First Time Cruise Tips from experienced cruisers

First Time Cruise Tips from experienced cruisers

It is no secret that we love cruises. Between us we have cruised every continent in the world (bar Antartica and that is on our list) and considered ourselves experiences cruisers. The idea of going on your first cruise might seem daunting but we are here to make the world of cruises for first timers easier to navigated. So we have rounded up our first time cruise tips with everything you need to know from booking your first cruise to booking your shore excursions! First Time Cruise Tips

First Cruise Booking Tips

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There are so many things to consider when booking your first cruise. Here are our top tips for deciding what cabin, what itinerary and what line to book

How to choose cruise cabin?

This to me boils down to how much are you going to use your cruise cabin. When we were just a couple and on a port full itinerary we would choose to to cruise in a inside cabin. However now we have a baby And especially with a toddler we find that we spend more Time in our room and want more space.

It also is worth looking if you have any scenic cruises like we had in Alaska, New Zealand and Japan. If you are going to be cruising around a beauty spot you may want to have the luxury of doing it on your own balcony.

Scenic Cruising from Balcony

For more information on how to choose a cruise cabin check out our in-depth guide! 

What you need to know about itineraries research cruise ports

Barcelona Cruise Port

One of the things that surprises people on cruises is that the ports are not always in the cities that they say they are. For instance, to visit Florence you dock in Livorno l which can be two hours away. It is worth researching where the ports are so you know if you will have to arrange a private tour, shore excursion or whether you can simply walk of the ship and into attractions.

Also think about what type of cruise do you want – do you want to have an active city break or are you thinking about a relaxing babymoon cruise where all you want to do is relax on the beach/ 

For more information on research cruise ports check out this guide

Which cruise line for first time cruisers?

We have now cruised many lines including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America and Princess and really there is no right answers to which cruise line is best for first time cruises. Each cruise line has it’s own style and benefits so it really depends what you are looking for. For instance Holland America and Princess are more well known for being more upmarket cruise ships and having some more adventurous itineraries while Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival have a more relaxed vibe and are perhaps considered more family friendly. It is worth deciding what you want to get out of a cruise before selecting your cruise line

Dining options in cruise ships

If food is one of your big cruise ship drivers then you want to investigate which has the best reputation. Some people I know love sharing tables so they prefer a more traditional cruise setting. Personally I hate group tables and like to have the luxury of joining people for dinner if we get on. For that reason we like Norwegian’s anytime dining and other more casual lines.

Cruise Embarkation Tips

Embarkation day is perhaps something that first time cruisers worry about. Bt really there is no reason to worry! You will arrive at the port and your bags will be taken away. You will then need to fill in a health questionnaire and complete registration with the ship which includes getting your cruise card which will be your room key, cash and id for your whole trip!

What happens with stuff on cruise embarkation?

Your luggage will be taken away port side and will be delivered to your room later in the day. Depending on the port, business of ship and cruise line depends on what time on the first day that you receive your luggage. It is therefore important to get your hand luggage right

What you need to take on board on embarkation day?

Because your luggage may not get back until late you need to make sure you pack essentials such as any medications and supplies you will need on your first time. On top of that consider if you are going to use the swimming pool and if you want to get changed for dinner. Another tip is consider what the weather is going to be for your cruise ship drill. Remember a coat or sunscreen as you may do this on deck

Where to eat when you get onboard?

A number one tip is to use the main dining room rather than the buffet on lido deck on embarkation day. The buffet gets very busy while you can start you cruise in a relaxed environment in the main dining room which is waiter service!

Cruise Ship Excursions 

Cruise ship excursions should you go private or with the ship?

The truth is that doing cruise ship excursions can be expensive especially compared to private excursions or doing them on your own. But there are benefits to both. If you are a nervous traveller you ma want the security of going through the ship or with a company that guarantees that they will get you back to the ship on top.

We usually only book cruise ship excursions through the ship if we are in a difficult location, or somewhere that requires it for visa constraints.

First time on on a cruise – everything you need to know Onboard Cruise Ship

Alcohol Packages on cruise ships

This is a big one for some people as alcohol can be expensive onboard. We always try to book with a free package if we can but if not we never opt for the package. Decide on how much you drink and compare to drinks menus that can be found online to work out if you need one.

