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Planning a cruise can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. Everyone wants to have a relaxing vacation without any headaches, but you might not know where some of the pitfalls lie. Here are some first-time cruise mistakes people make and things to avoid on a cruise the next time you take one.
You are not considering the cruise package options.
Do you plan on indulging at the spa, trying a specialty dining restaurant, or checking Facebook? Cruise guests can choose from a wide variety of spa treatments, dining and drink packages, and even internet packages offered by the cruise lines. Some of these packages can provide significant savings depending on your vacation style.
You are disregarding the cruise line rewards program.
Most cruise lines have a rewards program you can sign up for when booking. First-time cruisers often bypass these rewards programs even though it costs nothing to sign up. These programs can lead to great freebies during future cruises, such as onboard credits.
You are ignoring deck plans before booking.
One of the most common first-time cruise mistakes is cruisers assume all staterooms are equal or that all staterooms in a specific class are the same. But that’s not always the case. One of the easiest things you can do to get a great cabin is to review the deck plans. Every cruise line has its deck plans available on its websites. These plans allow you to see what is not only around any given room but also above and below it. What you are looking for will determine if you should try to avoid booking a room near a high-traffic area, such as a restaurant or spa, or directly below a nightclub.
You are forgetting to call the bank before leaving home.
Your bank can shut down your debit or credit card if there appear to be fraudulent charges on your account. International purchases often raise that red flag and can leave you without access to your accounts and with no money. An easy way to avoid this issue is to inform your bank before you leave of your travel plans. You can call the number on the back of your card to let them know. Most banks, however, now offer an easy way to add your travel plans on their online banking sites or apps.
You leave your cell phones roaming on.
Even if you are planning to purchase an internet package on your cruise, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep your cell phone in airplane mode. Phone charges, especially in international calling zones, can rack up fast. Many ports have a restaurant with free wi-fi on shore you can visit if you can’t wait to upload those photos.
You arrive in town on the day of embarkation.
Another familiar first-time cruise mistake people make is coming on the day their cruise departs. Unless you live within a half-day drive of your departure port, we always suggest arriving at least the day before. Airlines and highways often have unexpected delays due to weather conditions, accidents, or roadwork. Coming the day before your cruise ensures that you will have plenty of time to get on board before the ship sails away and doesn’t leave you behind.
You don’t use an embarkation day bag.
On your way to the ship, a porter will take your luggage. You often won’t see those bags again until late afternoon after they’ve made their way through the screening and to your stateroom. Carrying an embarkation day bag filled with the essentials you need to relax and enjoy your cruise before you can access your luggage is crucial.
You use the onboard ATM.
Even though cruises are all-inclusive, there are many things where you will want to have money on hand. Extra tips, taxi rides, and souvenirs are the easiest to pay for with cash. ATM service fees tend to be pricey (not to mention any fees your bank applies), so bringing money from home is ideal.
You avoid excursions from independent vendors.
Every port has a variety of fun things to try, but many first-time cruisers don’t realize they can book excursions on their own and not through the cruise line. Independent vendors often offer the same (or better) excursions for a fraction of the price that the cruise line-approved vendors provide.
You didn’t pack a power strip.
Most cruise cabins only have two electrical outlets: a 110V (U.S.) and a 220V (European) plug. Without a travel power strip, your device will be battling against your hair dryer for a charge. A power strip with USB outlets is the perfect way to keep all your devices charged while you cruise.
You think the main dining room is an a-la-carte restaurant.
The main dining room has a lot in common with a typical restaurant. A waiter seats you, takes your order, and serves you your meal. One of the significant differences between a restaurant and the main dining room is that the food is unlimited. If you order a dish you don’t like; you can request a different one. If you can’t decide on a dessert, you are allowed to order all three. Eating in the main dining room is an excellent opportunity to try new dishes without having to pay for a new one if you don’t like them.
You are purchasing wine on board.
Not knowing you can bring wine bottles on board is a first-time cruise mistake you can easily avoid. Some cruise lines will all guests to drink wine at no extra charge in their cabins. Even on a cruise that charges a $15 corkage fee (for a 750 mL bottle), bringing wine can still save money. The up charge for wine is often double or even triple the price you would typically pay. Examples: On the Norwegian Cruise Line, a bottle of Ruffino Pinot Grigio costs $30. The same bottle costs $9.25 (including tax) on Totalwine.com. On Celebrity, a bottle of Steele Pinot Noir costs $46. The same bottle costs $20.15 (including tax) on Totalwine.com
You Snub the service staff.
You will typically have the same cabin steward, bartender, and waiters serve you almost daily while on board. A little friendliness goes a long way with service staff. They are also great resources for information on different ports and how to get the most out of your cruise.
You are neglecting to pack a first aid kit.
While most cruise ships have medical facilities available, it’s a good idea to bring a first aid kit, especially for common ailments, such as headaches, colds, and indigestion. You can expect to see charges on your onboard account if you receive any over-the-counter medicines or services from the cruise line.
You spend every port day on shore.
While exploring every destination can be exciting, the ship can be a great place to spend a day on the ship while in port. The pools and hot tubs are often empty, making you feel like you have the whole ship to yourself. Spas and other onboard services are typically offered at a discount (sometimes 40% off or more) when the ship is in port.
Spending some during your cruise planning to consider these first-time cruise mistakes will go a long way in helping make the most of your new adventure.