As an experienced cruiser, I've got tons of tips to make your next cruise vacation a breeze.
16 Tips That Will Improve the Way You Cruise
Whether it be your first or your fifth, being on the ocean is one of life’s great pleasures. If it wasn’t then there would be no reason for massive fleets of ships making their way from port to port all around the world.
Once you get a taste of the relaxed lifestyle that is the cruising life you will find that you will be forgiven instantly for not wanting to go back to the peasant life of having to cook your own food.
Experiencing the benefits of laying around on a sun lounge surrounded by music and other entertainment every day and being able to just walk up to the buffet and get yourself a feed is pretty amazing. Booking your excursions and then being able to just wander off the ship straight into the loving arms of the tour guide that will show you the world is very plush when you stop to consider it.
For everyone that is new to cruising and yet to get the cruise travel bug, here are 16 cruise tips to make sure you fall in love with it as soon as possible so that you can start planning your future trips.
1. Drink Packages, Get Bang for Your Buck?
Cruise lines have an array of drink and beverage packages on offer, sounds great doesn’t it not having to worry about the cost of your drinks and just being able to melt into your deck chair with an endlessly refilling margarita whilst you watch the world pass you by.
The thing is that sometimes drink and beverage packages actually are not worth it. Especially if you don’t happen to catch one of them on sale, you are looking at having to drink seven or eight boozy drinks before you have got your money’s worth, this may not represent value if you aren’t a big drinker or if you don’t like to drink every day, even when you are on holiday.
Make sure that you do the math for yourself on this one as value for money means different things for different people.
2. Pick Your Carry On With Care
Your checked luggage will be whisked away from you upon your arrival to the cruise terminal. It will make its way to the outside of your stateroom as soon as it possibly can.
It can be easy to fixate on your checked luggage, making sure that you have sufficient clothing to last the length of your cruise, but you don’t want to do yourself a disservice of overlooking your carry on luggage especially for the first day of your cruise.
It is worth remembering that keeping those things that you need conveniently at hand during that first day will pay you back in spades. Making sure you have a change of clothes, your swimming gear for the pool, and other essentials like prescription medications available in your carry on will definitely help you to relax into the day.
3. Specialty restaurants might seem expensive but...
They are worth it. When you are on a cruise ship inexpensive things can suddenly seem all the more expensive, especially in the case of specialty restaurants when compared to the abundance of free food that is included in your fair already. Most cruise companies offer specialty restaurants at a price, but that price is often not that expensive with it being around $25–$45 per person in total, which when you consider that onshore, it can cost that much for a just a steak alone it doesn’t seem that much when you can get a full 3-course meal.
Of course, you will want to get your money’s worth by consuming all of the free food you can but you might find that you are missing out on the opportunity of having a lovely experience. Just remember to make sure you make your bookings early as my experience is that they book up pretty fast, so maybe even make a quick trip to buck in on the first day before everyone else.
4. A late seating might just hit the spot.
Most cruise lines offer a choice of any time dining or being able to get seating either earlier in the evening or at a later time.
If you don’t have the choice of my time dining my suggestion is to go with a late seating as it gives you more time to get your feet back under you after being at port all day.
I personally like to make my way back onto the ship and have a shower and maybe a little beverage or two, and just chill out and collect my thoughts on the day that I have had. I will then head to the main dining room for my dinner. Trust me that a little bit of a gap will let you re-energize and be more mindful and present in the experiences that you have had.
5. Excursions and tours are where it is at.
When you have got your cruise all picked and locked in make sure that you have a look at the kind of excursions that the cruise company have available for you to participate in, as soon as you book, if what they have on offer isn’t something that you like or you think it might be a bit expensive then be sure to look up local tour providers with good reviews to see what they have on offer, they will likely have similar available and also probably at a cheaper rate.
Some tours can be purchased on the day but that can lead to you missing out if you are a little unlucky. Be aware that some tour providers can have exclusivity with the cruise line and therefore you may not be able to book with them directly, sometimes those bookings can only be made whilst on the ship.
6. Deck chairs, the true treasure of the open seas.
Sea days are your chance to take up the opportunities available to you on your cruise ships.
But after you have taken care of all of the activities you might find that it is time for you to chill out for a bit. Be prepared for the fact that a lot of people have had the same idea and claimed themselves a spot, likely right next to the pool.
This can make finding a spare deck chair for your and your cruise partner a right pain if everyone is claiming them regardless of whether they are actually even near or in the pool. Be aware that cruise ships are aware of the fact that there are fewer deck chairs than actual people and for that reason, they have now started to enforce the rules and will remove your stuff if you have not visited it for a long time.
Don’t worry they will be able to find their stuff with the person manning the towels or at guest services. This is great for those of us that act with some courtesy and just get a deck chair when we need it and not trying to keep one all day just in case the need strikes us.
7. There be power in magnets.
And those little towel clip things that we buy and pretty much figure we will never use.
Magnets are great whether you use them on your doors to make it easier to find your room when you are stumbling back or just to hang a notepad so that you and the fam can leave messages. They will help you. I personally on longer cruises like to take magnetic hooks to hang in the room, these are great when you have your freshly ironed clothes at hand but no extra space to hang them. I also use them to air anything that I might have rinsed like any t-shirts that might have got a bit wet from the pool.
As for the towel clips’ those little babies are great for making sure your towel doesn’t take off into the ocean when the breeze kicks up.
8. It pays to bring almost everything.
When it comes to your possible medical needs during your cruise holiday.
