When preparing for your first cruise, one of the most important tools is communication–with your travel partners as well as with the cruise line. From getting to know the priorities and interests of your friends or family coming along to understanding the opportunities and activities available during your sailing, there is so much to learn (such as knowing the difference between port vs starboard) and get excited about before you even set sail.
Follow these cruise tips for first-timers to ensure that your first cruise vacation is everything you hope it to be and so much more.
1: Pack smart
One of the best pieces of cruise advice for first-timers is not to overpack. The key to maximizing both the space in your suitcase and in your stateroom comes down to using travel accessories that do double duty.
For example, a toiletry kit that holds all your personal hygiene and beauty items could sit on the vanity and take up space, but opting for one that folds out and hangs by a hook means freeing up that space.
Toss a couple of hook magnets into your bag to use as additional wardrobe hooks in your cabin, since the doors are metal. They’re also great for hanging your SeaPass card lanyard or a chic swimsuit coverup.
2: Consider a longer itinerary
While weekend cruises are popular and considered a good way to sample cruising, long-time cruisers will say that they’re quite different from itineraries of a week or more. On longer itineraries, you’ll have the time to truly unwind and explore both the ship and its destinations.
3: Back up your devices
In the days before your departure, move excess data on your phone, computers, and camera memory cards to an external hard drive or, at the very least, sync the photos and data to a cloud-based service so that you have the space required for capturing all the memories you are about to make.
The last thing you want to do is miss the sunset from your veranda because you have to scroll through your devices trying to delete old pictures to make room for new ones—especially if it’s your first time on a cruise.
4: Double-check your data plan
The urge to share your vacation photos of pristine Caribbean beaches and selfies snapped at historic sites is great, but if you are outside of your country and your data plan is restrictive, that sharing could cost a pretty penny. Before starting your cruise vacation, check your cell phone data plan to learn of its limitations and extra fees or, hopefully, lack of them.
5: Understand credit card fees
The same cruise advice for first-timers applies to your credit cards, too. Many companies charge a percentage for foreign transactions, while others don’t levy this fee at all. It may not make a difference when purchasing a few postcards to mail back home, but when your souvenir is a handwoven rug or a special bottle of aged rum, that foreign transaction fee can be aggravating.
6: Wear the outfits you never wear at home
One unexpected cruise tip for first-timers is to bring the looks that typically linger at the back of your closet. These outfits might be “too much” for your everyday routine, but a cruise vacation certainly isn’t your everyday.
With the variety of experiences you can have in just one day—from brunch to poolside relaxation, and from onshore exploration to specialty dining on board—there is so much opportunity to express your style.
Rest assured that your fellow passengers will, too. Cruises are a special place for expression, and being at sea brings out a person’s passion and creativity.
Read: What to Wear on a Cruise
7: Start a group chat
If you’ve booked your sailing more than a few months ahead, make use of that advanced preparation time by setting up a fun cruise chat with your travel partners. You’ll all want to be on the same page about activity priorities in each port before you board the ship.
For example, if snorkeling in beautiful, clear water is something everyone wants to do, you can agree on what port you’d like to choose for a snorkel excursion, and then book it when reservations open to grab your spot.
Many shore excursions are available for advance booking, and popular choices will fill up, so it is best not to be browsing the options onboard when seasoned cruisers have had their top-choice excursions reserved for months.
8: Under-schedule your first and last days
It’s tempting to drop your bags in your stateroom and rush off to the pool, to dining, or to join one of the many activities offered on embarkation day. However, one of the best cruise tips for first-timers is get your bearings on board first.
Treat the first day instead as a time to unwind, both from your travels and from your life outside of vacation. There is no need to rush—you have the rest of your sailing ahead of you. There is only one beginning of the voyage, and it is best experienced doing exactly what you most feel like doing, whether that is strolling on deck to look for dolphins or heading to the spa for a yoga class.
9: Research your ports in advance
If your pre-cruise preparations don’t leave much time to read up on the destinations along your itinerary, there is an easy way to prepare to enjoy the best they offer. Plan to attend the onboard destination seminars which are typically given the day before arriving to the port.
One of the ship’s destination experts will detail what foods, activities, souvenirs, and experiences are absolutely not-to-miss, while also sharing some of the history, geography, and expected weather of the destination. Noting down what interests you have and what tips you glean from the talk will help you decide what excursions to book, while also giving you clues on how to structure your day to make the most of your time in each destination.
