7 First Time Cruise Tips

I recently disembarked on my very first cruise and it was awesome! While I was sailing I picked up a few tips – some that I already knew, and some I probably wouldn’t have thought of.

Here are a few first-time cruise tips I learned.

1. Pre-pay Gratuities

Gratuities are very important to all of the crew members that work hard to make sure your cruise is enjoyable.

Cruise lines will charge you a daily gratuity fee for the length of your cruise – between $11 to $13 per person, per day. You can have them charged to your account when you board or pay them before you sail, which is the choice I recommend.

Don’t be one of those people who remove gratuity charges from your bill. Not only is this selfish, but it’s disrespectful to the crew that worked so hard to make sure you had a great vacation.

2. Purchase Travel Insurance

This was my first cruise and I was blessed to not have any medical or travel-related issues come up. However, unexpected things happen all the time, and no one thinks it will happen to them… until it does.

Whether there’s a flight delay, a cancellation in your travel plans, or getting sick in another country, it’s essential to have travel insurance. Travel insurance gives you peace of mind.

3. Bring Single Dollar Bills

While onboard your cruise ship you probably won’t need much money (except in the casino), but you will need it for tipping.

The baggage porter will expect a tip. Don’t skimp with them either as it’s customary to tip them $1 or $2 per bag. It’s also customary to tip the room service team if you order from the room service menu.

4. Use Durable Luggage Tags

Luggage tags are so simple yet so important. Without them, your bag would not get where it needs to go. The cruise line will send you a file with your baggage tag to print out and staple to your luggage before you board, but it can be very flimsy. A durable luggage tag, with your contact information, is essential for if your luggage is misplaced or lost.

I recommend these durable cruise baggage tags from Amazon.


5. Dress Up

Don’t forget to bring your clothes for formal night! While cruises are often much more casual, there are still formal nights on every sailing.

The length of your sailing will determine how many formal nights there are. Our three-night cruise had just one. While some women wear fancy evening dresses, an elegant cocktail dress is fine as well. You won’t see tuxedos much anymore, but nice khakis and a button down for the guys is fine.

The emphasis on food and activities aboard your cruise makes you often forget about the formal aspect of cruising, so don’t forget to pack a nice evening outfit.

6. Watch the Clock

One of the worst things that can happen to a cruiser is being left in a port because they lost track of time.

When booking an excursion, especially through an independent company, double check that you’ll be done with plenty of time to get back to the ship. Don’t forget to account for possible delays like traffic or weather, and make note if the ship stays on local time or ship’s time.

A good example of this is in St. Maarten’s Maho (airplane) Beach. It’s only a 20-minute ride from the port, but can sometimes take over an hour getting back – depending on the time of day and how many cruise ships are in port.

7. Choose When to Disembark

I discovered on this first cruise that you’re automatically assigned into disembarkation groups. Each group disembarks at a different time. This is so they can keep a flow of traffic going and so people don’t rush the door all at once.

But who wants to be shuffled off the ship at 8 a.m.?

If you would like to change your disembarkation time, you can. Stop by the guest relations desk and ask if they can switch you or slip a couple dollars to your room steward for a different disembarkation zone.

Do you have any first-time cruise tips? Leave them in the comments on Facebook!

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