20 universal cruise tips you can’t go without
Whether you’re a veteran cruise enthusiast or it’s your first time, I’ve got 20 helpful cruise tips to help you on your next adventure. Take a look!
My husband and I recently returned from a 4-day Carnival Cruise with my friends from high school. It was a total blast. I also learned a lot from the experience. So here’s some cruise tips that I’m passing along to you.
1. Cruise tips: Add credit card ahead of time
It is expected that each person on the cruise ship pay gratuity. Most people pay for gratuity in one lump sum and it is distributed equally to the staff. Our gratuity came to $110 for the both of us. I added my credit card information to my account online before the cruise began. That way I didn’t have to wait in long lines at guest services before disembarking on the last day. Gratuity was deducted automatically after our cruise. It will save you time and frustration.
2. Don’t stress about your assigned boarding time
We picked a time to arrive and board the ship but we were late. It was no biggie. They will let you on the ship no matter what time you arrive. Just don’t cut it too close the final boarding time.
3. The more the merrier
Cruises are fun for couples but they’re even more fun with a group. We went with two other couples and it was a blast. We played card games, ate together every night and hung out at each port of call.
4. Stay connected with the cruise’s free app
Most likely you won’t have cell phone reception once you’re out on the water. So we downloaded the free Carnival Hub App and paid $5 to be able to send messages to other people in our group. It was money well-spent. Otherwise we would have never been able to find each other on the huge ship! Plus the app has a lot of other helpful features.
5. Prepare for seasickness (even if you don’t think you’ll need it)
I never got sick on my first two cruises. But I got sick on the second day of my third cruise. Sometimes the waters are more rough or your ship is smaller. Regardless, you can buy some sea sickness wristbands, motion sickness patches, or non-drowsy Dramamine. Trust me, you don’t want to ruin your trip because you didn’t plan ahead.
6. Plan your own excursion and save money
When we arrived in Ensenada, we found our own taxi driver, Sabino, who took us all over Ensenada. We did the zipline, horseback riding and a popular tourist attraction called La Bufadora. We ended up paying $60 per person total for all of those activities and our driver. If we had booked the same activities through the cruise ship, we would have paid $225 per person! Plus, we wouldn’t have been able to do nearly as much.
7. Wear what you want
Many cruises have an elegant night in which you wear your Sunday best to dinner that evening. But, you’re on vacation, right? So wear what you want. If you’re not keen on getting dressed up, don’t stress out. I saw multiple people in flip flops and shorts eating in the dining room on the elegant night. They’re not going to turn you away.
8. Dine in and order in multiples
The buffet is nice, but the fun of cruises is enjoying dinner at one of the onboard sit-down restaurants. Plus, you can order two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts if you want. It’s great. Some cruises have a surcharge for the nicer restaurants but I think it’s still well worth it.
9. Don’t be shy about dietary restrictions
My friend is gluten-free and dairy-free. She was worried about not being able to eat anything on our cruise ship. But she told our waiter and they specially made meals just for her. Plus, the buffet had various gluten-free and dairy-free options.
10. Explore the entire ship
Some of these cruise ships are enormous! Take some time to explore. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find. Some cruises even offer guided tours into the captains area, the kitchen and other areas that are normally closed to passengers.
11. Pay more for a balcony or window
Of all the cruise tips I could give you, this one is a must. The staterooms on the ship are tiny but when you have a balcony, it’s amazing. You have your own personal view of the ocean. If you don’t want to splurge on a balcony, get a room with a window. Interior staterooms can get pretty claustrophobic.
12. Bring Ziploc bags and empty water bottle
The cruise ships don’t allow plastic water bottles with water in them. I brought my own empty water bottle. Then I could just refill it in the sink and use it on all the excursions. Also, grab some snacks from the buffet and put them in your Ziploc bags. That way you’ll have snacks off shore in a pinch.
13. Don’t fall for the money traps
Not everything is free on the cruise ship. You use your cruise card for everything and so sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re spending money. But it’s deducted from your credit card at the end. Pay attention so you don’t break the bank.
14. Test your tolerance with a short cruise
Cruising isn’t for everyone. So, if it’s your first time, try a short 3- or 4-day cruise to see if you like it. You don’t want to be stuck on a 10-day cruise and be miserable the entire time.
15. Sanitize every meal
You don’t want to get sick on a cruise. They have helpful hand-sanitizer stations at all the entrances to the food areas.
16. Relax in the adults-only area
Every ship has an area that is for adults ages 21 and older. There’s usually some beach chairs to relax on and some hot tubs. We loved it there.
17. Hot tubs have fresh water, pools don’t
If you want to have a refreshing dip in the pool, don’t be surprised when it’s full of salt water. I guess it’s just too expensive to fill with fresh water. The good news is that most of the hot tubs have fresh water. So we spent a lot of time using those.
18. Take breakfast in bed
Breakfast room service is free on most ships. So, take advantage. It’s not often you get breakfast in bed!
19. Buy a cruise ship lanyard
I didn’t have one of these on my cruise, but I wish I did. I was always losing my cruise card. These handy cruise ship lanyards will keep you organized and worry-free the entire trip.
20. Get festive
Consider the time of year that you are cruising. We went in October and there were tons of people wearing costumes! You can also buy some cute cruise ship door decorations. Plus it will help you remember which door is yours!
I hope these cruise tips will help you on your next cruise. Here’s some other tips that might help:
- Cruise day packing list
- Cruising dos and don’ts
- 25 Tips to save big on your next cruise
- 25 things to do on a cruise sea day
What cruise tips do you have? Leave your comments below.
Related link: Road trips with kids – dos and don’ts