Eight Tips for Your First Cruise

Cruises can be a great option for an inexpensive vacation abroad, but you have to be careful or you'll get struck with hidden fees and disappointment. I wish someone told me this before my recent cruise vacation!

Read on for a few tips to save money and get the most out of your trip.

1. Bring your own snorkel gear.
If you're headed to a tropical location, there's a good chance that snorkeling opportunities are available. Your cruise ship may sell overpriced snorkel equipment or you can probably rent it at the beach. Save yourself the cost and bring your own. Buy a cheap set of goggles, flippers and a snorkel to pack in your suitcase. Use it throughout your trip and keep it for the next time you're on vacation. Even a one time use will be worth the money saved.

2. Bring your own alcohol.
Buying drinks at the ship's bar can rack up quite the tab. Normally, passengers are allowed to bring on two bottles of wine and one six pack of soda per stateroom. Research your ship's policy before packing. And if passengers pack just a little something to go along with that soda, it will most likely be overlooked. But don't get greedy.

3. Order room service.
Room service is [normally] free! Need I say more? If you're too tired to make it to dinner, order as much as you want to your room. Check for specifications on your ship, but additional charges usually only exist during late-night hours.

4. Pack inflatable rafts.
Another fee that will sneak up on you is the cost for renting a raft. If you're cruising to a beach, pack some, cheap inflatable rafts in your luggage. Blow them up once you arrive at the beach and avoid the ridiculous rental fees.

5. Ignore the shopping hype.
There will most likely be a lot of talking about shopping. Whether it's shopping on board or at the port of call, my advice is to ignore it. You may be tempted to attend the seminars on the ship or check out their sales days, but there's a strong chance that it's not worth it. Did you really go on vacation to shop anyway? Skip the shopping and spend the time relaxing or find some free entertainment instead.

6. Order as much as you want.
You are not limited to one of each appetizer, entree or dessert in the main dining room. You can order two entrees or three desserts if you choose. You can also order appetizer-sized portions of entrees as starters or order a few appetizers for your main meal. If you have dietary restrictions, you definitely need to keep this in mind, but it's also a great way to try new foods you're not sure you'll like (escargot, anyone?).

Tips for first-time cruisers, Royal Caribbean cruise tips

7. Research the destinations before booking excursions.
All ports of call will be different. Some of them will require activities while at others, you will be content exploring on your own. You don't want to risk the chance of being underwhelmed for a day or paying for an excursion when you really didn't need to. You also may be able to book an excursion for a cheaper price if you don't go through the cruise company. Just do the research.

8. Snag food for lunchtime snacks.
There will be breakfast and lunch buffets on board. If you're heading off the boat for the day, remember to grab some fruit or other snacks to bring with you. Carrying food back to your room is completely acceptable, so pack a whole meal if you like! This will save you some money while you're on shore.

Have you cruised before? Did I miss anything?
Leave your tips in a comment below!

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  1. Great tips! Especially the snagging food for lunchtime snacks!! We've yet to go on a cruise but we're always keeping our eyes open for one!! We'll be packing those bottles of wine and grabbing some baggies for lunch-prep when we do go!!

  2. Great tips for noobie cruisers. I had no idea about the room service being free. Will keep that in mind if we ever take a cruise.

  3. Great tips for a cruise ship holiday...I went on a trip a few years ago & was reluctant but had the best time sailing the high seas!

  4. I've only been on one cruise but it wasn't a tropical destination. On my next cruise, I will definitely bring my snorkle gear and inflatable rafts! I'm looking at a 14 day cruise around the Mediterranean. I hope it works out!

  5. Karilyn (NoBackHome)July 25, 2015 at 7:03 PM

    Great tips! I haven't ever been on a cruise. I am just so scared to think about being stuck in one place. My husband keeps trying to convince me that it's HUGE and i will have fun exploring. Although seeing that photo of that pool with ALL of those people in it makes me a bit reluctant!

  6. Brent N Stacey-jean InionJuly 27, 2015 at 1:33 AM

    Point 7...do the research on ports of call. Absolutely. We lived for a few months in Cozumel (a big cruise ship destination) and felt sorry for those who did not plan ahead or spent much more than they should have. We highly recommend striking out on one's own.