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If you haven’t gone on a cruise before, you’ll have a lot of questions. You’re probably wondering what shore excursions are, how to prepare for your cruise, and what to pack.

Here are answers to some of the most common first-time cruise questions so you can set sail with confidence.

What should a first-time cruiser know?

Couple hanging out inside stateroom

How much information you want to soak up before your first cruise is entirely up to you. Some travelers don’t research their destinations beforehand and prefer to be spontaneous.

Others read up on cruise tips for first timers, schedule thrilling excursions, and pack a month before their cruise.

Couple going out of Celebrity Cruises ship

Beyond that, even if you aren’t doing any other research on your destinations, you’ll need to know what documents to bring and what time to arrive in port to board the ship. Your ship will sail off without you if you don’t have the proper documentation or if you’re late on embarkation day.

When taking a cruise, imagine that all timelines for boarding are pushed up by 30 minutes. That way, you won’t be late.

Airplane in the sky

Using Flights by Celebrity is another pro tip. You can book your flight on whichever airline you want (and even use your airline points). There’s a team of dedicated specialists on hand 24/7 to help you in the event of a flight delay or cancellation so you can still get to your cruise ship on time. There’s even a pay later option.

Read: What Is a Tender Port?

Where should I go on my first cruise?

Picturesque Pearl Island, Bahamas

If you have just a few days available and want to test the waters first, consider a short cruise to Key West and the Bahamas. These fun, approachable ports are perfect for first-time cruisers and boast great food, sunshine, and excursions for both unwinding and adventure.

If you’re a seasoned traveler and want to visit favorite destinations in a new way, consider a cruise to the Mediterranean. Instead of worrying about the logistics of planning transportation between places, a cruise ship acts as a floating hotel, whisking you from one stunning coastal city to the next while you indulge in world-class culinary creations and unwind in luxuriously appointed staterooms and suites.

If adventure is calling, cruises are some of the best ways to experience the towering glaciers of Alaska, the unique wildlife of the Galapagos, the icy landscapes of Antarctica, and the lush Hawaiian Islands.

How much cash should I bring on a cruise?

Family walking along shops in George Town

The amount of cash you’ll need to bring depends on where you go and whether you plan to go shopping or try new restaurants while you’re in port. Many places accept credit cards like Visa and Mastercard, especially in larger cities, and ATMs are abundant in most ports.

However, even if you prefer to pay with a card, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand—around the equivalent of $50-$100 USD.

Research the destinations you’re visiting to find out what the local currency is and if U.S. dollars are accepted. If not, exchange some cash beforehand so you’re not spending precious time in port trying to exchange currency.

What travel documents do I need?

Many international destinations require a passport. Even if your destination doesn’t require a passport, it’s always a good idea to bring one in case you need to return home quickly and need to book a flight to do so.

Woman holding a USA passport

A good rule of thumb is to bring along two forms of ID, one of which is your passport. If traveling internationally, do your research to find out if you need a visa for any of the countries you’re visiting.

If you require international air travel to get to your embarkation port, you will need to bring your passport, even if you’re flying to Canada or Mexico from the United States. If you’re planning on renting a car before or after your cruise, make sure to bring a valid driver’s license—and always check that it’s okay for you to drive in another country.

Read: Find Out If You Need A Passport To Go On A Cruise

Couple carrying luggage on a cruise

Before you leave for your cruise, print your luggage tags to access the ship’s amenities and start your vacation as soon as possible.

How do you pay for things on board?

Woman relaxing at a spa

If this is your first time on a cruise, you may think the payment setup on board is similar to a hotel—tell them your room number and sign a slip of paper, or opt to just pay with cash or your credit card.

On a cruise, it’s even easier. Your room key is also your onboard payment card. You’ll use your SeaPass card to pay for drinks, spa treatments, specialty restaurants, casino credit, and everything else you can think of. You can even track your expenses via the Celebrity Cruises app.

Couple talking to guest relations

On the last night of your cruise, you’ll get an itemized list of everything you purchased and the credit card on file will be charged that amount. If you have any questions about your bill or any items charged, you have time to speak with Guest Relations before your card is charged.

Read: How to Prepare for a Cruise

What should I pack for my first cruise?

