Know before you go, here are 15 cruise rookie mistakes and how to avoid them on your next cruise.
Picking the wrong cruise line – Some new cruisers do not have an enjoyable experience because they chose the wrong cruise line for their vacation. There is an old saying that says “different strokes for different folks”. Choosing the right cruise line will give you a more memorable and enjoyable experience. Not sure which cruise line is right for you? Consider using an experienced travel agent that will use your interests and expectations to find the perfect fit.
Skipping the main dining room – I often hear of first time cruisers who eat at the buffet every night for dinner on their cruise. While they are more than free to do that if they wish, the food in the main dining room is always several steps ahead of the buffet. There is also something special about getting to know your servers throughout the week.
Showing up late for dinner – When you have traditional dining (early or late seating) and show up 20 minutes late for dinner, it delays dinner for you and your table mates. Your servers like to keep everyone on the same course. They will not get their main entrees until you order and finish your salad and appetizers. Show up at your scheduled time and everyone will be able to make it in time for the show after dinner.
Booking early flights home – Cruise lines recommend no flights earlier than 12:00 p.m. on disembarkation day if you are flying out of a nearby airport. Even though your ship schedule says that you will be back in port at 7:00 a.m., booking a 9:00 a.m. or earlier flight should never be considered. Sometimes getting off of the ship is a breeze while at other times, long lines and customs can be a nightmare. Book all flights after 12:00 p.m. and enjoy a stress free disembarkation process not worrying about missing your flight home.
Using your cell phone like you are at home – After all roaming fees can’t be that bad, right? Using your cell phone on the ship can cost anywhere from $3-6 a minute, depending on your carrier. While text message will have smaller charges, data roaming charges are beyond ridiculous. At $15-20 per mb, uploading just one picture to Facebook can cost you $40 or more. Put your phone in airplane mode and save yourself from a cell phone bill that will cost more than your cruise fare.
Trying to do everything the first day – This is one that I was guilty of on my first cruise. I spent the first day, and nearly every day running around the ship trying to do everything. Take time to enjoy your time at sea and come home refreshed, not in need of a vacation to recover from your vacation.
Skipping the muster drill – This one should be a no-brainer, but there are always some on every cruise who think that it isn’t mandatory. Go to the drill and pay attention, your life, and your family and friend’s lives could depend on it.
Think port stops are guaranteed – Cruise lines do everything in their power to stop at all of the scheduled port stops on your itinerary. However, due to weather and other circumstances that are out of their control, it isn’t unusual for a cruise ship to miss a port stop or two. This is especially true when tendering is involved. Before you plan that wedding in Jamaica on your cruise during hurricane season, realize that there is a chance that you may not stop there.
Bringing alcohol on board the ship – During your first port stop, you get an idea that you can buy a few bottles and save you from buying $8-10 drinks for the rest of your cruise. Everything you buy in port will be x-rayed and alcohol will be confiscated until the last night of your cruise.
Taking food or drink off of the ship – You are not allowed to take any food or drink (sealed water bottles etc. are an exception) off of the ship, not even a coffee on disembarkation day. There is always a trash can in the customs line that is overflowing with fruit. If it is on the ship, it should stay on the ship.
Not making reservations for specialty restaurants – If you would like to dine at one of the specialty restaurants onboard the ship, you will want to make reservations on embarkation day. Prime times fill up quickly, especially near the end of your cruise when places like the steakhouse are normally booked full. Sometimes you can walk up and be seated, but most times you will need a reservation.
Not bringing ID with you in port – Some ports require you to show a valid ID along with your cruise card to re-board the ship while others do not. It is always a good idea to carry your ID with you, especially when you are in another country.
Over packing/Under packing – The first rule of thumb when packing for a cruise is after your suitcase if full, take out half of the clothes because you will likely not wear them. Just be careful to not under pack as many restaurants have dress codes that are enforced more strictly than the main dining rooms.
Thinking all ships are the same – There is a reason why some cruise ships are priced at $40 or less a night, and other are well over $100 a night per person. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect the cheaper cruises to have all of the modern amenities of the newer ships. When you have the right expectations, you are more likely to enjoy your cruise.
Saving seats – Yes, you might save a whole row at church for your friends and family who are running a little behind, but that is frowned upon while on a cruise. Whether at a popular show in the evening or prime spots on the lido deck near the pool, there is nothing wrong with saving a seat or two for someone who is on their way. Out of respect for other cruisers, keep saved seats to a minimum.