Top eight mistakes made by first-time cruisers

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Cruising isn’t quite like any other type of travel, so it can be particularly hard to prepare for. If you’re planning your first cruise or want to refresh on the essentials, here are the top eight mistakes made by first-time cruisers.

Book the right cruise
Not all cruise lines are the same. When choosing the one that’s right for you, it’s best to consider budget, destination, facilities and age demographic. It’s also important to consider the length of your first cruise. Don’t take a three-day cruise and expect it to speak for all longer voyages, but similarly, beware of booking a 20-day cruise without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Ocean travel isn’t for everyone, and a few weeks of sea sickness could really dampen the mood.

Packing problems
Many experienced cruisers will tell you that they have been guilty of overpacking, especially on their first cruise. Realistically, you won’t wear every outfit you pack and those uncomfortable shoes need not accompany you onboard. Instead, use the suitcase space for some commonly forgotten essentials such as medications and toiletries. While these may be available for purchase on the cruise you can be sure a hefty premium will be placed on them, especially the sea sickness tablets.

Time troubles
Some first-time cruisers may not realise that their ship has its own time. As your phone may adjust to match the time zones you travel through you can’t really trust technology to keep track of the independent ship time. It’s best to bring along an analog or digital watch that you can set to ship time to make sure you don’t miss any departures or events.

Delayed flights
Booking a flight that will have you arrive in port on the day of departure is risky business. Delays and even cancellations aren’t all that uncommon, and having just one mishap can add extra stress or result in missing the cruise departure. We recommend spending a night in port before cruise departure to avoid this. Similarly, booking a flight home that leaves just hours after disembarkation could cause unnecessary stress at the end of an otherwise great trip.

Forgetting to put phone on aeroplane mode
According to Cruise Fever, using your phone on a ship can cost between $3–6 a minute and uploading just one picture to Facebook can cost you over $40. However, people often forget to treat a cruise like they would any other overseas holiday and end up leaving their phone running as normal. It’s essential to turn off signal, data and roaming to save yourself any shocking bills upon your return home. 

Forgetting to pre-pay
When talking about cruising, people often mention gratuities. This is a fee added on top of your boarding pass that acts as an automatic tip and goes towards the ship’s staff. While every cruise line calculates these differently, most allow you to cancel these automatic gratuities if you wish to tip in person. While gratuities can be paid in advance, most first-time cruisers aren’t aware this extra fee exists, so they get a nasty surprise at the end of their cruise when it is added to their onboard account. Pre-paying for other onboard amenities such as water to your room and your data package can also save you money as costs before departure are generally cheaper than onboard.

Skipping the muster drill
The muster drill is a mandatory safety meeting that could save your life and that of your family or friends in the case of an emergency. Some first-time cruisers don’t realise that it is compulsory and choose to give it a miss. What they probably don’t realise is that every passenger has to be accounted for at this safety meeting, and this means that staff have to track you down and that other cruisers will be inconvenienced.

Cashless cretins
While the phrase ‘cashless cruise’ may inspire the desire to throw your wallet overboard, don’t. First, keeping smaller notes on you is essential when you arrive in port for any expenditure onshore and it’s useful if you wish to tip exceptional staff. Second, if you want to watch your onboard spending – especially if bars or casinos are part of your cruising fantasy – handling cash instead of the illusive onboard account can help to keep track of your spending and save you money. 

Are you an experienced cruiser with tips for first timers? Or are you a rookie currently considering your first cruising adventure?

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Written by Liv Gardiner

12 Comments

Total Comments: 12
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    The time trouble tip is a really good idea. I always wear a watch anyhow, but didn’t realise I had to put it forward 1/2 hour one night, I thought it was the following night, and was 1/2 hour late to a dinner arrangement. yep, you really need to keep an eye on the ships time. but there are not a lot of clocks around a ship generally.

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    My experience was. 1 was take advantage of the restaurants you dont have to eat just buffets. And 2 we weren’t told prehand that there was a dress up night and a formal night. Felt so out of place.

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    If I can’t stand casinos, bars, trivia, etc, is there any point to me going on a cruise?

  4. 0
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    Make a sign.. OUT OF ORDER. take it with you, stick it on a washing machine. That way there’ll always be a free machine when you want it!
    You can’t take drinks on board, so take an empty water bottle and fill it from ships supply if you what to safe on the cost of water when going ashore.

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      You are rather mean – most probably tip your cabin steward 5c if at all. That ‘out of order sign’ is an old one and most of us seasoned cruisers get their laundry done by staff at no cost. So no need for lining up at washing machines.
      I also do not line up at the desk to cancel my gratuities – if you can afford a holiday then you can also afford to tip the staff. I started taking ships when all staff was white and you had to pay them proper wages (60s). Now these days everyone seems to be of Asian origin and we do not want to pay them properly. Is that not also a form of RACISM – so fashionable at every turn of conversation?

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      Bad assumption buckjumping Jim. Most of the gratuities the company collects are dished out from the top down through the ranks. If they paid wages like a civilised society would, there wouldn’t be a need for tipping. By tipping, you and your fellow herdsmen are propping up a very unfair system.
      Yes it is racism, that’s why I prefer to reward the cabin staff as they are the lowest down the peck order. “In the 60s?” Were you a 10 pound Pom? Or were Mum and Dad paying your way?
      Get back on your pony(probably a Shetland) and ride off into the sunset -and take your 5c comment with you.

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      Always paid my own way, Larkie. Maybe a bit older than you are; was offered a free fare from Oz Govt (maybe 10 quid) was never in England at the time.
      Do agree with you about paying staff the correct wage – what you might not know is that all the gratuities you give your stewards have to be declared and if you are from a state room that cancelled the tips they will hand it over or lose their jobs. Don’t worry I know the ins and the outs – you go off to Shetland as you might come from that area, stingy the way it seems.

  5. 0
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    Ok I’m 57 & I’ve still not done a cruise yet so these tips were helpful if not a little off-putting, thanks. So just how do you know just how much to budget for these automatic gratuities? Say what you like but my hard earned money is scarse (thus have never done a cruise in the first place) & an unexpected expense freaks me out, so every dollar does count for me when i manage to afford a holiday.

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      Check for cruises with all in fares, gratuities included, Cheezil61. You will have no problem working out the cost. Just helped a first-time cruiser on board, she absolutely loved it, never left the ship even in interesting ports, did her 7 days and now she’s ready to do it again and might get off now and then. She had no problems with tipping and she was not drinking too much either.
      Look for a ship that is small (they are going out shortly, unless they are luxury vessels I have never been sailing with).
      Good luck with a first cruise in Aussie waters (no passport needed).

  6. 0
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    Quite a good summary of cruising in this article. I am a destination traveller and it pains me to see people getting off in foreign ports just looking for a free wi-fi station to send their mug shots to their grandchildren. It takes forever as all the spots are overloaded with grannies doing exactly the same. Sometimes it works and others it doesn’t. In the meantime it is time to get on board again and where have we actually been?? At the nearest Maccas for 3 hours trying to send photos. Take the pics and show them when you are home again.

  7. 0
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    Get a SIM card for your phone before you board the ship. It won’t work when you’re at sea, but will work when in port or even approaching port, and of course on land, so you won’t have to waste time finding WIFI. A NZ SIM, a European SIM, an American SIM will often cover most of the ports you are visiting. And they are usually very well priced.


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