A decent supply of your standard medications is a definite must and a letter from your doctor with a list of your medications just in case. A reasonable supply of seasickness treatments, sunscreen, and allergy medication is worthwhile bringing, as the medications available on the cruise ship are going to cost you phenomenally more then they would from your local chemist or pharmacy. Don’t forget the benefits of hydration tablets and anti-diarrhea medications just in case you tempt fate one too many times with any of the dodgier looking street food vendors.
9. Kick seasickness before you get on the ship.
Book a room facing the middle of the ship ideally with either window or I would definitely suggest a balcony if you know it is going to be an issue.
The thing is when you are inside of the ship you will still be able to sense the movement and shifting of the sea, but if you are a bit sensitive to the motion and have an interior room not being able to see the horizon, will heighten your nausea and that rather annoying feeling of seasickness will get worse.
10. Already sick? Here’s how you kick it.
If seasickness creeps up on you, the ship’s doctor can line you up with some medications to help, but you will end up having to pay for both the honor of the visitation as well as the extra expensive markup, on the treatment. If you think that it might be likely that you are going to get a touch of seasickness then I suggest seeing your local travel doctor or GP before you leave so that they can help you with the usual medications that work for most people like Promethazine, transdermal Scopolamine. There are a few OTC solutions that you can also line up before you leave like Dramamine and Meclizine, or Sea-Bands, which go around your wrists. My weapon of choice is ginger tablets as they are easy on the tummy and do not have any side effects.
11. Take advantage of the kid and teen programs.
For the youngsters in your life, ships offer plenty of cool and fun options: the likes of water slides, climbing rock walls, and even surf simulators if you are brave enough.
Several cruise ships now offer much better and more tailored and age-appropriate games and excursions for kids, plus fun facilities like game rooms, circus classes, and nightclubs for the teens just to name a few.
Don't forget the craft classes as well for those that might have a bit of skill in the arts field
12. Reef shoes are your sole mate.
Reef shoes are definitely your friend. These durable rubber and mesh formed shoes are the kind of thing that you should never go on a cruise without.
These cheaply purchased little beauties will ensure that you don't end up cutting your feet on coral or rocky outcrops in the water that you might not see straight off the bat when you start swimming.
They will cost a heap of dollars when you are on the ship so I suggest getting them before you embark. Before you leave for your cruise you are looking at a cost of no more than 20 dollars or less.
13. Oh, what is a person to wear?
The style and atmosphere on ships are often a very relaxed and casual vibe, but there is a dress code for almost every night, so before you leave, expect at least one formal night, a smart-casual night and of course a themed night. It pays to do a bit of research so that you know the themes that your chosen cruise line has gone with.
A cover-up, for after you have worked up an appetite in the pool is a must also. Dining areas have rules about ensuring you are no within those areas without some sort of coverage. I know for me personally I don't want to see someone’s budgie smugglers wandering past my plate of food, that is for sure.
Keep in mind whilst you might be sailing the seas of the South pacific or any other of a wide range of tropical location, once the sunset fades into the ocean and the evening breeze picks up, the ship decks might get a tad cooler than you were expecting, so it might be worthwhile to ensure that you are carrying a wrap or even a thin jacket, to give you a little shielding from the cool night air.
14. Be sure to pack according to your excursion.
You are definitely going to need some sort of over the shoulder backpack for most if not all of the action/adventure excursions that are available at the port. your little old lightweight bag that usually has your towel, sunscreen and a bottle of water in it, just ain't going to cut the mustard.
Additionally, make sure to bring with you an old pair of running or walking shoes, that you aren't too fussed about not ever wearing again, just in case you go through a heap of mud, trust me this stuff will just end up coming out of those shoes for months on end after the cruise. haha.
And keep in mind that none of the onboard shops are available while you are in port, so forward planning is key, as you will need to make sure that you have all of the sunscreen and bug spray prior to the ship’s arrival.
Likewise, check out any beach towels you might need the night before a port day, as no doubt there will be long lines when everyone is simultaneously trying to get ready for their tender boat number to be called or to get to their tour on time.
15. The signal may not be strong with this one.
Although cruise companies will happily sell you the fastest internet on the open seas, it pays to keep your expectations of what is the fastest internet on the open seas actually is.
When they make that statement they might very well be accurate but you need to be aware that you will likely not be receiving the same kind of speeds that you are used to having on land because this internet will be being routed through satellites and isn’t given a particularly high level of importance when it comes to bandwidth allocations from the cruise ship. When you pair that with the rather excessive cost than it will definitely give you some food for thought.
16. If something’s not right, let the staff know.
If you have any issues whilst on your cruise, don’t be afraid to raise your concerns with guest services if you are finding that something like the food, service or facilities not meeting your expectations. Cruise companies aim to please whenever they can and want to ensure that everyone’s experiences are the best they can be, so they will likely try to do what they can to find a solution to any particular concern that you might have.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Paddy Michelson
Prateek Jain from Madhya Pradesh, India on April 08, 2020:
Wonderful article I really liked it. This article helped me to know something new. Thank you for sharing this valuable information with us. Keep writing.
Richard from Texas on March 10, 2020:
Great tips. My wife and I are planning a trip in late April, assuming the COVID19 settles down.
Shelley mcbrien on March 10, 2020:
Very well written and totally honest. I have been on five cruises and can’t wait til the next one. Relax, kick back, party but most of all enjoy.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 09, 2020:
Informative and useful. Good tips.