10 Tips for First Time Cruisers

I wouldn’t call myself a cruise aficionado, but I have had the opportunity to take few cruises for various vacations with my family. Here is my our advice on how to make the most of your cruise experience:

Get Off the Ship and Explore

One of the best parts of a cruise is the opportunity to travel to places you normally would not go, and seeing so many different places in one vacation. So, get off the boat and explore! You can choose to go with a shore excurison that is pre-coordinated, or you can go explore on your own. Either way, do your research before hand to decide which will work best for each port call – some are more suited for self exploration than others. If you do decide to book a shore excursion, I recommend booking it advance online through the cruise line but you can also book it once you are on board. Keep in mind some excursions sell out in advance of departure. Regardless of what you choose, enjoy your time traveling to new places.

Participate in Onboard Activities

Cruises offer so many onboard activities from trivia to karaoke to shows to competitions to late-night parties … well, the list goes on and on. So, be sure to check out your daily newsletter to find out what’s going on that day to plan out your day. Definitely do something outside your comfort zone…it’s not like you’re ever going to see these people again. Can’t sing and have always wanted to try karaoke…give it try!

Get a Room with a View

Most ships offer four different styles of staterooms: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony, and Suite. After a day of exploring, nothing beats coming back to the privacy of your stateroom. Each room is different in both size and offering, so be sure to do your research prior to booking as each cruise line is slightly different. I personally am a huge fan of waking up with the sun, so I love staying in the Ocean View staterooms.

Eat all you can eat!

Let me start by saying, cruise food is amazing! Seriously! I encourage you to throw your diet to the wind and indulge in all they have to offer. To make the most of your food experience follow these tips:

  • Avoid buffets on embarkation day but instead check out one of the other specialty restaurants or main dining room for your meal. If you opt for one of the speciality restaurants, be sure to book it before boarding the ship. My family usually opts for the main dining room or the speciality buffets on lido deck.
  • You are not limited to one of each appetizer, entrée and dessert in the main dining room. You can also order appetizer-sized portions of entrées as an appetizer or order a few appetizers for your main meal. (My dessert recommendation is the chocolate lava cake! Yum!)
  • Room service is free of charge, except on certain lines for late-night hours. I definitely recommend this if you have an early morning excursion or you enjoy sleeping in, and you can even set up delivery the night before! Definitely helps beating the lines at the buffet first thing in the morning!
  • FREE ice cream — whether soft-serve machines on the Lido Deck or hard-serve stations at the buffet ! Live a little and indulge!

Your Choice Dinning

When it comes to selecting your dinning times you generally have three options: Early, Late or Flexible. Flexible dinning time is our favorite option. This allows you to have a lot more flexibility when it comes to your schedule, and you don’t have to feel rush about getting to the dinning room on time or sitting around waiting for dinner time. There are a few cons, with scheduled dinning you sit at the same table every night with the same people but with flexible dinning you only eat with your party so you don’t get to meet as many fellow cruisers. Also, you don’t have an assigned table so you won’t always be able to walk in and sit down when you are ready. Despite these cons, we really enjoy the flexibility that comes with your choice dinning.

Serenity Deck

If you are 21 and up and don’t have kids, the Serenity Deck is where you need to be vacationing while at sea. These decks offer a space of relaxation that is kid free, a private bar, and a place to get that R&R you want when on vacation. These decks are usually smaller than other decks, but they are definitely worth checking out if you are tired of the constant buzz of your fellow cruise passengers.

Nap Time

You are on vacation, so naps are a requirement. Plus they are awesome! Not only that, but naps will help you stay up late and into the wee hours of the morning when a lot of the activities on the ship are taking place.

Sleep on Deck

“Sea Days” are the perfect time to catch some rays, but there are a limited number of chairs. So, I recommend getting up early, grabbing some breakfast and a chair, and take a morning nap. Keep in mind that you cannot reserve chairs, so make sure you have your whole party present when you start claiming seats.


Don’t let the lines frustrate you, because they are going to happen whether it is in line for the buffet, debarkation or embarkation. Just embrace them and get to know your fellow cruisers!

Book in Advance

Check with your cruise line of preference, but most cruise lines offer the best fares when iteneraries are first posted. Early booking also gives you greater control over your staterooms. I’m a planner, so I prefer booking in advance, but cruises also offer great deals for the last minute bookers.