Cruising is by far my favorite way to vacation. But, like any other vacation, there is stress in booking, getting there on time, being smart with the budget, etc. Murphys Law applies to cruising, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. To be fair, it applies to EVERYTHING. That’s why I have compiled a list of 100 cruise tips and advice to help make someones next cruise vacation go as smoothly as possible. I’ll do my best to cover all areas from start to finish!
- Speak with a travel agent
- Compare the cruise lines
- Research the itinerary
- Find out about themed cruises
- Check the deck plans
- Take advantage of last minute deals
- Compare the specials
To help with the scrambled tips, please follow this quick navigation through each section.
Before booking a cruise
Travel agents will get you extras on almost any cruise. Most larger agencies can offer more, like on board credit.
Each cruise line has taken major steps to taking care of everyone, every age, every group. Even still, some like Carnival are considered the party barges. Norwegian has introduced studios for single cruisers, to attract party crowds too. What are you looking for? A family cruise? Party boat? Compare them for the best answer.
What port of call(s) grab your attention most? Which one’s look the best? Which have the excursions you and your party prefer? I’ve been to the Bahamas about a dozen times, and Cozumel, so when booking I take that into consideration and shop for other destinations.
There’s some themes that will rub people the wrong way, and some the right way…Just make sure whatever dates have been picked, that you are not falling into the wrong category of cruise group you or your family wouldn’t want to be in. For Example, if you’re looking for a family cruise with your children, you may not want to book on the dates of the nudist or fetish cruises.
MOST times the lowest price isn’t the best. Check the deck plans, figure out where you want to be near, but also avoid being near heavy traffic areas that can be noisy throughout the day and night. Got kids? Try to stay on the same side of their kids club, to lessen their most common commute.
If you don’t have a set date, and can cruise whenever, you’re in luck. Last minute cruise specials are some of the most budget friendly vacations around.
Cruise lines offer different specials at different times of the year, for example:
- Onboard Credit
- Unlimited Beverage Package
- Free or Discounted Excursions
- 2nd Guest half off
- 3rd or 4th guest free / discounted
- Free Casino Credits
- and More
What are your kids looking for ultimately? The more activities they have and are looking forward to, the more you get to see them enjoy their vacation AND have more time with the significant other.
A cruise only lasting 3-5 days is much more budget friendly, which in turn calls the attention of college students and other party loving animals.
I’m talking BIG family events, not a small 10 person cruise. Quinceneara’s and weddings fit the bill here. They are much more affordable and let’s be real here, we all have some family member we do not want to be stuck with on a boat for more then 4 days anyways.
I cannot bare to do a 3 or 4 day cruise anymore. That’s my personal preference, but to support my “Tip”, cruises have well evolved in the past several decades providing those onboard with massive amounts of activities and amenities to enjoy. 3-4 days just simply isn’t enough to fully appreciate the entire ship. For example: The first day you spend getting accommodated, the next day you’re at the Bahamas, get back on board for dinner and some evening activities, the next morning you’re back at the home port ready to go home.
There’s so much you can do before boarding, whether its a necessity or something you just want to do
Forgetting something is in our human nature. Begin making a list days, weeks, even months prior to your cruise. The week of your cruise, start crossing those items off when packing your bags.
See below for things to pack!
Especially if you’re flying in. I’ve heard some horror stories about people getting flight delays, which in turn makes some people MISS their cruise!! Such a small fix for this: get a hotel the day before, if you get a flight delay, hopefully it isn’t more then a couple hours. But you’ve spent so much just booking the cruise, don’t spend an extra $1000+ just to fly out to one of the destinations to finally get on the boat days later.
Get your massages, facials, nails, whatever done on land before you get on the boat. There’s no need to spend an arm and a leg just to get a deep tissue massage, get it done before so you can do more activities onboard. I’m sure each Port you’re sailing from has some high quality Spa’s to pamper yourself with. Yelp is a great way to find the best ones.
Booking a hotel can be considered somewhat of an insurance. But what if a loved one gets sick, or an emergency happens? Travel insurance can help take care of those unfortunate incidents and keep you covered. squaremouth.com/ is a wonderful place to start
Another part of travel insurance. Just imagine the bill if someone needs to get air lifted off the ship. The insurance will cover it and some plans can be as low as $50 for the entire group and trip.
Find what your kids plans are. Jot down their schedule and work around it with them. Arrange when you want to do activities with them, including dining.
Ok, now you know what the kids are up to. Take your significant other and have a blast! Plenty of activities to do all around the cruise.
