Here are 101 Cruise Tips where you’ll find tips on getting a good cruise deal, things you need to know before cruising, tips for first time cruisers, tips on cruising with the kids and a whole lot more.
On our very first cruise, we totally didn’t read anything nor planned anything and part of the great experience was actually learning everything for the very first time. If you’re a planner though and want to be more prepared, check my 101 Cruise Tips below. We have cruised 7 times total (not enough) and the kids have cruised 4 times. We look forward to trying out other ships and destinations in the months/years to come.
NEVER GET HUNGRY ON A CRUISE. CHECK YOUR CRUISE DINING OPTIONS WITH ALL OUR CRUISE FOOD ARTICLES:
- You can order Freshly Made Tacos & Burritos on Carnival Cruise
- Chef Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint on board Carnival Cruise is a Must Try
- Have an Afternoon Tea in the Middle of the Sea
- The Better Cruise Breakfast Buffet is on board Princess Cruises
- Do not leave Carnival Cruise without trying their Sea Day Brunch
- Carnival Cruise Menu & Food Pictures
- Princess Cruise Menu & Food Pictures
CRUISE TIPS: TIPS ON GETTING GOOD CRUISE DEALS
1. Cruise Off Season
Cruises are cheaper during off season late summer to fall if you’re cruising to the Caribbean and during winter if you’re cruising from Los Angeles to Mexico when it’s too cold to dip on the outdoor pool.
2. Deals on a Repositioning Cruise
You can get a good deal on a repositioning cruise. They happen when certain ships are done for the season and will move to another region. It’s a one way cruise and gets you a good cruise discount but may have a lot of sea days and are typically longer. ex. cruise moving from Canada to the Carribean, or Alaska to Mexico.
3. Weekday VS. Weekend Cruise
Weekday cruises are cheaper than those on the weekends even if it’s longer. But compute if it’s cheaper to take a vacation leave from work or take the weekend cruise instead. It’s perfect for those who are already retired. I still have a long way to go before I can take a 100 day cruise or more.
4. Cruises are generally cheaper when the kids are in school.
5. Cruises are cheaper the week before and after a holiday like after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.
6. Take advantage of being a Past Cruise Guest
Past cruisers get discounts or upgrades or even free vouchers for a few free drinks. Make sure to log in or input your past info when booking to see available discounts when booking for a cruise.
7. Be flexible on your Cruise Cabin to Save
You can choose from 4 cruise cabins. Suite room, balcony room, room with a window (outside), or room with no windows (inside). The inside room and lowest level is the cheapest.
8. Check if you can get a FREE cruise cabin if you’re booking 15 rooms or more
Since rooms are double occupancy, you will have to pay for two people. Check if you can get a deal where you only have to pay half for the second.
11. Avail of a Travel Insurance
In case you’d have to cancel your cruise due to an emergency, cut your trip short or just totally missed your flight that you didn’t make it, a cruise travel insurance can protect your investment. We have never bought one since we live near a port and know the weather pretty much year round, but we’d definitely buy one if we want to cruise elsewhere like the Caribbean.
CRUISE TIPS: THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BOOKING YOUR CRUISE
There are ADA compliant rooms. Check before booking to figure which cruise is best for you.
13. Minimum Age to Cruise
6 months is the minimum age to cruise except for Transatlantic, Hawaii, TransPacific and South America cruises. Guests are also required to be 21 years of age before traveling on their own.
14. Cruising While Pregnant
Yes you can cruise when you’re pregnant but I wouldn’t recommend it. We’ve cruised when I was pregnant coz’ it was a Christmas gift from the hubby and we didn’t know I was gonna be pregnant. I was suffering from morning sickness and being on a ship was just not ideal. And also in case of emergency, you don’t wanna be in the middle of the ocean. Do check out my tips on how to not get seasick on a cruise below or at least lessen the feeling of it.15. All-Inclusive Resort, almost!
Almost everything is included in your cruise fare. You’ll have a room, you will never starve, and you’ll enjoy nightly shows and a whole lot more. Spa, shore excursions, alcoholic drinks and sodas and gratuities are not included, factor those cost before your cruise.
16. Do Kids Cruise for FREE?
MSC Cruises let kids cruise for free. Some cruise lines offer it too but for a specific date and cruise location only. We’ve never experience it yet with Princess and Carnival traveling here in the West Coast and Mexico.
17. Cruise Concerts
You can also cruise with your favorite artist. My sister in law went both times on a New Kids on the Block cruise. She paid a premium but she definitely had tons of fun. Check Carnival Live.
