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There’s a reason the cruise world has its army of dedicated followers who spend as many of their vacation days as possible plying the seas. The whole experience is relatively stress free, with planned meals, excursions and onboard entertainment. But for those who are new to the cruise, or anyone looking to get more out of their high seas vacation, here are 23 cruise tips to help you out.

Related: Check out these 10 things you didn’t know you could do on a cruise.

1. Do the math on the drink packages.

A lot of cruise ships offer drink packages, which sound like a nice, worry-free way to enjoy yourself while onboard. But in some cases, you’d have to drink at least 8 alcoholic beverages per day to get your money’s worth with the package. Crunch the numbers ahead of time to see if a package is the best option for you.

2. BYOW

Depending on the cruise line’s rules, you can usually bring two bottles of wine onboard per cabin, which will save you quite a bit on drinks. Most people pick up their bottles at the arrival airport’s Duty Free Shop. Pack it in your carry on; you’ll be able to get it through ship security without any problems.

Related: These are 7 of the most romantic Caribbean resorts.

3. Pack everything you need for your first day in your carry on.

The cruise company will generally pick up your checked luggage and bring it right to the ship for you. Convenient, except that you might not get your bag back until late in the evening, so make sure you have a change of clothes, swim suit, prescriptions and any other essentials in your carry on.

4. Prepare for tight quarters.

If you didn’t spring for a suite, you might be surprised at how compact the showers are. The majority of the cabins feature showers that are about 3”x 3” so if you’re at all claustrophobic or on the larger side, you’ll want to talk to cruise director right away to see if they can accommodate you.

cruise tips_narrow shower

5. The specialty restaurants are often worth it.

Most cruise lines have specialty restaurant that require a slight upcharge of $25–$35 per person. While you might feel compelled to make the most of the meals that come included with your cruise, the specialty restaurants often offer a better dining experience and higher quality food. Just remember that you usually need to make your reservation right away on day 1 or day 2.

6. Opt for the late seating.

Most cruise lines offer two dinner seatings—one early, one late. Pick the late seating because many of the excursions won’t get you back in time for the early seating. Let your travel agent or cruise operator know as early as possible to ensure aspot.

7. Try this “adjoining rooms” hack.

If your group booked rooms next to each other but didn’t pony up for adjoining rooms, you may still be able to share your space—if you have a balcony. Just ask maintenance to remove the divider on your balcony to open up the space. But don’t ask for this until you board the ship; if you ask ahead of time, the cruise company will likely try to upsell you to true adjoining rooms.

Cruise tips-shared balcony

8. Take the excursions.

As soon as you book, check out which excursions the cruise line offers. If you don’t see what you want—for example something special such as horseback riding or a cooking class—you can book other activities directly with tour operators on the ground in your destination.

9. Expect deck chairs to be in high demand.

While the ship’s at sea, there’s not much to do so everybody tries to stake a claim in the seats closest to the pool. Historically, people would try to save pool chairs by waking at the crack of down and laying towels over the seats to reserve them. But cruise lines are now hip to that, so expect the deck police to come along and place a sticker with a time stamp on the back of your chair. If you don’t return for 40 minutes, they’ll remove your towel to free up the chair for someone else.

10. Don’t underestimate the power of a towel clip.

While a cruise may be the only time in your life you ever need one of these little gadgets, they’re essential on any windy ship deck. To prevent your towel from flying off in the breeze, just clip it to your chaise with a fun flamingo or dolphin clip.

Cruise tips-flamingo tips

11. Bring your own pharmacy.

Sunscreen, constipation/diarrhea medication, motion sickness, allergies… Bring all of these medications from home because they cost about 10 times more in the cruise ship’s shop.

12. Prevent seasickness before it starts.

Book a room toward the center of the ship, preferably with a porthole or balcony. You can still feel the motion of the ocean, but the nausea and associated symptoms are worse if you have an interior room and can’t see the horizon.

13. Already sick? Here’s how you kick it.

If motion sickness hits, an onboard doctor can prescribe something, but you’ll have to pay for the visit in addition to the already-inflated price of your pills. If you haven’t been on a cruise before or think there’s a decent chance you could get sick, see your own doctor ahead of time for a medication such as Promethazine or Transderm Scop, a medicated adhesive patch you apply behind your ears. Over the counter, you can opt for medications such as Dramamine and Meclizine, or Sea-Bands, which go around your wrists.

cruise tips_treating seasickness

14. Book your spa package immediately.

If interested in getting a spa treatment onboard, book it right away because they fill up quickly.

