12 Things You Should Know Before Going on a Cruise

I was talking to a friend today who is taking a cruise for the first time.  I started giving her unsolicited advice that I’ve gathered over the years about cruising.  I hope she didn’t mind 😉  Having just come back from a two-week cruise, I couldn’t help myself.  Since I’m on a roll, I figured I’d share the tips I gave her with you all as well – plus a few new ones that I thought of after our conversation.  If there’s anything you’ve learned that’s not listed here & you’d like to share it, then please leave a comment.

  1. Bring any all all toiletries, supplements, medications, etc. that you might need – even if it’s something you only use on occasion.  If you can fit it in your bag and it won’t be an issue at airport security (if you’re flying), then bring it.  Otherwise, you will be paying a huge premium on board or in many ports for these items.  We will now be bringing bandaids, Dramamine, Benadryl, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a host of other things.
  2. Put a white noise app on your phone and use it at night to block out any noise from the hallways (or deck chairs being moved above your head at 1am…see below).
  3. When booking, make sure your cabin is surrounded by other cabins – also on the floors above and below.  You don’t want to hear deck chairs being moved around above your head at 1am, believe me.  Unfortunately, I’ve learned this one the hard way.
  4. Bring books to read, music to listen to on your phone, video games, cards, etc.  There will be activities on board, but there will still be some downtime and you will want to have ways to entertain yourself…and your family.
  5. We have almost always been disappointed in the spa services on board the cruises we’ve taken.  If you book something, don’t be surprised if it’s not up to par with the quality you typically expect at home.  We do still book massages for our first or second day on board, if we’ve had a long flight beforehand.  Even if the massages aren’t amazing, they do still help with stiff post-flight muscles and jet lag.  Always go early and ask for the type of massage therapist that you like.
  6. You can do laundry on board some cruise ships.  Check with your particular cruise line to see if it will be available.  Consider bringing your own laundry detergent and dryer sheets, as they charge a premium for those items on board.
  7. Excursions booked through the cruise lines are generally overpriced.  Do your research before leaving home and book guides or tours through local companies if possible.  Alternatively, many tour companies & taxis offer their services for hire at the ports when you disembark.  You can hire them on the spot.  The only downside is that you are responsible for getting yourself back to the ship on time.  We’ve used all of these methods and have never had any issues whatsoever.
  8. As of 2018, the internet on some ships is still really slow and can be dependent on the number of people online.  On our last cruise, we were told that the best time to be online for the fastest speed was between 4am and 6am (because most of the crew was asleep by then and the passengers hadn’t yet awakened).  Also, we were told that if you can get closer to the wireless routers, you will fare better.  On our particular ship, there were routers in a lot of the public spaces.  It’s worth calling your cruise line and asking about internet service and what the speeds are really like & how to get the best speeds.  Don’t buy an internet package until you’ve researched this information.  One time, we ended up with a package we didn’t even use because the speeds were too slow and the experience too frustrating.
  9. Bring a sweatshirt or windbreaker even if it’s in the summer.  It may get cool in the evening on deck or it might be a little chilly inside a theater, casino, or dining room.
  10. Bring a backpack for your day trips.  They are really great for bringing water, rain gear, jackets, swimsuits, snacks or anything else you might need.  Since we don’t like to add a lot of bulk to our suitcases, we like these.
  11. Get to know the crew.  Learn a few words in their native languages.  Most of them are truly incredible people and are genuinely interested in making your time on board the best it can be.  Crew members also have shore days in the same places that the passengers go and they have often been to the same ports many times, so they are a great resource for finding out where to go and how to spend your time at each port.
  12. Bring rain jackets for rainy port days.  I learned the value of rain jackets living in the Pacific Northwest.  They are way more useful and work better to keep you dry than umbrellas.  They also don’t take up a lot of space.  If there’s ever a chance of rain on a port day, we roll them up and toss them in our backpacks.  If it rains, we simply put them on and continue to go about our day.  You can find an example here.  You don’t need the fully insulated ones – just the shell that makes a great outer waterproof layer.   They’re light and easily packable.

That’s all I’ve got right now, so please comment if you’ve learned something useful that’s not listed above.  We’re leaving in just four days to go on our next adventure, which happens to be a 60-day cruise to Southeast Asia…details to follow soon 🙂