10: Protect yourself from the sun
Throwing a tub of sunscreen into your luggage is an obvious choice (especially when planning what to pack for a Caribbean cruise). Since your cruise will take you to a variety of ports, you’ll want to be equipped with multiple forms of sun protection.
Add UV-blocking sunglasses to your essentials, and consider shopping for UVA- and UVB-blocking clothing to wear on days when you plan to be out in the sun for multiple hours. Swimwear and sweat-wicking, lightweight adventure clothing are available in materials that protect your skin from the sun while keeping you cool and comfortable.
11: Pay attention to arrival and departure times
Of all the cruise tips for first-timers, this advice is crucial to making sure you’re actually able to board your cruise. Always make sure to read the fine print of your cruise ticket that details ship departure and arrival ports.
For example, is your ship departing from the Port of Miami or Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale? If you’re flying, you’ll want to make sure you fly into the city closest to your cruise departure port or ensure transportation is available from your airport of choice to the correct terminal.
Even when you’ve got your cities set, there is still the matter of the port terminal. Many ships can dock at a single port, and it can be challenging to direct your taxi to drive around until you spot your ship. Your cruise ticket and contract will specify the departure terminal, such as Terminal 25 at Port Everglades, which is where you’ll find Celebrity Edge homeporting for her Caribbean sailings.
12: Agree on a meet-up spot
Whether you are traveling with one partner or your entire extended family, it is a great idea to agree on one spot where you meet up before shared activities or major meals.
A popular spot on Celebrity Edge, for example, is the sailing ship model made of pearl strands on the second of the three-floor martini bar, midship. It is easily recognizable, central to all elevators and dining venues, and its location in a multi-level bar means that people-watching while you wait is bonus entertainment.
13: Set up your onboard account in advance
The last place you want to spend your first few hours on your first cruise is in line to ask questions and set up your onboard spending account at the Guest Relations desk. Circumventing this is surprisingly easy and can be done when you check in for your cruise online or in the app.
Connect your credit card to your onboard account to make shipboard charges for everything from beverages and specialty dining bookings to shore excursions and spa treatments. Having your account set up beforehand also eliminates having to revisit the Guest Relations desk at the end of your voyage to settle the balance.
14: Learn the lingo
Speaking like a salty sailor is not required during a cruise vacation, but knowing some basic nautical words will be helpful in navigating the ship. To start, familiarize yourself with directional terms like “starboard” (the right side of the ship); “port” (the left side); “fore” (towards the bow/front of the ship); “aft” (towards the stern/back of the ship); and “midships,” (midway between the front and back of the ship).
15: Focus on your wellness
Long-time cruisers know that being at sea is the perfect time and place for focusing on yourself to return home refocused, centered, and well-rested. Cruise ships may be known for fun in the sun and their expansive dining options, but today’s ships also feature impressive spas and fitness centers that give guests the equipment, training options, and classes they need to stretch out and work out, meditate, and re-calibrate.
The best way to explore what wellness options your ship has to offer is to tour the spa and wellness center on the first full day when the treatment therapists and personal trainers are open for questions and consultations.
16: Stay up late and wake up early
Plan to have one really late night and one early morning—but not one right after the other. Being at sea on a cruise is a special experience, and the changing weather is an important part of it.
To truly appreciate the ocean’s many colors as it reflects the sky, take a stroll on deck with a cup of coffee or tea as the sun peeks over the horizon to start a new day. Breathe deeply, savor the moment, and set your intentions for another spectacular day.
Nighttime at sea is another opportunity to enjoy a unique moment of reflection. With the stars above and the breeze kissing your skin, the rest of the world and its troubles fall away, providing space for self-reflection. Or, you can dress up and explore your cruise nightlife options.
17: Prepare to make new friends
Being outside your home environment, and especially having the unique experience of being out at sea, has the delightful effect of literally and figuratively broadening your horizons. Barriers are broken and defenses are let down, and suddenly you are having a heart-to-heart with someone who becomes your new best friend.
You would have never met if it had not been for this fun cruise, but suddenly you are making plans to do it over again next year (or even sooner). Sharing social media accounts or email addresses is easiest, but never underestimate the romance and whimsy of writing actual letters.
With these cruise tips for first-timers, you’re ready to book your first unforgettable cruise vacation. Celebrity Cruises makes it easy for first-time cruisers to experience the delights of destinations far and wide. Book your accommodations, flights, and excursions on celebritycruises.com.