Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First-Time Cruisers Guide

Congratulations. You have just completed your first cruise reservation. But now what? Is there anything special you should do to prepare? How is cruising different than vacationing any other way?

It's best to think of a cruise ship as a floating hotel with many amenities, although not all of them are included in the ticket price. To get to this floating hotel, you may have to travel by air, car or both. So, suffice it to say, although you will wake up in a new place every morning, cruising is quite a different experience.

To make the most of your first cruise, here are some key things to remember.


Be sure to carry the following items with you to the check-in desk and then secure them in your room safe for the remainder of your trip.

- Passport (If leaving the country)
- Driver's License
- Military ID or DD-214 (For military discounts)


Packing for a cruise is not all that different than packing for any other vacation. However, some cruises have dress codes that might surprise you if you are a first-time cruiser.

Common Rules

Dining Rooms: No jeans allowed on some cruise lines
Formal Nights: Men - tuxedo or jacket/dress pants required, Ladies - formal dress
Pools: Proper swim attire

Formal nights vary from ship to ship. However the general rule is that if you are dining in the main dining room, formal attire is required. Check with your cruise line to see if a formal night is scheduled. If you don't wish to participate in formal night, the casual restauants and snack bars will still be open for dining and in-room options are available.

One of the greatest pleasures of cruising is walking around the deck and taking in the 360 degree ocean view. Be sure to pack non-slip shoes and a light wind-resistant jacket. Sunglasses and a pony-tail holder for long hair are also handy.


Cruising allows you to meet a lot of new people, exposes you to variety of foods and provides the experience of a lifetime. Enjoy it to its fullest by bringing along your own over the counter medications and first aid. This will save you a trip to the gift shop, should the expected happen.

Your kit should be able to fit into a small baggie. You may never need it. But if you do, you'll be happy you have the supplies.

Recommended List:
- Airborne
- Dramamine
- Ginger Pills
- Pepto Bismol
- Tums/Pepcid
- Anti-Diareahal
- Laxative
- Aspirin/Ibprophen
- Band-aids
- Neosporin
- Any prescription medications you are on


Airport transfers can be purchased from your cruise line. These shuttles will pick you up from the airport and take you to the cruise terminal and back. However, depending on cost you may also want to check the price with Super Shuttle.

Parking at the cruise terminal can range from $8-$20 a day depending on your point of departure.

Arrival Time

Plan to arrive at least four hours before your cruise is scheduled to depart. You will be able to check your luggage, leisurely check in and take your boarding photos without rushing. Arriving early is also the best way to increase your chances of getting an upgrade, should you want it.


Cruise ships are full of extras that are not included in your ticket price. Including room in your budget for on-board photos, soft drinks, alcohol, shopping and gambling is a good idea.

Possibly the least known and most surprising of extras to many first-time cruisers is the gratuity. Bring $10-$15 cash per person per day. Some cruise lines include gratuity in the final bill that is placed in your cabin on the last day of the cruise. However, some work on the envelope system, where you place the cash and envelope and leave it in your cabin. Check with your cruise line for the system they use for gratuities.

Most of all, enjoy your cruise. Nothing beats going to sleep and waking up in a different city or even a different country. Take lots of photos and be prepared to make your friends jealous.

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