place to stay or unpack in every new place. Everything is included. I’ve been on two cruises and had a blast. Get a friend and book a cruise.

      • Will says

        Consider this – if you live near a port, that means no air, which means no checked bag fees! The price you pay for the seven days of parking is nowhere near what you would pay for those bags on a flight. Don’t fly unless you have to.

    • Joan says

      You can go online and check out various cruise ships to see what they offer for children as well as adults. Royal Caribbean’s large ships have programs for toddlers up to teens. Babysitting services as well. Oasis of the Seas has a kid friendly ‘boardwalk’ complete with a a cute ‘merry-go-round’. The pool areas have separate water activities for the little ones. This is just one example of ships which cater to all ages. There are many more. Good luck with your search.

  5. says

    I’ve wanted to do a cruise for as long as I can remember. Now that I have kiddo, I like that I can still have adult fun and know that they have programs where she can play with other children and be supervised while dad and I have a little dinner. We looked at the Disney one but I think Seuss would be so much more fun.

    • says

      I never take a chance with wrist bands or dramine. I call my Dr and have him call in some behind the ear patches by prescription only. I tried to get my sister to get some before her first cruise. Being a RN she didn’t listen to me just friends who told her dramine would be fine.
      We’ll during the formal Captains dinner night she was in the cabin hugging the toilet bowl by herself. If anyone gets sick on a fishing boat or in a plane you can be sure you will be sick all of your cruise!!

      • ann says

        the trick to avoid getting sea sick is to stop fighting the motions of the sea…..let your body go with the flow, relax and you will find that your muscles are less tense and letting go of the need to conrol the ship and the sea… try it it works for me everytime think of the sea as cradling or supporting your body instead of getting scared and tense it takes practice but it works i know from experience sailed many times love it go with it

  6. says

    What great tips, Jenn! I’ve never been on a cruise but if I ever do, I’ve bookmarked this so I can refer back to it. And…. I think I’d like the Seuss Sea cruise myself. 😀

  7. says

    Ive never been on a cruise and these were some informative tips! I didnt think you could wear ball gowns or fancy attire for a cruise, I will make sure to pack some when I get my opportunity!

  8. says

    I have never been on a cruise before, but I can see how these things are stuff I should know before thinking about or going on a cruise. Thanks for sharing, I will pass along to friends who are going on cruise!

  9. says

    As a rather experienced cruiser, I can definitely agree with all of these. While I have yet to venture on a ship with my kids, that is definitely next on our list.

  10. says

    I believe you are mistaken about #6. One would want to reserve a room in the lower part of the ship because it would be closer to the center of gravity of the ship (point of rotation). Also, you forgot to mention the “biggie” in #10, the ALCOHOL!

    • says

      I’ve cruised with Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, so I can’t speak for the rest of the cruise lines. But I recommend Carnival out of those three, at least! Some Carnival ships have the Serenity Area, which is an adults only area with pools, Jacuzzis, bars and lounge areas with hammocks too! There are fine dining restaurants (those are an upgraded fee on top of the price of the cruise, some are $12, some are $35 and totally worth it), there are also plenty of bars and lounges, Broadway style shows, adults-only comedy shows and nightclubs too!

    • says

      For adult-centered cruises it is always safest to assume that the more expensive the cruiseline is the fewer children will be around … with one exception: Disney is VERY expensive and they are geared toward kids.

      To avoid the young adult/party-all-the-time cruises, go for the longer cruise: 6+ days.

      Short answer: Try Holland.

      • gene gillespie says

        Agree that longer,more expensive Cruise Ships will reduce the numbers of Children.ALL INCLUSIVE Cruises can include Alcohol,Shore excurions and Air Fare.Seabourn,a sister company of Carnival offers an ALL INCLUSIVE package.As does Crystal and Regent…..Good tips here ! One more ..I carry a small overnite bag with Medication,tolitries and a change of underwear because luggage doesn’t always arrive the same day (airlines not always reliable).

      • Gina says

        There are cruise lines that are more for adults, while others are more for families. What time of year you cruise is also a factor when it comes to kids on board.

    • Mary says

      You might like to try Grand Circle Travel and/or Vantage Travel for their river cruises. I believe Vantage also offers ocean cruises and Grand Circle offers some cruises around the Med and Greek Islands. Both companies cater to those over 50; they do not offer activities for kids, so it’s rare to see anyone under 30-and even that on,y happened once.

    • Lynn says

      We have cruised on Celebrity 4 times and found very few children, they were 7 days, 11 days, 14 and 16 day cruises. We also did a Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest for 15 days, no children. Recently did a 7 day Royal Caribbean Cruise out of Galveston and there were lots of kids but they did not bother us in any way.

    • says

      Having made over 20 cruises, I feel somewhat experienced…..In general, as long as you do not “go where the kids are”‘ you do not have to worry about them…..However, your best bet is to explain to your travel consultant and voice your personal desires so that he/she can find the best available cruises to meet your needs….From this, of course, you are ready to ask. . . . .”Well HOW do I find a good travel agent????? THAT is the question…..I would suggest that you go through some fraternal associated group, or some group that your friends or associates have used and were pleased with…..Above all,,,,GO!!!!! It’s a wonderful world!!!!!!

  11. says

    I agree with all of these tips except #6. I would stay on lower to mid-decks as there is not as much side-to-side movement. The stabilizers take care of most of that. Drink that are included are water, tea (iced and hot), coffee and lemonade. If you are a soda junkie, you can purchase a drink pass for about 45-50 dollars that will allow you to all the soda you want while on board. For more room in you luggage for keepsakes and gifts, take only enough clothing for 5 days on a 7 day cruise. Ship’s laundry is very reasonable and you can turn in your dirty clothing on the third or fourth day and it’s ready by the next. Cruising is my favorite vacation.

    • Jodie says

      This depends on the cruise line. Disney Cruise Line includes soda in the price. No need to buy a pass.

  12. alana says

    An important thing to remember while cruising is that your not any safer on the boat then you would be in a city back home.

    • says

      The crime rate [“rate” is a function of population] for nearly all crime is significantly lower on cruises than “back home”. About the only exception is the murder of a spouse. “We were just joining the Balcony Club, when he fell overboard … I don’t know how it happened!”

      The rate for many other socially awkward happenings, on the other hand, are indeed higher. And almost all involve drunkenness.

      Please stop reciting the alarmist nonsense spewed by that fraction of the public which don’t like cruising and demands to ensure that no one else will either, by reciting a litany of anecdotia.

      • Stephaney says

        I think they were just saying to be aware and watch your surroundings and not to let your guard completely down.
        Which is good advise no matter where you go! Especially for women!

    • Michael says

      I could not disagree more. I have been on dozens of cruises. Safety is extraordinary on the MAJOR cruise lines……..But Stay OFF some of the foreign operated lines.

      Some of the port stops however are VERY risky. Montego Bay, Ochos Rios Jamaica, and Caracas Venezuela as an example are very risky. There is abject poverty on many of the islands and Americans seem rich to the natives. So keep you guard up and be constantly aware of your surroundings.

      • Carol says

        One should always be aware of their surroundings, either at home or on vacation. I have never seen a “major” cruise line flying the American flag, they are registered in other countries, and they are bound by that countries laws, which can be very different. The only rule which they are bound by here in the u.s. is they must comply with the safety vessel testing while docked. If you are ever a victim, seek help immediately. I live and work closely with a cruise port, and have seen criminals get away because action wasn’t immediately taken.

  13. Coast Guard Cutterman says

    #6 . . . to avoid sea sickness higher decks are not the way to go . . . that is where the roll becomes greater the higher you go. Recommend mid-ships to aft, and on centerline/keel and lower decks. Your body and that point on the ship will actually be rolling or pitching less than towards the bow and upper decks. I’ve never been on a commercial cruise but the physics should be the same as military ships and I have a few years of military sea time . . . so yes, the captain and officers are actually berthed in one of worst spots . . . up and forward. Hah!

    Was the author trying to be mischievous?

    • says

      think of an upside down pendulum. ( the bottom would be the are that has less motion..or swing… so the better cabins for sea sickness would be the lower cabins. not higher- you feel the most rocking at the top

      • says

        The “swing” isn’t all that much. The difference is three decimal places to the right of the dot. Why? because the ship is really quite narrow and you’re talking about an “upside-down pendulum” with a very short arm for the pivot it has.

        There is fa-a-ar more pitch forward and back [think driving up hills and down] due to the ocean swells than any lateral rocking. Why? because the ship is really quite long and your upside-down pendulum has a much longer arm for the pivot.

        If you’re prone to motion sickness, avoid fore and aft cabins and stay midship. It is inconsequential to worry about upper versus lower and even less consequential to worry about interior versus oceanview with regard to minimizing motion sickness.

        • says

          The last paragraph is NOT true…..a ship normally rotates (rolls) about the keel, and the center of mass is also the keel….Thus the closer to the keel, the less effect a roll has….I certainly agree with going for the ocean view rather than an inside cabin, and, if the view of the turbulent ocean is a problem, you can close the drapes over the window….

        • expatinasia says

          The article is correct, and it needs to be expanded. A ship has SIX degrees of freedom: roll, pitch, yaw, heave sway, and surge. Any of them can lead to discomfort.

    • Ehunt says

      She said the mid to lower deck cabins are better for avoiding seasickness! … But then she stipulated that the VIEWS are better if you are in a cabin higher up.

  14. Amanda says

    I went on my first cruise (carnival) this past June. I agree with all of this, but you should add in the requirements for pregnant passengers. We booked our cruise a year in advance, and then found out I was pregnant 5 months before we left. I never gave it a second thought because I figured as long as my doctor said traveling was fine, that’s all I had to worry about. Thank God my mother-in-law thought to call and ask about it! I had to have a waiver signed by my doctor stating that I was in good health and was ok to travel, but also that I was no further along than 24 weeks. If you’re more than 24 weeks, they won’t allow you on the ship because they aren’t equipped to deal with fetal emergencies. I had to not only fax the form in 2 weeks before we boarded, but I had to physically give it to them as we were boarding the ship. I was 22 weeks at that time, so I barely made the cutoff! That would’ve been a HUGE waste of money had we not called to verify the rules.

