21 ideas and tips that can make your first cruise go easily

Cruising is simple. Or so cruisers will inform you.

For starters, you solely must unpack as soon as, whilst you journey from place to position. You additionally don’t must go trying to find a restaurant each night time. There normally are a bunch simply steps away out of your cabin with tables ready for you. You’ll additionally don’t have any bother discovering leisure.

However even in its simplicity, cruising nonetheless will be daunting for a first-timer. What must you convey? What must you plan on doing in ports? What’s one of the best ways to guide?

For extra cruise guides, information and ideas, join TPG’s cruise publication.

As the top of The Factors Man’s cruise content material crew, I get these kinds of questions on a regular basis.

This brings me to the information beneath. When you’ve learn this far, you’re seemingly a first-time cruiser searching for recommendation for an upcoming journey, and that’s precisely what this story is supposed to supply. It accommodates my listing of 21 methods to make your first crusing go extra easily.

It’s a listing drawn not simply from my very own expertise over 20-plus years of cruising but in addition the observations of greater than 100 cruising followers who shared their ideas with TPG in a energetic dialog on the subject on the TPG Lounge on Fb. (When you’re not a member but, we extremely encourage you to affix.)

Arrive at your departure port a day forward of schedule

When you solely comply with one piece of recommendation on this story, it must be this one. It’s the solely manner to make sure you received’t miss your ship — one thing that occurs to cruisers extra typically than you’d suppose.

Many cruises depart within the afternoon, so it may appear simply high quality to fly or drive to a port on the morning of departure. However all it takes is a reasonable flight delay or a pile-up on the freeway to upset these plans. When you’re delayed in your arrival on the port, the ship is not going to look forward to you.

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When you’re touring abroad for a cruise, we suggest touring to the port two and even three days upfront. This isn’t simply so that you don’t miss the ship. It’s additionally so you could have a while to get well from jet lag. European cruises, particularly, will be port-intensive, with a number of touring, so that you need to be refreshed and able to hit the bottom operating proper after the cruise begins.

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Pack your bathing swimsuit in your carry-on

If you first arrive at a ship, earlier than you even get on board, you’ll seemingly be greeted by porters who will whisk away your baggage. Will probably be delivered to your room later within the day. It is a nice comfort, as there’s no have to haul your baggage by the complete check-in progress. However it additionally means you may not have entry to your baggage for a lot of hours in your first day on board.


You should definitely pack something you suppose you would possibly want for these first hours of your cruise in your carry-on bag. This implies issues like medicine, for positive, and a cellphone charger, but in addition a showering swimsuit, hat, sunscreen and different gadgets that can allow you to head straight to the pool deck to start out the enjoyable.

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Don’t overpack

Use this technique when packing for a cruise: Throw all the garments you suppose you’ll want on a cruise in a pile, after which take away half of them. You received’t want them. Belief us.

Most cruising today is informal, and you actually solely want just a few outfits to rotate by a voyage. If issues get soiled, it’s no downside. Many ships have launderettes on cabin decks the place you possibly can run a load or two of laundry each few days. If not, you possibly can ship laundry out to be cleaned on board. It’ll normally come again in a day or two.

The additional price of doing just a few a great deal of laundry on a ship is a small worth to pay for the liberty of not having to lug an enormous suitcase round as you journey to and out of your ship. Plus, you’ll need to save room in your suitcase for all of the little treasures you’re going to seek out alongside the way in which.

Associated: Every little thing it’s essential to learn about cruise ship laundry service

Deliver your personal drinks on board

Many first-time cruisers assume they will’t convey their very own drinks on board a ship. However many strains will permit this, normally with some limits. It’s a method to save cash when cruising, as drink costs on ships will be excessive.

