So, you’re getting ready to take your first cruise? How exciting! You’ve surely read through all the information that your travel agent provided, and you’ve probably read everything you could find on the ship’s website, and if you had time, you probably even checked out comments from previous travelers, right? That’s a great start! Here are additional tips that will help your whole experience be more pleasant. I wrote myself notes after my first cruise and have been using them every time since.
- When you pack, keep in mind that you won’t need as many clothes as you think you will. If you’re taking a 7-day cruise, you’ll really only need 4-5 outfits. Trust me! That’s the way it works out. The days that you’re on the open sea, you’ll probably live in a bathing suit and cover-up all day, if you’re in warm weather. If you’d rather have more clothes available even if you don’t wear them, keep in mind that your closet will be very small and there’s no room to leave your suitcase sitting out.
- Speaking of closets, take some of those hangers that you get from your dry cleaners that you won’t mind leaving behind. There won’t be enough for everyone in your room to use. It’s a great idea to pack your clothes already on hangers with dry cleaning bags over them. It makes unpacking a breeze and really helps ward off wrinkles!
- While we’re on the subject of clothes, forget those fancy outfits for dinner. Very few people “dress up” anymore on ships. Instead, shoot for “casual elegance” and you’ll fit right in. Women, throw in a pair of heels to wear with your black capris, or if you’re a man, tuck your shirt into your khakis, and you’ll fit in perfectly!
- Take comfortable shoes!! Make it less about style and more about comfort. You’ll need them while walking around on the ship, and you’ll definitely want them when you go ashore.
- Don’t be shocked when you see the size of your room and especially your bathroom. Don’t let the fact that you can sit on the toilet, brush your teeth in the sink, and shave your legs in the shower-all at the same time, spoil your trip. It will be fun! You’re only in your room to sleep and get dressed anyway.
- If you like to drink a lot of water throughout the day, take your own water jug and have the bartender fill it up. It’s a hassle to constantly go get water and the glasses are really small. Likewise, if you like soda, spend the money to purchase a soda card. The ship will usually give you a thermal mug that you can have the bartender fill up as often as you like. Take a travel coffee mug too, if you like more than one cup at a time.
- If you must make a choice, choose the later dining option. Even if you normally like to eat dinner early, you’re not going to want to rush back from shore to shower and get ready for dinner at 6:00. You won’t go hungry on the cruise!
- Consider eating dinner in the buffet hall a couple of nights. You can dress as casually as you want (even bathing suit cover-ups are acceptable), you can eat any time that you want, and the food is the same as in the dining room!
- When you arrive on the ship, take the opportunity to go to the dining room to check on your table arrangements. If you have children, you may want to request a table with other children so that your kids will have company. Likewise, if you have no children, you’ll probably want to request an adults-only table. At the same time, request a larger table so that you’ll have dining companions. Even if you’re shy about talking to strangers, after the first awkward night, your dining experience will be a lot more fun!
- If you enjoy soaking up the sun while the ship is at sea, scope out a good spot away from the kids where you can quietly enjoy your book. That won’t be in the main area near the pool! There are lots of spots tucked around the ship’s deck that will be perfect! Look early and you’ll be able to reserve your chair with a towel or book, while you go eat breakfast.
- Tuck a bag in your suitcase that you can use as a “pool bag” to carry all your goodies that you’ll need when you’re outside all day.
- Some areas of the deck are very breezy, so take a hat or visor that will not easily blow off. If you’re sunning yourself, and you have longer hair, you may want to take a “buff” or bandana to keep your hair out of your face.
- The sun can be very brutal on the open sea! Take plenty of sunscreen and consider throwing a regular umbrella or even a small beach umbrella into your suitcase. That can come in handy when you want to remain outside but you’ve had enough sun.
- Take advantage of the activities. They really will make your cruise experience more enjoyable. Don’t miss the shows! They are always excellent! Likewise, visit the nightclubs. They often have live bands that are fantastic!
- While we’re on the subject of activities, read the ship’s daily newsletter. You’ll find out everything that is going on from activities to shows to special shopping opportunities. In the newsletter, you’ll often see a meeting for “Friends of Bill W.” On my first cruise they met often and I found myself envious that this group I assumed was a “reunion” group, met so often. I later found out that it was a code for Alcoholics Anonymous. So, now you’ll be smarter than I was!
- Take several books if you like to read, although most ships have libraries. Also take cards or a travel scrabble game in case the weather is too bad to be outside.
Follow these 16 tips and you’ll be well prepared for your first cruise. What a fantastic time you will have!!