Top 8 Tips For An Amazing First Cruise

The ocean breeze. Tropical drinks. No cooking.  If everything you just read sounds heavenly, a cruise might be right up your alley. With very little planning, you can get on board and start cruising to your selected destination. After experiencing four fantastic cruises, I’ve rounded up my Top 8 tips for first time cruisers.



8.  Arrive to the port an hour prior to your scheduled on boarding time.

On our cruise to Cozumel, we arrived early by accident and it actually worked in our favor in a big way. It was less crowded and we got on the ship almost immediately! If you do arrive early, check to see if you’re room is available. If it isn’t, head to the dining hall and secure a table unless you want to explore the ship.


7.  Take the stairs.

It’s good exercise (I continued to meet my FitBit step goal on the trip!) and you’ll save time. On our most recent cruise, there was one elevator for over 2,000 people. Just walk!


6.  Wi-Fi will cost you.

Set meeting times with your friends or family. I have to say, it was very refreshing to unplug and connect the old fashioned way! If you’re not ready to part with group family texting, there are Wi-Fi plans for purchase. On my most recent Carnival cruise, there were plans starting at $8 per day.

When you arrive at your destination, you’ll likely have free Wi-Fi at restaurants, resorts, excursions and bars.


5.  Download the app for your Cruise line prior to sailing away.

All cruise lines have apps now and you are able to link it to your account. The apps were a convenient way of tracking your spending, planning your activities on the ship, and you can even check the current weather conditions on the water.  Download the app before you get on board.


4.  Skip the shuttle to the port.

Take an Uber or Lyft instead of taking the shuttle to the port. (Get your first ride free here.)  The shuttles are much slower and less reliable. When my sister and I cruised to Jamaica in 2011, we almost missed our cruise because the shuttle from our hotel to the port arrived late. Thank goodness ride sharing services now exist!

3. Everything you purchase at the dock is taxed.

Even if you buy the all-inclusive drink package, (which you shouldn’t, keep reading to find out why!) you’ll still be charged tax on each drink on the ship. This is also true for souvenirs and other items you purchase while on board.


The delicious Chipotle Pineapple Martini available on board Carnival Cruises.



2. Gratuity is added to drinks & your cabin stay.

On our recent Carnival cruise, 15 percent was added to every drink we ordered.  You will have the option to add additional gratuity when you pay for the drink.  Gratuity is also billed to your credit card on file at the end of your vacation for all service that was provided by the employees on the ship. (Ours was billed the last night.)

Carnival charged us $12/person, per day on the cruise. (It’s important to note this isn’t charged per cabin, it’s per person.)   It’s definitely not a bad price considering all the service that’s provided at the restaurants, in the cabins, and with room service (many items are complimentary!) You can also pre-pay gratuity prior to sailing if you that’s more convenient.



1. Don’t buy the drink package before the trip.

Ok, this is a big one with a lot of information so just hang with me. When you arrive, you have the option to buy the alcoholic beverage package on board. Unless you’re getting some crazy discount prior to the trip, wait until you’re onboard to buy the package. The reason being, you will not have an entire day onboard your first day.  That’s right. It’s a half day on board the day you sail out. Double check your itinerary, but all four of the cruises I’ve been on have left between 3-5pm.

For the drink package to be worth it, you must consume 6 or more drinks per day every day of the trip. 

Remember: you will also get off the boat at your destination! You will lose that time of your drink package. You cannot take drinks off the cruise ship.

Beer was $6.25-$8 and mixed drinks were between $8-12 on our most recent cruise. (See the tropical drink menu below from January 2018.)

It’s also important to note that some cruise lines also require every adult in the cabin to purchase the package.

The drinks are definitely tasty and fun, but you will have to consume a lot of them for the unlimited package to be worth it.



If this post was helpful, don’t forget to click the share buttons at the bottom of this post.

Did I miss YOUR best tip for cruising?  Comment below and tell me about it!


If you LOVE to travel, check out the travel products I can’t live without here. 


Bon Voyage!

xo Amy