Top tips for your first time cruising

written by

updated 15.09.2023

Picture this: a perfect blend of exploration and relaxation as you navigate through stunning destinations, all from the comfort of a luxurious cruise ship. Though cruising offers a fantastic experience, embarking for the first time comes with a lot of decisions that can feel overwhelming. Here are our essential cruise tips to help you chart your course to an unforgettable cruise experience.

This valuable guidance is brought to you by the Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, the world's longest-standing authority on cruising and cruise ships, written by the foremost expert in the field.


Choosing your cruise adventure

Your journey begins with selecting the perfect destination and timing. Cruise options are as diverse as the seven seas, from the majestic landscapes of Alaska to the sun-soaked shores of the Caribbean. 

The key here is to figure out what kind of experience you crave and then choose your destination accordingly. 

Don't forget to factor in the seasons and any special events that might enhance your voyage, like the vibrant Carnival in Rio or the thrilling Formula One racing in Monte Carlo. 

Additionally, be mindful of seasonal variations; for instance, you might opt for a Caribbean cruise during the dry season. If your aspirations include witnessing unique wildlife encounters or natural wonders like the northern lights, be sure to research the optimal time for your voyage.


Choose a cruise with the right duration

Now, let's talk duration. You’ll want to factor in the amount of days the cruise is, in addition to how long it will take you to travel to the ship.

 Short breaks may span three or four days, while typical Caribbean cruises typically extend over seven days and include multiple ports of call. 

On the other hand, more extensive journeys, such as circumnavigating South America or embarking on around-the-world voyages, can extend for 30 days or even longer.

caribbean-cruise-sunset-shutterstock_473348614.jpgCuracao sunset © Shutterstock

Do your research

Preparation is key, especially for first-time cruisers. Luckily, we've got a treasure trove of information at your disposal: the Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, your go-to source for all things cruise-related. 

It's the longest-standing, most trusted guide in the world of cruising and cruise ships. From aiding you in selecting the ideal ship to offering guidance on maximizing your onshore excursions, this guide empowers you to embark on your inaugural cruise fully informed and primed for an unforgettable adventure.


Selecting the perfect ship size

Cruise ships come in all sizes, each offering a unique experience. From sprawling resort ships to intimate sailing cruises, the choice is yours.

 Consider your preferences—do you crave a bustling, activity-filled mega-ship, an adventurous expedition, or a serene coastal waterway cruise? The size of your ship will shape your cruise experience.

Reflect on your preference among extensive resort ships, peaceful sailing cruises, exhilarating adventure expeditions, or laid-back coastal waterway voyages.

penguin-cruise-shutterstock_1133091353_.jpg Antarctic expedition cruise ship © Shutterstock

The view from your cabin

When it comes to accommodations, we've got an insider tip: opt for an outside-view cabin. 

Though they may come with a higher price tag, these cabins offer the advantage of picturesque views, a better grasp of weather conditions, and the ability to dress appropriately.

For travellers who favour a completely dark sleeping ambience, interior cabins—lacking windows—fit the bill perfectly.

Should you have concerns about motion sickness, cabins positioned in the ship's central region often encounter reduced movement, providing a more stable experience.


Dining delights

Prepare your taste buds because dining on a cruise ship is an adventure of its own. Most ships offer a variety of dining venues, so the first choice to make is between set dining times or flexible options.

Going flexible or selecting a later dinner seating gives you more time to explore your ports of call without rushing back for meals. 

Keep an eye on your budget, as some speciality dining venues may come with an additional charge.

cocktail-cruise-drink-shutterstock_652535155_.jpgStrawberry margarita cocktail © Shutterstock

Wellness and well-being

Your cruise isn't just about the destinations; it's also a chance to prioritise your well-being. 

Explore the onboard fitness amenities, including exercise classes to invigorate your body during the voyage. Plus, consider pampering yourself with indulgent spa treatments for a rejuvenating experience at sea.

Striking a harmonious balance between physical fitness, relaxation, and adventure will leave you feeling invigorated throughout your journey.

Before finalising your booking, verify whether your selected cruise ship provides the specific spa and fitness facilities you desire. 

Additionally, if prioritising relaxation tops your cruise wish list, we highly recommend booking spa treatments in advance, as these coveted slots tend to be in high demand and fill up swiftly.


Family-friendly cruises

If you're cruising with the family, choose a ship with excellent facilities for children. Larger resort-style ships frequently offer extensive kids' programs, while smaller vessels may have fewer child-oriented offerings.

On the flip side, if you seek a more adult-oriented cruise experience, focus your exploration exclusively on child-free cruise options.

Family friendly cruiser © Shutterstock

Family-friendly cruise © Shutterstock

Packing for comfort

Worried about what to pack? Fear not! Modern cruise ships typically have casual dress codes, making formal attire less prevalent on the majority of journeys. 

To make the most of your on-board relaxation and shore excursions, pack comfortable clothing and sturdy walking shoes. 

Keep in mind, though, that certain cruises, like speciality voyages or transatlantic crossings, may require more formal attire, so be sure to check the dress code before setting sail.


Budgeting for your journey

As with any adventure, it's crucial to budget for additional expenses. Shore excursions, extra drinks, spa treatments, and souvenirs can add up.

 Some cruises offer drink packages, while others charge separately for certain beverages. Plan accordingly to make the most of your voyage without breaking the bank.


Sunnylvsfjorden fjord © Shutterstock

Don't be late!

One of the golden rules of cruising: arrive at the embarkation port with plenty of time to spare. 

Missing the ship's sailing can result in extra costs and the potential challenge of catching up with the cruise at the next port of call.

If you're planning a lot of onshore excursions, be sure to always to carry copies of your passport and essential travel documents.


Check your cabin

As you settle into your cabin, give it a once-over to ensure everything's in order. 

Make sure beds are made, and the bathroom is well-stocked with towels and soap. If anything's amiss, don't hesitate to notify your cabin steward—they're there to ensure your comfort.


Cruise ship in Venice, Italy © Shutterstock

Explore and immerse yourself

Once you're on board, don't stay cooped up in your cabin. Venture out and explore the ship to acquaint yourself with the ship's layout.

 Knowing your way around key areas like dining venues, entertainment spaces, and outdoor decks can be crucial in case of an emergency.

Sipping smartly

Beware of the costs associated with onboard drinks. Some cruise lines charge a hefty fee for items from the minibar. If you discover a bottled beverage in your cabin with a tab around its neck, read those notices carefully!

 When you're offered a colourful drink on the deck, be careful, as these beverages can be pricey. Also, be aware that gratuities will often be added to your cruise card for specific services.


A cruise ship leaving the Alaskan Glacier © Shutterstock


Cruise lines often offer onboard internet access, but it can be costly. This is due to the satellite-based nature of shipboard internet, which incurs higher expenses. If staying connected is a priority, consider buying an internet package ahead of time.

Cruise tips for first-timers

While these essential cruise tips should help you navigate your first voyage, the Insight Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships will be your ultimate companion. Whether you're selecting the perfect ship, planning your dining experiences, or exploring your chosen destinations, this acclaimed guide will help you embark on your first cruise fully informed. Bon voyage!

See also our guide to the best cruises for each type of traveller, or our expert's list of the 39 best cruise experiences.

written by

updated 15.09.2023

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