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 how you can avoid them on your next cruise adventure.
15 first Time Cruise Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- Not considering the cruise package options.
Do you plan on indulging at the spa, trying a specialty dining restaurant, or checking Facebook? Cruise lines offer a wide variety of packages for spa treatments, dining and drink packages and even internet packages for guests to select from. Some of these packages can offer significant savings depending on your vacation style.
- Disregarding the cruise line rewards program.
Most cruise lines have a rewards program that you can sign up for when booking. first time cruisers often bypass these rewards programs even though it costs nothing to signing up. These programs can lead to some great freebies during future cruises such as on board credits.
- Ignoring deck plans before booking.
Many first time cruisers assume all staterooms are equal or that all staterooms in a certain 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 their deck plans available on their websites. These plans allow you see what is not only around any given room but what is also above and below it. Depending on what you are looking, for most people should try to avoid booking a room near high-traffic area, such as a restaurant or spa or directly below a night club.
- Forgetting to call the bank before leaving home.
Your banks has the ability to shut down your debit or credit card if it appears that there are fraudulent charges coming through. 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.
- Leaving cell phones on roaming.
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 just can’t wait to upload those photos.
- Arriving in town on the day of embarkation.
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. Arriving the day before ensures that you will have plenty of time to get on board before the ship sails away and doesn’t leave you behind.
- Not carrying 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 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.
- Using the on board ATM.
Even though cruises are all-inclusive, there are many things you will want to have cash on hand for. Extra tips, taxi rides, and souvenirs are easiest to pay for with cash. ATM service fees tend to be pricey (not to mention any fees your own bank applies), so bringing cash from home is ideal.
- Avoiding 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 offer.
- Cruising Know it All Recommends
Not packing a power strip.
Most cruise cabins only have two electrical outlets: a 110V (U.S.) and a 220V (European) plug. Without a power strip, that means your devices way 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.
- Regarding the main dining room as a 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 big 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. This is a great opportunity to try new dishes without having to pay for a new one if you don’t like it.
- Purchasing wine on board.
first time cruisers may not know that they can bring their own bottles of wine on board. Some cruise lines will all guests to drink wine at no extra charge in their own cabins. Even on a cruise that charges a $15 corkage fee (for 750 mL bottle), bringing your own wine can still save money. The up charge for wine is often double or even triple the price you would normally pay. Examples: On Norwegian a bottle of Ruffino Pinot Grigio costs $30. The same bottle costs $9.25 with tax on Totalwine.com. On Celebrity a bottle of Steele Pinot Noir costs $46. The same bottle costs $20.15 with tax on Totalwine.com
- Snubbing the service staff.
You will typically have the same cabin steward, bartender and waiters serve you almost every single day 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.
- Neglecting to pack a first aid kit.
While most cruise ships have medical facilities available, it’s a good idea to bring your own first aid kit. Especially for common ailments, such as headaches, colds, and indigestion. Any over-the-counter medicines or services you require on board are charged to your on board ship account.
- Spending 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 on board services are typically offered at a discount (sometimes 40% off or more) during times the ship is in port.