Remember that a lot of lines will now allow you to take one bottle of wine aboard per person.

Also when buying a drink on board the gratuity is included so don’t double tip unless the service is exceptional.

Cruise Ship Gratuities Guide

Gratuities are perhaps the biggse question mark people have about cruises but they needn’t worry. Basically all you need to know is that at the end of your cruise you will be charged a service charge per day per person which is calculated based on your room type. If you worry about budget then there are usually options to prepay your gratuities.

What’s your first time cruise advice? We’d love you to drop us a comment with your first time cruise tips


First time cruise tips, tips for first time cruisers


  1. March 28, 2018 / 7:16 pm

    This is such a great guide with some really handy tips! I keep thinking of a family cruise, so will be checking back to make sure it’s not an overwhelming first cruise trip!

    • March 29, 2018 / 9:54 am

      So glad! Give us a shout if you have any questions

  2. April 5, 2018 / 9:29 am


    I would love to find out about the activities on board. Just spent Easter with family and they are suggesting a group cruise. I need Cooking classes, bridge, disco and karaoke …any suggestions?

    • April 5, 2018 / 7:55 pm

      It depends on how little or much you want to be involved. They usually have cooking demos, craft lessons and guest lectures but it depends on the ship. What line are you thinking of going on and where?

  3. April 5, 2018 / 11:01 am

    Such handy advice! We never thought we’d be into cruises until we recently went on a short two night cruise in Halong Bay – it was a great little taster… we don’t think we could do long/big cruises but definitely considering them for scenic trips like the fjords in Norway! #farawayfiles

    • April 5, 2018 / 7:56 pm

      I like to view them as tasters of places to return to

  4. April 5, 2018 / 12:03 pm

    Thanks for these tips. I must admit I’ve only been on a tiny cruise in Fiji so far but we are investigating them in the South Pacific and Asia because my mother in law is quite keen to go on holiday with us. I wouldn’t know where to start so this is very helpful. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

    • April 5, 2018 / 7:56 pm

      We take my parents and it is very easy esp with older or ill travellers. We just did South Pacific so more advice coming up on that soon

  5. April 5, 2018 / 7:24 pm

    I’ve only been on one cruise and remember I shared a small inner cabin with a friend and my parents shelled out the money for a balcony but to be honest, we were almost NEVER in our rooms so it seems pointless to shell out the money when you can enjoy the same view, if not better from somewhere else on the boat. I’d be perfectly fine with an inner cabin, although hate not having at least one window as I’m an open window kind of person! πŸ™‚ #FarawayFiles

    • April 5, 2018 / 7:57 pm

      I used tocruise interior but don’t think I could now as I like the view and we use it so much more now we are travelling with baby

  6. April 5, 2018 / 7:36 pm

    I remember my first cruise very well. It was so much better than expected. Now we are a real fan! #FarawayFiles

  7. April 5, 2018 / 8:49 pm

    This I should have gotten my hands on before going on my first cruise! I went with Celebrity Cruises. It wasn’t quite my kind of thing, but was happy to be transported between islands in a convenient way. #farawayfiles

  8. April 6, 2018 / 12:34 am

    Great tips! We just took our first cruise as a family on Disney Cruise Line. It was fantastic. But we were surprised by the tips that were added at the end as we had handed each person the recommended tip in cash. So, had to go get it refunded so we didn’t double tip. #FarawayFiles

  9. April 8, 2018 / 4:19 am

    Interesting, great tips! I’ve never been on a cruise before, so these tips will come in handy when I choose to go on one. #FarawayFiles

  10. April 9, 2018 / 9:30 am

    I’m off on my second cruise with my kids next month and this is such a handy reminder of everything we need to organise and do when we get onboard. Great read for first timers and old hands! #MondayEscapes

  11. April 9, 2018 / 10:47 pm

    I don’t think I’d like being on the boat but I would like all the lovely port stops in different countries with so much to explore #MondayEscapes

  12. April 11, 2018 / 2:30 am

    Definitely saving this one for later as I’ve never been on a cruise and these are all great things to know! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚ #mondayescapes

  13. April 19, 2018 / 1:29 pm

    I’m cruising with RCI for the first time in two weeks cannot wait!! I have some planning to do first though, your article has just reminded me! #MondayEscapes

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