Cruising 101: 23 Expert Tips for First Time Cruisers

Our team have been on more watery adventures than you’ve had hot dinners. Now we want to give you the benefit of our experience by sharing our top tips for first time cruisers. Maiden voyagers, read on!

You never forget your first time. Whether it’s the rhythmic hum of a mega-ship cutting waves under a moonlit sky, or an intimate river cruise navigating serene city waterways at dawn – each voyage promises its own flavourful adventure. Our list of handy tips for first time cruisers ensures your maiden voyage remains as positive as possible. 

Embarking on your first cruise may seem daunting in an ocean teeming with options and unfamiliar nuances. That’s why we’ll unravel every secret from portside to starboard, arming first-time cruisers like yourself with expert tips to navigate these waters smoothly

If you’ve never encountered life on the high seas before, but you’re thinking about dipping your toe this year, this one’s for you! Ahoy shipmate! Sorry… we’ll pack that in right now.  

Tips for First Time Cruisers: A Comprehensive Guide

Heading out on your first adventure on the waves can be an unnerving experience. You don’t know what to expect or you might even be still undecided about whether cruising is actually for you or not. 

Don’t worry, we promise it very much is for you. But it does help to have some knowledge in your corner before stepping on-board, right? 

Our list of tips for novice cruisers will give you the inside track on what to expect from life on the ship. Plus, we’ll also cover how to squeeze the absolute most out of your trip. 

Let’s start at the beginning. The first tip is number 1 for a reason!

Princess cruise ship in the Ocean at sunset
What can you expect from your first cruise? Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

1. Arrive at your departure port a day ahead of schedule

A golden rule in the art of cruising seasoned travelers swear by – always arrive at your departure city a full day before sail day. Why?

Well, flying or driving in on embarkation day opens up room for disruptions that could potentially ruin your holiday should any delays take place. Think flight cancellations due to inclement weather conditions or unexpected traffic jams while en route.

To avoid such scenarios it helps to book accommodation near the dock and arrive a day early. This will grant you peace of mind knowing that you’re one step closer to setting sail towards exotic destinations. Plus, what better excuse for turning this trip into an extended city mini-break?

Royal Caribbean ship docked
Getting to port early is a great way to tag a couple of exciting days on land an to your trip. Photo by Fernando Jorge on Unsplash

Tips for Planning, Booking, and Onboard Activities

Embarking on your first cruise can seem daunting. There’s so much to consider from booking the cruise to planning your onboard activities. Here are some tips that could guide you through the process in a more comfortable way.

First Time Cruise Tips for Planning and Booking

The initial stages of planning and booking your first cruise may appear overwhelming. However, fret not! Here are some expert insights for an easy decision-making process:

2. Consider Weather Conditions or Itinerary When Booking 

One major consideration for cruise first-timers is seasickness. To spend less time worrying about choppy waters you might want to think longer about the type of cruise you choose. 

If you’re unsure, think about avoiding itineraries which feature too many “sea days”. On these days, your ship will spend all day sailing to your next port. Mediterranean cruises can be great for nervous sailors as ships tend to stick closer to the coastline – these itineraries tend to feature less days at sea. 

Additionally, if you want to avoid feeling the worst of the ocean’s chop, then stay away from booking staterooms at the front or back of the vessel.

While we’re on the point of chop, you probably want to avoid booking a Caribbean cruise between 1 June – 30 November. That’s hurricane season in the region. Although the chances of actually sailing into a hurricane during this time are still slim, weather conditions can still be a little rougher than usual. 

3. Think About Who You’re Cruising with Before Booking

If you, or someone you’re thinking of cruising with has mobility issues, then it pays to put in the time and research finding a ship that will best suit your needs. Likewise, as a continuation of that previous point.

Double-check the timing of your sailing. If your trip falls in the summer holidays and you’re thinking of embarking with lines such as P&O or Royal Caribbean, be aware that there may be more families on board. Basically, if you’re looking for a couples cruise adventure, then apply the same calendar logic you would to a land escape.  