    • says

      Which port are you going to, and what kind of things do you like to do? I love the water, so I usually book snorkeling excursions! If you like a “party” vibe, a party boat is always fun, but really draws a younger crowd. If you just want to relax and sip a cocktail, I would suggest picking a “beach” excursion where they take you to a beautiful beach and sometimes drinks and food are included.

    • Gwen J says

      The Glass Bottom Boat. Do not purchase the ticket for this on the ship; it is must cheaper to purchase the tickets from the Glass Bottom Boat Stand. You can even bargain for a even better price from the Glass Bottom Boat Stand.

      • Will says

        This goes for ALL shore excursions. Use the internet and book shore excursions directly with the providers. They are much less expensive than booking through the cruise line. I found this to be true with multiple snorkeling trips, swimming with dolphins on Cozumel and Sting Ray City off Grand Cayman.

        • mar says

          Will, this is a great point. I think if you read the bottom of the page, the author mentions that this was a sponsored review with Carnival- which would explain why such an astronomically helpful tip was omitted and other, arguably obvious points were included.

          • says

            Yes, this is a sponsored article – I do really love Carnival Cruise Lines, they are my preferred cruise line – but as it’s sponsored BY them, I am not going to say anything that would take business away from them! ha ha!

        • Dave says

          CAUTION! Booking an independent excursion instead of through the ship means you’re on your own if for any reason you don’t make it back to the ship before departure. If you book through the ship and your tour’s return is delayed, they will wait for you. Ships do sometimes delay scheduled departure to get everybody back on board (they know who is and isn’t back) but they’re under no obligation to do so.
          And schedules, tides, port requirements, etc. mean most ships leave on time, regardless. Book independent tours if you want, but allow plenty of time and avoid traveling too far from the port.

    • JessM says

      If you are going to Freeport, an inexpensive and yet fun excursion is the Beach Day with open bar. This is through Carnival. Private beach plus unlimited drinks, in moderation of course, made for a great and fun outing. Best $50 I ever spent!

  15. Royal Cruiser says

    All the cruises I’ve been on give free ice tea, lemon water or other flavored waters. They usually have hot coffee at the same station. Simply fill up a glass with ice, pour in the hot coffee and you have a free iced coffee! Cream and sugar to taste. A lot cheaper than the buying one at a premium.

  16. Sandi says

    My husband NEVER gets motion sickness until our ship pulled away from the dock. I had gotten extra Transderm scop patches from my doctor (you wear them behind your ear) and we were both grateful we had them! The motion of the ocean definitely affected him…and it was really smooth sailing the whole time!

  17. Carla B says

    i have been on numerous cruises to the Caribbean and Europe. There are ships that include EVERYTHING…..not for drinks not for alcohol not for excursions. They may be a little more expensive but they are quite more civilized. It also depends on what you like. Super nightlife vs a show and dancing. Lots of games and music to lazy afternoons with a book.

    • says

      I would never go on a cruise after I I read where all the toilet waste goes – untreated into the ocean. As a matter of fact, it put a damper during the summer months but will just have to live with it. When I got sick, my sister offered me a free cruise but I declined. I am an environmentalist, even though parents don’t seem to care about their kids, I will remain faithful to the eart.


      • says

        Diane … what do you think many species of fish, plankton, krill, crustaceans, etc eat? That’s right, the “toilet waste” of other animals. The bottom of the oceanic food chain feeds on the waste of the top of the food chain. Same on dry land as well. You are providing no “faith” to the “eart” by depriving yourself of an experience out of some misguided false piety.

        And don’t look now, but all the cruise food no one eats …? That gets pitched into the sea as well. And it’s all eaten before it hits the ocean floor. Sea critters love cruises.

        It is industrial waste and plain old nonbiodegradable trash that you are thinking of as being harmful. I advise you to got on a cruise and hang out on the smoking deck and scold all those smokers for flicking their cigarette butts overboard, because that’s about the only thing from a cruise ships that actually harms the environment.

      • joe says

        Diane, Nice try. That may have been the case in the past, however, all modern cruise lines do not discharge into the ocean. Modern rules do not permit that.
        As Ross states, even if they did discharge at sea it would not be a problem (only in port would it be a problem), however, they process all waste and do not discharge any food or waste overboard.
        Actually, they sort all of the garbage on the ship for recycling. Truth is they are very green.


        • Bill says

          The Coast Guard enforces environmental regulations, but only to a certain distance from the coast. I believe there are also international conventions on the dumping of waste. Of course there are violations, but the industry faces heavy penalties if caught.

          And “raw waste,’ to put it delicate, is not pumped directly into the sea; ask anyone whose been on a ship that has suffered a malfunction in it’s plumbing system

  18. says

    I have never been on a cruise and would love to go. What time of the year is the best time to go, especially Bahamas? Also, I think I will try a short cruise because I know that I will have the motion sickness. Not sure if I want to be on the water for 7 days for my first trip.

    • says

      Just from my experience, I would say that a short cruise is the best way to “test out the waters” of cruising! I love to cruise year-round, especially to the Caribbean, because it’s pretty much always warm! :)

  19. says

    i have been on over 20 cruises over the course of my lifetime and I have LOVED every single one of them. One of the most important things to do before cruising is to decide who you want to spend your vacation with…do you love kids, are you into older folks or middle road kinda peoples? Our very first cruise while on Carnival was a complete disaster because I am not fond of traveling with young children…and it was at Christmas! LOL Study the independant reviews of each cruise line; nothing worse than spending a week on a ship that does not meet your needs.

  20. says

    Re: #3. A passport IS a photo ID. To fly back home from a foreign country requires only a passport.

    Re: #5. “Sea Bands” is a placebo. There is no medical/scientific reason for working, and it doesn’t … unless you have the IQ of a wet sponge and can believe that up is down without saying, “Wait a minute…” OTC remedies, prescription patches, or [probably the most effective] ginger – in ale, candies, cookies, etc.

    • says

      I get very motion sick – I can’t ride roller coasters or it upsets my stomach – and Sea Bands DO work for me. Now, I am not a scientist, obviously, but pressing on the pressure points does (in general) work to help prevent motion sickness.

    • Dee says

      The Sea Bands do work. Not only did they help me on a cruise, but also help with vertigo at home. They must be put on correctly tho.

  21. Sue says

    Seasickness is horrible. Sadly I took my first and only cruise and this was a major problem for me. I knew to book in the middle lower deck. The ship was huge and the waters were calm. Nothing could help me. I had the pills, the pressure wrist bands and Even 2 shots from the ships doctor. I was miserable and felt panicked too. I was on my honeymoon. A bad start to a bad marriage. Lol
    The Only thing that helped was the sea sick patch you place behind your ear. It was Banned at the time because people were abusing them as a weight loss option?! A lady we met on the ship somehow had some with her and shared with me. Thank goodness. Finally a bit of relief. That was in 1996.
    I wish I could cruise, but now I enjoy the islands on land.

  22. Pemichel says

    Great cruise tips! With the size of these ships I didn’t think motion sickness would be a worry? Glad I found out now! I have 2 children… love kids. With that being said, my spouse and I want to take a cruise without the children. Are there cruises that are for people over 21? Like I said, we love kids but just want to take a grown up cruise. We DON’T want any kinds of singles, on the prowl for a fling at sea type of cruise. Just a nice quiet cruise without kids running around the pools, halls or dining rooms… Is there such a thing?? Any answers would be appreciated. Thanks! .

    • JANE says

      Alaska cruises tend to draw a more mature crowd. If you enjoy nature and options to view wildlife on excursions at different ports, I would highly recommend an Alaska cruise. It’s been a while since I took a cruise to Alaska (2000) but it was wonderful. Pair it with a land visit (Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks) and you get a feel for the vastness and beauty of the state. It’s a longer cruise, so you don’t see as many young families. It’s typically on many retiree’s bucket list.

      • Olivetta says

        Alaska was my 49th visited state and Hawaii my 50th the year after. Yes, when we were at a movie I looked back over the audience and it was a sea of white hair. Absolutely loved the cruise. We walked at every port and it just doesn’t get much better. Great memories. There are interesting museums and natural history centers at these ports. In Skagway we walked out to the museum and waterfalls. Shop at The Shirt Factory for nice bargains.

  23. Burger Mesiter says

    One word: MECLIZINE. I thought I was going to die of motion sickness on my first cruse. Nothing helped, Dramamine was a joke. My uncle (a former Navy man) told me I needed Meclizine, which is a prescription medication. We went to the on board doctor’s office, and he gave me a bottle. Aaahhhh, the rest of that rocky vacation was a non-issue!!! Truly a miracle drug. Please remember that not all ships provide this med, so be sure to see your doctor at home for a prescription before you board the ship.

    • Durwood says

      Meclizine is great for “motion sickness!” But be forewarned! I have tried over the counter meds like Bonine and they are not as effective! If you ask a pharmacist or doctor, they will tell you there’s no difference; but I will tell you they are not the same meds. Yes, both say 25 mg of active ingredient, but there is something different in prescription Meclizine that makes it more effective for me… all it takes is one pill and I’m good to go! Insist that your doctor prescribe Meclizine before your cruise if you think there’s the slightest chance of sea sickness. However, as someone said in an earlier post, big modern ships have ‘stabilizers’ and you hardly feel any motion at all, except when docking or bad weather (September-October in the Caribbean). However, keep in mind, a ship the length of a football field is like a ‘see-saw,’ the most movement is on each end and virtually none in the middle! LOVE CRUISING!

