A cruise is the perfect way to cross multiple places on your bucket list off at once, indulge in AMAZING food, let loose and have fun, and suit the needs of the entire family regardless of age. Taking a cruise for your family vacation can be the most fun you’ve had in your entire life. However, if it’s your first time, you may feel overwhelmed. Luckily, we’ve put together 16 important tips for first time cruisers!

16 Important Tips for First Time Cruisers: Dos and Don’ts

Do: Get the Cruise App associated with your cruise line

Whichever cruise line you choose likely has a designated App. It will serve as your lifeline while you are onboard. As soon as you purchase your cruise tickets, I recommend downloading it on your smartphone. Pre-Cruise, it can be used to count down your trip. After arrival, it can be used to keep track of cruise ship time (which is very important when exploring ports), looking up cruise activities and shows, ship maps and more.

Don’t: Purchase Cruise Wi-Fi for your first night or two

Cruising is a great way for the entire family to take a moment and unplug from technology and social media. It can be difficult to disconnect from the outside world and even harder to not post about your amazing views and sights but trust me, it’s worth it. Avoid purchasing cruise Wi-Fi at least for the first day or so. As first-time cruisers, you’ll want to soak every moment in and truly enjoy your family or friends. Plus, the cost of cruise Wi-Fi is a bit expensive and not the best quality! Tip: Most ports will offer places with free wifi. Ask a crew member where you can find the best wifi in port.

tips for frist time cruisers: you can often find free wifi when you are in port

Don’t: Be Afraid to Order Multiple Things on the Menu

Cruising is a time to INDULGE. Around every corner, you’ll find AMAZING food that you’ll dream about long after the cruise is over. One of my biggest first-time cruiser regrets is not taking advantage of this feature. If you want more salmon or steak, JUST ASK! They are waiting to meet your every need. Also, DO indulge in midnight snacks. Room service, pizza, and ice cream are available on most ships 24/7.

Do: Come Prepared to HAVE FUN

Checking into a cruise can be super easy if you come prepared. At the port, you’ll want to have all your documents ready to go and arrive dressed for the fun. Before boarding, you will have to drop your bags off. The last thing you want to do is give them your bags, forget your swimsuit and miss hitting the pool. I suggest carrying a smaller tote with all the things you’ll need immediately or have those items on when you arrive. You can get started with your carefree vacation as soon as you board. The bags can take a while to get to your door so it’s better to prepare!

Do: Stay Out of Your Room

Most people are a little shocked to find out that the staterooms can be a bit small. It’s true, cruise ship cabins are not the most spacious but it’s for good reason. The rooms are just for sleeping. Try to get your money’s worth and spend as much time as you can away from the room. There is so much to see, do and eat so enjoy!

First time cruisers tips- carnival cruise line lido deck

Don’t: Bring Too Much Cash

One of our first- time cruiser mistakes was taking out a bunch of cash. We even went the extra mile to get a good amount of pesos before leaving for our cruise. You truly do not need to do that. Save yourself the hassle and load a bunch of cash on your sail and sign card. It works just like a reloadable debit card while on board. However, it’s a good idea to have about $50 to $100 in small bills cash for tipping and other needs. The ATM fees on board are a bit insane.

16 Important Tips for First Time Cruisers: Don’t Forget these Cruise Must-Haves

tips for First Time Cruisers Tips- What to bring

Reusable Water Bottles

Sometimes, water is not safe to drink in other countries. When traveling to places like Mexico and the Caribbean, the last thing you’ll want to do is get sick. Bring reusable water bottles and fill them up before leaving the ship for your excursions. This will save you money on the cost of bottled water in the country you’re visiting. Make sure to read all my tips on how to avoid getting sick while traveling.

Appropriate Clothing for Dinners Onboard

If you are cruising around a holiday, check with your cruise line ahead of time to see if there are any special themed events on board. Just to be safe, always pack a little extra formal or semi-formal wear. Most cruises include a formal night on board and you don’t want to miss the pictures.

tips for First time cruisers tips- bring an extra duffle bag

Foldable duffle bag or tote for souvenirs

Even when you’re sure you’ve got enough space in your suitcase, you probably don’t. Bring an extra tote bag or lightweight foldable duffle bag to hold all your souvenir goodies. This is especially important on longer cruises. Extra bags can also be extremely helpful in keeping your dirty clothing separate from the clean.

Power Strip

Anyone who has cruised before will tell you that there are like zero plugs on a cruise ship. You’ll make everyone in your party happy if you bring a power strip. No one wants a dead phone on vacation!  

16 Important Tips for First Time Cruisers: Cruise Planning Considerations

cruise ship aerial view

Avoid an Interior Room at All Costs

Cruises can be expensive and choosing an interior cruise ship cabin can be tempting to save money. Don’t do it! Interior rooms do not have windows. On a cruise, you’ll want to get your day started as early as possible. That can be hard without sunlight to get your body clock started. Avoid interior rooms if possible but if not, bring an alarm clock or be sure to set your phone alarm so that you won’t miss all the fun!

Consider Travel Insurance 

When booking your cruise, you probably roll your eyes at the thought of spending more money on travel insurance. However, you should consider this purchase. Travel insurance covers your travel and care should you get hurt or worse during your trip. Not only should you pay for travel insurance but if you can, have a conversation with family about your plans in case you need emergency funds. Traveling to other countries can be a fun experience but you’ll also want to prepare for the worse. The most typical travel insurance can be booked with Allianz Global Assistance.

tips for first time cruisers- let the crew know about any special occasions

Let the Crew Know About Your Special Occasion

If you’re celebrating a special occasion while onboard, be sure to let the concierge desk know. Many times, you’ll find a gift card or discount in your room to enjoy one of the amenities.

Get to Know the Staff

Did you know that your waiter will be all yours and with you for the duration of your trip? In our experience, cruise staff are all such amazing people who go above and beyond to take care of your needs.  You’ll really want to take some time to get to know them. Inquire about their home country and their families. We found out that our waiter leaves his family for 200+ days a year. This is how he provides for his family by sending the money back home to give them a better life. How AMAZING is that?

tips for First Time Cruisers - Budget for onshore Excursions

Budget the Purchase of Extras

As first time cruisers, this was one of our biggest regrets. We didn’t budget getting photos made while on our cruise. Instead, we took a lot of selfies and landscape shots and at the time, I didn’t even own my DSLR. We have so few documented memories from the cruise as a family because I was either behind the camera or my husband was. Budget in the cost of at least 1 to 2 photographer pictures especially on formal night. Also, make sure that you have shore excursions in your budget as well.  

Budget Parking into Your Travels

You know when you’re prepared to purchase something online then the $5 shipping turns you away? That’s how we felt about parking. It’s expensive!! Be sure to do your research before giving in to the on-site parking. Check into park and ride businesses or see if your hotel offers parking.

These are our 16 Important Tips for First Time Cruisers! Most importantly, enjoy every moment of your trip. Soon you’ll set sail to new destinations and have a blast. Bonus Tip: If you decide that the cruising life is for you, book at the end of your trip to score MAJOR discounts. Bon Voyage!

First time cruisers guide Carnival sensation


About Sierra Redmond

I am Sierra Redmond; a mom, military spouse and travel industry expert on a mission to inspire families to travel near and far. On the blog, you’ll find travel and food guides, tips for traveling with kids, Military, all things Disney and our chronicles as new Las Vegas locals.

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