Couple walking at a beach in Bermuda

This is one of the most common first-time cruise questions that new cruisers ask.

Your cruise packing list depends on the destinations you’re visiting. Tropical, sunny paradises have a distinctly different packing list than a cruise along Norway’s fjords.

For tropical destinations, essentials include swimsuits, sunglasses, cover-ups, sundresses, comfortable shoes for beach days or pool days, and a light sweater or jacket for cooler evenings. Tennis shoes for the gym or exploring cities in port are always a good idea. Leave shoes that pinch or blister at home.

Couple taking a selfie with glaciers as backdrop

If you’re traveling to a more wintry environment, layers are key. Bring materials like wool or heat-trapping clothing (not cotton or linen). Don’t forget the importance of a base layer, and bringing a lighter coat and a heavier coat that you can hike in is very important. A hat and sunglasses never hurt in cooler environments, too.

Read: What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

What should I wear on the first day of my cruise?

Couple hanging out by the bar

Comfort is crucial on the first day of your cruise, especially if you’ve been traveling all day. Comfortable pants and a tee are okay, especially on the first day when everyone is getting settled. Fortunately, with Celebrity Cruises Open Access, you can head straight to your stateroom upon boarding before exploring the ship. Bring a day bag or backpack with your essentials, an outfit change, or a swimsuit so you can take a dip in the pool.

What’s the first thing I should do on the ship?

Couple relaxing inside stateroom

Once you have your SeaPass card and complete your check-in, you’ll board the ship. You could head straight to one of the onboard restaurants for a meal, explore the ship and get your bearings, order a cocktail, or take a break in your stateroom or suite. The possibilities are endless!

What can I do on the cruise ship?

Couple on a picnic

There is no shortage of things to do on a cruise ship. Play volleyball in the pool or learn how to cook delicious dishes in a cooking demonstration. Play games at the casino or see evening entertainment and feats of song and dance at the onboard theater.

Dozens of onboard restaurants to choose from mean you’ll never go hungry onboard. Think interactive, next-level dining like Le Petit Chef, or experience the masterful touch of Global Culinary Brand Ambassador Chef Daniel Boulud.

Couple relaxing at Persian Garden Spa

Spa treatments and an onboard gym mean you never have to compromise your holistic health or wellness, whether you need a refreshed manicure or a full body massage.

Is cruise ship food good?

Couple eating al fresco on a cruise

Celebrity Cruises is committed to culinary excellence, which is demonstrated in each of our exciting onboard dining venues.

Complimentary dining inspired by global traditions transport you around the world on just one ship. Travel to Japan one night for sushi, and dine in an Italian trattoria for lunch the next day.

A platter of Luminae's buttered lobster

There are nearly two dozen complimentary and specialty restaurants for you to choose from, as well as options if you want to eat healthy on your cruise.

You can make reservations to dine in one of the numerous onboard specialty restaurants, or order room service and enjoy dining in on your veranda. Dress up for a night out or slip into a plush robe for ordering in.

What are shore excursions?

Shore excursions are activities that you can do during your days in port. Wine tasting in a Tuscan vineyard, scuba diving off the coast of Bermuda, and spotting Alaska’s majestic whales are just some of the unforgettable experiences you can have on a shore excursion.

Couple at a wine tasting in Italy

There are shore excursions for every kind of traveler and interest, whether you want to unwind on an exclusive beach, learn cooking techniques from local people, or explore a city with an experienced guide.

One of the benefits of booking shore excursions through us is that you don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on the time. Even if you’re late, your cruise ship will wait for you to arrive before sailing to the next port.

You can book shore excursions during your cruise, but if you already know what you want to do in port, it’s smart to book early, even if your cruise is still months away. The most popular shore excursions sometimes fill up before the cruise even begins.

How do I enjoy my first cruise?

Remember, you’re on vacation! Sit back and relax, strike up a conversation with new friends at dinner, and try new experiences. Put your phone on airplane mode and put joy at the top of your priority list every single day of your vacation.

Couple hanging out at the Lawn Club

Now that you’ve had these first-time cruise questions and curiosities answered, you’re ready for some fun! Start searching for your perfect cruise getaway at

Free Vacation Planning Services

Free Vacation Planning Services