  24. Mike says

    We have never been on a cruise so this may seem like a silly question. Why would you want to pack water or soda on a cruise. I thought all the food and basic drinks were included 24/7. Also, how much time do you typically have at a port. It seems like you wouldn’t have much time to do anything by the time they unload everyone and the. Have to reload to take off again.

    • says

      I have never packed water or soda. I do buy the soda drink package which is pricey, but then again I do like my soda. Usually, a ship will spend about 8-12 hours in a port. That will give you time to take a 4-5 hour excursion, hit a restaurant and maybe do a little shopping. You have to do a little planning ahead of time on what you want to do in each port.

    • joe says

      Mike, soda is an extra cost on most cruise lines. They have programs where you can purchase a soda card, but it is cheaper to bring your own if you drink a lot of it.
      I usually bring a case on my 7 day cruises. I drink iced tea and lemonade and have a few sodas every day. I cruise Carnival. I recommend hand carrying the soda onto the ship (if it is in checked luggage they will go through the bag, which will delay your luggage delivery).
      In the main dining room they don’t “offer” iced or hot tea, you can ask for it, but they want to sell you drinks. They have a large glass that they fill with ice water and wine glasses. I decline the water and have them fill that glass with iced tea. Usually after the first dinner they will remember your preferences.
      I do not know why anyone would bring water onboard unless they are water snobs, the ship’s water is fine and safe.

      Typically you will have 8 hours or more in port. There is plenty of time to do what you want.

      • JimmyS says

        I get disappointed now and then when I’m on an island that I am thoroughly enjoying and realize I have only a little time left to get back on board. A cruise is great to get a taste of the islands, but it is not the type of vacation you want to take if you want to spend any time on the island. For instance, had a cruise that stopped in Aruba, did an excursion in the morning, another in the afternoon, and was at a beach with a nice bar after. Could only spend 45 minutes on the beach because had to be back on the ship. Met a group of people on the island that were there for the week having a lot of laughs and a great time. Similar happened when I stopped in St. Barth’s. Beautiful places that I could have spent a lot more time in but couldn’t because of the constraints of the cruise only being in port for 8 hours. Such a bummer when you are really enjoying a place!

        • says

          I know what you’re talking about – there are some ports of call that I like so much that I plan trips back to the island to stay for longer! :)

          • Will says

            On the other hand, I have been to ports that I was glad to not have spent any longer than a day. It is what it is… Cruising is a good way to discover places that you may want to visit longer on your next vacation. I had the opposite experience with Aruba; I enjoyed it for a day, and saw enough to say that I personally would not want to stay any longer than I did.

      • Joan says

        Then, I must be a “water snob”, as you call it. I have Evian bottled water waiting for me in my stateroom when I embark. Why Evian, you might ask. Because that is the only brand the ship provides in bottled water packages!! And, for shore beach excursions, etc., it is great to bring a bottle along, as well as a beach towel provided by the ship.

    • says

      Each port has a different time. For instance, I almost always cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines, and when I’ve had a port of call in Key West, the ship has arrived at 7 AM. However, I went to Venice on a Med cruise once and we didn’t arrive until 1 PM. When you look at the itinerary of the cruise you’re thinking about purchasing, it will show you the arrival and departure time for each port. :)

    • Olivetta says

      I don’t know why anyone would pack water or soda. There’s always plenty of time at ports, some more than others. You have time for a long walk, shopping, natural history museum, etc.

    • expatinasia says

      Because many cruises do not include beverages, or only a certain type of beverage. You need to check with the company to be sure what EXACTLY is included.

    • Will says

      The time in port varies quite a bit. On one Caribbean cruise, I had enough time to do a snorkeling trip and swim with dolphins on Cozumel. Another time we rented a car and drove around St. Martin. But sometimes there is just enough time for a stroll around the port area or a few hours to sit on the beach. Your itinerary will tell you how much time you will have in each port and you can plan appropriately.

  25. Marie Gamalski says

    Would just like to add, find out the age of the ship you’re cruising on!! Our first cruise was amazing… Princess star of the sea. Our second cruise….. OMG!!! 28 yr. old ship, Norwegian cruise lines. The WORST experience ever!! Funny story, my brother and his wife were on the exact same ship on their honeymoon!! 28 years earlier and my sister in law remembered the draperies and bedding… It was the same!!
    Everything was ancient… The “loo”, the tiny, tiny closets, the A.C. was inoperable on a tropical cruise…. etc, etc. and it actually cost MORE than the spectacular Princess cruise!! One more little tip avoid cruising during spring break, wouldn’t have thought that would be an issue considering the significant $$$ but that was an issue on NCL also. Loud, drunken, VERY inappropriate behavior day and night so beware of that also and by the way I’m no prude!!!

  26. angelina says

    I am getting ready to go on my 3rd cruise in April on the Carnival Pride. Packing can be tricky. Yes, you will heading into warmer waters BUT you have to get there first. Pack sweatshirts if you plan to hang outside during the evening hours. Even the casino can get chilly. I wear flats because heels do not agree with me on a rocking ship. Last thing I wanted to do was break my ankle!
    I personally don’t like the coffee they serve. I bring the individual starbucks instant coffee packets with me. I like iced coffee in the afternoons so I just add ice. It’s cheaper than buying the gourmet coffee they sell in the mornings.
    It may sound silly but bring a small can of air freshener. Those cabins are very small and if you happen to be in the room when someone is in the bathroom…. well, you get the point.
    Make sure you take some cash with you. The ATMs can be expensive to use and the merchants like cash.
    One of my best tips… Take a picture of your name/cabin number with your camera and/or cellphone. Set your homescreen to that picture. If your camera or phone get lost, you will have a better chance of getting it back.
    If you start getting motion sick… of course take the Dramamine but DO NOT lay down. It will only make it worse. I find that going outside and staring at the horizon helps level you out.
    The most important thing, have fun. There is so much to do if you are in the mood… A cruise can be as entertaining or as relaxing as you want it to be. ENJOY YOURSELF!

    • says

      I actually just learned about something called Poopuri! It’s a spray that you spray on the surface of the water in the toilet before you use the potty. LOL It sounds lame but it works like a charm!!

      • Joan says

        Even better than a spray–customs might not allow it. Called “One Drop”. It is a tiny bottle of liquid. One to two drops, and wa-la, no unwanted odors. Wonderful stuff.

    • Lori says

      I’ve been on 10 cruises and these are excellent tips, especially taking a picture of your door! I never thought of that.

  27. wllmjunior says

    Cruising is, like most things in life, a reasonable venture. Reasonable people will find everything they ever wanted at their beck and call and great fun will be had. However, to those living in “fantasy land,” where the world totally revolves around themselves and thinks cruising is like reruns of the Love Boat, are going to be in for rough sailing ahead. The main thing to remember is YOU’RE ON VACATION. Yes, VACATION! Just let some things flow and stop trying to be the master of all you survey. Everyone involved will be thankful for the rest and reprieve.

  28. Arline says

    Most cruise lines offer children activities. Norwegian offers Nickelodeon. They also don’t have a mandatory formal night. It is an option, with one dining room formal, one not. The sea bands work for me unless the roll us severe. The larger ships seem better.

  29. Judy says

    Although I really hate to speak disparagingly about any country I have cruised, the one tip I have for everyone is that if you book a shore excursion, do it through the cruise lines. You might pay a bit more, but you can rest assured that the excursions are safe and that the ship will not leave without you if you’re late getting back. If you book through an individual at the port of call (i.e. hawkers at the dock) not only are you playing roulette with your safety, you may get left at the port of call and incur plane fares (or worse if you forgot to bring your passport.)

    • mar says

      I appreciate your concerns but I think that using good judgment would resolve your possible fears. Many of the ports have special certification and registration for drivers and they have name and photo id from the company. I was able to go on up to 3 excursions in one island by hiring a driver. Overall, I have done one cruise with excursions through Carnival (was nice) and 1 trip with excursions via island planning (felt like I got to do more for le$$).

      We were able to see the things we wanted to see and spend more time in the spots that interest us. For example, going to a cave tour and a flower jungle instead of Carnivals listed tour: cave tour and flower jungle and local bakery tour. The PRIVATE trip was 50% cheaper. If you found another group of even 2 people to join it could bring the price down to less than half carnival price. More importantly, you can spend time on stuff that’s actually cool! The reason most people on excursions don’t realize how much they are getting ripped is because if you are just rushing to get off the ship and eat breakfast before your 9am Carnival Excursion departure time you will be focused on that. The last thing you would do is contemplate price shopping to see how much you could get the trip for.

      every night we would go to dinner and have done like twice as many things because otherwise it’s just too expensive and so people have to be more selective.

      As far as making it back to the ship!!!—- this is not a real concern! you have to realize these drivers do the same route 247 for decades, literally! they will know down to the second where you need to be. To some extent, trust that aspect of your driver’s ability. Relax mon’, dont worry!

      another tip i could say is using the carnival shore guide to barter prices with the island peeps. For example, a trip to a historical sight and beach is XYZ dollars but you only desire to view the beach. When negotiating prices, you could say “well i could get the trip through the ship for cheaper and that includes the historical site visit” yada yada and then you can show them the book and they will always give you a better deal. #notlivingthatchumplife that’s why I still have money left to live that trump life.

  30. Nancy says

    I have a severe problem with heights (can’t even drive over a bridge). I’ve always wondered if I could handle a cruise. Do any of them offer a tour before purchase so I could see if I would have a problem?

    • jody says

      Since 9/11 security has been tightened a lot! I don’t know of any ship that allows anyone on except confirmed passengers and crew. Years ago you could go aboard for a tour or to see someone off, not any more.

