Tips For First Time Cruisers

As a seasoned cruiser I know that your first cruise can be intimidating. You’re not sure what to pack, what to expect or what to do. I thought I may be able to ease your worry with some things I’ve learned over the years. I hope you find it helpful. Enjoy!

Headed to a tropical destination via Carnival Cruise Lines

Pack Light and Smart

I know this can be tough but you may soon regret bringing your entire closet once you realize what limited space you have. If you are traveling with friends I suggest having only one person bring a hair straightener, hair dryer, etc. Usually there’s just one outlet in the room so more than one of each item is overkill.

Also, consider packing versatile pieces that can be worn more than once such as this fabulous convertible dress. Bring a variety of accessories for a different look each time.

Your checked luggage may take awhile to get back to you so pack your carry on bag accordingly. I suggest any medicine, electronics and make-up stay with you. I would even pack an extra change of clothes just in case your bags aren’t returned before dinner and you want to change. Towels are provided aboard the ship so don’t bother bringing your own.

When it comes to sneaking in alcohol (not that I’m suggesting you do so) keep in mind that security will inspect all liquids. This means they’ll be smelling and shaking (alcohol fizzes, water doesn’t) everything.

NOTE: Bring medication in the event of motion sickness. Even if you usually never get sick do not underestimate the power of a constantly moving vessel.

Formal Night – Spring Break 2010

Spend Carefully

Nowhere on the ship takes cash or credit. Instead you’ll have a ‘cruise card’ that you will use for all purchases and is linked to a credit card that you provide beforehand. The bill is delivered to your room on the last night of the cruise. It can be really easy to lose track of what you’re spending so make a note of purchases you make.

Also, review your statement carefully to make sure there are no unexplained charges. I once lost my card on the ship and had several unauthorized purchases. You can dispute charges at customer service.

Things that cost money on a cruise are usually cold drinks, alcoholic beverages, spa services, gift shop purchases, casino activity, and Internet usage. Food, tea & juices and most activities are included.

NOTE: There will be plenty of opportunities to take professional pictures. Just remember that they add up. Maybe pick one night (perhaps formal dinner night) for a family or group picture.

Pace Yourself

There are a lot of activities on board a cruise ship which can easily exhaust the most energized person. Don’t feel like you have to do everything. My favorite thing to do while cruising is snagging a chair by the pool with a book and my iPod. A vacation is just as much about rest and relaxation as it is about seeing and doing. What good is setting sail if you never enjoy the ocean breezes?

Also, food is abundant on a cruise so just remember that it’s not going anywhere so you don’t have to eat every time you see a buffet. Try not to eat yourself into a coma although I have to admit it’s really tough.

NOTE: Take advantage of room service if you’re too exhausted to leave your room for a midnight snack.


Wherever you destination, keep in mind that enjoying the scenery of that place is always free. I’ve paid for excursions and quickly realized that I could have done the same thing on my own. For instance, why pay for someone to bring you to a beach when you could have easily found a spot on your own? I personally prefer to walk in and out of shops at my own leisure and explore the beaches and other hot spots solo.

My uncle and I getting ready to explore Mexico

If you feel that’s too far out of your comfort zone and you’d prefer the convenience of a guide I suggest you book while on the ship. Booking excursions via your cruise line comes with guarantees that booking on your own will not.

Be adventurous when choosing your excursions. You can sit on a boat and drink anytime but when is the next time you’ll have the opportunity to para-sail or snorkel with stingrays?

NOTE: Excursion can fill up fast so if there’s something you simply must do book it early to insure your spot.


I would say ‘You’re on vacation, ditch the electronics!’, but the fact of the matter is that you won’t have much of a choice so just make peace with the fact that you’re not going to be connected. You can make phone calls for awhile but may want to turn your phone off before it begins to roam.

Also, internet is available but it’s not cheap so I refrain from checking your Facebook updates . I like to bring my laptop so that I can store my pictures when clearing my cameras memory card or to download movies/tv shows but it isn’t much use beyond that.

NOTE: Remember to pack batteries or chargers for your camera, music device, etc.


– Double check that you’ve packed the necessary documents needed to board the ship and make copies in case you lose originals while traveling.

– Remember that viruses spread fast so take preventative measures from getting sick. This includes packing cold medicine, washing your hands often, etc. Also, remember to bring any prescription medications and to keep it in the original bottles.

– If you forget something chances are you can pick it up in the gift shop but keep in mind how expensive that can get. Here’s what I like to bring: book(s), magazines, extra strength Tylenol, hand sanitizer, an extra set of earphones, sunblock, an extra pair of sunglasses, plenty of hair bands. I am sure I’m forgetting something.

– Things may be hectic the day before departing but consider getting a manicure, eyebrow wax, bikini wax, and even your hair trimmed. It’ll make you feel fresh and put together.

I think that’s it.

Above all have fun. It won’t be long before you’re back to the real world and that fabulous cruise vacation is a distant memory so enjoy it while it lasts!

Published by Ashley Zoerner

I'm originally from New Orleans, LA and grew up in the nearby town of Waveland, MS. I graduated from Georgia State University with a communications degree in 2010. Since then I've traveled the country and world meeting the most interesting people. My dream is to tell people's stories and share my passions with the world.

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