30 tips for first time cruisers

Cruising can be quite stressful and confusing if you’ve never cruised before… trust me I know! Before my first cruise I must’ve read every cruise blog and watched every video on youtube on the subject and I still had some questions unanswered! Seeing that many of my blog readers and social media friends are first time cruisers I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite cruise tips that came in handy! Whether it’s your first sailing or your 50th, there are always new cruise tips to learn for when you take your trip.


Picking the right ship/cruise line

Do your research before you book a cruise. You’ve got to think of what size ship you want to be on, what ports of call you’re most interested in, what kind of on board activities you want and more. There’s a lot to consider. There are cruises for different age groups, for different interests and there are even THEMED cruises.  Think about what kind of a vacation you want to have, maybe you want a really lively and fun cruise which Carnival and Norwegian are famous for! Or maybe you want a more traditional, relaxing and quiet cruise experience, something that Princess, HAL and P&O offer.


What’s great about today’s industry is that you have so cruise lines and ships to choose from. I’m a strong believer that there is a cruise line and cruise ship for everyone, you just need to find which line/ships suits you!

Start short

If you haven’t cruised before, start with a three- or four-day cruise to a couple of ports. It may cost more per day than a longer cruise, but it’ll give you a feel for the cruise life.

Older ships are cheaper to cruise on

If you’ve never been on a cruise and you want to check it out, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money, look out for sailings on older ships! Even if an older ship and a newer ship sail the same itinerary, the fares on the older ship will be dramatically lower.Of course, in exchange you won’t get the wild new things like waterslides and ten swimming pools. But if you’re the sort of person who simply wants to be out on the water, you can save hundreds of dollars by sailing on an older ship.

Interior cabins – cruise more

Many people claim they couldn’t sail in anything other than a balcony room and I’m definitely not one of them! Interior cabins can get you on the ship for hundreds sometimes even thousands less than paying for a balcony room. Considering that many of us are rarely in our cabins other than to sleep, it doesn’t make sense to pay a fortune for a room that you won’t use. Instead, you can sail a lot cheaper with an interior room… and potentially cruise a lot more! I’m such a budget cruisers that I’ve only sailed in balcony cainbs when I got free upgrades!

Cruise when the kids are in school

I live by this rule! They should call it the “law of cheap cruising”. If you want to save a ton, be flexible with your dates and sail when school is in session. When school is in, families with kids — a huge demographic in cruising — can’t take their trips. That means the cruise lines are looking to fill rooms and will offer up cheap fares to entice people to sail. In fact, it’s not surprising to find fares that double during holiday breaks when families can take their trips.

Travel insurance

Chances are that you won’t need the travel insurance you buy, but when you do, it’s a lifesaver. Travel insurance can cover a ton of different things, including if you get hurt or sick on your trip. It’s also handy if you lose your luggage or miss the ship and have to make alternate arrangements to meet your ship elsewhere (or get back home). Even if it turns out you that didn’t need to buy cruise insurance, it was still a good investment since it gave you a peace of mind during your cruise!

Seasickness tip

If you know you suffer from motion sickness generally I would recommend picking a mid-ship cabin on lower decks, they tend to “move” less. And also pick a cruise with no or not many sea days.

I’ve heard about this just recently on my last cruise, I don’t know if it works but green apples are supposed to be a natural cure for seasickness. That’s why you’ll always find them at the buffet. Grab one or two the next time you are feeling queasy and test it out.


First day carry on

The cruise company will generally pick up your checked luggage and bring it right to the ship for you. Convenient, except that you might not get your bag back until late in the evening, so make sure you have a change of clothes, swim suit, prescriptions and any other essentials in your carry on.

Pack a USB hub/adapters

I carry so many devices that I constantly need to recharge like my phone, camera, power banks etc. and usually (epecially on older ships) there are just a few power plugs in your cabin. The situation is slightly better on newer ships but I would still recommend packing a USB hub just incase. I also always bring an american adapter with me since I’m from Europe and that way I can utilise one more power plug! Be aware that not all cruise lines allow you to bring power strips onboard!