  31. Ruben says

    Haven’t seen this suggestion yet – but a very handy item to have on a cruise … water bottle. Trust me on this one! :)

  32. Barb says

    A few other items you should consider taking..a power strip(usually only one outlet in the room), lots of $1 bills for tipping(remember once you are in the ship it’s a cashless system),Extra hangers.. And a battery operated clock as there are no clocks in the cabins and if you happen to be in an inside cabin, you lose perception of what time it could be.

    • Bill says

      Power strip: best suggestion ever, though I’ve heard that some stewards can get snotty about”personal electronics.” It was the only way we could keep camera batteries and IPads charged.

      Check with your cell/wireless provider for cruise plans. You won’t have service at sea, and if you are at port the rates can be astronomical, both for cell service and wireless such as e-mail.

      I packed poorly for my last cruise and had to have laundry done on board. I’m still paying off the loan, the cost was incredible. I saved a couple bucks because some of my shirts could be washed in the sink and hung to dry.

  33. Sam Bernstein says

    If you are taking a toddler or baby (or are yourself afraid of getting sick from contaminated water) and aren’t taking bottled water on board, I STRONGLY recommend getting a lifesaver bottle at http://www.lifesaversystems.com they are also great when you go on excursions and don’t have a great water source. They can turn sewage into drinking water, so if you are stuck in the rainforest and run out of water, it IS a life saver. Also, if you can afford it, get a balcony. The difference between being stuck inside and feeling that fresh air is worth the cost. Also, if you have a food allergy or restriction, call ahead of time. Sometimes you can arrange to bring special food onboard. In addition, if you have a particular food issue, go and talk to a chef (try the head chef) and he can make sure your allergy/restriction is taken care of. Schedule babysitting way in advance, as it fills up. Turn OFF roaming on your cellphone or you can get hit with a $1000 charge. Bring long range walkie talkies for on board communication.

    • DaveJ says

      Funny Walkie-Talkie story. I called NCL to ask if it was OK to bring FRS/GMS walkies on board. She said, “Yes, but you won’t get the 35 mile range they tell you about.” Thinking she was joking, I said,. “Wow, just how big is this ship?” She stammered, I laughed, and we both had a good time.

  34. Sam Bernstein says

    My most important tip: know the crowd you are looking for and the related cruise line. Eg: royal Caribbean and Disney for families, NCL for retirees, carnival for families and young people. We went on a few NCL cruises and they were full of old people (we were a young couple back then), but went on royal Caribbean after that and it was great with our toddler. Also, make sure your cruise isn’t a ‘special cruise.’ Nothing like realizing you are on a ‘pride’ cruise or a ‘college booze cruise’ or a ‘furry cruise’ when it is too late. A few others: if it is a relatively safe port, walk out of the port to grab a taxis, you can save 4-5x your money and have a cab for the day. Read about your actual ports of call – some are extremely run down and unsafe, so you’ll want to book an excursion away from the port of call rather than ‘walking the town.’ Make a copy of your passports and put them in your safe onboard (or take them with you when you off board and leave passports on board). Note the time necessary to get a passport for infants. Some cruise lines have restrictions on pregnant cruising – make sure you check the guidelines. If you are pregnant and cruising (and relatively late in the pregnancy) I strongly recommend getting evacuation insurance so you can get back to the states asap in an emergency (usually an add on to travel insurance). Get a water tight diving pouch to keep your passport and valuables if you are going to the breach (and make sure it is on you securely). Don’t expect ports of call to have ATMs or to be cheap or safe if they do. Don’t buy illegal medication at the port of call (many pharmacies sell drugs that would normally require a prescription in the states). You can ask your attendant for ice for your room. If you have issues with gambling, either go on a cruise without a casino (Disney) or some cruises allow you to go ‘cash only’ and make a cash deposit on embarkation. Otherwise, you are usually extended room charge credit in the casino, and this can really run up a tab if you are drunk and gambling. Many onboard casinos will offer free drinks while gambling. Read reviews about your state room – you may actually be able to find a review of someone who stayed in your exact room. This worked out for us because we read a bad review re: noise and sewer backup and were able to change our stateroom before the trip.

  35. Capt Bill says

    I’ve lived on ships nearly my entire life. Rule #1: Research your ship. Know what you’re buying. Ask yourself, am I more comfortable in large crowds or am I better off in a smaller environment. Rule #2: You get what you pay for. Rule 3: Despite the fact that Carnival Corp. owns nearly the entire cruise industry, there are many differences in the quality of service. Carnival Lines ships are a world of difference from Cunard and Holland-America. Rule 4: Regarding seasickness. Ships move in two directions-the pitch and the roll. Consider the rule that the higher you go, the greater the roll. principle of “righting moment” to you nauticaal buffs). Rule 5: Your trendy balcony is not the place to be during rough weather, or when you’re drunk. Rule 6: Ships are environmentally compliant. It’s the passengers who are “sea pigs” and think its ok to throw anything overboard. DON’T. Particularly those people who still smoke–NEVER throw a lighted cigarette overboard, as the wind may blow it back onto a deck area below you.

  36. Bill says

    So, pretty much all of these ‘tips’ can be condensed into 1. If you have any specific questions, ask your cruise line. That’s really what each of these tips come down to.

    • Gina says

      If you use a travel agent they will also give you the best answers to fit your needs, wants and expectations if you are honest with them about what you’re looking for in a cruise vacation.

  37. For Exe says

    My wife and I left Ft. Lauderdale on a cruise to the Bahamas. 15 minutes after the ship left port, an announcement came on the ship telling passengers that everything was going to be closed when e arrived on Sunday. Real bummer!

  38. GNH says

    Another thing to think about is time of year. We took a cruise a few years ago out of NY the last week before schools went back after Summer break. Bad planning on our part. We found out from one of the employees during the cruise that of the 3000 passengers aboard, more than 1/3 were kids. And it felt it. Teenagers took over several parts of the ship. By far the best and most relaxing cruise I’ve ever been on was a Disney cruise a couple of years ago. They had so many great activities for kids. People we met that had children (we don’t but are Disney fans) said they had to tear their kids away from their groups for dinner or family time because the kids were having so much fun. Plenty of activities for adults too. They also let you bring your own booze on board. If you can afford it go for the staterooms that have balconies. Gives you a nice area to hang out and a little extra room to get out of the way while people are getting ready for dinner. Nice place to sit and relax plus you open the door at night and fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean. Agree with the post above. Book shore excursions through the cruise. Our ship was held up for a half our past our departure time because a tour hadn’t returned yet. We were out on our balcony watching the ships personnel talking to a tour person who was on a radio. The group returned, got on board and minutes later the ship pulled out. If you plan on going to the beach, bring a waterproof case that you can hang from your neck to keep your money in. We were on St Thomas and while swimming I found a plastic ziploc floating that I thought was trash. When I went to scoop it out of the water I found $25 in it. If going in the Winter fly down a day early and get a hotel for the night. My sister and her family missed their cruise because the day of their trip Atlanta had three inches of snow and the flight was cancelled.

  39. Charles says

    Another tip for first time cruisers is to be mindful that you will rack up quite the gratuity bill. We cruise every other year, and were shocked to see the increase since 2013. Keep in mind, every drink you buy automatically adds 15%. Also, your cabin steward gets a sizeable gratuity – each night – from each person in the room (kids too)… and it’s automatically added to your bill. I went through the machinations of “sneaking” alcohol on board on our first cruise (a little food coloring added to my Crown Royal in a Listerine bottle), only to find out that liquor is cheaper in the duty-free shop on board (2 bottles for $27 this year). I buy on board and not on shore to avoid having to claim it at customs. Pack a power strip or extension cord, as there are few outlets in the cabin – typically one or (max) two on the living area with one more in the bathroom. Also, with regard to booking onshore excursions, we pay the extra and book through the cruise line. If you’re ever in a situation where you have to tender to shore and the seas are too rough, you’ll have to wait to get off the boat and may miss your scheduled appointment. If you book through the cruise line, you can easily get your money back, or if you wait to tender, you can be assured that the boat won’t leave you.

  40. Michael McGuire says

    My wife is a paraplegic who broke her leg during the cruise. I have two comments:
    1. Paraplegics needed to turn every few hours, even while sleeping, to avoid pressures sores. Even with a disabled room, beds are too narrow to do this. So it is inadvisable for a paraplegic to go on a long cruise.

    2. Public hospitals in the Middle East and Africa require that you pay before being treated and travel insurance companies do not pay upfront. My wife was stuck in a hospital for one month after breaking her leg. We were lucky that I had a reserve of thousands of dollars that I could pay for her expenses’ Otherwise, under best conditions, we would have had to stay at a much inferior government hospital.

  41. Nick says

    1. Take a power strip with a minimum of 5 plug-ins. There are only a total of 2 outlets in a room. So if you have 2 phones, 2 I pads, 1 laptop, 1 camera, and anything else you need to plug in to charge. You will be juggling the whole time, only allowed to charge 2 at a time, trying to get everything charged.
    2. Carry on/Carry off bag is a MUST. Your luggage gets to the room the evening you set sail. if you want to hang out at the pool then you carry on your swimwear. Your luggage is collected the night before you get off the boat. You will need a bag to carry off your pajamas, phone chargers, undines, tooth brush, shampoos and anything else you can live without for one night. Trust me it’s a little awkward carrying a pair of dirty underwear, pajamas, tooth brush, shampoo, conditioner, phone chargers, and whatever else you didn’t pack the day before. That morning everyone is just staring at you like, “Yup, they are a first time cruiser.”
    3. Talk to people. It’s easy to be closed in with this new experience, but don’t! You will meet some of the nicest and interesting people on a cruise. Remember they are on vacation too so everyone is in a really good mood and very happy!
    4. Order room service breakfast every morning. It is included in part of your pricing and it is a way to guarantee to get something in your tummy before you set off on a day where you will burn a lot more calories then you would normally burn sitting behind a computer for 8 hours a day. There is a order card in your room. Just fill it out and place it outside your door before you go to sleep. If you miss breakfast its hard to tell when you will eat again when you go on a shore excursion, there is a chance you might not eat until dinner time. You can get up early and eat breakfast before you depart but be honest with yourself. You stay up till 2:00am in the morning dancing and drinking. Then, attempting to get up 30 minutes early to eat breakfast in the dinning room is a lost of valuable sleep.