Blogs, forums, websites, the internet holds too much information, it is wonderful. Reach out if you have questions, we’re all here to help spread any good information.
Boarding the ship
Why not? You’re finally about to get on your ship while your coworkers are still stuck at work. Come on board with a great attitude and great things will happen.
These guys are out there hauling suitcases all day, a nice tip goes a long way in their books and they’ll be sure to take good care of your important luggage.
They will not let you board if you are missing the proper travel documents. Be sure to look at the policies, most of them ask for, but are not limited to:
- Valid Passport
- Government Issues Picture ID
- Proper Visa Documents
Traveling with a step child or one of your kids friends who is under 18, get all the paperwork needed to be able to board the ship with them.
Plan on going to the pool? Pack all those supplies (bathing suits, hats, sunglasses, flip flops, etc) in the carry-on. You won’t know when your luggage will arrive to your stateroom, and you don’t want to wait all day before you can have fun.
General Cruise Tips
Cruises are a wonderful way to vacation. There is a lot you have never experienced, certain shows, food, excursions, try it all! Never had Escargot? Give it a shot! Afraid of heights? Try out ziplining for an unforgettable experience.
Need I say more?
Maybe I should title this, Don’t be the loud, obnoxious, belligerent jerk in the hallway at 3AM. Sorry everyone for any sleep I ruined when I was cruising at a younger age.
You’re on a cruise with other people who have been waiting patiently for the same day. You already have a common ground there. You can have lifelong relationships with some people you meet, and possibly cruise with again.
Staying in contact with people is easier than ever. These relationships can bloom into everlasting friendships, it’s great to keep up with people.
Don’t be annoyed when others are in your way taking pictures, or the buffet line is too big. These are all people just enjoying themselves as much as you ought to be.
NOT Selfies! Fine whatever take as many selfies are you want. I’m talking about taking advantage of the lovely workers trying to catch your every joyful moment on vacation. Some cruises offer specials for photobooks (Oasis did for us!) and you can remember your vacation even more.
Don’t be shy, you may be Canadian and never feel the suns warmth, even more reason to get out and bask in the glorious rays of heat.
Directors are amazing, and they can help direct you towards the fun.
I don’t care if you’ve only got one hair on your chest. Get out there and join the hairy chest competition! Don’t want to belly flop? That’s too damn bad, get out there and maximize the full potential of a cruise vacation!
Get away from your every day ritual of gazing at a phone screen all day. Enjoy your vacation NOW and post about it afterwords.
No better way to begin your morning, unless hungover. Pick you sunrise wisely!
Might be easier for party goers, either way, it’s much more beautiful at sea.
Not much light pollution out in the middle of the water, you get the best view of the sky at night.
There’s always a party going somewhere, mostly at the top deck by the pool! Some of the best times to be had, don’t miss out.
The draft can be pretty intense, and if you have any important paperwork or travel documents they could just fly right out.
Usually located in the closet. Make sure to put any valuables in there, there is no need to walk around daily with everything of value in your backpack or pockets.
A common misconception is that it is necessary to get off the ship when they are docked at a port. Sometimes we just want to enjoy the cruise ship when it’s most empty, this is the best time to do so.
Already stated for boarding the ship, but a very important general cruise tip.
Budget Friendly Tips
The cruise is probably already fully paid, but not all the expenses are. Figure out what excursions you want, paid dinners, drinks, etc., set a budget for it all.
Don’t fall short here, it’s so easy to overspend when cruising.
Gambling is fine, it’s another source of adrenaline for some people. Unless you’re a professional, you could waste all your money here, set a limit of $20, $40, even $100. Walk away when needed and don’t let it ruin your trip.
Cruise lines have different regulations regarding to what you can bring on board. Standard is a bottle of wine or two, and for those adrenaline junkies, you can attempt to bring other hard liquors on board with rum runners and other neat youtube tricks!
Want to save a few bucks? Excursions booked with the cruise can be very pricey. If you want to snorkel on a private island, you’re safe. Walk just a few feet and you will find other people selling the same excursions for much cheaper.
Safety is big to consider on some ports of call. If you’re just a couple of young girls cruising with no one else…book with the cruise for peace of mind and the best experience possible.
Save big by bringing your own goggles and flippers, you are allowed to bring them.
You don’t want those roaming charges!
Most companies offer huge deals for your next cruise while you are already cruising, take advantage of this and book before your vacation ends.