Shoes take up far more room in luggage than clothes do. Limit yourself to three pairs — a sturdy pair for active pursuits, a pair of flats or flip-flops for daytime wear and a pair of dressy shoes for dinner. Sometimes it’s hard to choose just three if you’re a person who loves shoes and if you’re going on a longer itinerary but they do take up a lot of space in your luggage so pack wisely!

Bring your own pharmancy

One thing I always bring with me is every medication I might need on a cruise! Bring all medications you might need from home because they cost about 10 times more in the cruise ship’s shop. I bring everything from motion sickness to allergies medications, you can never be to cautious.

Alcohol restrictions

The vast majority of cruise lines don’t let you bring on beer or hard liquor. Nearly all of them will let you bring on bottles of champagne or wine. Check with your cruise line, but the rule is usually either one bottle per cabin or one bottle per adult passenger. One or two bottles of wine likely won’t last your entire cruise, but considering the price of drinks onboard, anything you can bring saves you a lot of cash. But as I’ve said, check with your cruise line, so you don’t have to drink all of your wine in front of the cruise terminal, or even worse… throw it away!

Boarding the ship


Going on your first cruise can be quite stresfull, especially when you don’t know how the whole “boarding a cruise ship” procedure works, what you need to know is that you NEED to have all the boarding forms, health questionnaries, cruise tickets with you when arriving at the cruise terminal. Don’t pack them in your luggage, keep them in your carry on/purse or in a folder like I do! Make sure that you know what documentation is required well ahead of the cruise (your cruise company will be able to help you with this if there is any confusion)

Don’t show up too early

If you show up to board right when the boarding window opens, you can expect to do a lot of waiting. Sometimes there is a mad rush to board the ship right as it opens, which leads to long lines. What most people don’t realize is that showing up later actually lets your board faster. Get to the port about an hour before the boarding window closes and you’ll find no lines. It usually only takes about 10-15 minutes to get checked-in and board, all without having to fight huge crowds. I know that waiting to board your ship can be quite tough since the anticipation to start your vacation is high, so I am the first person to admit that I don’t always follow this tip!

Boarding a cruise ship is not like boarding a plane

No, you don’t have to go through the same hassles that you see in airports. You don’t have to take off belts… or shoes… or carry only 3 ounces of liquids. You’ll just have your bags x-rayed and walk through a metal detector (no full body scanners!). Getting through security usually takes no more than a minute or two. 


First day ship exploring

You will be tempted to just unpack your luggage and hit the pool or buffet, which is totally fine.  But some areas of the ship like the spa and thermal suite are open for tours during this time and you will be able to see all the ship has to offer.  I know that some cruisers don’t even know certain features of the ship exsist until the last day of a cruise. There is nothing more exciting to me than boarding the ship and exploring it from top to bottom, but maybe that’s just me being a ship nerd!

Search for the “secret decks”

As a “ship geek” this is one of my favorite things to do! Many ships have decks that not easily accessible, but are still public. These are fun spots to find on the ship, especially if you are looking for a little more privacy and to get away from the crowds.

Take the stairs as much as you can, it’s faster!

With thousands of people on a cruise ship, the banks of elevators can get overwhelmed, making stops on every deck going both up and down. That means it can take a while for the elevator to reach your floor. Instead, if you are only going up or down a few decks, it’s definitely easier and faster to just hoof it with the stairs. The stairs definitely don’t look inviting, especially when they look endless since ships these days are floating skyscrapers but think of it this way, it’s faster and you’re burning off that cheesecake you just ate at the buffet!

Turn on airplane mode as soon as you step onboard

There are way too many horror stories of cruise passengers forgetting to turn off their phone’s data and then coming home to huge bills for international roaming. I should know…. I’m the main star in one of those stories…. That’s why you should either turn your phone completely off or turn it on airplane mode to where it doesn’t use up data or connect to wireless service.

Port days

I see a lot of first time cruisers running around each port trying to see as much as they can, if that’s what you like then certainly do that but know that you don’t HAVE to disembark at every port. Often the day trips can be expensive, unless you arrange them yourself. If you want to chill and enjoy the ship without all the people then staying on board can be great. Most of the facilities on board stay open. It’s a great opportunity for photographers to get some wonderful, people-free, photos.  That’s at least what I do!