18. Which cruise line is better?
It depends on the person. No cruise is alike, no ships are alike. Book the right cruise line for your age and preference. Carnival is more for the younger partying crowd, Princess is for the older crowd who wants peace and tranquility. Disney Cruise is obviously for the kids and the young at heart.
19. Smaller cruise ships better than the big cruise ships?
Choose a smaller ship if you don’t want to walk very far everyday since the buffet is on one side, the show is on another. Bigger ships might have more amenities though. Check what you really want to get out of your cruise. The bigger the ship, the less movement though.
20. Can I get a Refund on my Cruise
If due to bad weather your cruise gets cancelled, be aware that you won’t get a refund. You will only get a discount rate for a future cruise. Check Tip 11 and get a travel insurance.
21. Changes in Cruise Plans
Bad weather can also dampen your vacation. Sometimes the ship cannot dock on the port you’re visiting. This has never happened to us luckily, but a friend had experienced it when they were supposed to dock at Catalina Island.
CRUISE TIPS: TIPS FOR FIRST TIME CRUISERS
22. Go on a Shorter Cruise
Go on a 3 day cruise instead of 7 on your first cruise to figure if it’s really for you. My mom doesn’t like to cruise, she said she gets nauseous and doesn’t like being stuck on a ship. Hubby and I loved it, the kids as well, they never get seasick.
23. Sea Days VS. Port Days
Most cruises do not dock everyday in a new city or ports of call. Some days will be “Sea Day” where you’ll be in the middle of the sea but you’d get to enjoy the ship all day and they’ll have tons of activities for you to choose from. You can also choose not to go down when they dock during “Port Days” though. It’s the best time to hit the jacuzzi.
24. Arrive a Day Early
I highly suggest getting to the city of your cruise port at least a day before in case you need to fly to make sure you don’t miss your cruise.
25. Avoid the Crowd at Embarkation
Getting to your port early means you get to be on the ship early to eat, but the rooms are not necessarily ready. You’d have to walk around with your hand-carry. And sometimes everyone arrives early as well which just mean long lines at embarkation.
26. Check In Online Ahead of Time
Input all the infos needed before your cruise and it will make it faster for you to head up to the cruise during embarkation.
27. Tour your Cruise Ship
Each person is assigned a room/key card including the kids. This will be your ID and way of paying for certain drinks, or use of spa so you don’t have to carry a wallet while you’re cruising. You also need it to enter and exit your cruise ship.
29. Free lanyard at the Casino
Bring your room card at the casino where they will punch a hole and give you a free lanyard so you don’t need to put your ID in your pocket, if you even have a pocket.
30.Tipping on a Cruise
Do you need to tip on a cruise? A certain percentage is charged by day for gratuity. You don’t need to tip but it would be nice if you do. We always leave a tip for our room steward on disembarkation day.31. Book Cruise Shore Excursions Ahead of Time
You will book your shore excursions with your cruise line. If you’re not familiar with the city, do not just go down and book your own bus, it would be safer to book with your cruise line. You can still book while on board, but the more famous excursions might sell out.
For some ports like San Francisco, you can just go down and walk to the ferry port if you plan to tour Alcatraz. Walk further and you’ll get to the famous pier 39, it’s a really good exercise.33.Are we there yet?
You can dock on land on some cruise ports but on certain ones, you’d have to ride a boat or the emergency lifeboat to get to the actual port, just like when we arrived in Santa Barbara, CA. It’s going to take some time to get on land as people will have to be transported by groups.
34.Cruise Emergency Drill
There will be an emergency drill prior to the cruise ship leaving the dock. It’s mandatory to attend even if you’ve cruise a gazillion times before as it changes so you’d know what to do during an emergency. It’s not very long, they literally just tell you where to go in case of an emergency and how to put on your life vest. Your room steward will look for you, there’s no escaping this drill. But I also wouldn’t suggest escaping it. Life jackets are available in your room and they will provide smaller ones for the kids.
35. Head to the Deck during Sail Away
I highly suggest hitting the decks when the cruise ship sails away unless you have a balcony room facing the port. It’s a fun way to start your vacation and it’s also beautiful to look at the lights from the city you’re departing from. I did stay outside when we left San Francisco and the ship cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge, pretty neat.
36. Order Room Service the night before you have a shore excursion to avoid the buffet lines
You can put in your breakfast order the night before a shore excursion and just eat in your room since the buffet line can be really long during breakfast if you wake up at the same time as everybody else.
37. Download the Ship Mate App
The Ship Mate App shows you the features of every cruise line, has pictures and even tells you of upcoming cruises. I’ve only found out about this recently. I look forward to checking out the features of the the other cruise lines we have yet to try.