  42. Doug says

    Also be very careful about what you do at a port of call. I went on a cruise to Cancun/Cozumel, and one time share company offered us a free bag of stuff with a free tour of their place, little did I know it would take over five hours to finish, taking up nearly all of our port time. I got a cheap throw rug and a small bottle of rotgut tequila for our time. I would have been better off passing and enjoying the scenery and some casual shopping. Each shop you pass will have more people out front trying to get you to come inside than they have employees actually working in the shop. Beware the trendy gift shops, jewelry shops, and just shop carefully. Know what you want and do not go over your budget. Some of the hawkers for the shops will even go as far as to block your path and nearly force you into the shops. Playa de Carmen and Cancun were both really bad for this. Plan an excursion from the ship and stay on schedule. You do not want to get stranded.

  43. Bree says

    Word of caution if you’re bringing wine onboard. Make sure it is NOT in your carry on or they will take it away from you! You can get it back after the cruise, but what’s the point? Put any bottles of wine (1 – 2 max, check w/ their limit) in your luggage that will be handled by staff.

    • Carol says

      I work at a business near a port, and transport passengers to and from ships, at our port all beverages you are bringing onboard must be in your carry on. Also trying to “sneak” alcohol onboard doesn’t always work, new X-ray technology makes different liquids glow, water is different than vodka, therefore it glows a different color

    • BJ says

      This may depend on the cruise line…It is definitely not true for Carnival, as the one bottle of wine per person must be in your carry-on, not checked baggage. First time we carried wine onboard we put it in our checked baggage without reading guidelines…It delayed our luggage until nearly 9p.m. and both bottles were taken away (with a note left in the luggage) although they were returned late on the last night of the cruise. For the past two years, 1 bottle in carry-on has worked fine on Carnival.

  44. Jillian says

    We’ve been on 24 cruises over the years and love it!! we always bring sanitary wipes to wipe the phone, lamp switches, everything we would touch. The room steward does a great job preparing the room for your arrival, but we feel better knowing we have taken the extra precautions.

    We also opt out of the “Automatic tipping” It kind of loses it’s effect IMHO. We carry around $1.00 bills in our pocket and basically pay as we go. For the buffet servers, we’ll leave $3-4.00 on the table. You’ll be amazed the next time that server sees you coming into the buffet area, they’ll go out of their way to help you. Maybe find a suitable table by the window or bring your beverage. We’ll even hand out a couple dollars to the servers behind the counters, if we feel they are being helpful. We usually end up tipping a lot more than if we went the automatic route, but the personnel seem to like it and we feel like we get a little extra treatment.

    Every few nights we’ll leave 10, 15, 20 dollars on the bed as we got out for dinner along with a note, thanking the room steward for doing such a great job.and it’s also an opportunity to ask for extras you might like….extra towels, face cloths. They always seem to find a little extra to do for you.

    Make sure you take care of the dinner servers as well. We usually do not tip the matre’d unless they do something more than coming over to our table to introduce him/herself.

    I get it that most people don’t want to be bothered worring if they are tipping enough or not enough…it’s just something we like to do.

  45. Lola says

    I recently went on a RC cruise, it was ok, I found out I am not really a cruise person, next time it will be a wind jammer cruise. Cayman Islands was great and the port shops nice. Jamaica very nice too. Cozumel was nice but like one of the other posts commented, the shop owners were very pushy, standing in the doorway urging you to come in. A friend bought a beautiful ring/earring set, tanzanite I believe, only to find out upon returning to the US that it was colored glass, not a real gemstone as the store in Mexico had insisted. But I loved all the shopping options and now wish I had bought more silver jewelry.

  46. Chris says

    With respect of what to pack if your a first timer, there are literally thousands of sites that offer tips and hints on what to bring and what not to. As a seasoned cruiser, I still look at them while planning a cruise.

    Sometimes I’ll find a little nugget I hadn’t considered such as those small black binder clips (office supplies). They can be used to pin your beach towel to your deck chair so it doesn’t blow away, and they are very small and inexpensive. If you lose some, no big deal.

  47. Olivetta says

    Our first cruise we did not realize an activity itinerary was delivered daily. After a few days of finding our way around with no knowledge of what was going on it was great to find this. Once we discovered it we of course circled our interests and had our day mapped out.

  48. Christine Matthews says

    I have been on at least 8 cruises, and always shop in known stores such as Columbian Emeralds. They have great deals and sell all kinds of jewels, and I can trust that their gems are real. I stay away from the mom and pop kind of stores, and never allow locals to push me into buying anything. I just smile broadly and say, I’m just looking, but maybe later! They usually leave me alone then. Cruising in the greatest vacation ever…love to be on the ocean! They are floating cities, and my first choice for a vacation always!

    • Joan says

      If an island has a Columbian Emeralds, I am there! Bought some lovely emeralds over the years. They also give the purchaser, a certificate of appraisal.

  49. Family Fun says

    My adult daughter had been wanting to go on a cruise for a long time so my wife and I finally took her on a cruise to some of the eastern Caribbean islands. A tip – if you want to visit the eastern islands and your time is limited, fly to San Juan and cruise from there. The time it took to fly was less than the time to drive to a FL port and we got to visit St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Martin on a 7-day cruise. Departing from FL would take a 10-14 day cruise to see the same islands. We’d spent a week in PR on a previous trip (flight not cruise) so we didn’t spend any time this trip visiting San Juan. The trip also included one day at sea which we expected to be a drag but was one of our best days of the trip. Carnival has a Serenity adults-only section up front on the top with two hot tubs, swinging hammocks, plenty of lounge chairs, and no kids. The kids’ activity area was inside and down one level – separate but very close to the adults-only area so it would be easy to keep in touch. There were three saltwater pools, one mainly for adults, one for kids and families, and with waterslides one mainly for kids. There are too many available on-board activities to possibly be able to do them all.
    The for-pay excursions are pricey but if you read their reviews and choose carefully, you’ll have a blast. In St. Thomas we spent most of the day at Coral World Ocean Park, a slimmed down version of Sea World. However, they had some neat features we thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend – the underwater observatory, Snuba and Sea Trek (look them up), and encounters with lorikeets, sea turtles, seals, and sharks in their individual enclosures. In Barbados, we took a taxi to see the Flower Forest Botanical Gardens. In St. Lucia, we spent the day bus touring the highlands and its live volcano. In St. Kitts, we did the cruise-offered Rail & Sail, wherein we rode an old narrow gauge train that originally was used to connect the sugarcane plantations but now is used to show tourists the island mostly along its coastline; then we transferred to a 62’ ex-racing catamaran to sail back to the downtown shopping area near the ship. Rum drinks freely flowed on both rides. In St. Martin we again took a bus tour of the island. We found we got to see a much more realistic view of the islands this way than when we did a tourist-oriented activity at a single location. There were many other excellent excursions, but for various reasons we chose to go on the ones we did (our daughter’s input was a lot of it). If you choose to go to one of the beach or snorkeling trips, know that there are usually more than one cruise ship in port and therefore more than one large crowd trying to occupy the same often smallish area (think cattle car) – not always a great situation. Also, these are prime spots where the local hawkers insistently hit everyone up to buy things, along with the downtown shopping areas. If you can afford to go on the more expensive powerboat/sailboat tours, you’ll usually be in a much smaller group and going to a more sparsely occupied destination – much more enjoyable. These are a brief sketch of some of the activities available to you. Cruise on!

  50. Evaopolis says

    I’m a first-time cruiser, sailing in June from Istanbul to Venice. Smaller line, smaller body of water. So appreciate knowing about the ear patch for seasickness. And the carry-on! I hate that I’m basically being penalized for traveling solo. I had hoped for a balcony room but they were sold out. What are my chances of an upgrade if I find the purser as soon as I board? I didn’t realize that I could opt out of the automatic tipping. I’ll check on that. And I’ll just disembark at port in Greece and Dubrovnik. No need for canned itineraries, and I’m accustomed to being alone, so the quiet time will be nice. Can I bring wine aboard? If it’s in my checked bag, will it be taken away? Any other tips for a woman alone in the ports? Greece and Croatia are safe, and I am an aware and savvy woman. I have no fears of the port days…
    Thank you for this forum, I’m so very glad found it.

    • says

      Each cruise line is different, I suggest calling your specific cruise line to find out about opting out of automatic gratuities and also about bringing wine on board – some cruise lines allow you to bring one or two bottles, and some charge a corkage fee. I will be cruising on my own next week and I am very excited! I hope that you have a lot of fun!

        • Chris says

          I hope you don’t mind me chiming in. I would recommend you go to the website for your cruiseline and check to see if they have an “FAQ” section. Those usually cover all the little questions that passengers may have. As Jenn said, the issue of bringing wine along differs with the different lines. If the website doesn’t address all your questions, jot them down and call the cruiseline. They are always happy to answer your questions. You may also consider, while you are on the phone with them, to ask to be put on a waitlist for an upgrade in case one becomes available in the meantime. Sounds like you have a wonderful itinerary ahead of you!

  51. Jasmine Nieves says

    I just came back in March after experiencing a Cruise on Freedom with my Son, Daughter in Law and the granddaughters. The Ocean Camp was amazing and the theme of Dr Seuss was terrific. I had a great time. Loved it. Would do it over again.