Specialty restaurants

Most cruise lines have specialty restaurant that require a slight upcharge of $25–$35 per person. While you might feel compelled to make the most of the meals that come included with your cruise, the specialty restaurants often offer a better dining experience and higher quality food. Just remember that you usually need to make your reservation right away on day 1 or day 2. I usually dine in complimentary dining venues but on special occasions it’s nice to splurge and go to a specialty restaurant, if anything, it’s worth because of the experience!

Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room

Everyone knows about dinner in the main dining room… but they usually head to the buffet for lunch and breakfast. If you want something of higher quality, head to the main dining room instead of the buffet. They serve both meals, but with much smaller crowds. Best of all, the food is usually better as well, since it’s made fresh. If your ship has two main dining rooms, usually only one will be open for breakfast and lunch, read your daily newsletter onboard for more information.

Diatery restrictions? No problem

Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Food allergies? No matter your dietary restrictions, the cruise lines can accommodate. Don’t wait until you are on the ship to tell the cruise line about your diet restrictions. Call as soon as you book and speak to a customer service agent. They can update you on food options and also make a note on your account to notify the crew.

Wash your hands!

One of the plagues of cruise ships is, unfortunately, the gastroenteritis causing bug known as norovirus. This is because a closed off cruise ship, with a large number of people in close proximity and sharing meals, provides a near perfect environment for norovirus to spread. Norovirus can spread relatively quickly through cruise ships and it can knock you out for several days. Help yourself and other passengers out by using hand sanitizer before and after meals, and regularly throughout the day. It goes without saying that you should wash your hands regularly too!

Wi-fi expectations

I see people complaining about this all the time and it’s the wi-fi speed. Don’t expect fast wi-fi onboard a cruise ship! It can be a hit or miss depending on a ship but usually the wi-fi won’t be that fast, sometimes it’s annoyingly slow and not really reliable but you are on a moving ship in the middle of nowhere so keep that in mind. Wi-fi usually also costs quite a lot on ships so would I recommend it? Yes if you really need it, but what I tend to do is use my phone data in countries where I can do that or I connect to free wi-fi spots on shore (usually McDonald’s offers great wifi services haha!)

Stay updated

Cruise ships run daily newsletters which keep guests up to date about upcoming shows and shore excursions, opening and closing hours of dining and entertainment venues, fun little facts about the places you are going to visit, restaurant specials and new cocktails, and little pieces of information about upcoming guests’ birthdays or anniversaries. There are so many things happening each day and it is possible to have a lot of fun without having to pay for any onboard activities, just make sure to read your daily onboard newsletter!

Check your onboard account daily

Check your account statement every day to avoid some surprising costly items on your final bill! It is easier than ever to check your onboard account since now you can see all of your onboard spending on your TV. It’s easy, fast and this way you can avoid standing in a long line at guest services on the last day!

Smoking onboard

Smoking bans are becoming ever more ubiquitous in indoor spaces such as restaurants and bars. However, many cruise ships are exempt from such bans.On many cruiseships you will definitely be able to smoke outdoors in a certain area and on some ships still on your balcony. Cruise lines that allow smoking on your balcony are Aida, Costa, TUI and Fred Olsen.

Itineraries can change

Storms at sea, sickness warnings at one of the ports you were due to call at, or the opportunity of more enticing shore excursions at a different port, can all change your itinerary slightly when you are on a cruise.


So, it pays to be a little flexible in your thinking, and to prepare yourself for the possibility that the cruise may involve opportunities and adventures that are different to those advertised on the official schedule

Don’t be late!

When you are out on a shore excursion, or generally exploring the bars at one of your exciting cruise destinations, it can be so easy to let time slip through your fingers. The crew of your ship will be very scrupulous about ensuring that everyone is on board before you depart, but don’t keep everyone waiting – don’t be late to re-board the ship as cruise liners have to plan their timings according to tides and weather patterns. Ships will wait for a short time, but will depart eventually when you won’t show up.

Hopefully you will find some of these tips useful! Some of these are really helpful and I wish I knew about them before my first cruise! If you have any other cruise tips you’d like to share feel free to message me or email me! I’d love to add your cruise tips to my list!

If you’d like, you can check out my review of MSC Bellissima or find out which cruise misconceptions we need to leave in 2019!

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