15. Take advantage of the onboard seminars.

A lot of otherwise-thrifty folks turn in to big spenders while on vacation. If you plan on buying some fine jewelry in one of your ports of call, educate yourself first. Many ships offer seminars on what to look for in diamonds, gems and other jewelry. They can help you decide where to buy, and many cruise lines even offer a 60-day return policy if you buy from a recommended vendor.

16. Take advantage of the kid and teen programs.

Ships offer plenty of cool features for kids: Think onboard waterslides, rock climbing walls and surf simulators. But a lot cruise lines now offer even better kids activities and excursions, plus fun features like game rooms, circus schools, and teen-only nightclubs, among others.

cruise tips_kids cruise

17. You will need water shoes.

Not even sure what those are? These handy kicks constructed of rubber and mesh are a must on most cruises where they’ll help you avoid cutting your feet on corral or sharp rocks. They’ll be available on your ship for a premium, so it’s best to pick up a cheap pair for $10–$20 ahead of time.

18. What to wear

The look on ships tends to be pretty casual, but before you leave, you’ll get a dress code for each night: Expect at least one formal night and one smart-casual night. Also, swimsuit coverups are a must, as you are not allowed in any dining areas without swimsuit coverage. And while you might be cruising the Caribbean or some other tropical locale, ship decks can get pretty cold at night when the sun goes down and the wind picks up, so it may be smart to bring a shawl or light jacket.

19. Pack for your excursion.

For many of the adventure and hiking excursions, you’ll need a shoulder backpack, since a beach bag will not work. Also be sure to bring an old pair of tennis shoes that you plan to never wear again as they’ll likely become very dirty. And remember that none of the onboard shops are open while in port, so if you need sunscreen or water before an excursion, you’ll have to plan in advance. Similarly, check out any beach towels you might need the night before—you can expect long lines when everyone tries to exit the ship at the same time.

cruise tips_pack for your excursion

20. Avoid the mini fridge

Same rules apply here as at most hotels. Unless you’re really desperate for a late-night snack or beverage, those tiny bottles and packets are not worth the big mark up. If you didn’t bring your own snacks, pick them up from the general store onboard. They’ll cost more than your local supermarket but much less than the mini fridge.

21. Keep your wi-fi expectations in check.

Although cruise lines advertise onboard wi-fi, do not expect the same speed or reliable connection that you have at home.

22. If something’s not right, let the staff know.

Don’t be afraid to complain to guest services if the food, service, facilities or anything else fails to meet your expectations. Cruise lines aim to please and want to improve your experience, so they’ll likely do what it takes to find a solution.

cruise tips_staff

23. Don’t over tip.

On many cruise lines, automatic gratuity for your stateroom attendant is built into your bill. This may be deceiving as you’ll often find tip envelopes in your room on the last day. Check with your cruise line, and by all means ifsomeone went above and beyond, feel free to leave something extra. Any specialty drink/food purchase include automatic gratuity, as well.

discount airline tickets

Tagged: Caribbean, Cruise

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Renee Kovalcheck

Renee Kovalcheck

Renee is an email designer and developer at Orbitz who enjoys cruising, yoga and relaxing with her dog Cubby.
Renee Kovalcheck

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5 thoughts on “23 cruise tips that will change the way you cruise”

  1. The best thing against sea sickness is to prevent it ahead of time. If you take a quarter of a tablet of Dramamine, 20 minutes before the ship starts moving, or before going onboard, you won’t get seasick for the rest of the trip, unless you get into very bad weather. Taking less than the whole tablet, will not make you too drowsy and yet will be enough to prevent nausea, if you take it ahead of time.

  2. Even betteris to buy nondrowsy dramamine meclazine and not worry about getting sleepy.thay way you can get full dose and really kick sea sickness in the butt….

  3. These are really great tips. I have never been on a cruise before and I am so happy to have these tips as I get ready to set sail. I can’t wait to enjoy my time out on the open water with all the of the activities available. With these tips, I will be able to make sure that happens! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the tips on cruises! My wife and I have always wanted to go on a cruise, and this summer we are finally going to. Thanks for mentioning to bring water shoes. I never would have thought of it, but it makes sense to protect your feet as much as possible.

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