15 Mistakes First-Time Cruisers Make

Sailing can be an amazing adventure of a lifetime, but planning a cruise can be confusing and overwhelming. If you are not careful, you may make some rookie mistakes when planning your first cruise. These mistakes can lead to various repercussions, such as painful stomach aches or immigration issues. However, these mistakes are not exclusive to first-time cruisers.

Even seasoned cruisers can make cruise ship mistakes. The good news is that these mistakes can make for the best learning opportunities and are avoidable. Our number one tip for first-time cruisers is to use a travel agent. Using a travel agent that specializes in booking cruises can help you avoid making some of these common mistakes.

Pro Planning Tip: We recommend using Jessica Lieb with ET Family Travel to book your cruise!

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15 Mistakes First-Time Cruisers Make

1. Thinking All Cruise Lines Are the Same

There is a reason why each cruise line has different costs per night or person. Different cruise lines appeal to different groups of people. Cruise lines are dedicated to family travel, older travelers, and childless travelers. Make sure you know what type of cruise line fits your demographic.

2. Choosing the Wrong Cruise Line

Selecting the right cruise line guarantees you the best vacation experience possible. First, determine the type of vacation you want and then consult a travel agent who can help you choose the appropriate cruise line. Cruise ships offer different types of ships, itineraries, experiences, amenities, and excursions. It’s important to find a cruise line that meets your needs.

3. Booking the Wrong Flight

It is advisable to avoid booking flights on the same day your cruise departs. Flying in at least one day before your scheduled departure is recommended. Flight delays due to weather conditions or technical breakdowns can happen, and arriving a day earlier will give you enough time to adjust to any travel delays. This way, you can ensure you won’t miss your cruise ship’s departure.

4. Skipping the Embarkation Day Activities

It is important not to skip the embarkation activities, such as muster drills, when boarding a cruise ship. Ignoring or neglecting these activities is unwise and dangerous. Avoiding the embarkation day activities may even cost you your life. It is highly recommended that you attend these activities and see what information and instructions are provided.

5. Trying to Do Everything

When you go on a cruise, there are many things to do and places to explore. It may be tempting to do all the activities and visit every port, but this is a common mistake for newbies. Remember, you don’t have unlimited time during your cruise. Instead, focus on doing the things that will refresh and excite you the most. Don’t try to do everything.

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6. Not Understanding Plans Change

It’s important to note that cruise ships may not always be able to stop at all ports as planned. This is particularly true when tendering is involved. There are various reasons why a cruise line may have to change its itinerary, such as unfavorable weather conditions. For instance, if you’re planning to get married in Jamaica during hurricane season, there’s a higher likelihood that your cruise won’t be able to stop there.

7. Not Making Reservations for Specialty Restaurants

If you plan to dine at one of the specialty restaurants onboard, it’s best to make reservations when you embark. These restaurants, particularly steakhouses, are in high demand as the cruise ends, which can fill up quickly. While there may be some availability for walk-ins, it’s highly recommended that you reserve your table in advance to secure your spot.

8. Not Bringing Important Documents and IDs

Always always carry your valid ID and cruise documents with you during your cruise. Some ports require these documents for re-boarding the cruise. Additionally, when going out for shore excursions in other countries, it is important to carry all necessary identification and important documents.

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9. Overpacking/Underpacking

When going on vacation, it’s important to pack wisely. You can’t take your entire closet, so only pack the necessary things. Check the dress codes for restaurants and formal dining nights and pack accordingly. Don’t forget to bring your own toiletries instead of relying on the cruise line to provide them. It’s also crucial to remember to bring your passport and other forms of identification. For first-time cruisers, you may find this top cruise packing idea helpful.

10. Avoiding the Main Dining Room

It’s not a good idea to have dinner at a buffet often because you might miss out on experiencing better food and other culinary delights. The main dining areas always serve several food options ahead of the buffet. Make sure to arrive on time for your meal, or your fellow diners will be left waiting.

11. Not Getting Your Travel Insurance

When purchasing travel insurance, the most common reasons are seasickness, schedule changes, and flight bookings. If you’re booking a cruise, it’s a good idea to consult your agent about travel insurance options. They can help you choose the right coverage to protect you during your cruise. Some cruise lines also offer insurance, which you can purchase directly.

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12. Not Considering the Weather

If you decide to book a cruise tour during the off-season, it can be considered a faux pas. For instance, if you plan a cruising tour to the Caribbean Sea during hurricane season, you might get great deals, but there are chances of itinerary changes or weather delays due to storms. It’s important to know that there are optimal and not-so-optimal cruising seasons during that time. If you have any doubts about cruising during the off-season, it’s advisable to contact your travel agent to help you select the right cruise line.

13. Purchasing the Wrong WiFi Package

One mistake you might make is buying expensive Wi-Fi packages and paying high hourly rates. The cost of Wi-Fi can be very expensive when you check into a hotel or board a plane, but it’s a waste of money on a cruise. The internet access on board is usually very slow, whether you’re doing a simple Google search or uploading an image on social media. This can be frustrating, so it’s better to unplug and enjoy your trip. You can always share your photos and updates later, after you get off the cruise.

Also remember to put your devices into “airplane mode” to avoid any additional charges. You can still use the cruise line’s app while in airplane mode. If you have international coverage on your cell phone you can turn off airplane mode and use cellular and data services when you’re in port. Just remember to switch back to airplane mode before you set sail again.

14. Thinking Cruises are All-Inclusive

Many cruises are cashless, making it easy to overspend on the ship. It’s important to know which facilities and amenities are included in your cruise fare and which ones will cost you extra. Be sure to check your receipts to see if the tip is included. You can also visit the help desk to learn more about what is included and excluded in your cruising itinerary.

15. Not Using a Travel Agent

You should hire a travel agent who specializes in cruises to help you book your trip. Travel agents have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through the complex process of selecting the right cruise line, ship, and itinerary that aligns with your budget. Moreover, they can access exclusive pricing and additional perks unavailable to the general public. Hiring a travel adviser does not cost you anything, but not using their services may cost you in the long run.


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