4. Research the Cruise Line and Specific Ship to Match Your Preferences

You might think that the ports on your cruise are the main event – and that may be true. But, you will be spending a decent amount of time on your ship of choice. So, it pays to ensure your liner has everything you want before booking

For example, cruise liners go into dry dock for refurbishment regularly, so you might find that features are added each time. 

5. Time Flies During a Cruise

Cruising is a great way to get a new experience of a location you love, especially when touring awesome cities on a river cruise. But be aware that time runs like water on those shorter sailings. You might want to think about upgrading your 5-nighter to a 7. 

Cruise ship sailing at sunset in calm weather
Check the weather before you hop aboard. Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

Cruise Budgeting Tips for First Time Sailors

With so many things to see and experience on a cruise, it can be pretty easy to get through your holiday budget. So, what is a good amount of cash to have on a cruise?

A recent study found that, out of 850 cruise lovers, 71% said that they took $100 with them per person, per day. With that in mind, here are some other cruising budget tips should you know. 

6. Budget Properly to Ensure Your Cruise Holiday Fits Within Your financial Means

Getting value for money on your cruise is imperative. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re trapped on a ship in the middle of the ocean with dwindling finances.

7. Research Deals and Discounts

Research the best times to book a cruise. Look for special offers, promotions, and discounts from cruise lines, travel agencies, and online booking platforms to maximize savings. But, fair warning, you won’t find a better price than with us. Just saying. 

8. Book Early and Consider Off-Peak Times

Secure your cruise tickets in advance to access lower prices and preferred cabin options. Off-peak times typically offer reduced rates and fewer crowds, making it an ideal choice for budget-conscious travelers.

9. Select Affordable Cabin Options

Opt for interior cabins or lower-deck accommodations to save money, as they tend to be less expensive compared to suites or cabins with ocean views.

10. Minimize Onboard Expenses

Plan ahead and budget for onboard expenses such as gratuities, alcoholic beverages, specialty dining, and optional activities. Consider purchasing beverage packages or meal plans to control costs during the cruise.

11. Consider Upgrading to a Balcony Cabin For Added Comfort and Views

If you’re going to be off enjoying every activity you can get your hands on and only staying in your cabin to sleep, then lower-class arrangements will be fine. However, if you prefer a leisurely pace to your escape and want to spend more time in your cabin, then splashing out on a balcony, oceanview or suite is a great option.

Onboard Activities and Ship Exploration Tips

The ships are ginormous, so it won’t surprise you that there are a million things to do on a cruise liner. But not all ships are built the same. For example, the list of activities on a Royal Caribbean liner will be completely different to a Celebrity Cruises ship which will be different again from a P&O vessel.

With that in mind, it pays to brush up your ship knowledge before stepping aboard.

12. Start Exploring the Ship’s Facilities and Amenities Before Boarding

You’ll be able to hit the ground running as soon as you embark if you’ve already scouted out your ship online. Most cruise lines offer detailed deck plans on their websites, providing an invaluable resource for first-time cruisers.

Examining these maps will not only familiarize you with the ship’s layout, but it can also clue you in on amenities or experiences that may not be widely advertised – niches like a quiet adult-only area or an onboard sushi bar.

Top deck of a cruise ship with swimming pools and Jacuzzis in the Arctic
Make a note of the things you want to try on your cruise so that you don’t miss out. Photo by david lindahl on Unsplash

13. Pack a Carry-On Bag With Essential Items

With scores of suitcases to process at embarkation, it might take some time before your luggage arrives at your cabin. Hence, packing a carry-on bag with essentials is one of our top cruise ship tips.

From travel documents and medications to swimwear and sunscreen, packing crucial items can make sure you don’t miss any fun while waiting for your bags. Don’t forget to include a change of clothes if you’re flying in; flights can sometimes cause luggage delays!

14. Time Your Embarkation Wisely

While excitement will no doubt tempt you towards early boarding, waiting could circumvent long queues and packed decks. Some cruises have designated boarding times based on cabin number or loyalty status; pay heed to these timelines. Likewise, don’t let fear of ‘missing the boat’ compel you into leaving a port unnecessarily early.

