You just booked a cruise. Awesome! Now, it’s time to get a few things done.
I love that “I-just-booked-a-cruise” rush after securing a cruise vacation. But besides celebrating and sharing the news with a few friends, there are some details you’ll want to get on top of before too much time goes by.
Some of the things on this list should be done as soon as possible, but even for the less time-sensitive things you’ll want to at least be aware of them before that cruise date sneaks up on you.
After booking a cruise, here are 15 things you should do:
1. Check that info
Make sure the information in your booking is correct. Everything from the spelling of the names on the booking to the cruise date are easy to overlook, but it’s a good time to make sure it’s all correct to save you some frustration later on.
Just a few weeks ago I was very close to booking a cruise for the wrong year. In my haste to nab a good deal I almost booked a cruise for 2024 that I meant for 2023. So yeah, it happens.
You also want to double-check the dining time preference. Usually, you select this time during the booking process, but it can be changed if you picked the wrong one.
Of course, you should make sure all your info is correct while you’re filling out the booking form but a quick double-check right after is always a good idea.
2. Mark your calendar with important reminders
This is something I always do immediately after I book a cruise. You don’t want the final payment date to sneak up on you or pass by without remembering to settle it. Mark any payment dates on your calendar, whether it’s the one on your phone or the one hanging from the fridge.
You also should mark the dates when certain reservations open up. This is especially true if your cruise is a long way off and you don’t want to forget to reserve an excursion, restaurant or other activity that is on a first-come, first-served basis. These reservations usually have specific dates before the cruise when passengers can secure those reservations.
3. Get your account on the cruise line’s website or app
If you don’t already have an account with the cruise line you should get one as soon as you can. Even if you are booking through a travel agent or 3rd party website you should have an account you can check out directly on the cruise line’s website.
This will allow you to check on the status of your cruise, your final payment date, your loyalty status, and all the extra amenities you can have on your cruise.
With most cruise line apps you can check-in right on your phone, making the whole process a breeze as well.
To go with the last point, I recommend finding out the soonest you can check-in and marking your calendar so you can get the best boarding time on embarkation day.
Carnival allows you to check-in 14 days before a sailing, for Royal Caribbean it’s 45 days, and for Norwegian Cruise Line it’s 21 days. But check with your cruise line to make sure of this date and then slap it on the calendar.
I recently wrote on how to get on your cruise ship as fast as possible with some other tips on this subject as well.
4. Add your booking extras
If you’re going to want Wi-Fi, a spa treatment, or drink package on the ship this is a good time to add these to your reservation. It’s always cheaper to pay for this ahead of your cruise than to wait until you’re on the ship as cruise line’s offer discounts for buying them ahead of time.
If you are set on certain excursions you want to do through the cruise line this is the time to add them. Some of the more exotic or off-the beaten path excursions can fill up and sell out quickly
You can also add some room décor or arrival treats if your cruise is for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary.
Some cruise lines like Carnival will give you a discount for adding multiple things like Wi-Fi and excursions onto your booking, giving another reason to add these extras shortly after you book.
5. Check airfare
If you don’t live within driving distance of the cruise port you will want to check on flights right away.
The longer you wait to book a flight the more chances costs will go up. But this is not always the case. I recommend checking on airfare costs and then tracking prices over the next few days if you feel the price is too steep. Either way, you will want to book those flights well before your cruise.
You can use a price tracker through Kayak or Google flight price alerts to stay on top of any fluctuations.
Ideally, I like to look at flight costs before I book a cruise because depending on where you’re going this can be a huge part of your travel budget. If I’m cruising out of the US though I may prioritize a good cruise deal first and find an affordable flight later.
6. Look at hotels near the cruise port for a pre-cruise hotel
If flying to a cruise port I always recommend getting a hotel for at least one night before. The stress of flying to a cruise port on the day of the sailing is just not worth it in my opinion. I’ve done it before, and staying in a hotel ahead of time makes for a much more relaxing experience.
So, after booking your cruise it’s a great time to check out hotels near the cruise port. You can often find hotels with free shuttle services to the cruise port. In certain areas like Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida there are many hotels that provide extra services for cruise travelers.
Additionally, you can also book a hotel both before and after your cruise, so you never have to worry about delays with your flights on either side of your vacation.
7. Plan your transfers
On top of getting a flight and hotel you will also want to consider how you will get to the cruise port from the airport and vice versa. If you’re not going to use a hotel shuttle service to the port you can look at ride share prices or book a private car for transportation.