Among the many strains that can will let you be your personal bartender is Disney Cruise Line. Adults can convey as much as two bottles of unopened wine or Champagne or six beers onto Disney ships at the beginning of a cruise and at each port of name. Be aware that these drinks should be packed in carry-on baggage. At Royal Caribbean, the bring-your-own allowance is 2 bottles of wine or Champagne per cabin at boarding, plus as much as a dozen commonplace cans, bottles or cartons of nonalcoholic drinks.

One caveat: Many strains levy a “corkage payment” if you wish to convey your wine into an onboard restaurant. You should definitely learn the foundations to your line earlier than you convey any drinks on board.

Associated: Are drinks packages on cruise ships price it? A line-by-line information

Deliver further toiletries

Sure, you’ll have the ability to discover sunscreen, aspirin and Band-Aids on a cruise ship. However it’ll price you. Cruise strains know you’re a captive viewers and worth their shipboard shops accordingly.

I’ve a small “go bag” of over-the-counter medicines that I throw into my suitcase for each cruise that accommodates every part from chilly medication to seasickness tablets. I not often use any of it. However I additionally by no means get hit with a loopy toiletries cost.

Whereas we’re on the subject of sundries, don’t overlook further batteries to your digital camera in case you are bringing one.

Associated: The final word information to choosing a cruise line

Deliver these six different issues, too

Along with further toiletries, cruising regulars typically convey Clorox wipes or one thing just like wipe down surfaces of their cabin upon arrival (and to convey alongside on shore excursions). I admit, I’ve by no means achieved this, although I do know I ought to — if solely to wipe off the distant management for the cabin TV.

Many cruisers additionally received’t head to a ship with out room freshener, a foldable shoe rack (which they grasp within the cabin toilet to retailer toiletries), a highlighter (to focus on actions on the every day planner) and a lanyard (to carry their cabin key card). I’m, after all, too cool to ever put a key card lanyard round my neck, which suggests I lose my card a few times on each journey. They all the time give me a brand new one on the entrance desk. My cruise crew colleague Ashley Kosciolek additionally escews landyard-wearing on ships, however that did not cease her from writing this glorious information to the best cruise lanyards round.

Some cruisers additionally swear by bringing magnets to ships to affix dinner invites, tour tickets and different necessary papers to their cabin partitions. Partitions on ships typically are made with steel (even when they seem like wooden, thanks to fake wooden veneers) and can maintain a magnet. Some cruisers even convey magnets with hooks to allow them to grasp up garments and different gadgets on their partitions.

Associated: 20 issues you need to convey on each cruise — together with a roll of duct tape

Skip the buffet in your first day on board

There’s nothing extra jammed than a cruise ship buffet on embarkation day. All people boarding heads straight as much as it. To keep away from the first-day buffet crowds, head to no matter secondary eating choice is on the market. Typically, a ship will open considered one of its table-served eateries for lunch on embarkation day. It’ll seemingly be a lot much less crowded than the buffet.

Analysis ports upfront

There are some varieties of holidays — a seaside journey, for example — the place you don’t must do a lot advance analysis. You simply kind of present up. Most cruises aren’t this fashion — not less than if you wish to get probably the most out of them. On the coronary heart of most cruises are port calls that, in lots of instances, are very quick — typically just some hours. You need to have a plan for what to do in these ports otherwise you’ll miss out on an enormous a part of the cruising expertise.

Royal Caribbean’s Surprise of the Seas in Labadee, Haiti. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

As soon as you already know what ports you’ll be visiting, analysis them as a lot as you possibly can at journey websites equivalent to The Factors Man. Right here at TPG, we’re beginning to construct out a collection of house port and vacation spot port guides for in every single place from PortMiami to Bora Bora.

Associated: The final word information to Caribbean cruising

Be a part of a Fb group to your line

One other good spot to get concepts for what to do in ports and on ships — and what to convey on a cruise, for that matter — are the numerous personal Fb teams devoted to specific strains. I belong to various them, together with the Royal Caribbean Cruises group, the COPs (Cruisers Opinion Web page) group and the Holland America Line Followers group. You’ll discover hundreds of cruise followers at these pages who typically are greater than keen to reply questions on their favourite line, its ships, its itineraries and the locations on the itineraries. I’ve met some fantastic folks in these teams, a few of whom have change into my longtime mates on Fb.

