The Gay Globetrotter

First Time Cruise Tips, Planning, and Advice

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These first time cruise tips will help you plan the best cruise you have ever been on. Whether you are going on a cruise for the first time or 40th, use these tips to ensure you have a damn good time while at sea!

Going on a cruise ship for the first time is an exhilarating experience for anyone. Depending on the cruise you decide to take, you will be met with beautiful beaches, arctic wonders, a cool new culture, and make some of the best friends and memories of your life.

Today, I am going to give you some of my favorite first time cruise tips, from the time you leave your house to the time you get off the ship. So, let’s dive right in (ocean pun, I had to sorry).

What To Wear First Day Of Cruise

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most people dress super casually on the first day of the cruise. Most people are getting in from flights or long drives, so it is often a long day of travel for passengers.

Put your nerves away and get yourself on that ship! You can always dress to impress once the ship leaves. Keep it comfortable for now – jeans and a casual shirt are more than acceptable!

first time cruise tips

How Much To Tip On A Cruise

Gratuities are the one downfall of a cruise and something you should be prepared for, even if you have purchased an all inclusive package. Many crew members and performers rely on tips to help supplement their incomes, so it isn’t something you want to overlook while planning your first cruise.

As a general rule of thumb, budget about $12-14 per passenger per day for tips. A one week vacation will set you back $70-$94 per person, which isn’t too bad if you think about it in the long run. Crew members are subjected to pretty cramped living conditions, on the same boat as you, and are working hard to give you the R&R and papering you are receiving on your vacation!

Your tips can be automatically added to your onboard account, which you settle when you disembark the cruise!

How To Text On A Cruise Ship For Free (ish)

Most major wireless service providers offer cruise ship packages that will run you a lot cheaper than your standard roaming costs. I suggest checking what your service provider offers here, you might be pleasantly surprised!

If you only need WiFi on your cruise, check out check out the Wifi packages that are offered onboard or on the website prior to your vacation. If you have an iPhone, this is usually your best bet (and the option I usually opt for).

Here in Canada however, my service plan through Rogers offers a “roam like home” package which costs me an additional $5-10 per day while I travel out of the country. Make sure you check the terms of service for packages like these though. My plan only covers me on land, which I am glad I knew before I left.

Basically, my service provider will ping the cell tower on the cruise ship, and the cruise line will bill my service provider their rates. Those rates get directly added to my bill. So, check with the cruise line before you figure out your phone rates. You don’t want any unhappy surprises when you get back!

How To Prevent Seasickness On A Cruise Ship

Preventing seasickness on a cruise is a first time cruise tip that most people think they need to know. Cruise Ships nowadays have high tech stabilizers that they use in order to minimize the rocking and rolling of the waves that may cause you to feel seasick.

When you are on the ship, you will be amazed at how little you feel the sea beneath you. I could really only feel the rocking while I was laying down in my cabin for some sleep! If you do begin to feel sick, fear not. Doing things like eating a meal, resting, drinking water, or getting some fresh air will really help with your seasickness on a cruise ship.

Another great way to get rid of seasickness is to focus on the horizon, which is a stable focal point. It will help reset your equilibrium and reconnect your brain with your surroundings!

Without further ado, here are my favorite first time cruise tips! 

First Time Cruise Tips

1. Arrive Early

I am sure you have seen how long cruise lines can be, full of people trying to get through the check in process and get on board. The check in line can really make people restless and irritable.

My favorite first time cruise tip is to head there early. Like, very early. Check what time registration opens, and get there for then. Not only will you skip the line, but get the chance to explore your ship before everyone else gets on there. No lines at the bar, and an empty pool. Score!

2. Don’t Shell Out For Your Cabin

Sure, you might be worried about feeling claustrophobic in a smaller room without a window. But you will seriously be using the room as a crash pad and a place to leave your stuff.

I spend about 6 hours a day in my room, if I even get that much sleep. The rest of the time I am lounging on the pool deck, eating at one of the restaurants, watching a performance, or exploring on land at our port. I find that first time cruise takers don’t realize how little you will be in your room. It is SO different from staying in a hotel somewhere!

A port hole on a cruise ship

3. Don’t Cheap Out

As mentioned above, take the money you were going to spend on a nicer room and spend it on a better overall experience! If you don’t listen to any other first time cruise tips, listen to this one. 

If you are going on a cruise for the first time, or even the 10th, don’t cheap out. Don’t cheap out on the boat, the tour, the packages you purchase… just don’t do it. Okay?

If you try and pinch pennies while booking your vacation, you will be joined by every single other person trying to do the same thing. Make it a memorable experience for yourself and buy that meal package, or choose a fancier cruise line. It’s your vacation, treat ‘yo self.

4. You’re on Vacation… Calm Down and Have Fun!

First time cruise tip of the day – enjoy yourself! You’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean somewhere, filled with a bunch of other people looking to enjoy themselves. There is no reason to worry. Take a deep breath, have a cocktail or three, and get a massage.

You will be waking up every day and rolling out of bed into a lounge chair. It is a fun experience that will make you want to do this again and again!

5. Research Your Cruise Line AND Your Ship

This is one of my big first time cruise tips. Take the time to research your cruise line and all of their policies, such as what is included in your food and drink packages, and how they handle different situations while you are cruising.

Research your ship too. Each cruise line will have several different types of ships. Take your time to familiarize yourself with where everything from the restaurants to the pools, spas, emergency gear, and clubs are. You will have a huge leg up during your trip!

6. Visit The Ports 2 Hours After Arrival

Unless you book an excursion at your port, avoid the disembark lines by waiting a couple hours. Get some sun by the pool or enjoy a cocktail while the lineup of excited tourists goes away!

No lines to get off, and no lines to get back on. Big win!

7. Cruise Ships Are Comparable To Mega-Hotels

Drinks are priced between $10-$15 each on most cruises. If you plan on drinking more than 7 drinks a day (which you absolutely should, in my opinion), look at purchasing a drink package to save yourself some precious coin.

Meals are priced pretty similar, so meal packages are usually a good idea too. I do suggest checking out some of the restaurants on board at least once or twice, but enjoy that all you can eat buffet as much as possible. You won’t have it forever!

8. Check The Buffet Lines

Speaking of buffets, you will find that the lines are usually longest in the early morning, around 1pm, and around 7pm. Avoid these times, and avoid the lines!

There’s nothing like eating 2 plates of food, trying to get a third in, and having it hit your gut while you are stuck in line. Not fun.

9. Explore The Ship On Sea Days

There is so much to see and do on your ship alone, take the time to check it all out! Sleep in, enjoy, a nice breakfast at noon, and grab a tequila sunrise while you roam around and explore (I won’t tell anyone).

In the evening, check out some of the performances on your ship too! These performances can fill up pretty quickly, so check if your cruise line offers ticket reservations so you can snag a seat in advance.

10. Don’t Rush To Leave

At the end of your cruise, you and EVERYBODY else is leaving through the same door, sort of like an airplane.

Take your time! Enjoy breakfast, take a few selfies, be that last person off the boat. Trust me – it’s a lot calmer, and you’ll be back home before you know it with some amazing stories for your newly jealous family and friends.

These first time cruise tips will ensure you have the best experience possible on your next cruise! 

Tell me about your cruise experience in the comments below, I would love to hear about it!