First-time cruiser mistakes to avoid

With cruising prices some of the most competitive in years, as the industry tries to claw back market share, a whole cohort of tourists who previously wouldn’t be caught dead cruising are making bookings.

However, those new to cruising may find there are a few unspoken rules that more experienced hands don’t even think twice about.

Do your research

There is a cruise out there for you, so don’t just see a price you like and hit the pay button.

Do a little research and find out if the ship is a fit for your ideal holiday.

Price is important, but so is the destination, amenities, fees and charges such as tips, and target audience.

You don’t want to be stuck on a ship of cavorting 20-somethings if all you want is a, well, cruisy holiday. Or maybe you do, no judgement here.

Part of that research is reading the fine print in any deal. Like most holiday packages, cruises are advertised at the bare bones price, which may not include tips, room service fees, drinks packages or spa charges.

Add up all you think you will spend before you make a decision.

Duration is also important. A three-day cruise may not give you the true cruise experience but on the other hand a 20-day cruise could be hell on water if you are prone to seasickness.

Decide if you want a drinks package

This will be a big cost or savings for your trip. If you enjoy an occasional drink you are probably better off just sticking to paying as you go, but if you are a thirsty sort of person you are better off buying a drinks package.

And check if you can buy it early. Often there will be a considerable discount if you pay before embarkation.

Shore thing

If you are booking a shore excursion through the ship, do it early. Many book out very quickly and then you are left to your own devices wandering around a probable tourist trap.

However, you don’t have to be a slave to the ship offerings.

It also pays to read up a bit and find your own fun, often at a fraction of the price.

For example, you could go snorkelling on an organised tour, or you could just do an online search and find a hire business at a convenient location. You have the added bonus of a break from your fellow travellers as well.

Put it back

Don’t be tempted to overpack. Most ships have self-service laundries and all have laundry services.

So don’t gleefully cram every last piece of holiday wardrobe you have into your suitcase high on the holiday spirit.

However, if you are expecting to dine in one of the more high-end restaurants you should definitely tuck in something suitable.

And don’t forget all your medications – especially travel sickness pills – spare prescriptions and toiletries. They can be expensive and hard to find, even if you are in port.

Don’t miss out

Since the pandemic, we have lost all faith in set-in-stone travel plans for a good reason.

With that in mind, don’t plan to reach your embarkation point the day you leave. Leave at least one day spare to cover any slip-ups.

And you never know, it could be a great opportunity to explore a city you have never visited before.

It’s also a good idea not to mess around with departure times. You may like to think the ship will wait for you. It won’t.

It happens so often there is a name for it, they are called ‘pier runners’. Alcohol is often involved.

Don’t dodge the 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 considering your first cruising adventure? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

Also read: Who enforces the law on cruise ships?


  1. “Shore Thing”, doing your own thing at a port, is ok, as long as understand the ship will depart at its stated departure time, even if not on board. While a cruise organized tour will wait for the tour to return if running late.

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