Credit cards such as Chase offer Disney Rewards. Carnival and Royal Caribbean have their own credit cards that accumulate points towards redeeming a cruise as well.
Your cruise director could set up scavenger hunts for larger prizes. Some of these scavenger hunts involve being in a Port of call and just getting a free piece of jewelry from Diamonds International.
Boozing is cruisin!
Let’s face it, some of us just want to go on the cruise and party all night. The price of alcohol can put a huge dent to our bank account (I know!) when you’re blindly paying with your room key.
This one’s tricky, but I’ve booked the Norwegian Epic Cruise with unlimited beverage package included. On previous cruises I have always debated with the beverage package, it comes with some strings attached. If the other adult in your cabin isn’t drinking, you have to pay for both packages anyways. But if they will be, it is well worth the price for the both of you! You won’t have to worry about spending so much on mimosas in the morning or a nice glass of wine in the evening, plus all the long island ice tea’s at the bars.
Some people don’t know how far this can go. If you have a favorite place, stick with it and spoil your bartender. Even if you got the beverage package with prepaid gratuities, tip generously and they will make the drinks SO much
better stronger for you.
Check out the policies of your cruise line. Most allow a bottle or two of wine. Disney allows a bottle of wine or a 6 pack of beer (I believe). This has been setting up craft beer enthusiasts to plan precruise and meet with other enthusiasts to share craft beer. It’s a wonderful time to live in.
“All the expert cruisers do it!” It’s hard to encourage you to do this, but what the hell, why not. Liqour is very pricey on the boat, experienced cruisers usually smuggle in booze on board with rum runners or other sneaky tricks you can find all over youtube.
Chances are, you’re cruising to the Caribbean. They’re worldwide known for their Rum but they’ve also got some amazing beer. And if you’re going to Mexico, don’t miss out on the exotic tequila.
This is one of my favorite places to be on land. They know how to party, and it’s fun to see how others can(mostly can’t) handle their alcohol as well.
Drinking on board is a popular activity. Popular and dangerous, for example: most nights it is very windy on the top deck and accidents are far too frequent. Or after a night of drinking you maybe that “angry” drunk and mess with the wrong person. Cruise with a friend or family member that will keep you safe on board to enjoy the rest of the vacation.
Even if you have a friend with you, drink responsibly. You’re not driving anywhere but you could be driving others insane because they have to babysit. It’s not fun waking up on a boat with a hang over either.
Health & Fitness Awareness Tips
A lot of us diet before cruising, to justify stuffing our faces at every single food stop for 3, 5, or even 7+ days straight. Don’t crash on your health so bad, take some tips so you don’t regret some of the choices made after disembarking the ship.
Look, I get it, you’re on vacation. Whatever, don’t be lazy! The time it takes to actually get on an elevator is the same amount of time it takes to take the stairs to the desired floor. The elevators are constantly packed. Burn some extra calories by just taking the stairs, make a game out of it with your SO, friends, family, or whoever you’re around.
After a dozen pieces of bacon and a half pound of hashbrowns, it might be time to stop. Evaluate what you’re intaking, it’s great to be on a cruise and indulge on delicious food, but their are very delicious healthy choices as well. The fruit & veggie bars are always fresh, and their is great quality meat like fish to choose from.
A light walk around the track in the morning or after a meal goes a long way. It’s very refreshing and calming.
For you older folks this could mean more then one thing. Enjoy them all. But I’ll keep this PG. Cruise line daily schedules always have some sort of physical activity set for the day. For example, a game of basketball, soccer on the basketball court, rock climbing wall, a ping pong tournament, anything to get you heart pumping and sweat rolling.
We’ve worked hard to get this cruise bod in shape, don’t kill the routine. Keep it up at the cruise gym that’s filled with all the main equipment. Free weights, treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and much more, some even have a boxing ring! Enjoy the sauna or steamroom afterwords.
Like any gym, there is germs from everyones sweat. Be considerate, clean your machine after you finish. And to be safe, clean before use as well. Don’t want people getting infections out there!
Ask for bottles, or cans, for everything. Trust me, you don’t want to finish the cruise off with amoebas.
You won’t need it on the ship, but Zika and Norovirus are far too common while cruising. Always spray yourself, and your loved ones, to lessen any chance of getting bit by these mosquitoes.
Things to Pack
Self Explanatory + adds an extra item to your fashion statement
Who wants to stare at the sun and blistering light all day? Pfft not me, get some fancy sun glasses and hang out at the top deck with style.