15. Conduct an Inventory Check Upon Arrival

Before kick-starting your holiday, take some time for inventory checking as soon as you step into your cabin. This should cover whether all listed amenities are present and in fine working order.

Should anything seem amiss – missing bath towels or faulty safe – inform the guest service desk promptly so there’s ample time to resolve it.

People relaxing on a Caribbean beach after disembarking a cruise ship
Mix up your fun on the ship with a sunshine session on the sand. Photo by Edgar Serrano on Unsplash

16. Leverage the Ship’s Staff

From helping with lost luggage to advice on the perfect dinner choice, cruise staff are there to make your journey smooth and enjoyable. They are a fountain of insider knowledge on hidden gems onboard and upcoming ports.

Do not hesitate to ask them your questions however minor; they will likely be more than eager to help.

17. Find Your Personal Haven

Large ships have innumerable guests but also abundant nooks for solitude-seeking cruisers. Think small libraries, quiet cafes, hidden decks and more. These secluded spots bring rejuvenating reprieve from the buzz. While social activities make cruising fun, finding time alone with a book or scenic views can enhance the relaxing vibes.

18. Dabble in Delicacies – Onboard Food Options

Cruise ships today are voyages into gastronomical wonders. From fine dining establishments helmed by celebrity chefs to authentic local treats while docked at exotic locations – the food variety is extensive. Use this as an opportunity to explore new cuisines and dishes you wouldn’t normally try at home.

Already got dietary restrictions? Cruise kitchens usually excel at accommodating various needs.

First Time Tips for Excursions and Ports

Embracing the port experience during cruises can be an exhilarating part of your trip. However, stepping into the unknown can be daunting, especially for first-time cruisers. To battle those anxieties, we’ve compiled some invaluable tips to help you make the most of these unique experiences.

19. Take the Time to Explore Ports Casually

Roaming around unfamiliar locations is half the fun of cruising. Don’t rush too quickly from one tourist hotspot to another; try appreciating the local atmosphere and observing everyday life instead. This way, you go beyond being a mere spectator and actively soak in local traditions and cultures.

For example, a Barbados cruise day is one of the best port stays you can have on a Caribbean adventure. Take the chance to experience everything this incredible island has to offer. 

20. Choose Your Disembarkation Time to Avoid Crowds

Disembarking from your cruise ship need not be as stressful as it sometimes gets if you’re strategic with your timing. The best way to escape a possible stampede? Head out early when others may still be preparing themselves or late when most have already left.

Cruise ship pulling into a new dock
Pick your time to head to shore. Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

21. Plan a Relaxing Day Onboard During Port Visits

Ports aren’t just about bustling markets and sightseeing tours; remember that your cruise ship itself is a floating haven packed with luxurious amenities ready to provide you with top-notch relaxation opportunities! Be sure not to miss out on these facilities by planning at least one relaxed day onboard while docked at port.

22. Consider Booking Excursions in Advance for Popular Activities

Full-day excursion sold out? Fear not! Try snagging some other interesting options via onboard booking once you embark on your journey. That said, if there are certain ‘must-do’ activities on your list — like whale-watching in Alaska or visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico — then do consider pre-booking those before setting sail.

23. Bargaining might be acceptable in certain ports; be prepared to negotiate prices

Cruises are a melting pot of cultures and traditions, which extends to shopping norms too. In some ports, bargaining is not only accepted but encouraged! By becoming familiar with the art of haggling, you could land yourself meaningful keepsakes without breaking your budget.

Book Your First Cruise with Blue Bay Today

Booking your first cruise can be a daunting but exciting process. So get the experts on your team. 

Let Blue Bay Travel be your capable companion through this thrilling journey—from assisting with streamlined planning and selection processes to providing remarkable support during your trip—because every cruiser deserves a memorable debut sailing!

Click the banner below to learn more about cruising with Blue Bay and to take a look at our latest cruise deals

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