38. Make sure to get back to the ship on time
The cruise doesn’t leave at the same time at every port it visits. It’s not always 5PM. So make sure you know when to get back and as to what time it is. Get a waterproof watch so in case you wish to snorkel or swim.
CRUISE SHIP ROOMS
39. How many people can fit in a Cruise Cabin?
Certain rooms can fit 4-5 people that are perfect for families. There are bunk beds that folds to the wall. Want it bigger, book a suite room or get 2 rooms.
40.Get organize since rooms can be Tiny
Rooms can run tiny. Rooms for 4 will have two foldable bunk beds on the wall. I suggest unpacking when you get to your room and putting your luggage under the bed. Check our cruise packing essentials for ideas on how to get more organize inside your cruise cabin below.
41. Celebrate on a Cruise with a celebration package
If you’re celebrating a birthday or your anniversary. Surprise your loved one by arranging a celebration package. You can book it online prior to your cruise and they’ll set up decorations in your room.
42. A room steward will clean your Cruise Stateroom
Like being in a hotel, someone will clean your room in the morning but they’ll also tidy it up at night while you’re having dinner. When you get back, you’ll receive chocolates, an animal towel (if you’re cruising with Carnival) and your itinerary brochure or flyer for the next day.
43. Leave your pieces of jewelry inside the room safety deposit box when going swimming.
CRUISE TIPS: CRUISE FOOD
44. Food is included in your Cruise Fare and there’s tons of it
Food is included in your cruise fare from the buffet (breakfast, lunch, dinner, after dinner) to the sit down dinner. There’s also an outdoor grill, a Mongolian barbecue on Carnival, pizzeria, deli, and more. Juices, coffee and hot chocolate are free. Sodas, alcoholic and specialty drinks and dining at specialty restaurants are for an additional fee. Princess has cookies and milk in the afternoon at the atrium.
45. Early dining, Late Dining and Anytime Dining on Cruises
To dine at the sit down dinner, you’d be choosing from early dining or late dining or anytime dining, you will input this information prior to boarding your cruise.
46. What Food is on the Cruise Menu
Choose from appetizer, main course and dessert, there’s around 10 choices each. Pick from Shrimp cocktail to escargot, Steak or Seafood, Creme Brûlée or Molten Chocolate Cake. There’s also a vegetarian choice on the menu.
47. There’s No Food Limit
You are not limited to one appetizer, one main entree and one dessert at the sit down dinner. It’s not buffet but it’s also not limited.
48. Check the Menu Hours Prior
Even with all the choices in the dining room, you might not want to eat there. Scan the menu hours prior as they post this outside to know if you want to head to the buffet or go specialty dining.
49. Dinner with Strangers
You’d most likely be seated with other people at the sit down dinner. When we traveled with the kids, we had our own table.
50. Free Room Service
You can order room service and it is free for most cruise lines. We love ordering Carnival’s Pastrami Sandwich.
51. Most important part of my cruise tips is to not miss formal night.
Do not miss formalnight at the dining room where they serve Lobster. Yum!
Ask ahead when the lobster night is unless you don’t like lobsters but the menu will have the best food selection of the entire cruise that night. Update: Carnival Cruise now charges for Lobster on shorter cruises.
52. Cruise Kids Menu
Don’t forget to ask for the kids menu if you have little ones unless they are fine eating food from the regular menu. Note: Kids can be at the kids daycare while you have your sit down dinner and they will be brought to the buffet by the daycare team to eat with all the other kids they were with. It’s actually fun for them.
53. Cruise Food available 24 hours
There’s 24 hour food available from the deli or pizzeria. (varies by ship).
54. Can you bring wine to your cruise?
Some cruise lines will let you bring a bottle or 2 of wines and even nonalcoholic drinks as long as they are in a bottle or a can. Check with your cruise line for specific ruling.
55. Purchase a Cruise Drink Package if you can drink a lot
To save on cost while cruising, purchase a drink package. There are ones that are for sodas & non-alcoholic drinks and one for alcoholic drinks as well.
56. Visit the Specialty Restaurants when you Cruise
Even though there’s already tons of food to choose from. You might want to try their specialty restaurants, it will run around $15-$35 per person. We have yet to try one but it’s been known to be good.
57. Baby Food on Cruises
You can request for baby food prior to cruising and they will provide it to you in your room, just call room service for your daily requirements.
58. Cruise Afternoon Tea Service
Afternoon tea service is available on some of the cruises. I loved the one from Princess Cruises. I love sconces and a good dallop of cream.
