Cruises · Travel · travel guide

10 Tips To Make Your First Cruise A Success

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I’m no expert, but after taking 4 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.   Also, look into the patches for seasickness.  I never got seasick but noticed many people wearing those patches on each cruise. You’d be surprised how much even a gigantic boat rocks, especially if you run into stormy weather.
  5. FOOD – Eat in the formal dining room for at least one breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Sitting with other guests can be a great way to make new friends on the ship, but you can always request your own table if you’re not feeling like socializing.  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!  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 out on the deck were my favorite!  Rooms are small for a reason – they don’t expect you to stay in them much, so get out and enjoy the ship!
  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 which is usually the 2nd night of the cruise when everyone is in their elegant attire.
  8. DRINKING – Most cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine on board per person.  We did this and enjoyed being able to celebrate our anniversary with a little champagne.  We also purchased the CHEERS beverage package on one of our cruises which includes up to 15 drinks per day.  I’ll be sharing about whether the cost of that package was worth it in a future post.
  9. CARRY YOUR LUGGAGE – If you have the option, bring your own luggage on board and opt to carry it off yourself.  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.  Also, you won’t have to surrender your luggage the night before returning to port and can just keep everything with you as you debark.
  10. PACKING LIST – CONSIDER THE ITEMS BELOW
    • 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.
    • WATER BOTTLE – Bring one that is insulated and reusable because staying hydrated is important not only on the ship but also in each port.

Enjoy my photo tips below!  

Arrive early in your port to do some exploring.  Banyan trees in Florida need a lot of hugs!
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 in Punta Cana.
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!

Emily

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