Cruises · Travel · travel guide

Cruising 101 – 10 Tips To Make Your First Cruise A Success


I’m no expert, but after taking 3 cruises, I have learned a few things about how to best enjoy yourself on the boat and on the excursions, so today I’m sharing my top 10 tips with you first in a list, and then with pictures!  I hope you find them helpful!

  1. NO HURRICANES – Don’t be a rebel and schedule your cruise during hurricane season like we did.  We had to port back in Miami early because a hurricane was chasing us.  Winter and Spring are the best times to book for peace of mind!
  2. GET MONEY BACK ON YOUR BOOKING – Start with booking at a cash back site – depending on the cruise line, you can earn up to 10% cash back on your cruise!  We saved a good chunk of change booking that way.
  3. NEW SHIPS – Book the newest ship on the fleet if you can.  It makes a huge difference in amenities and activities that are available.   The Carnival Breeze was far superior to the Carnival Sensation, in terms of activities and amenities.  Don’t get me wrong, all ships WILL be fun, but it’s worth it to pay a little more for the newer ship.
  4. PREPARE FOR THE MOTION – If you anticipate the rocking of the ship bothering you, be sure to book a room on the lowest floor and middle of the ship.  This helps tremendously.  You’d be surprised how much even a gigantic boat rocks you as you sleep!
  5. FOOD – Eat in the formal dining room for at least one breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Sitting with other guests makes for interesting friendships.  Also note you can typically order more than 1 entree, dessert, appetizer, etc free of charge in the formal dining rooms.   The buffets are also great, as is the unlimited late night pizza bar! (Yes, I gained 10 pounds after both cruises) To me, the additional charge restaurants are NOT worth it.
  6. BE ADVENTUROUS – Check out the ship’s daily calendar – we did activities like scavenger hunts, karaoke, art auctions, game shows, and comedy shows.   There is something for everyone.  The dance parties at night were my favorite!  Rooms are small because they don’t expect you to stay in them much 🙂
  7. THE CREW – Meet your Captain and Cruise Director if you can.  They’re in high demand but it’s neat to be able to talk to them and get pictures during the designated time (first or second night, typically)
  8. DRINKING – Alcohol on board will make you poor quickly.  Bring your own champagne/wine to help offset spending on this, if you’d like to drink.
  9. CARRY YOUR LUGGAGE – If you have the option, bring your own luggage on board instead of having it loaded on by staff.  This way you won’t have to wait several hours for your belongings and can change into your swimsuit, other clothes, etc at your leisure.
    • SUNSCREEN – seems obvious, but you’ll need a lot the first few days as the sun is much stronger!
    • POWER STRIP – outlets in the room are limited.
    • LANYARD – buy your own online (instead of paying big bucks onboard) before cruising as it will come in handy for your Sail and Sign card which serves as your room key, payment card, ID to get back on the ship, etc.
    • COOZY – If you’re going to drink a lot at the pool or in the sun, it’s helpful to have one to keep your drinks cold.

Pictures below from my Southern Caribbean cruise in July 2014 (Carnival Breeze) as well as our most recent cruise from September 2017 (Carnival Sensation) to the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk.  Hope you enjoy!  

Arrive early in your port to do some exploring.  Banyan trees need lots of hugs!
Miami Hurricanes!
Pose for the ship photos.  They might be cheesy, but they’re fun and a nice keepsake if they turn out well.
Be adventurous on excursions.  This ATV tour on Turks and Caicos was wonderful!
Curacao was my favorite port of all on our Southern Caribbean cruise.  Beautiful Dutch influence.
The elegant night is a lot of fun.  It’s not required to attend, but we enjoyed getting fancy.
Check out all the activities on your days at sea – we enjoyed volleyball, dodgeball, the ropes course, and mini golf
Make sure to try a coconut!
Make some new friends – sitting with others when you’re offered that option at dinner is a great way to do this!
Don’t be afraid to get dirty.  We had a blast on our Mini Jeeps excursion in Aruba!
Bring lots of water and sunscreen.  Don’t get burned on day 1 like I did.  The sun is MUCH stronger down there.
Loved the natural pool in Aruba.  Never once got in the pool on the ship, though.  Too crowded!
Bat cave adventure was a little creepy – I was trying not to squirm here
Pose with the driftwood, obviously!
Don’t jump overboard – that will really ruin a nice cruise for everyone.
Meet your Cruise Director.  Highly recommend booking the ship Matt Mitcham will be on.  He was truly excellent.
Take a surprise selfie with your Cruise Director.  Kabir was a fun one!
Try the local food.  These poffertjes (Dutch pancakes) were the highlight of our Curacao meal.
Have fun with the touristy props 😉 but don’t stay too long in the touristy areas.
Exploring all the different restaurants and bars on the ship is a must!
Don’t curb your enthusiasm – you’re on a BOAT!
Swim with Dolphins on an excursion if you get the chance.  Punta Cana, DR was a fantastic place to do this.
Be sure to wear a tight bathing suit or yours will come off like mine did.  Those dolphins are strong!!

Do you have some cruise advice or a cruise story to share?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments! I’m already dreaming about going on my next one!  Ready to book?  Get started here!

Thanks for reading!


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