- MOMMY DAUGHTER AFTERNOON TEA DATE AT PRINCESS CRUISES
- PRINCESS CRUISES BREAKFAST BUFFET EXPERIENCE
- CARNIVAL CRUISE SEA DAY BRUNCH IS A MUST TRY
TIPS ON CRUISING WITH KIDS:
59. Cruise Kids Daycare or Kids Camp
There’s a kids’ daycare on board for the 2 to 3 and up. It’s included in their cruise fare. (minimum age varies per cruise line). They will have tons of activities besides free play. They’ll even give t-shirts and books. There’s babysitting for around $10/hour after 10PM. (check rates per cruise line). You will be provided with a cellphone or a beeper while your kid/kids are in daycare.
60. Go on a Date at a Ports of Call
You can leave your kids at the cruise’s daycare if you choose to go down with your spouse when the ship docks at a new city or port.
61. Cruise Characters
Some cruise ships have fun characters on board. Disney Cruise can’t be a more obvious choice if you’re taking the kids. But other cruise lines also offers them, Royal Caribbean has Dreamworks Animation (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda & Madagascar).
62. Can you bring a stroller on a cruise? Yes
Just learn how to fold your stroller as it needs to go through X-ray sometimes. We brought a double stroller once that we have never folded a day in our life. It just goes to the back of our minivan as a whole all the time. So the hubby was perspiring while figuring it out while a long queue was on our back. We managed to fold it, I mean he managed (whew). Then once we got to our cruise room, it wouldn’t fit the door either, so we had to fold it again. Brought an umbrella stroller the next round of cruises.
63. Cruise Activities for Kids
Arcade, Mini Golf, Water Play (varies by cruise). If the kids are not in daycare, there’s tons of stuff to do. Mini golf is our fave on Carnival.
64. Babies and toddlers on diapers are not allowed in the pool.
But there are waterworks or playpads on some cruises
65. Cruise Daycare Minimum Age and Age Groups
There are various age groups to participate in. 2-5 age group, 6-8 and 9-11. Check your cruise line. There are also for 2 and below depending on the cruise line and ship.
66. Enjoy the casino on the first few days
Casinos on cruise ships are not open all day and it gets pack on sea days where everyone is on board the ship. Hit the casino in the first few days (you win more), avoid on the last day. You can also play Bingo. You’d have to purchase bingo cards before the game.
67. Try every sport activity
You can get into sports on a cruise ship. Some has a basketball court, running track, mini golf, wall climbing, etc. (varies by ship)
68. Play some board games at the FREE library
There’s a library to borrow books and play board games. You cannot bring them to your cruise cabin though. I’ve seen people bring their mahjong set and were playing at the buffet dining area. Fun!
69. Check out the Cruise Adult Only Area
There is an adult only area where you can really relax with its own pool or jacuzzi plus an amazing view. Take advantage of it when everyone has gone down once the ship has dock especially if you’re a past cruiser and don’t need to revisit the same port and just wish to enjoy the ship.
70. Tour the Cruise Galley
Try to check if you can join a tour of the ship. Carnival offers this but only for a limited number of people. If you’re interested, sign up immediately when you board. This is on my bucket list for our next cruise.
71. Book a Cruise Spa Service
You can get a massage, manicure, pedicure and facial at the cruise spa for an additional fee. Try to check for deals on the first day. There’s no room service though, at least I haven’t heard of one.
72. Take advantage of the Cruise Gym
Use of cruise gym is free but is typically packed when you want to go. Everyone is trying to burn off the stuff they ate. LOL. They also have yoga and spinning classes on some cruises.
73. Watch a Musical and/or Comedy Show
Try to get a seat early when watching a show on a cruise as they could get pack. There are also comedy shows later in the night. You can order your drinks before the show starts. My fave show is the Hasbro Game Show.
If you get hungry after partying at the pool deck, watching a musical, losing money on the casino, head back to the buffet for a midnight snack. Check which late night has tacos on Carnival, it’s good.
77. Shop at the Duty Free Shops
You can shop for duty free while on board, from jewelry to alcohol. The alcohol will only be given to you when you disembark. Try to purchase on the last day before you disembark to get better deals.
CRUISE TIPS: CRUISE PACKING ESSENTIALS
78. Bring your Passport
79. Hand Carry your First Day Essentials
Always bring a hand carry luggage with some set of clothes because you have to leave your large luggage for porters to bring them to your room door. On our latest cruise, one passenger did not even receive his luggage. Even with two kids, we bring our own 4 small luggages up. We use our Zooper stroller as a cart to push it all up.
