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Top Tips For First Time Cruisers

Sarah has been on six cruises in less than six months and has cruised with Carnival, MSC, and Royal Caribbean.


1. Don’t Forget To Pack Medication

The most important tip of being a first-time cruiser is to make sure you bring any and all medication you might need. Like the rules say, safety first! Also, in addition to medication bring anti-itch cream, there are a lot of bugs on the islands so you will get bitten! I made this mistake once and thankfully I found anti-itch cream in Mexico but it wasn’t as good as the ones from America.

Even if you feel like you might not need all this medication during your cruise, you never know so you should carry it in your suitcase or your handbag anyways. Even though the ship does stop at its ports of call and usually the islands have basic medication, it’s much easier if you know you already have them rather than having to look for them.

This isn’t a cause for panic though, if you forget something there is a medical team on board and you can find the most basic medications like ibuprofen, cough syrup, motion sickness pills, etc. on board for purchase. However, purchasing onboard costs like double or triple the price of you purchasing them at Walmart or Walgreens before starting your cruise.

I always pack more than enough medication just in case I might need it. I usually pack ibuprofen, cough drops, cough syrup if it’s cold season or in these days Covid season, motion sickness pills, anti-diarrhea pills, heartburn pills, allergy pills, and anti-gas or bloating pills. I’ve been on six cruises and I usually only need the motion sickness pills. I’ve used ibuprofen and allergy pills a couple of times but not on every cruise. I’ve also yet to touch the other medication I bring because I haven’t needed them at all but at least I feel prepared.

2. Be Prepared for Choppy Water

The ocean and seas can be unpredictable so you never really know if your cruise will be smooth or not. People that say that they barely feel the boat move are lying. I’ve been on 6 cruises and you definitely feel the boat moving and rocking. Not every moment feels awful but I’ve had a night or two on every cruise where you can feel the boat rocking from side to side.

However, if you’re prepared this is no cause for concern. I’m prone to motion sickness so I just take half of a motion sickness pill every twelve hours on at-sea days and half an hour before the ship leaves every port. For example: on the days we dock, I only need to take a pill once a day before we leave. If the boat leaves at 3:30 pm from the Bahamas, I make sure I take half a pill at 3 pm at the latest then I’m alright for the rest of the night. If you don’t like pills, anti-nausea bands might work for you. My husband likes to use them rather than taking pills and he says they work well for him.

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sitting at the main dining restaurant on a Carnival cruise ship

sitting at the main dining restaurant on a Carnival cruise ship

3. Pack More Than Just Casual Clothing

Something I wish that I knew prior to my first cruise was to make multiple formal casual outfits. I didn’t know a lot of people that did cruises often so I thought that you always had to pay extra to eat at the fancy main dining restaurant. I thought the only dining included in the fare was the buffet but when we did our first cruise with MSC, we found out that you can actually go to the fancy main dining restaurant every day if you want to. When booking the cruise, we saw that we could pick early or late dining at the main dining restaurant but we thought that was only for the first night. Therefore, I only packed one night of formal clothing and like six beachwear outfits.

We ended up eating at the main dining restaurant every night for our four nights cruise so I had to wear the same outfit every night. Now I know to bring at least two different outfits so I don’t have to wear the same thing every day. You can wear casual clothes in the main dining but not T-shirts, shorts, or flip flops so you at least need jeans, a sweater or hoodie, and sneakers packed. Also, some nights on the cruise are called formal nights so to eat in the main dining, you have to be wearing something formal as you’d wear to a fancy dinner.


4. Room Type and Location

When going on a cruise, people always talk about how interior rooms are awful because they’re tiny and claustrophobic. People are always saying that you have to get a room with an ocean view or a balcony to be comfortable. However, this is not true at all! Only once did I get a balcony and that’s only because my interior room had a sewer leak and the ship upgraded us. I always choose the interior and I love it! It’s true that I can’t see outside all the time but the room is pretty big and it’s comfy. I’ve never once felt claustrophobic and because there’s no window, the room is always dark. It’s wonderful for napping during the day and sleeping at night. There’s also very little noise because people don’t want to just hang around a hallway, they would much rather be hanging around outside.

Also, if you’re prone to motion sickness, the middle or back of the boat is a good location for your room. The middle is the most stable so you won’t feel the boat rocking much there. If you can’t get the middle, try to get the back kind of close to the middle. You’ll still feel the boat moving but it’s not awful. The front is where you feel it the most so it’s not ideal if you are prone to motion sickness. I’ve had the front of the ship twice and it definitely feels the worst there.


5. Drink Packages

The drink packages offered onboard are generally a waste of money. They’re super expensive and not worth it. Most cruise lines offer certain beverages free if you’re eating at the buffet so you won’t need it anyways. The drink package is only worth it if you plan to drink more than six sodas a day or if you’re gonna have at least three alcoholic beverages a day. I tend to only drink one soda a day and I usually like hot tea with my meals. The hot tea is usually free at the buffet so I’m only paying two to three dollars once a day for a soda. Therefore, I would never use $50–100 worth of beverages. Also, you have to pay $50–100 for everyone in your room so for two people, you’d be paying an extra $200!

© 2022 Sarah Wong

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