Join personal excursions

Reserving a shore tour immediately by your cruise line is simple. You simply test a field on an internet kind earlier than crusing or whereas on board, and — poof! — it’s all organized. However reserving excursions by your line isn’t the one choice, and it’s not all the time the best choice. In lots of instances, it can save you some huge cash — and get a greater touring expertise — by reserving shore excursions by impartial tour operators in ports or a tour reserving service equivalent to Viator or ToursbyLocals.

Typically, impartial excursions will likely be rather more intimate than the excursions supplied immediately by cruise strains. They may go to the identical websites however in a small van as an alternative of an enormous motorcoach. You might need simply six or eight different folks on a tour with you rather than practically 40. In case your group is large enough, you would possibly even have the ability to guide a non-public tour with an impartial tour operator.

Associated: The final word TPG information to shore excursions

Unbiased excursions can also take you to locations that the cruise line-organized excursions don’t. Plus, they typically include wonderful service. ToursByLocals has workers available around-the-clock to reply to questions, and — for these fearful about lacking your ship — they provide a return-to-ship assure with each tour.

Join actions upfront or quickly after boarding

Some strains will allow you to join reveals, excursions and different actions (together with meals at specialty eating places) upfront of crusing utilizing on-line portals. If you wish to ensure that you get a seat for a particular present on a particular night time, or a particular tour or restaurant reservation time, it’s a good suggestion to do that. It’s not unusual with some ships to seek out that some reveals, excursions and restaurant reservation instances guide up upfront.

When you don’t join actions upfront, a backup technique is to take action simply after you board a vessel. That mentioned, whether or not it’s essential to race to enroll in actions at the beginning of a voyage relies upon so much on which ship you’re on. I’m extra cautious about signing up for lots of issues upfront when I’m crusing on an enormous ship equivalent to Royal Caribbean’s record-breaking Surprise of the Seas the place there are millions of different passengers competing for the choicest reservations.

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Don’t really feel like it’s important to do all of it

Whereas we’re on the subject of signing up for actions, notice that it’s OK when you miss just a few issues. You don’t must do all of it. In actual fact, you need to drive your self to attempt to not do all of it. Keep in mind, you’re on trip. Loosen up. Take some downtime. Sit in your balcony, in case you have one, and simply stare out on the ocean for a few hours. You received’t remorse it.

All the time carry the ship’s contact data with you

When going ashore, all the time convey the ship’s contact data with you. These particulars are normally printed within the publication that’s delivered to your cabin every night time. If one thing goes improper once you’re away from the ship, you’ll need to get involved with the cruise line instantly.

Hold your cellphone in airplane mode

Among the greatest cruise ship horror tales you’ll discover on the web are tales of cruising newbies who racked up hundreds of {dollars} in cellphone expenses whereas on ships. This will occur once you depart your cellphone turned on and, say, watch movies on the web. Many cellphone plans — even worldwide plans — don’t embrace speaking, texting and knowledge on cruise ships, and also you’ll pay exorbitant roaming charges for such providers that can present up weeks later in your cellphone invoice.

There are methods to make calls and entry the web from ships with out spending a boatload of cash. You should buy a Wi-Fi bundle, for example, that can allow you to make FaceTime calls and stream movies (on some ships) over Wi-Fi with out utilizing cellphone knowledge.

Some cellphone firms have cruise-specific plans you should buy upfront of a voyage. However I personally by no means go that route. I hold it easy. I simply put my cellphone in airplane mode the second I step on board a ship and by no means change it again on. I then activate the cellphone’s Wi-Fi, purchase a Wi-Fi bundle and do all my calling, texting and web browsing over Wi-Fi. That manner, there’s no manner that I will be stunned by an surprising cost.