80. Bring a good camera. Choose if you want big or small. Choices:
82. There’s a clinic if you feel ill but bring your medications and some extra.
83. Bring Magnetic Metal Clips
Cruise ships are made out of metal, plan to bring some magnetic metal clips to hang some items like your itinerary since rooms can run small and we typically lose the itinerary or kids would doodle all over it if it’s within reach.
Bring a water bottle with you that you can fill up when you go on your shore excursions or for juices that you can bring to your room.
Here’s the waterproof case I use for my iPhone or choose one with a sling.87. Don’t forget to bring a Sunscreen, Hat and your Sunglasses and an Insect Repellant (as necessary).
I know there’s already tons of food on a cruise. But sometimes I really want a salty snack and the fries and chips at the buffet just won’t do it. You can purchase some on board, but I’d rather bring them to be sure.
90. Bring the Kids Toys, bring zip locks, diaper and wipes and extra clothes for the kids
You’re supposed to pack as light as possible. But I can never pack less when we’re traveling with the kids.
a. Kids Toys: If you have a toddler that won’t sit still (ehem, we do) bring new toys to make it a successful trip or successful sit down dinner.
b. Zip Locks: If you’re worried about eating at restaurants in certain ports, you can bring food with you from the cruise. A banana and a sandwich perhaps?
c. Diaper and wipes: there are no diapers on board so make sure you brought enough or actually brought them.
d. Extra clothes for the kids: in case they get seasick or wet. Our kids never got seasick but we brought extra all the time.
91. Bring a walkie talkie to o communicate with family members on board to save cost.
RELATED READ: CRUISE PACKING TIPS
CRUISE TIPS: CRUISE DRESS CODE
92. Pack for Resort Casual, Formal night and your Swimwear
Formal nights doesn’t mean tux and formal gowns, some still do though and you can. But suits and a little black dress will do the trick if you want to pack less. You can book for formal wear rental prior to your cruise so you don’t need to pack that much as well, remember that the cruise cabins can be tight.
93. Cannot be too casual at the Sit Down Dinner.
Make sure to pack your shoes and not just flip flops. Shorts and flip flops will not allowed at the dining area where you’ll be having your sit down dinner. You can go to the buffet however where some of the dishes will be served as well (no lobster and steaks there).
94. You can wash your clothes on board
Some cruise ships have washing machines and dryers so you can do your laundry in case you run out of clothes to wear. But unless you’re going on a 14 day cruise or more, I suggest just packing wisely.
CRUISE TIPS: AVOID CRUISE SEA SICKNESS
95. Book rooms in the middle of the ship to lessen motion seasickness
96. Do not stay in the room if you get seasick a lot
Stay in the room only when you’re about to sleep, if not, try to book a room with a balcony. The less enclosed the better.Try to stay outdoors in the cruise deck and get some fresh air. Try to look on the horizon where it’s more steady and not focus on the movement around you.
97. Remedy for Seasickness
Try to bring an anti nausea wrist bands, bring some non drowsy seasickness medication and/or drink some ginger ale and eat a green apple.
RELATED READ: TOP 20 REASONS WHY WE LOVE GOING ON A CRUISE
CRUISE TIPS: CRUISE WIFI – CONNECTING AT SEA
98. Cruise WiFi is Slow and Pricey
You’re so tempted to upload your photos on Facebook or Instagram, but the minute the ship sails, your Internet is gone. You’d have to pay if you want to stay connected. You can purchase WiFi packages or just wait ’til you get to a port that might have your signal.
Note: Possibly No Cel Signal in your Room
There is no cel signal from your “inside room” even if you dock in a port and is no longer in the middle of the ocean. We docked in San Francisco one time and I had to step out of the room into the decks to get a signal. Take that last minute call, text, e-mail before the ship sails.
CRUISE TIPS: DISEMBARKATION
99. Get a printout of your bill the day before disembarkation to adjust any discrepancy.
100. Allot for time to get off board
Don’t plan to be at work the morning you leave the ship. Even if the cruise docks at 7AM, everyone won’t be completely out of there until around 11AM. There are simply too many passengers. Allot time at immigration and the parking lot as well.
101. Check for your Breakfast Options the day before Disembarkation
The buffet will be open during disembarkation day up to a certain time but typically the elevators will be busy. With Carnival you can put your order the night before to have breakfast delivered to you, with Princess there is no breakfast room service that day unfortunately. So plan accordingly if you really need breakfast.
note: things mentioned above are accurate as of writing. We will try to update when we hear or experience something new.
CHECK OUT ALL OUR OTHER CRUISE POSTS FOR MORE CRUISE TIPS.
ALSO, CHECK THE 40 USEFUL THINGS TO PACK FOR A CRUISE