Ten Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Cruise

Your first cruise is just days away, and after months of working with your travel advisor, your bags are packed, and you’re ready to go! The excitement is palatable as you’re barely able to sleep the night before your flight. You lay in bed thinking about all the relaxation and fun you’re about to have on your first ship.


Taking your first cruise is as much of a rite of passage as it is a vacation. Cruise life is an addictive way to travel, with over half of cruisers returning to a ship at least once a year. Don’t be surprised if you’ve booked your next cruise before your first one even ends, but more on that in a bit.


Keep reading to learn about which top 10 mistakes that first-time cruisers make. Avoid these and you'll be sure to have a great first cruise!


Ten Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Cruise


1. Not downloading the Cruise Line’s App.


In the post-Covid cruising world, the app will be how you check-in, complete your muster drill, serve as a room key, order food, and more. You don’t want to get caught at the port trying to download an app with crummy data service with everyone else trying to do the same thing simultaneously.


2. Not preparing a budget for the ship.


Cruising provides one of the best values for your vacation dollars, with your room, food, and activities included in the fare. You will have plenty of opportunities to spend on the ship and in port. How much you spend is entirely up to you, but you want to make sure you’ve budgeted how much you expect to spend before you leave home. Additional opportunities to spend money can include drinks, cover charge dining, jewelry, other duty-free shopping on the ship, shore excursions, the casino, and other ways.


3. Forgetting to budget for gratuities.


Gratuities are automatically applied to your room folio each day and are charged for each person in your cabin. If you’ve followed my advice and prepaid these before you left home, you won’t even notice the change in how much you owe the ship. While I’m on this topic, gratuities are how the crew earn a livable wage to support their families. These should never be removed or withheld. If you’re having a negative experience with one of the crew members, speak to guest services to find an alternative resolution rather than stiffing them.


4. Skipping the drink package (if everyone drinks alcohol).


This is generally a hot topic among cruisers who will endlessly debate the “worth-it” aspect of drink packages. I include skipping the drink package as a mistake for your first cruise because you’re constantly thinking about how much you’re spending when you do. This assumes that each adult in the cabin drinks alcohol because every adult will need to get the same level of package. Having taken cruises without the package, I can tell you first-hand how quickly drinks add up. Save yourself the stress on your first cruise and get the package before you leave home.


5. Forgetting to pre-purchase packages.


Before you leave home, you want to pre-purchase as many things as you can for your cruise. Cruise lines LOVE guaranteed money so much they usually discount what you’re buying if you do it before you get on the ship. This includes drink packages, WIFI, and other amenities for your cabin. Save yourself some money and buy these ahead of time. Plus you'll avoid the long lines embarkation day to have them added!


6. Eating what you always have.


Cruises are one of the best opportunities you’ll have to explore new types of food that you’ve always been too scared to order. I get it; you don’t want to spend the money on something you may not like, so you always play it safe when you go out. On a cruise, you don’t have a bill at the end of the meal; use this opportunity to explore new dishes. This is the time to try those dishes that you've always wanted to try. Order the escargot or try the French restaurant.


7. Avoiding cruise entertainment.


Your ship will have so much to do you’ll wonder how everyone does it all. The truth is no one does. The key is that you go out and have fun! You don’t have to worry about waking up for work, so go to the club and the silent disco. Get out of your comfort zone and participate in sunrise yoga with all the other hung-over cruisers. This is an excellent opportunity to not only try new foods but new things in a safe place. Participating in entertainment and activities is also a great way to make new friends.

8. Staying on the ship while in port.


As a new cruiser, fight the urge to stay on the ship while in port. You choose a cruise because you wanted to go to different islands and take new adventures. Book a cultural excursion for each port to really experience the destination or find something more exciting like zip-lining or SCUBA diving. Take time to walk the local shops and find small souvenirs to take home to your friends and family. The ship will be mostly empty for a reason. The port is where the action is at!


9. Skipping the other restaurants.


Don’t get into a routine and only eat at the main dining room you’ve been assigned. Go out and explore the other restaurants, eateries, and food stands. Some may come with a cover charge, but it will be nominal compared to what you’d pay on land for a comparable experience. You’re on vacation and as one of my favorite servers used to say, “cruise calories don’t count.” While her logic was debunked by my scale when I got home, her sentiment remains.


10. Forgetting to book your next cruise on the ship.


You’re going to fall in love with the cruising lifestyle and want to cruise again. Every cruise line has a vacation desk on the ship to help you book your next trip, and in exchange, you’ll get offers that you won’t find on land once you return home. You’ll even be able to keep working with your favorite travel advisor because we’ll get an email letting us know that you’ve booked on the ship. The flight home is so much easier knowing that you’re already counting down the days till your next vacation.


Follow these tips on your first cruise, and I know you’ll be loving cruise life. You’ll suddenly find yourself dreaming of which ship you want to travel on next and start marking islands you’ve visited off your to-do list.


Are you still on the fence about booking your first cruise? Schedule a consultation with me to talk about it. I’ll pair you with the perfect cruise line for your travel personality to make sure you and your traveling companions have a fabulous time.


Rainbow Getaways proudly help travelers of the LGBTQ community (and our allies) research, plan, and book incredible vacations where you feel confident and comfortable to enjoy and explore your destination. We plan each vacation to meet your specific needs, so you’ll have an experience that is just as unique as yours.


If you haven’t already, be sure to request your free copy of The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide to the Caribbean at the bottom of the page.

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