Planning on taking a cruise for the first time? We have all been there, and we have some cruising tips for beginners to help you make the most out of your cruise vacation.
The first time I took a cruise, it was a spontaneous decision to take one, as it was a last-minute sale that we took advantage of. There were a lot of things I wish I had known, or done research on, prior to going. If you are a newbie to cruising, I hope these tips will help you make better choices and decisions than we did on our first cruise, so you can make the most of your vacation, and come home with amazing memories.
Tips for Planning your Cruise Vacation
Cruising is not for everyone; if you have never been on a cruise before, I recommend your first foray into cruising be an inexpensive one so that you won’t spend too much money to see if it is for you. Many discount cruising websites will help you find something that suits your needs. Where would you like to go? If warmth is what you are looking for, two very inexpensive options are Caribbean and Mediterranean (especially western versions of these). Keeping costs down on your first cruise vacation will go a long way to ensuring it is as positive an experience as possible.
Like other ‘all-inclusive’ type vacations, Cruising offers food and beverages at every turn. It is so easy to over-indulge very easily.
When it comes to food, plan your meals properly. I suggest ordering a very light breakfast through room service. This provides you with the energy you need to start your day. Depending upon the cruise ship, breakfast options can vary from toast & jam to cereals/yogurt, to fruit and eggs. After you have your starter, you won’t feel the need to indulge at the breakfast buffet. Do not (over) fill a plate at every buffet you see, and there are many onboard many ships. At dinner, enjoy a nice meal in one of the restaurants. They offer great, well-portioned meals, that will satisfy your belly, including gourmet desserts. If you got a drink package, all of your alcoholic drinks will be included, but watch your intake. You don’t want to be ‘that guy’ that is the obnoxious drunk guy, nobody wants around.
Shopping – remember that everything you buy goes on to your room card and that $100 item may not seem like much, but when you add up room fees, excursion costs, other purchases, tips, etc. all adds up at the end, and can leave you with a hefty bill.
Cruise lines have it all figured out how to get as much money as they can from you. Just because your ticket price was $500 per person, there is a lot more you will be paying for than you may not have anticipated. When you board, they sign you up for a room card, and everything you do, eat, purchase, etc., goes on that card. You do not need cash for anything. At the end of the cruise, you are presented with a bill, that itemizes everything you have done. This can lead to a bad case of ‘sticker shock’ at the end of the trip. There is a daily ‘tip’ or ‘service charge’ that basically covers all tips for all staff as it is a shared thing across the ship. Additional tips for exceptional service can be given to the individual at the time.
Unless you get a drink package, all alcoholic drinks come at a cost.
The restaurants are all free, except the speciality dining restaurants – which can range in price, but average around $20/person.
Other items you might pay for: excursions, family photos, coffee, café items, casinos, bingo, and some other events.
Cruising Tips: There are additional charges for many drink packages that you may not be aware of to cover additional tipping.
At each port of call, there will be several excursions/activities you can take part in while in port, to make the most of your visit. These excursions vary in intensity to suit people of any abilities/adventure levels, and the prices can vary anywhere between $10 and $500 (guesstimate). This is where I believe in spending some money, but not necessarily doing an excursion at every port of call. Planning your excursions in advance can save some money, and help you get the most out of your vacation, and the best experiences out of the destination for you. What you do is up to you, but I recommend picking at least one port where you explore on your own. This is the best way to see the local culture, enjoy great food, and have a real authentic experience. Clearly pick your ‘self-explore’ days appropriately to ensure comfort and safety.
be sure to read our Cruising tips on what to pack for a cruise vacation in your excursion ‘go bag’
Every cruise offers different ‘deals’ to help you maximize your travel experience. Sometimes, these are a great deal, other times, not so much. When booking your cruise, look at the cost of booking with and without packages and see if it is worth it to you.
If you like your cocktails, the drink package can be good; however, if the occasional cocktail is all you will drink, then it is best just to buy as needed. The dining package is nice, but unless you get it for free, it may just be a waste of money. The food in the main dining rooms is amazing – and free.
Other ‘deals’ are the internet, in-room credit, cabin fees, etc. Again, look to see if it is worth it before you jump right in. Internet service is notoriously bad on board the ships, so it may not be worth the price. Evaluate which ‘deals’ are best for you, if any at all.
Departure & Return Ports:
Typically, the departure and return ports are the same, but not always. Keep these ports in mind when booking a cruise. The reason this can be a worry is the cost of flights. Depending upon where you live, a return flight to a cruise port can vary. For example, a cheap cruise to Alaska cost us a lot more because the flight to Seattle was rather expensive. The cost of flights can make a good deal, a not-so-good deal very quickly.
So, basically, the idea is – as a first-time cruiser, know what you are getting into, or you could end up with a hefty bill at the end of your cruise. Look into the whole cost and evaluate if the average per day or per vacation per-person costs are worth it to you. Cruising is a great way for novice travellers to see many different places in one trip, so they can get a feel for the place, and maybe return. They can be a lot of fun if you do it right.
What cruising tips for beginners do you have? We want to hear from you – Contact us!
Thank you for the cruise tips. I’ve never been on one and I wouldn’t have thought of a lot of those points.
Sharon We appreciate you checking it out. Cruising is not for everybody, and not for every vacation, but it is a great way to see a lot of the world.
It is through trial and error that I have come to learn some of these tips. Thankfully our very first cruise was dirt cheap, because hidden costs can add up….as can the calories from the buffet. 🙂