7 Handy Tips for First-Time Cruisers


Taking a cruise for the first time can feel a little bit daunting. It is not like other vacations, in that once you get on that boat there is no turning back, so anything you need for your vacation you will want to think of ahead of time. If you have never dealt with the boarding process, you might not know what to expect. To help you prepare for the vacation of your dreams, we’ve got a few tips for first-time cruisers to make sure it goes off without a hitch. 

1. Choose Your Cruise Carefully

A couple choosing a cruise with the help of a travel agent

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The first thing you’ll need to do is determine which cruise you would like to take. Cruise lines travel to destinations all over the world and the different cruise lines offer very different vacation experiences, so there are a lot of options available to you. Consider that you will have to get yourself to the port for departure, so you may want to take a cruise that is departing from a nearby port, rather than having to deal with a long and expensive flight. Think about how long you want to be gone, what kind of vacation you want to have, and how much you are able to spend. Then compare prices from the different cruise lines to see which one fits best. If you aren’t sure what the different lines are like, just head to their websites and poke around; they’re pretty open about what they offer!

2. When to Book

A couple booking a cruise online

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Getting the best deal on your cruise is always a priority, and the best way to do this is by booking as early as possible. Cruise lines will typically have the best prices right when tickets go on sale. After that, the price will continue to go up as rooms are filled. Interest in cruising is on the rise after the pandemic, so demand has never been higher and cruise ships fill up fast. You can sometimes see prices drop as their departure date approaches, so last-minute deals on cruises are a possibility. But the most reliable way to get a good deal is to book as early as possible, as many cruises don’t have to drop their prices to fill up all of their rooms. 

3. What to Pack

A woman packing for her first time cruising

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Packing for first time cruisers might seem a little intimidating, but it really isn’t much different from packing for any other vacation. You will, of course, want plenty of clothes to wear, comfortable shoes, phone chargers, and any other basics like that. Beyond that, you will want to consider where you are going and what the weather will be like. A Caribbean destination will require sunblock, sunglasses, and a swimsuit or two. A voyage to Alaska will require tons of warm clothing, boots fit for trekking through snow, and binoculars for spotting wildlife. You will also likely be walking around a lot, so travel-sized amenities are a must. Furthermore, check with your cruise line to see if they have any formal nights planned. Formal nights usually recommend or require passengers to dress up for the evening, so make sure to pack some nice duds if they do!

4. Getting to Port

A group of friends driving to their first cruise

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Deciding how to get to your cruise port is one way that you can add a little extra savings into your vacation. If your chosen port is very far from home, then you may not have a choice other than to book a flight. But if it isn’t too far, it can be worth it to drive yourself, or take a train or bus. This can potentially save you a good amount of cash, as flight tickets are going to be your biggest expense after the price of the cruise itself. Taking a bus or train might not be the most convenient way to travel, but it is often the cheapest.

5. Arrive Early

A man grips his head in despair while trying to fix his car

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One of the most important tips for first time cruisers is to arrive at port a day before your cruise is set to depart. This is so that any hiccups during transit do not result in you missing your cruise. (Under no circumstances are they going to wait for you!) Most cruise ports are in cities that are worthwhile destinations in their own right, like Miami or New York, so you can just use the extra day to enjoy the town as an extra day of your vacation. The price of a hotel or Airbnb might seem like an extraneous cost, but it is much better than worrying about getting to port on time when a flight is canceled or a car breaks down.

6. Checking In and Boarding

A check-in sign that guides cruisers to boarding

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The three things first time cruisers need to remember to bring when checking in are boarding documents, luggage tags, and a passport or ID. Boarding documents will either be mailed to you or can be printed off online. These documents can sometimes be presented digitally, but it is always good to have a hard copy on hand just in case. Luggage tags will also be either sent to you or printable online, these will correspond to your stateroom and will make sure that your luggage gets back to you in your stateroom. You will also want to make sure that all boarding passengers have a photo ID. If you are traveling outside the country, then you will need your passport, otherwise a driver’s license is acceptable. Make sure you have your travel documents handy and not packed away in your luggage.

7. Have Your Credit Card Handy

A hand holding a credit card

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The last thing that you will want on hand to enjoy your first cruise is your credit card. Cruises are cashless experiences, and you will likely want to make some purchases onboard. Much of what you need to enjoy your vacation will be provided, such as meals and entertainment. But there are always upgrades, premium restaurants, and additional entertainment, and none of them will accept cash payment. With your credit card in hand, travel documents handy, and all necessities planned for, you will be fully prepared for the perfect cruise vacation!

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