  52. LOU says

    After 18 cruises,including Europe,I am surprised nobody mentioned the most valuable asset—a KNOWLEDGEABLE TRAVEL AGENT!! You pay no more ,they do the legwork, and we have had 18 FLAWLESS cruises.Our Connecticut location lets us to choose many departure ports within 3 hours flying time.
    On another issue my wife has celiac sprue (NO GRAINS) and she has had ZERO problem with any of the 5 lines we have sailed with. The travel agent notifies the cruise line and the problem is gone.

  53. Burt Ward says

    Consider shorter Disney trips for a kid’s first trip. They may not like sea travel at all. Wouldn’t you hate to find out on a 7-day excursion? So book one of the quick out and back trips. How about the one where you combine it with DW trip. People often make the big mistake booking a tour at a place like Greece and your kids can’t stand the food or the strange atmosphere. Once you find out which of your kids are seafarers, then you can book a longer trip. Disney puts out a new ship every few years. The first muster cruise is always filled with Disney workers usually from the DW parks. The longer you have worked there the better room you get. My friends always get the upper state rooms. They invite me along when they have room. I’ve been on two tours with them using their Disney Dollars. The cruises are geared to entertain both kids and adults. But remember the test cruise rule even on Disney.

  54. mike walsh says

    See if your crusie line has a drink package. The drink package is for those who are planning on havin multiple drinks each day. It is well worth the price. It is so nice just walking up to thr bar and handing over your card without worrying the bill that is accumulating. It is prepaid!! It was my first cruise, but not my last.

  55. Max Frisson says

    I will never understand the appeal of cruises, too many rules, too little personal control. I got a free 4 day cruise last year though a company I work with and just gave it back.

    • Chris says

      This is a common hesitation about taking a cruise. It is also, for the most part, incorrect. Just about the only thing you are not “in control” of is the order of ports on the itinerary. Other than that, you can decide what you do in each port (either book an excursion through the cruise line, directly with a provider, or do the port solo). Food options throughout the day offer lots of variety. Typically, there is a main dining room with a couple of different seating times during which you can choose a permanent table of whatever size you want, or a dine around option. Some even offer no specific time to arrive. There are usually several additional special dining venues (like Italian, Japanese, Steakhouse, etc.). And then there is the buffet with lots of options that is open breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many large ships also have various casual cafes.

      The last ship I was on had no less than 14 bars/lounges; from pub to martini bar and everything in between. There is a variety of entertainment onboard that you can partake of, or simply do whatever you find amusing or restful.

      Cruises are as varietal as people are. As formal or as casual as you are. It’s just a matter of looking at all the options of styles and destinations. And a great way to see several places without spending all the time of checking in and out of hotels, renting cars, finding restaurants, etc.

  56. Denise says

    I haven’t been, but my parents and extended family have all gone, and for Motion sickness they all swear by ginger, taking it in pill form. Plus it’s natural. No side effects.

  57. keith says

    This article misses one big question. “What happens if someone in my party gets sick?” Beyond seasickness, what happens if someone needs medical assistance?

    Many ships (all?) have an infirmary on board. My family had occasion to use the ship infirmary (twice).

    They are generally well equipped – but they don’t take American Health Insurance. They only take cash. And it’s very expensive on board. So, make sure to buy travel insurance if you’re traveling with kids. I’ve seen many articles saying travel insurance is a rip off. Well, it saved my family thousands of dollars on two cruises.

    • says

      I believe travel insurance is just like car insurance – you never realize how important it is until you have to use it!

    • ken rooney says

      Here is a tip: go on ebay and but a loaded EMT kit around 50.00 load it with small extras like Tylenol or Motrin etc then other small things like peroxide, hand sanitizer etc throw in some light sticks incase power outage and pack your own first aid kit

      my kit can treat a diabetic emergency and anything that comes our way. I even have gorilla glue and duct tape just in case

  58. Chris says

    I love to cruise! Honestly, I’ve been on so many I’m not even sure of the number. Cruising has allowed me to see countries around the Baltic, the Mediterranean, Canada and the Northeast, Alaska and, of course, lots of the Caribbean. And I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of enjoying several different cruiselines and cruise styles. Everything from the smaller windjammers to the megaships. There is something to be enjoyed with every option. My biggest hesitation was a large cruiseliner, but there are so many options for entertainment and various venues on board that I never felt crowded!

    I tend toward motion sickness, so I was delighted to discover how well the pressure bands work. And after the first day or two, I don’t even need those once I have my “sea legs.”

    I saw a few mentions of fear of sickness on board. Really, folks, hundreds of ships sail each year. Just like plane, train and auto incidents, you only hear about what goes wrong, never what goes right week after week and year after year. I always bring along my own mini-medicine cabinet and first aid items and make sure I wash my hands OFTEN.

    The mention of a sweater or pashmina was right on the money. Conversely, bring along a folding hand fan! It’s not unusual, especially in the Caribbean, to suddenly find yourself in a hot shopping market where the breeze simply can’t find it’s way in. Just whip out your trusty fan and create your own tropical breeze!

    The most important things to bring, though, are your patience and sense of humor. Remember, you are on vacation and just stay open to the experience. Enjoy!

    • says

      Oh, that is such a fantastic idea about bringing the little folding fan! As often as I’ve traveled and I’ve never thought of that one – thanks for the tip!!

  59. Joy says

    I always travel with a water bottle that I add a hook to. In the airport, after security, there are filling stations. On cruises, it’s a health hazard to put it under their spigots, so instead I take 2 glasses of water & fill it up at my table. That way i have it at night & no worries about spilling. More convenient than arranging for a case of water.

    • says

      I do the same thing! I actually have an insulated bottle that I take when I travel. I add some ice and water – I just fill cups and then dump them into my reusable bottle.

  60. Watson says

    My family and I are platinum members with Carnival!
    I agree with everything that’s in that post. Great tips for first timers, and also for some repeated customers.
    My kids always enjoy our Carnival Cruise Vacations, my wife and I, we even travel with carnival twice and sometimes three times a year.
    I always recommend Carnival Cruise Lines to all of friends and family members!

  61. Cheri says

    You didn’t mention an important extra: tipping. The cruise lines expect you to supplement their poor salaries by tipping EVERYONE. They will even tell you how much they expect you to tip and leave envelopes. I have no objection to tipping but people should be forewarned because this is probably going to come to an extra $100-$200.

    • says

      Which cruise line did you experience this on? I mostly cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines and they tell you when you book your cruise how much the gratuity is – and you can either pay it up front when you book the cruise or have it added to your bill. It comes out to something like $12 a day per person. I have never seen an envelope left in my stateroom – that is SO TACKY!

    • Chris says

      15-20 years ago, that was a common practice (envelopes and other expectations of tips). Tips were discretionary and not a prepaid add on. Even now, the add on is an option. To be honest, now that it is a more common thing to prepay, I’ve seen a slight decrease in the performance of duties from various employees.

  62. Carol says

    You should have added comments about arrival times. I work near a very busy port and we will have people wanting to be transported to their ship way too early. Ships arrive around 5 to 7 am and start their debarkation around 7:30. Here at our port we don’t start bringing embarking passengers till we are informed by staff at the port that the ship is clear, usually around 10 am. It varies what time different cruise lines start to allow guests on board. At our port, that’s somewhere around noon. I will have people telling me that they have early boarding times, but if your not in a wedding on board the boarding times aren’t that early. If you wait till noon-one o clock you usually walk right onboard.

    • says

      Excellent point! I usually get to the port when I am cruising with Carnival Cruise Lines around noon and they are just starting to let people on.

  63. Chris says

    Not being fond of lines, I wait at least an hour after the listed embarkation time. The big rush is over and it is a much more relaxed process.

  64. jim fields says

    Very helpful and informative. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise and this article answered many questions I had. Thanks

  65. Michelle says

    I’d say to pack a small, portable steamer. When I cruised on Royal Caribbean, irons were not allowed. So my guest and I were wrinkled throughout the trip. Steam from the shower just didn’t do the job.

    • Lee says


      I have packed a steamer once before. However, I have read somewhere that they are no longer allowed. You may want to check on this.

  66. Cruiseaholic says

    As a veteran of over 35 cruises I could talk for hours about need to knows etc but here are just a few items:
    1. do your homework! As has been stated, certain cruise lines cater to kids (Carnival) and others do not (Holland America, SilverSea)
    2. pack for your cruise then take 1/2 out and you’re ready to go. Check to see if the ship has a self laundry… it’s worth it on a sea day to do a load or two not lug all that luggage
    3. cruise lines go places other than the Caribbean! But if you are going to be in the sun, take sun screen!
    4. every cabin I’ve been in has metal walls. take some magnet hooks… this will give you more ways to organize stuff… hats, umbrellas, papers, robes etc.
    5.when you leave the ship in port remember you are not in fantasyland! watch your purse, wallet etc. Pickpockets know cruise passengers are not paying attention
    6. Be careful with shore excursions not connected with the ship. I’ve done my own thing too for myriad reasons but watch the time. If you are on a cruise line sanctioned shore excursion and something happens e.g. bus breaks down etc. the ship WILL wait. The tour company is always in contact with the ship. If you are on your own and something happens, the ship WILL LEAVE without you! And you are responsible for getting to the next port. Also there are some places you should take the ship tours for safety reasons (Russia)

  67. Durwood says

    My whole family cruised last summer on the Disney Dream and it was a fabulous experience. However, I must say I was very disappointed that my 14 year-old grandson who is very athletic, was not permitted to utilize the exercise/fitness center… we were told the minimum age to be 19. Disney needs to make allowances for those young teenage boys who are “fitness-geeks!” We will probably book Carnival the next time!

