Ahoy there cruiser! Are you new to riding the waves of travel? I was too just a couple of months ago, but I’ve now been bitten by the cruise bug and I’m planning my next trip already. There are many things I learnt, and many tricks I picked up along the way on my 7 Day Mediterranean Cruise with Princess Cruises.
Without further ado, here are my 25 Essential Tips for First Time Cruisers to make your first cruise as plain sailing as possible!
Book a room with a balcony
There is nothing quite like the experience of looking out to sea just before bedtime and first thing in the morning. I witnessed many beautiful sunsets and glorious early morning sunrises on my balcony. Pay the little extra and ensure you get this glorious sea view too.
Don’t forget to pack your travel adapter
My particular cruise had American plug sockets – your cruise may be different. I always travel with an international travel adapter so that I can hook my electronics gear up in any situation.
Get travel insurance
One of my most important first time cruise tips. Princess Cruises will not let you onboard without it. Take care of yourself and do the right thing: get travel insurance. I trust World Nomads all year-round to look after me.
Use your cruise card for everything
When you board your cruise, you will quickly learn that it is a cashless system. Upon check-in, you’ll be given your own personalised card. This is your ID, room key and payment card.
You will need it to get on and off the ship for your own security, so whatever you do, try not to lose it!
Your card is also your payment card. Whenever you buy something extra which is not included in your cruise ticket price, like extra alcohol or massages, the bill will be charged to this card. Your final bill is settled at the end of your trip by credit card or cash.
Make sure you don’t de-magnetise your card by keeping it close to the typical magnetic field culprits like your mobile phone and camera too. I did that and got locked out of my room once because of it (whoops!).
Read your Newsletter every day the night before
Outside of your door every afternoon in your postbox on the side, will be your newsletter. It is going to tell you what shore excursions are ahead, what the weather forecast is tomorrow and when to expect sunrise and sunset. It will also give you an hourly rundown of all onboard activities on the ship too. Keep this information handy!
Make the most of the Princess Cruises app
Princess@Sea is your ultimate online connection to what is happening on the cruise ship. If you want to avoid carrying that newsletter around, you can have all the information at your fingertips on your phone. You will find all of the events listed for each day, the ship itinerary and port guides, be able to book shore excursions and access all other essential information. You can login using any smartphone, tablet or computer for free.
Book your excursions in advance
Popular tours sell out quick! You can opt to explore the countries you visit through Princess Cruises or go off and do your own thing with independent tours. I dabbled with a mixture of both.
There definitely is one benefit to booking the cruise excursions though. The ship will not sail until all its organised tours have returned. If you’re delayed the ship will wait. However, if you’re on an independent tour and you’re late, the ship will set sail when it says it is going to!
24/7 Room service is free!
One of my favourite first time cruise tips! Many guests do not realise that they can have breakfast in bed and eat food at 2am if they’ve been having too much fun in the bar – for free!
There was one night where I went a bit OTT on the whiskey and had an early morning hike. A quick call to room service and like a true British champ, I was eating my beef sandwiches and drinking a life-saving cup of tea to stop that hangover right in its tracks. 24/7 Room Service for the win!
Make the most of the evening entertainment
There are so many wonderful things going on in the evening. Make the most of what is on offer! Princess Cruises have their own theatre which seats up to 800 people on their Mediterranean Cruise. There are magic shows and full on productions (which are seriously good!)
There’s also karaoke, trivia, rock n’ roll nights, Movies Under the Stars, Stargazing sessions and a nightclub to get down and boogie at!
Don’t miss the special events in the Piazza
In the centre of the ship there are special events going on most nights. They have a special champagne waterfall, a balloon drop, beautiful melodies from very skilled piano players and plenty of live games during the day. You also have to check out the stairs and get a photo on them: you’ll feel like a princess on those steps!
Be aware of automatic tipping
One of my key cruise tips for first time cruisers: the automatic tipping! Princess Cruises automatically add a recommended gratuity of $13.50 per guest per day onto your shipboard account on a daily basis. This gratuity is shared amongst all of the staff that provide you service and support during your cruise experience. Make sure to add this into your budget!
