Do’s and Don’ts for Cruising for the First Time

dos and donts for cruising

Congratulations on deciding to cruise! You’ve probably heard friends and family tell you how awesome they are, and how they are already addicted, and now you want to try it for yourself? These Do’s and Don’ts for cruising will help you make the most of your first cruise vacation, and hopefully many more to come!

Do’s and Don’ts for Cruising

DO research the ship, the route and the passengers. This will have a huge impact on your holiday enjoyment, so it’s vital you check these things out. A Travel Agent can help you, especially if you’re a first time cruiser, and blog posts comparing cruise lines can help too, check here for large ships and mid-sized here.

DON’T be too fussy about the cabin you book. Chances are, if you’re a new cruiser, you won’t be spending much time in it anyway. Plus, remember that low and centre is good if there’s any chance you may get seasick.

Royal Caribbean cabin

DO make sure you’re travelling with people you know you get on with. A cabin can be very small if there are disputes between you and your room-mate!

DON’T schedule your arrival (or departure) too close to your sailing times. If your flight is delayed, you may miss the cruise, and they wait for no one!

DO take out travel insurance. The costs in the medical centre on board are usually American and will cost a fortune without well as all the other benefits of course.

DON’T arrive at the port too early, unless you enjoy queues. I actually prefer to arrive later in the afternoon, 2-3hrs before the ship departs, but some of you are very keen on getting that first buffet in, so up to you on that one! (if buffets will even be a thing ever after Covid!.)

DO work out the added costs. Depending on the cruise line, some are more inclusive than others. For example, Royal Caribbean doesn’t charge for activities, but P&O does.

Ripcurl by iFly

DON’T forget your travel documents. You will need your passport as well as your cruise documents which will be emailed or posted to you. Also, check if you need any visas for the countries you are visiting. A first-time cruise checklist will help you with everything you need.

DO use a packing list to make sure you don’t forget any essentials. These cruise packing tips by experts will help you.

DON’T spend the day in your travel clothes – pack some shorts/sundress in your carry-on bag so you can get comfy as soon as you board.

DO plan some of your activities whilst on board. Whilst you don’t want to be following a tight schedule, you don’t want to miss out either, and the days will fly by! Note that some of the most popular activities will be easier to get on later into the cruise, such as Royal Caribbean’s iFly and North Star. The cruise may have standby procedures too, such as North Star, where you can hang at the bar next to it and they will call people on if the booked guest no-shows.

DON’T buy the drinks package on board unless you’ve worked out how much you’ll really be drinking, and pre-purchase at a sale rate before you cruise if possible.

DO pack your bathers/swimsuit in your carry-on bag so you can jump in the pool as soon as you board, the least busy time.

cruise ship pool

DON’T buy the souvenir cocktails unless you’re desperate for the glass, you’ll be paying more for it!

DO book your specialty restaurant on your first day – they get booked up really fast!

DON’T assume you’re going to be charged in your own currency on board. Most ships operate on US dollars, but some are local to their home ports.

DO get your bearings and do a tour of the ship…however…

DON’T do the hosted tour, you just don’t need it and can figure out most things yourself…unless you have no sense of direction, in which case maybe it will be useful for you!

DO the spa tour, they often offer freebies and if you were planning on getting any treatments, you will need to book in early anyway.

DON’T head to the buffet for lunch on embarkation day. It will be absolutely slammed with people looking like they’ve not eaten for a week! Find one of the other dining options instead which will be much quieter.

cafe promenade

DO call your friends and family before you leave, whilst you still have phone reception.

DON’T forget to turn your data off after you leave the dock, so you don’t get stung with a huge mobile bill!

DO keep your key card with you all the time. You will need it to pay for anything on board and to access your stateroom. You can buy great lanyards which make it easier to keep it close.

DON’T take the elevator unless you need to, they will be crowded and slow, especially on embarkation day, and you will feel way less guilty eating those delicious desserts when you know you’ve done several staircases in a day!

DO check that everything in your cabin is in good working order on your first day so you can get anything sorted from the start.

DON’T accept an inconvenient dining time. Go to the Maitre’D in the Main Dining Room and get it changed on the first day if you don’t have the dining time or shared table arrangement that you want.

Celebrity cruises dining room         Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

DO meet your cabin steward and let them know any requests you may have. Some guests choose to tip their steward on the first day to ensure good service for their vacation, but this isn’t necessary.

DON’T skip the muster drill – it’s mandatory and you will be tracked down to do it another time if you miss it.

DO unpack as soon as possible to get this task out of the way. You may like to decorate your cabin or door to make it feel more homely.

DON’T forget your power adapters. Most ships have US and EU sockets. Remember that you can’t take power boards with you though, they will be confiscated. And whilst we’re at it, you can’t bring hairdryers, coffee machines, anything with a flame or any type of concievable weapon (water pistols included) either.

DO book your shore excursions asap if you’ve not done so already. They book out very fast, especially the key tourist attractions.

venice gondola

DON’T book a specialty restaurant on a night that you want to watch a theatre show – allow time to really enjoy the restaurant experience.

DO head to the top deck for sail away, and enjoy the live music and festivities which will start your vacation with a bang!

DON’T forget to check the dress code for your cruise and ensure you have formal clothing if required, plus the compulsory socks/long pants for some activities.

DO use the room safe for your valuables, it will avoid any possibility of crimes of convenience.

DON’T get upset if your itinerary is changed. All kinds of things can affect a ship’s schedule, and the Captain will only make the changes if absolutely neccessary – usually with your safety in mind. Please don’t go screaming at Guest Relations when this happens, it’s not their fault, and any refunds/compensation will happen automatically.

DO head to the back of the ship if you’re looking for some peace and to escape the crowds. Most activities will happen towards the front of the ship or on the top decks, so you will generally find a seating area towards the stern which will be more quiet.

open deck seating


DON’T forget to perfect that smile – on most cruise ships you will be photographed – a lot!

DO take a photo of the daily schedule with your phone so you have it on hand. Unless you’re on a cruise which has an app with it on, in which case make sure you download the app on the first day for this.

DON’T forget to tell the cruise line if you have any dietary requirements. Not everything can be arranged when you’re on board and may require pre-ordering, up to 6 weeks prior to your vacation, such as Halal meals.

DO feel free to miss a port day if you’ve been there before or it just doesn’t appeal to you. Staying on board will allow you to enjoy all the activities without any crowds, and relax in peace!

DON’T smoke outside of the designated smoking areas. These are in place to manage fire risks and fines will be handed out if you ignore them. This includes your balcony, you can not smoke on your balcony, or throw cigarette butts into the sea.

DO pack warmer clothes, even for a tropical cruise. You may find that the air conditioning on the ship makes it quite cold, especially in the evenings.

DON’T forget to leave out clothes/toiletries on the last night if you’re putting your case out to be taken by the porters. Leaving in your PJs is not a good look! However, you can choose to take your bags yourself if you prefer, just make sure you can carry everything as you won’t be offered any help.


DO book your next cruise on board if you’ve enjoyed your holiday. You’ll get the best deal on the ship, better than anything offered by a Travel Agent or online, and they’re usually really flexible booking conditions too. The best bit is that it can be transferred to your Agent after you return to manage for you.

Wrap Up

So, there you have my Do’s and Don’ts of Cruising! Do you have any of your own? Did anything surprise you? Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re not sure about cruising after coronavirus, I have written a post to explain a few things for you which you should check out.

Thanks for reading, please share if you enjoyed it – it means the world to me!

See you next time!

Wendy A x

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