  68. Bob Davidson says

    My wife & I love to cruise! We’ve taken three 12 night med cruises in the last three years & will take our fourth in October.
    Our 1st cruise was on Norwegian & the last two on Princess. These cruise lines cater to older folks & you don’t see a whole herd of kids running about! They tend to be more quiet & laid back. All 3 cruises began in Venice. We always flew into Milan a day early & then took a train to Venice & stayed in a hotel overnight prior to boarding the ship.

    We travel to the ship with a small airline carry-on suitcase & a backpack each. This makes it easy to check in & off the ship. We avoid the formal dining nights & eat elsewhere on the ship during formal dining nights. Princess has laundry facilities on every deck, so it’s easy to do laundry, if needed.

    For 1st time cruisers & folks that haven’t traveled a great deal, we recommend using the ship sponsored tours. This way, you’re covered if something happens regarding delays getting back to the ship.

    If you have any disabilities regarding walking, be sure to let the tour desk know & they will arrange reserved seating for you up front on the tour busses.

    If financially possible, purchase a mini-suite. They all have balconies & provide a great place for peace & quiet & to watch sunrises & sunsets while going into & out of ports.

    Purchase your shore excursions prior to the start of the cruise. The most popular shore excursions will sell out quickly.

    We always leave our passports & other important things in the room safe on the ship. We go off the ship with a photo copy of our passports. Rule of thumb – if you can’t live without it, don’t take it off the ship. Also, be constantly on the alert in crowded areas. The pickpockets in Europe are really quite good, & you can be had & not know it. This happened to me in Rome. The kid must have been 12 years old – maybe…

    Purchase the ship’s cruise protection insurance plan. This will be worth it’s weight in gold if something happens to you while trying to get to the ship & while on the cruise.

    If you’re not on a ship sponsored tour, DO NOT miss the ship’s sailing time…This can put you in a bad situation, & it really make’s the ship’s captain not your friend when you do get back on the ship…

    The ship offers all sorts of dining options. Learn when to say no to all the food – otherwise, you’ll be surprised when you next set foot on a scale…

    Once you’re picked your cruise, do your research on the ports you’ll visit. In most ports, you’ll have 8 – 12 hours to get off the ship for tours & excursions, or to just go out on your own. If you’re going out on your own, research the area thoroughly & be aware of any dangerous areas to avoid.

    Most cruise ships tell you that you can bring little or no sodas or alcoholic beverages onboard. We’ve tossed some sodas & a couple of bottles of wine in our backpacks & have never had an issue.

  69. says

    A couple tips from well a traveled couple:
    1) Brings $1 and $5 bills to tip various people like the kind mena dn women that take/deliver your bag to your stateroom. They work hard, especially that first day schlepping thousands of bags right ot your doorstep. They deserve a couple dollars per bag and they will remember you from the very beginning. Its kinf od a selfish investment that works both ways!
    2) Unless you are not too adventurous, my wife and I ALWAYS wait until shore (witha few exceptions like Palestine and other interesting locations!). You will be able to negotiate with drivers and taxi’s for the exact trip others are spending $150 each for maybe $25 per person. And get another couple or 2 ti really make it your own provate tour for 10-20% of what the ship charges. Ya ya ya, I know the whole line “its not guaranteed you will return to the ship and they won’t wait for you if you are late.” Well, if the ship leaves at 7:00pm, simply tell them you need to be back at the ship and 4:00pm, and then you’ll never be late. Ever. Over 50 “do it yourself” tours we have NEVER been late and NEVER had a bad experience. Quite the contrary actually. ever wait 1 hour for a bathroom break for 50 people?!?!?! That will change your mind!


  70. Lee says

    I would add the following to the tips:

    1. Take a power strip. Usually there is only ONE outlet per cabin, so recharging batteries, etc. can be a minor hassle.

    2. Pack your suitcase. The next day get rid of half the stuff you have packed! You won’t need it! Carnival ships have coin operated laundries so you can cut down on the amount of slacks/jeans/shorts/shirts/socks etc. If you don’t want to bother washing clothes yourself, ask your cabin steward about the ship’s laundry/dry cleaning service.

    3. For couples & families: While tempting to let each person use their own suitcase, luggage does get lost or delayed!
    My wife & I put clothes in each other’s suitcase so in case one suitcase is lost, neither of us will be without clothing.
    The same goes for medications. Don’t pack all your prescription medication in one suitcase either!

    4. Sea Sickness: Ginger does help prevent motion sickness without the effects of drowsiness. Begin taking ginger pills a few days prior to embarkation.

    5. I have always taken extra plastic clothes hangers. There never seem to be enough. 3 or 4 will do.

    6. Take along 2-4 clothes pins! Most cabins have a very small shower stall and the plastic curtain will “grab” you. If you place a couple of clothespins at the bottom, it will reduce the shower curtain attacking you!

    7. Excursions: I have booked through Carnival 90% of the time. Why? Because the ship will WAIT for you if the Carnival affiliated/sponsored excursion does not return to the pier on time. Once in Grand Cayman we went to feed the stingrays. After feeding the stingrays, the boat let us off on a little island. There was only one slip for the boats to load or unload people. Boats were not allowed to tie up at the pier after unloading people. However one boat owner didn’t care or heed the rule and was tied up at the pier for over 45 minutes. This set us back on our return to the ship. Luckily, the ship waited for us and we were tendered out to the ship. (4 of us) Immediately we were checked in, the ship weighed anchor and departed! We hadn’t even gotten to our cabin deck before the ship departed. Had we not booked through the ship, we would have been stranded in Grand Cayman.

  71. Nancy Reid says

    Some cruise lines allow you to bring your own wine on board in limited quantities. Ask when you book.

  72. Gertrud says

    Just got back from what most of you would probably call the “un-cruise”. A small, 75 ft wooden ship, cruising through SE Alaska – this time Glacier Bay. We could go places where the big cruises can’t. We could stay 5 days in Glacier Bay National Park, for example. Big Cruise Ships get 5 hours. We got to spend all morning at Margerie Glacier – big Cruises get 1 hr tops, likely less. We got to change course and get near whales and spend extensive time with them. Big Cruises don’t change course – they display the whales on screen.

    We had top notch food, cooked fresh every day. Granted, there were no ice sculptures and there were no menues to choose from. But it was cooked for individual tastes, such as spicy/non-spicy.

    The cabins are tiny, the showers/bathrooms are shared. There’s no dancing, no TV, no “entertainment”. Forget internet connectivity – you’ll be as unplugged as you can possibly imagine. It’s awesome.

    There’s no additional cost beyond the customary tip at the end of the cruise. No in-cruise tipping and no charge for each outing.

    But it’s adventurous, gives extensive opportunities for “hands-on” exploration and discovery. There are kayak paddles and shore walks – all included in the itinerary. There’s the personal touch by the staff. Since there are only 12 passengers, tops, and 4 staff including the Captain, you get to know everyone rather well – which is great. You get to be on the bridge with the Captain, the Engine Room with the Engineer, in the galley with the Chef and you do the outings with a Naturalist.

    This kind of cruise is not suited for children under 12 – and is best for adults and maybe older teens.

    I will cruise like this any time. You’ll NEVER find me on a large Cruise Ship. Ever. Those things give me the willies.

  73. Jean says

    I recommend you join cruisecritic.com. Sign up for the Roll Call for your particular cruiseline, ship, and sail date. You will be in a forum with other passengers you are sailing with. You can get a lot of great information regarding your ship, excursions, parking, nearby hotels, etc. A lot of the other members in your group will be seasoned cruise passengers and are full of great advice. We love it and always join the roll call as soon as we book our cruise.

  74. Arkansas Cruiser says

    What i wish i had known before my first cruise: Never take a cruise on a ship that has more than 500 passengers. Almost anything else is like eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken or staying at a Motel 8. Mostly people with tattoo’s and body piercings on these cruises. Not exactly the element i want to spend my vacation with.

    • says

      Seriously? Every cruise my wife and I have been on start with about 3,200 passengers on them up to 3,600….. Food on Royal Caribbean was excellent, your stateroom was first class, frankly saw very few people with tatoos and body piercings; not sure where you would find a cruise with less than 500 people, but appears your experience was not typical of most cruises. I would highly encourage you to try Royal Caribbean, at least start with the Freedom class of ships or Oasis class. 3,600 to 5,400 number of passengers and no you are not packing in like sardines either. We love cruising and have booked Allure of the Seas for next summer! Can hardly wait…… enjoy!

      • ken rooney says

        What is the matter with tattoos ? I have a very nice one of an American flag that has the wounded warrior logo over it. it says “All gave some Some gave all ” It reminds me of the night I lost my team defending our country so to make a blanket statement about tattoos is wrong. Don’t worry They died so you can make stupid comments like that….

  75. MT says

    “I recommend buying Sea Bands, the little elastics that you wear on your wrists. They press against your pressure points and help keep sea sickness at bay.”

    And right here, you steer from good advice to witchdoctory. Save the money and dig through your junk drawer for a rubber band if you want the distracting effects of pressure on your wrist. You don’t need to “buy” anything. This doesn’t work for most people, and there’s no science behind it. Ginger works moderately well in trials.