Regardless of some silly looks you may get for wearing a sun scarf, fisherman and veteran cruisers know the importance of keeping keeping UV off the skin as much as possibly. Those with skin problems, look into bringing these items.
For kids, adults, everyone. Don’t let the sun take you out of enjoying your vacation. Put some sunblock on, get a nice tan, and you won’t have to deal with blisters or terrible painful nights.
For every Port of Call, put your money, ID, important documents, whatever inside a water proof ID holder that you can hang around your neck. It’s the best way of keeping your valuables safe.
Too many cases of Zika and norovirus nowadays, spray yourself and loved ones just to be safe.
In case your swimsuit doesn’t have pockets, make it easier to carry the room key around.
It gets cold at night, it is always windy on the top deck, and the weather can be a bit unpredictable.
I hate to admit it, but this can be handy. From all the buffets and food items offered everywhere on the cruise, you may need to have a larger set of pants.
The majority of cruises have formal night. It’s a chance to go out, feel fancy, take some amazing pictures, and have a great evening all together. It is not mandatory, you may get ugly looks if you walk into dinner with shorts and a shirt during formal night, but hey, it’s still YOUR vacation.
Bring some snorkeling gear, save some money while you are off the ship looking to take some snorkeling excursions, or just take it to some of the beautiful beaches with clear blue waters. No one will judge, there may be envy though!
I have forgotten them….probably 25% of the time I go on a cruise. I remember everything else, but this…of all things, is the one I mostly forget. SELF EXPLANATORY!!
There is a track and/or gym on most cruise lines, this is a great way to burn those extra calorie intake from all the buffets.
You are permitted, on most cruise lines, to bring in a 750 ML Bottle of wine or champagne, per person (Carnival). Or 2 per stateroom (Royal Caribbean) Check the policies with your cruise line for more details. *There may also be an uncorking fee.
Breakfast is wonderful, unlimited bacon, eggs, fruit, and best of all, coffee. Take a coffee mug, fill it up, take it everywhere you go.
Guys, the closets are limited to clothes hangers, and from experience, the women will use them all. Just saying.
Outlets are limited in the room. Bring a power strip to help with everyone’s cell phone, cameras, etc.
Depending on where you cabin is, it could get a bit loud. Always a good idea to bring some of these just in case.
Getting seasick is more common than you think, weather doesn’t always go as planned and you can be caught in a storm. Looking at you Anthem of the Seas!
Hangovers, pains, medical reasons, anything. The most common medicine can be pretty hard to obtain while cruising, especially at a reasonable price.
Bring your favorite water bottle, not just for the gym but for anytime, like at night, having a full bottle of water removes the hassle of refilling the tiny cups found in your room.
Bring a power adapter, you can call the cruise line to see what type they have in your stateroom to plan accordingly.
Place this on your door. Whenever you are leaving your stateroom, state the time and where you’ll be. Great way to keep your party informed, and much less annoying than walkie talkies!
Chance of…rain? Costs a lot more on the ship and even the ports.
Cash is always important. But in the Caribbean, most places don’t take credit. Avoid getting hit by ATM fee’s and bring cash.
The rooms do not have alarm clocks, bring one so you don’t oversleep, unless that is of course the whole plan.
Because most cruisers leave their phone in the safe, or somewhere in their stateroom, it becomes more of a task to see what time it is conveniently. A watch would be the most effective replacement, who would have thought?
Take notes aboard the ship, remind yourself what was so great that evening, what was the best tasting food, how was the shows. Not only can you share this with others that would love to know, but it’s also a reminder whenever you read it again you can relive each experience.
For those traveling with toddlers, or someone who just doesn’t like the dark, night lights are a great item to bring with you. Inside cabins are extremely dark, the best for sleep honestly.
Whether confiscated at boarding or alcohol bought on the ship, these items will be sent back to your stateroom the last night of sailing to let you pack it properly before disembarking.
Just like when we pack to get on the boat, we always forget something. Whether it’s just a phone charger or the actual phone, just make sure everything is in order the night before to have a smooth disembarking. Avoid the hassle of having to come back for your valuables.
It is far too common that people leave items in their safe.
If you know you have a flight at noon or earlier, plan to disembark as early as possible.
Get early, be patient, so many other guests are flying out as well, and some internationally. Let’s not put ourselves above anyone else, just be sure to get there ahead of time.
After experiencing the joy of being at sea, leave with peace on your mind. Cherish those memories made.
If I missed any cruise tips, or you would like to share your own, please comment below! We could all use some extra advice to better a cruise vacation.