Some cruise lines also offer transportation with bundled packages if you want to go directly through them.
This step is especially important if your airport is far from the cruise port. Ports like Port Canaveral and Galveston can be an hour or more to the nearest airports. Because of this distance many shuttle services have popped up to help fill this need. Look into pricing and options well ahead of your cruise so you can lock in these travel plans.
And don’t overlook rideshare services. You’d be surprised how many times taking an Uber of Lyft can be cheaper (and more convenient) than taking a shuttle.
8. Add your cruise to a price alert program for price drops
Unless you’re looking at a last-minute cruise it’s a great idea to add your cruise itinerary to a price alert service. This will allow you to take advantage of price drops that might happen leading up to your cruise.
I like services offered by Cruisewatch that will monitor any price drops and let you know when you can get a better deal. It can be a hassle to cancel your cruise and book again but having a travel agent can make this a lot simpler.
A travel agent may also be able to help monitor price drops, so this is a question you can ask an agent ahead of time if this is something that’s important to you.
9. Make sure your documentation is all up to date
Really this should done before you even book, as you don’t want to be waiting for a passport to come in the mail when your cruise date is rapidly drawing nearer. But this is still a good time to at least double-check and make sure you’re documentation is current.
Remember, your passport cannot expire within 6 months of your cruise date. These days passport offices are pretty backed up right now as well. I recently visited my local office and they said the current wait time was 10 – 13 weeks for renewals.
If traveling internationally to certain countries you will want to check on visa requirements and get on top of that as well.
10. Purchase travel insurance
Consider buying travel insurance to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances that may disrupt your travel plans or require medical assistance during the trip.
You can often buy travel insurance from the cruise line during the booking process to help protect your trip, but don’t forget about expenditures outside of your cruise like flights and hotels. If you should have to cancel your trip you’ll want to get compensation for these costs as well.
Also check with the credit card you used to purchase the cruise as you may have at least some built-in protections already.
A 3rd party travel insurance plan might offer more peace of mind if you’re looking for extra medical evac coverage or even cancel for any reason coverage.
Check out our complete guide to cruise travel insurance here for more great tips on this topic.
11. Get that time off work
Perhaps this should happen before you book a cruise, but it depends on your boss. When asking for time off work remember to take into account extra days for that pre-cruise hotel and post-cruise hotel if you decide to go that route.
A vacation is always much more relaxing when you don’t have to worry about rushing home and jumping right back into work. Those days on either side of your cruise are vacation days too so take advantage of it.
12. Inform your bank and credit card companies
This step isn’t as important as it used to be. In fact, many credit card companies are smart enough to know when you use that card to book a trip that you will in fact need to use that card overseas.
But it’s still a good idea to notify your financial institutions about your upcoming travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage during your trip. This step can prevent your transactions from being flagged as suspicious and potentially declined.
13. Start getting your packing list together
If you’re like me you tend to wait until the last minute to pack. But planning ahead with what kind of luggage you need to bring and what “easy-to-forget” items will need to be thrown into the suitcase can make for a smoother planning process.
Begin preparing a packing list based on the cruise duration, weather conditions, and any specific dress codes or formal nights. Consider including essential items such as medications, travel adapters, and appropriate attire.
And remember, there are some things you may THINK you need to pack for a cruise that you actually should leave at home. More on that here.
14. Do research on each port of call
Get to know everything you can about each port of call your ship will be visiting. There’s nothing worse than finding out AFTER your trip about something amazing you would have loved to see had you only known about it.
This is one of the fun parts of cruise planning for me. I love doing deep-dive research so when I arrive at the port I feel like I know the place and can get right to exploration.
We have plenty of articles on Cruise Fever about many popular ports of call if you’d like to use the search bar. I also recommend checking out some videos of each port so you get some visuals as well.
See our ports of call page here for a list of popular ports to check out.
15. Share your itinerary with a trusted contact
You know that little space on the booking form where you enter the name of your emergency contact? It might be a good idea to let them know you’re traveling out of country for a bit. I’ve been guilty of taking a trip without letting my emergency contacts even know. Terrible, I know.
Inform a family member or friend about your cruise plans, including the ship name, itinerary, and contact details. It’s always good to have someone aware of your whereabouts in case of emergencies.
Remember that these steps may vary depending on the specific cruise line, itinerary, and personal preferences. You might totally disagree with a few of these steps, and that’s completely ok. We all cruise differently and plan differently. The important thing is that you don’t get caught off guard when it comes to being ready for that sailaway date!
Did I miss something on this list? Let us know in the comment section below.