You may have been on many vacations but a first cruise can feel like stepping into a new world where the rules have changed and people dress accordingly. Here are 8 first timer cruise ship mistakes and how to avoid them.1) Not packing your etiquette
It is important to remember that as homely as a cruise may feel, it is not home and you’re not the only one there. Dress appropriately at all times with no pajamas outside your cabin and proper covering beyond the pool.
Keep your alcohol consumption in-check (no-one likes a drunk), and your kids under control. Use earphones if you want to turn up the volume and bite your tongue when things inevitably go wrong, misery and anger are rarely welcome.
Never save loungers, and, remember, a slammed cabin door at 2am can be heard for miles around.
Never save sun loungers and reserve swimwear for the pool area. Photo by Danila Panfilov.
2) Getting lost again… and again
The brochure said three pools, two cinemas, an untold number of restaurants, bars and clubs, a golf course and casino and yet many first time cruisers are surprised by the ship’s size.
First things first, don’t think you’re the only one who can’t find their room despite three attempts. Second, pick up a ship map and keep it close. Then, carve out an hour or so to explore the lay of the land.
The quicker you get your bearings, the smoother you’ll move from pool to room to dinner to dance without enduring a 30 minute detour each time.
Cruise ships can be mind-bogglingly big. Photo by Machine is Organic.
3) Dressing inappropriately
Cruises maintain their heritage of elegance with a dress code. Read the policy before you pack. Generally there’ll be at least one formal event that demands a dark suit and tie or tux for men and an evening dress for women.
The main dining room tends to have a smart policy so no shorts, flip-flops, jeans or t-shirts. The buffet restaurant usually accepts less formal attire and you can slob out to your hearts content in your cabin.
Around the ship, good grip, flat shoes are vital. Also pack a jumper for star-gazing and a rain coat for the unexpected.
4) Not realizing extras cost extra
The list of what is and isn’t included can vary dramatically between cruises. The best rule is not to assume and check before you board. As a general guide the price will include port charges, taxes, your cabin, all meals, room service, on-board shows and entertainment, clubs, recreational facilities like the pool, hot tub and gym and most activities.
Extra payment usually applies for spa services, gambling, non-inclusive restaurants, official photographs, tours, internet and calls, and gratuities.
Some water sports may also be chargeable. Drinks may be included depending on your booking.
Get your head around gratuities or you could end up looking silly. Photo by prayitno.
5) Not tipping when you should
Knowing what to tip is confusing enough when visiting one country. Add international guests with differing tipping attitudes and international staff with varying expectations and you’re in a tipping quagmire.
Many cruises have sought to make this simple by adding a per day gratuity to on-board bills.
The complexity arises as each cruise has different rules. Generally you can ask on board to increase or decrease the gratuity but in some cases it is not discretionary. This is particularly so with bar tabs, so it’s best to find out if you don’t want to double tip.
In some cases gratuities are included in the cruise price. In short, check first.
6) Not making it off the ship
Before a first cruise there can be a tendency to focus on the ship-based activities and almost forget the days in port. Fear not, all cruises have a travel desk designed to help you with your off-ship excursions.
Some can be booked before you board, the rest are available on a first come basis so you’re advised to decide early. It pays to do your research. Read up before you travel or download a few offline apps to help you decide what to explore on-shore.
Cost conscious or independent travelers may prefer to go it alone but make sure you’re back on time, the ship won’t wait and you’ll have to get yourself to the next port or home.
Step off shore for splendid sights. Photo by Alex E Proimos.
7) Missing the best activities
Even if you have your heart set on spending your days lazing around the pool the vast number of on-board activities can leave even the least active hopping from foot to foot like a child in a toy shop.
Ice-skating, piano playing, language learning, golf swinging, boogie-boarding…even zip-lining are available aboard today’s cruises.
To make sure you don’t miss out, get a full list of the ships activities and determine what needs to be booked in advance then see the ship’s daily bulletin to find out what’s on where and when.
Plan your activity itinerary for maximum fun. Photo by Jamison Wieser.
8) Getting caught with illegal alcohol
Vacation time often means indulging in a tipple or two but cruise rules can be complicated.
Legal drinking ages vary depending where you set sail and on the company’s policy and things get even more complicated if the bar isn’t all-inclusive.
Some cruises allow you to bring your own booze on board, or purchase it in port while others charge a corkage fee or forbid it entirely. Before you go slipping a bottle of vodka in your bag, check, as it may not be necessary…or may end up in the Captain’s cupboard (to be returned at the end).
Did you make any of these mistakes on your first cruise? What advice do you have for cruise virgins? Let me know in the comments below.
If you liked this article, you might also like: Top 10 Most Extravagant Cruises in the World.
Main image by jimg944