Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Cruise

I just got back from my first cruise! If you missed my other posts this week, my sister and I were on the Kesha Cruise. I had never ever ever been on a cruise before, so I thought today would be fun to share everything I learned. I’ve broken it down into like travel-specific things, cruising in general, and then things you need to pack.

My sister Charlotte deserves major major credit on this post too, especially in the “things you need to pack” category! She thought of so many brilliant things I would have never thought to bring. Two brains are better than one, what can I say?

Ok let’s get to it!

Travel Specific Tips

-My biggest tip would be to fly in the day before your cruise leaves. Flying in the day of your cruise is risky. What if your flight is delayed? What if your luggage gets lost. These are a lot of risks I wasn’t willing to take so we flew in the day before and stayed at a hotel.

-Speaking of hotels, book one close to the port. It makes for a super cheap and short Uber ride.

-For flying home, you can book the same day, but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get off the boat and get to the airport. We opted for an early afternoon flight.

-Don’t worry about booking travel shuttles. Ubers and Taxis are cheaper and circle the ports so they are always close.

-Download movies. You won’t have internet on the boat and if you have to wait a long time at either the airport or the port or whatever, you may want to have entertainment on hand that you don’t have to stream.

-If you are packing a carry-on to fly, don’t worry about sunscreen. Save the space and room in your quart-sized bag and purchase it at a local grocery store when you get to your port city.

first time cruise tips

Cruise Specific Tips

-Plan to show up a little later. On our cruise, they had us pick a port arrival time so like what time we would be showing up. People who picked an earlier time had to wait for them to clean and flip the boat before they could board. So they went through security and then sat in this weird DMV like room until it was time to board. I heard they were packed in like sardines. Charlotte and I picked a time a little later and we were able to walk through security and board in a few minutes with no issues. Then our room was ready like 20 minutes after we got on the boat.

-Don’t double tip! Most major cruise lines charge your credit card a certain percentage for gratuities. So if you tip, you are double tipping and spending more money than you realize. Now..if you love your bartender or housekeeping staff, feel free to leave a little something extra, but know that you have already tipped ahead of time.

-On the first day, plan a chunk of time to tour the boat. Cruise ships are huge…like really huge. It helps to kind of get a lay of the land and figure out where you are and, most importantly, where to eat.

-Don’t get drunk while you’re still at the embarkation day port. Purchasing drinks on the boat even if you have the beverage package will include tax. For example, we were docked in Tampa so the taxes from Tampa still applied. Once we left the port and were in the water that tax no longer applied.

-Do not even think about being late for the boat at the destination port. If it says the boat leaves at 4:30.. be on the boat at 4:29. They will leave you. Just YouTube videos of people being left. Then you are stuck in another country in your bathing suit.

-An interior room is perfectly fine for first time cruisers…or music festival cruises like the Kesha Cruise. We were literally never in our room unless we were getting ready or sleeping.

-Put EVERYTHING you will need in your carry on bag for the ship. You will check your luggage when you get dropped off at the port, but it takes them awhile to get it to your room. So whatever bag you carry on, be sure to pack whatever you will need for the night. Bags may not show up til like 8 or so.

-Do not, I repeat, do not skip the muster drill/safety briefing. The crew will legit come find you and make you do it during another activity….like the concerts.

Things to Pack

-First and foremost, pack Low-Drowsy Dramamine or the seasick patch. The boats move! Yeah it’s not like being on a catamaran, but it’s a boat. If you’re prone to seasickness you need these or you will be miserable for days.

-Bring an over-the-door organizer. Our room actually had a closet and a ton of storage, but the rooms are tiny. If you need more storage an over-the-door organizer is a God-send. You can store all of the things that won’t fit in the provided storage without taking up more room.

-Power strips are not allowed usually, but this 6 outlet wall adapter is. There are not a lot of outlets on a boat so this is super helpful. I like this one with the USB ports too.

-A Water proof phone case is a huge help. The wind blows little water particles all over the place. Also, condensation from your drinks is serious on the boat. Most importantly though, the belly flop competition is rowdy! Water is present, so a water proof phone case is a good idea.

-Bring. Comfy. Shoes. I’ve mentioned before that this boat is huge! This is not the time for heels. You are walking a ton!! Also, shoes with grip are a great idea for the pool deck. Nothing is more embarrassing than falling down on a boat.

A cabin nightlight will help at night when you have to pee. Cabins get really dark especially if they are interior. This will help you not stub your toes.

-It’s super windy on the boat to a towel clamp will help you keep your towel on your chair and not blowing all over the pool deck. I have flamingo clamps that I love!

Have you ever been on a cruise? What are your favorite tips??



Hel On Heels is an Atlanta-based life and style blog by Helen Gaillet Bailey. Hel On Heels is intended to be a digital magazine written by your best friend.

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  1. 3.1.19
    Tabitha Bradley-Raines said:

    I have never been on a cruise but I know people that have. Several of your tips were theirs as well. The real question for me is: Do I get seasick? I have no idea.

  2. 3.1.19
    Trish said:

    I have never been on a cruise but want to at some point! These practical tips are really helpful. I wondered what an interior room would be like, and it’s good to hear that you found that fine.

  3. 3.1.19
    Laura said:

    I wish I could say I have been on a cruise but I’ve never! These tips shocked me, and surprised me! I cant wait to go on one so I can utilize these tips!!

  4. 3.1.19

    oh my goodness what an amazing experience for you my friend- i love love love cruises and this looks like a true blast- relaxing and yet so much fun 🙂

  5. 3.1.19

    All such great tips, Helen! Love the one about the drink tax (tax in general) – so overlooked. I had a balcony on my first cruise and can never see myself doing something else, haha!

  6. 3.1.19

    These are great tips! My husband and I would like to go on a cruise one day, but I’m so afraid of being on a ship in the middle of the ocean because I can’t swim, haha. I heard you can’t feel it though and I will keep this post in mind when we do decide to go one day!

  7. 3.1.19
    Patricia @ Grab a Plate said:

    This sounds so amazingly wonderful to me right now! Take me awayyyyy! Great info to have, as I’ve never been on a cruise before!

  8. 3.1.19

    These are great tips – especially the reminder about not being late! My favorite tip for cruising is to bring highlighters, and go through the schedule they give you each night and highlight the things you don’t want to miss.

  9. 3.1.19

    I’ve been trying to decide whether a cruise will be a good fit for me. They sound amazing whenever I look through photos of them, but a friend of mine just went on one and didn’t enjoy it at all. Plus, I didn’t realise there was no internet! That’s a shocker. It would be nice to look at all that beautiful water though 😍

  10. 3.2.19

    I love cruising! I’m a travel agent and always tell my clients to buy trip insurance – there are just so many things that could happen with a cruise specifically. Flights delayed, missing the boat, etc., and you want to be prepared. I’m 6 months away from my next cruise!

  11. 3.2.19

    Wow, these are such thorough and useful tips! And I would hate to be left by the ship! haha

  12. 3.2.19
    Holly said:

    These are such great tips! I’ve never been on a cruise before, so this was super helpful!

  13. 3.2.19
    Amanda K said:

    I have never been on a cruise before, so these tips were super helpful for the future.

  14. 3.3.19
    Alix Maza said:

    I haven’t been on a cruise in yeeeears! Thanks for these tips-and thank goodness for Uber and Lyft haha.

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