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.
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.
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.
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.
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?