…and there’s more tipping bar, dining room wine and spa services!
On top of this automatic tipping, a 15% gratuity is added to bar charges, dining room wine accounts and spa services. Make sure you know what you are spending, even if you cannot see it.
You can hear through the walls
Many people come on a cruise to celebrate their birthday, wedding anniversary or honeymoon. Just to let you know…those walls are thin.
There’s more food than the buffet!
You’re going to find a staggering amount of variety both in the types of food and the types of dining experiences on offer.
Take the stairs
Not only will it help you keep in shape, but taking the stairs is usually a lot quicker than waiting for the lift. I always took the stairs if I was heading down the decks. And for my own fitness levels, I always took the stairs up too!
Be environmentally friendly
Turn off all lights during the day. Draw the sheers when you are out of the room – this keeps a comfortable temperature in your room and reduces energy consumption. Do not leave the balcony and ship’s sides doors open. Turn the tap off when you’re not using it!
Not sure if you’re going to like cruising? Try a mini one first
Due to some age-old cruise myths, some people are reluctant to try cruising at first. To put your mind at rest: seasickness is rare, you won’t feel claustrophobic, there are a variety of people onboard and if you don’t want to share your cruise with a bunch of kids – that is totally possible too.
Princess Cruises run cruises around the world to so many destinations, and the trip length does not have to be long. How about trying a short mini cruise first to wet your feet and see what you think? Cruises start from just one day, and their prices are great too!
Get your alcohol’s worth
Enjoy individual beverages up to $12 for only $59.99 a day + 15% gratuity with one of Princess Cruises’ Drinks Packages. This includes cocktails, beer, wine, sodas, juices, specialty coffees, energy drinks and a 25% discount on all bottled wines. Well worth it if you’re down to drink!
There’s a hairdryer in your room
There are also toiletries in the bathroom to wash your hair, body and face but you may prefer to bring your own.
Bring some layers
It can get chilly out on deck in the evenings when you’re out at sea and it is better to bring something snug just in case the weather turns. Naturally, if you’re in Alaska, better pack a fair few more jumpers and sweaters eh?
Hang out in the Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is an adult-only zone and the perfect place to unwind. The sea views are glorious here, the atmosphere is incredibly quiet and they have a glorious special healthy menu to snack on and feel good about. I also checked into the Lotus Spa whilst I was here for a lovely body scrub and massage. It was worth it!
The Sanctuary has limited space and is on a first come first served basis. It costs $20 for a half day or $40 for a full day pass. Book your spot when you get onboard.
Make sure to pack for formal night
Princess Cruises have ‘formal nights’ on their cruises. This is a chance to dress up for dinner and the evening entertainment – a little more glam than usual.
If you have kids – they can be taken care of!
Youth evening activities are from 6pm to 10pm, teen evening activities from 6pm to 1am and late night kidsitting is available from 10pm to 1am ($5 hour per child).
Ask for help
The staff on Princess Cruises are vast! There’s 1 member of staff for every guest on board, and they are definitely around to help you! Getting on a cruise for the first time can be overwhelming. Just ask any member of staff for help, and they’ll guide you in the right direction.
Do you have any more essential tips for first time cruisers?
Coming on your first cruise can be incredibly exciting but a little bit overwhelming. Follow the tips above and whatever you do, don’t forget your passport, visas and cruise ticket!
Are you a first-time cruiser or an experienced one? Do you have a question I haven’t covered above? Have you heard of different rules for another cruise line? Reply below and I’ll reply back!
My complimentary Mediterranean cruise experience was made possible by Princess Cruises. As always, no matter how much a brand pays me, opinions are mine = honest, blunt and to the point.
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Don’t be a mug. Please don’t leave for your adventure without travel insurance. However careful you are, things can still go wrong. I’ve ended up in hospital in Russia, had stuff cut out of my arm in Vietnam and don’t even get me started on that time I was vomiting my guts up in Poland.
Do the right thing right now. Get a quote.
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