Obtain the cruise app

A rising variety of strains now have apps which you can obtain to your smartphone upfront of crusing. The apps differ in what they provide, however many will present you a every day listing of actions and all the issues that you’ve reserved. Many additionally will allow you to make restaurant reservations and guide shore excursions and different actions, and some will allow you to order drinks and different gadgets to wherever you occur to be standing. That’s fairly cool, proper? The most effective half: The apps will work on board even when you don’t pay for a Wi-Fi bundle.

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Use a journey agent to guide

Given the complexity of reserving a cruise — there are plenty of choices to make in the course of the reserving course of, belief us — we suggest that you just use a seasoned journey agent who makes a speciality of cruises that can assist you prepare issues. A very good journey agent will quiz you about your specific pursuits, journey fashion and preferences and steer you to the right cruise line, ship, itinerary and cabin for you. The agent additionally will help you if one thing goes improper simply earlier than, throughout or after your voyage.

As well as, journey brokers typically are you able to further onboard credit score and different perks that you just may not have the ability to get by reserving immediately with a line.

Associated: Why you need to all the time use a journey agent to guide a cruise

Contemplate journey insurance coverage

It’s not all the time clean seas in the case of cruising — or any kind of journey. We hate to even convey it up, however you would possibly have to cancel your cruise upfront as a result of sudden onset of an sickness. Or, possibly you’ll fall unwell in the course of the cruise and wish emergency medical consideration. Perhaps your flight to your ship will get canceled and also you miss the vessel’s departure. These kinds of issues can occur to cruisers, and so they’re all of the kind of conditions the place you would possibly profit from having journey insurance coverage. Right here’s a comparability of the highest journey insurance coverage suppliers and details about Cancel for Any Purpose add-ons.

Associated: The TPG information to journey insurance coverage for cruises

Don’t guide a cabin close to an elevator

Not each cabin on a ship is created equal. When selecting a room in your first cruise, you would possibly need to avoid these close to elevators and simply above nightclubs and different late-night venues. They’ll generally be noisy. Cabins slightly below the pool deck and close to the anchor additionally will be problematic in addition to cabins close to casinos.

Associated: 8 cabin places on cruise ships that you just positively ought to keep away from

Use a factors card for onboard spending

You noticed this one coming, no? Given TPG’s origins as a factors and miles web site, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to maximise your bank card factors whereas making purchases on ships. The way in which to do that is to tie a bank card that gives further factors for journey purchases to your onboard account. This might be the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which provides 3 Final Rewards factors per greenback on journey and eating (excluding the annual $300 journey credit score). There’s additionally the Chase Sapphire Most popular Card, which brings 2 Final Rewards factors per greenback on journey and three Final Rewards factors per greenback on eating.

Associated: How one can guide a cruise with factors and miles

Don’t tip twice for drinks and spa therapies

Most cruise ships now mechanically add a gratuity to bar payments, typically within the quantity of 18% to twenty% of the full. Such automated gratuities additionally have gotten extra widespread in ship spas. However many first-time cruisers don’t know this and write in a hefty tip on the “extra tip” line on payments at cruise ship bars and spas. You should definitely ask if a gratuity already has been included earlier than including one other 15% or 20% to the full. In any other case, it’s possible you’ll find yourself tipping twice.

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Use factors to get to your cruise

Utilizing factors and miles to pay for a cruise doesn’t all the time make sense, because it typically requires an enormous variety of them to safe a cabin. However that doesn’t imply you possibly can’t save large time by reserving your flights to and from a ship utilizing factors and miles.

You’ll discover loads of tales right here at The Factors Man about tips on how to, say, pay the equal of $1,330 in factors for a flight that price $16,000, or guide a $27,000 around-the-world journey for simply $168 in out-of-pocket prices. Scroll round a bit of, and it’s possible you’ll by no means pay money for a flight to a cruise ship once more.

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