  76. Antoinette LeBlanc says

    I’ve been on only one cruise, Disney 7 day to Eastern Caribbean. My husband and I LOVED it. We wanted to get back on and go out again. Here are some tips (In no particular order)
    Ship has sea sick meds. They worked for me the one day it got rough. I agree with buying bands, they do work.
    Read the schedule for the whole trip and if there is something you want to do, pay attention because we got swept away and lost track of the days and missed some things we wanted to do. Lots of things only happen once on the trip.
    Try to bring enough clothes so you don’t have to do laundry. This may seem counter to normal pack light advice but doing laundry on the ship took me away from the fun for too long.
    Take advantage of photo packages. The cruise I was on offered a package, you paid ahead and then got to look at all photos and if you didn’t like any of them they gave you a full refund. Then you can have some nice photos without working at it.
    I recommend you eat in the main dining rooms for most evening meals and some breakfasts and lunches at least on a Disney cruise. Excellent fun, food and theming. Service is impeccable. Servers stay the same throughout cruise. Same with cabin service. The tipping will be worth it!
    I agree about excursions, book as soon as possible. They do run out fast. We loved our excursions. Also pay attention to the beaches. Some are clothing optional and we made that mistake (we had kids with us.)
    As soon as you get on board, they start offering you the fruity alcoholic drinks. They are SUPER expensive.
    Take advantage of the things you can’t do anywhere but a cruise ship. Like meet the crew. It may seem boring but it wasn’t.
    I agree with getting a private balcony. Worth it. My husband would get up early and take pix like of the sun rise with no one bothering him.
    Sometimes rough seas affect excursions.
    I also agree with cruising on a smaller ship. The ship I was on only had two shops. So if shopping is your thing, check that out. I liked it. I didn’t want to shop when I could be doing all the other fun stuff.
    Last tip: BIG DEAL HERE: when you leave the ship with your luggage, I don’t recommend you have the locals handle your luggage. You don’t have to even though they try to make it seem like you do. We got separated from our luggage and when we went through customs they were NO HELP AT ALL in finding it. They were belligerent, mean and treated us like criminals. Once you pass through customs they won’t let you go back. This isn’t the cruise line. It’s our government. It took a long time for the luggage to find us. It was ridiculous. It was very stressful and Disney held the bus to the airport for us which ticked off some of the people.
    But all in all, we loved it and will go again and again once we retire (soon!).

  77. Thomas says

    If you like shore excursions, use the same services the cruise line use but. Without the cruise line mark up. Plus you can find excursions the shop doesn’t advertise and be in a smaller group.

    Site is http://www.cruiseexcursionsgroup.com

    Also they do run sales from time to time. Did the tequila, chocolate and tacos tour in Cozumel. Was nice to be in a small group of 8 people vs the usual 25-50 or more from the cruise lines.

    Lastly, the cruise lines CANNOT stop you from getting off the boat for an excursion, even in tender ports. The tenders are for the excursion groups, not the cruise line!!

    I am in no way affiliated with cruise excursions group..just an average joe that likes to save money!!

  78. Thaddeus Buttmunch says

    Watch OUT for Celebrity and their parent company, Royal Caribbean. The azipod motors on the Millennium (Alaska) ship blow up and THEN you are stuck in the first POC (Ketchikan in our case) for three days(!) They gave refunds and vouchers but they are Still incompetent and they Suck!

  79. Judy Songer says

    For seasickness the best thing to use is the patch that goes behind your ear. It is a prescription patch that you can get easily from your doctor.
    Also, pack any soda, wine, etc in your carry on. If it’s in the luggage that goes to your room it will be confiscated.

  80. says

    What is the safest part of the ship in these situations?
    1. Fire
    2. Capsized.
    3. Sickness Outbreak.

    I have an 83 year old Mom whom I would like to take on a cruise along with my family of 4 with young children.

  81. michael says

    Been on several cruises. First cpl always caught a cold. Started packing lysol in my carry on. Sprayed the 5oom and ai4 vent and haven’t gotten a cold since

  82. Janice Burrell says

    Going on a cruise to Alaska in 2 weeks. The last time we went on a cruise, I got Transderm Scop, the behind the ear patches, and I was fine the whole trip. Only drawback was extreme dry mouth the latter part of the week.

  83. says

    after reading your article, it appears to me overall you gave great advice. However, there’s no doubt you seem partial to Carnival Cruise Line. My wife and I have just completed our 3rd cruise all on Royal Caribbean; with all due respect, they are several levels higher and better than Carnival. From what I’ve understood and noticed, Carnival is the party boat, Royal Caribbean is where everything is done first class! Never ever saw any drunken brawls, etc. Royal’s passengers just seem to be a different crowd.

    • says

      I am totally partial to Carnival – and I think we will just have to agree to disagree. :) I cruised on Royal Caribbean once and didn’t have ONE single good meal on the entire cruise. Considering how much more expensive Royal is compared to Carnival, I would expect the food to be much better…

      • says

        Again, we will have to disagree…. every meal we’ve ever had on Royal Caribbean was excellent! Never had a bad meal, so that’s very strange yours were bad. My wife and i don’t gamble so we have no need for a casino, we are not big alcohol consumers at all, so they don’t make much money on us either. Keep up the good work though! lots of great tips people have contributed, great place to share them and learn!

  84. wheeler says

    “Formal night” sounds nightmarish. If one would prefer not to attend, do they just go hungry that night? Or– shudder– is something like that mandatory?

  85. wheeler says

    “Formal night” sounds nightmarish. If one decided not to attend, would they just go hungry that night? Or is a mandatory function?

  86. Kevin you says

    I have been on two Carnival Cruises. They have been really great. Leave the $12 tips on automatic. That way you do not have to worry about it. The room and formal dining staff just work their butts off for you. Excursions. You can save quite a bit of money by booking them yourselves. Booking with the cruise line is the safest way as they take care of all the arrangements but the tour operators know when you need to get back, they take care of you. As a first time cruiser I would of been really hesitant to book an excursion one on my own, but traveled with someone who had done it before. I went on my first cruise not really wanting to go. I had a great time and so did the family. We are looking forward to our third cruise in this year.

  87. Donna Kay says

    in all these tips, I have seen nothing about tips for handicapped people. Going on a family trip in 3 weeks on Carnival Magic to Cozumel, etc. I wanted a scooter to get around on the ship and in Cozumel but am being discouraged from this . Do many use them on ship? It’s probably too late to get a modified room which is larger. I can’t see much difference size wise in a scooter or a wheelchair that you have to be pushed around on. Are there scooter rentals at ports?

  88. Hotod says

    My first cruise was with a group that are cruise veterans, so I followed their lead. You can bring wine on board, but probably will have to pay a”corking fee” for each bottle. Rooms have small refrigerators and you can bring aboard mixers such as ginger ale and tonic water in small bottles. I was told to buy rum runners to bring in whatever alcohol you want. This way, you can have a few drinks before dinner, or after dinner in your stateroom. One person told me she brings back orange or cranberry juice from breakfast to use as a mixer. Of course, we did spend enough at bars during the day.

  89. Ommax3 says

    The most important advice I have ever gotten for cruising is this: pack your suitcase, take 1/2 of it out…count your cash, and then double the amount! Cruising is so much fun!

  90. Kristen D says

    I love cruising! Was nervous at first as I don’t do well on boats but after 10 cruises I’ve never had an issue. I am currently a gold (almost platinum) member with carnival. Regarding tipping they used to leave an envelope in the room but switched to automatic tipping charge maybe 3 years ago. The value you get is incredible! Imagine them cleaning your room twice a day, all meals, entertainment galore and room service. I happily give a tip personally when I believe the service was exceptional and they are so appreciative! I have always booked my excursions prior to sailing. Seems more convenient and noticed that when I make my final payment for my cruise a box pops up with an additional discount if I book the excursions then. Hope it works for you too! Happy Sailing!!!

  91. Julette says

    My husband and I just returned from our second cruise for the year with Carnival ! As of May 2015 , you can no longer bring bottle water on the ship but you can call room service and they will deliver a case ( 12 bottles ) of water for $5.00 . You are allow to carry a 12 pack of soft drink per person in cans only , no bottle drinks , and of course if you drink a bottle of wine per person . I would say sun dresses and shorts for the females and I love my to wear a gown on formal nights but it’s your choice ! If you booked a cruise for over 5 days , there will be two formal night but the other days just bring shorts, sun dresses, t- shirts , capris , tank tops ,flip flops, and sandals for on deck wear . If you love to work out you should also bring your work out clothes for the gym or the track at the top of the ship ! I love Carnival and the VIFP club where you get discounts that adds up each day that you cruise !

  92. Anthony says

    #13, If you want to be confined to your room for 48 hours, Go to the infirmary and report you have an upset stomach!

  93. Dave says

    You missed the biggest tip of all… work with a travel agent! It costs nothing, usually saves you money and/or gets you additional perks, and always takes a lot of the stress out of the process.

  94. Tony says

    I love to cruise. I have been on several. Princess is my favorite line but I have been on Royal Caribbean and Holland America as well. I have always had a fantastic time. I have never had a bad experience at any port. Don’t let other peoples fears stop you. Check it out for yourself. There are 3 and 4 day cruises if you are concerned about getting “stuck” for a whole week.

    One tip for anyone traveling with a handicapped person. Check the policy at the parking facility. They will not tell you but if you ask, at most facilities, handicapped parking is free. You can not get free parking by simply having a handicapped placard, your vehicle must have special handicap equipment, ie wheelchair carrier or lift.

  95. Clara says

    Best advice I got on my first cruise was to join the website Cruise Critic. There are “roll calls” for your particular cruise line, ship and sail date. You’ll learn about excursions and can even book with others to get a group rate. It saved us quite a bit of money when we did two cruises in southern Europe. The site also has years of forum threads to pretty much answer any question you have. You can always post a question on a specific cruise line’s thread and thousands of cruisers can help answer your question, especially those that just got back from their cruise vacation!

    For those worried they won’t like Jenn’s cruise line of choice — don’t worry! There are ships with all sorts of personalities to please every walk of life. Each cruise line tends to cater to a certain demographic market, and that’s okay, just do your research before you book so that you are booking a cruise on a line that will be most appealing and in line with your goals for a vacation.

    We found Royal Caribbean’s product to meet our vacation needs where we are in life, and we are good with the price and service that goes along with the brand. Carnival is a decent product, however, it does attract a demographic that is interested in the lowest prices and entertainment venues for children. It has a more Wal-Mart of the seas vibe; Royal Caribbean is more a Target or Kohl’s experience. To each their own, there is no right or wrong line. Happy cruising!

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