There are a lot of things in life that you simply need to experience to know how to do them better the second time. Cruising is no different. After my first full day of cruising, I was already making a mental list of things I knew I wanted to remember for my next cruise.
1-Be aware of extra fees
We found the perfect deal for our first cruise: $299/person for a 4 night/5 day cruise to three different islands in the Bahamas with all-inclusive beverages. While this was an incredible deal, what we didn’t realize we would be hit with were port fees (totaling around $200) and service charges (totaling around $100). It wasn’t earth shattering for us, but I can imagine for a family of six, it might be.*
*And regardless, no one likes to see an unexpected fee on their bill.
2-Forget packing light; pack for you!
I was worried over how much I was packing and that there wouldn’t be enough room in our teeny cabin. And yes, I packed a lot (a different outfit for each day, dresses for at night, gym clothes, swimsuits, cover ups, and lots and lots of flip flops). But in the end, I used almost everything I brought. And while, yes, there was a small pile of things I didn’t touch, I was able to have options for what I wore.
If you are like me and prefer to have a different outfit for each day, and then some, no worries! We had plenty of space in our cabin and those extra items didn’t get in our way one bit.
3-Board as early as possible
Our ship’s boarding time began at 12:00, however not knowing what to expect, we selected to arrive at 2:00 pm. After checking out our room, we decided to take a little walk around the deck. Upon entrance to the pool, we found a crowd of people scattered from bar to pool to beach chairs who had clearly been there for several hours already.
Get on board early, familiarize yourself with where everything is, and then start enjoying the ship!
One thing I discovered in my minimal research for our cruise was that on board a 24-pack of bottled water* costs $59.95. While, of course, you can go to the bar and get a glass of water for free, who wants to be stuck going back and forth to the bar every time they want a cup of water?**
*Yes, the kind you can purchase in your local grocery store for $3.99.
Knowing how much water Lance and I consume on an average day, I knew this was going to be a problem for us. Fortunately, I discovered that you are allowed to bring your own packs of water on board.
Not knowing that we would be able to get into our room as soon as we were on board the ship, we checked our water with our luggage. My recommendation is to buy as much bottled water as you think you’ll need for the length of your trip*, and do not check it, but instead bring it right to your room with you. Sure, you can hope that it will arrive with your checked bags five hours later once you’ve set sail, or you can build a little muscle by lugging it to your room with your carry-on bag.
*A 24-pack was perfect for the two of us.
5-Speaking of carry-on bags…
We arrived at 2 pm, set sail at 5 pm, and our luggage did not arrive until 7 pm. Our water did not arrive until 9 pm. Make sure to have a carry-on, whether it is a small suitcase or book bag, that has things you’ll want for the first few hours of your trip. I brought a change of clothes, a sweater, my bathing suit, a few water bottles, and my camera.
6-Bring a power strip
There was one available 110V wall outlet in our cabin. Fortunately, we didn’t have wifi for the entire trip and therefore didn’t need to charge our phones as often as usual. However, I could definitely see only one available outlet being a problem for many. Bring a power strip with at least three outlets.
7-Weed out excursions you can plan yourself
Cruise ships, like island resorts, offer many different excursions at the different ports. A lot of the listed excursions sound like fun, and you’ll often feel the pressure to sign up for them before your trip begins. What we’ve learned through this cruise and other island trips we’ve taken is that sometimes it is better to immerse yourself into the city via public transportation you take all by yourself. Then you aren’t stuck to a group, can change your mind/route if you wish, and usually save money.
8-Buy a cheap waterproof watch
One of the biggest problems I had during the cruise was never knowing the time. With how many different event and entertainment options the ship offers, you’re going to want to know the time!* For me, this meant always having my cell phone handy. If you have a cheap and/or waterproof watch that you can wear on your wrist or bathing suit strap**, you won’t have to stop what you are doing to dig around for a cell phone just to figure out the time.
*Unless you just like to wing it. Then you’ll be fine.
I loved everything about my first cruise experience. The only negative is that sometimes people can be selfish and their poor behavior can impact you. This is, unfortunately, one thing for which you cannot really prepare. On a cruise ship you are dealing with a lot of people in one confined space. We tried to make decisions and plan our time so we didn’t deal with too many crowds or people who would negatively impact our vacation. For a better part of the time, it worked. For the times where other cruisers aggravated us, we grabbed a drink from the bar or a cone of ice cream from the soft serve machine, kicked up our feet, and enjoyed the view of the ocean.