Answering the 12 most frequently asked questions from first-time cruisers

Answering the 12 most frequently asked questions from first-time cruisers

Cruises are a preferred travel method for many adventurers. It’s very simple – you just unpack it once. This is convenient – you can visit several fantastic cities in one trip. And it’s fun – there are usually lots of activities on board, so there’s plenty to do and experience.

If you’re going on a cruise for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions before boarding your new floating home. From passports to packing lists, here are a dozen things to consider before you head out!

A rolled towel on a beach chair in a row on a cruise ship deck

The ships provide you with plenty of beach towels.

Photo credit: Lost_in_the_Midwest /

1. Do I have to pack towels?

Cruise itineraries often include tropical beach destinations. Many ships also have large water areas with pools, wading pools and even water slides. With all of these options, you may be wondering if you need to pack towels. The answer: no! Save room in your bag for souvenirs to take home. The ships provide plenty of beach towels, although you may need to present a cabin key to rent them. Also, be kind: once you have used them, leave them in the designated place.

2. How does tipping work?

Most of us like to tip for a job well done, and your cruise crew works hard to make sure you have a great time on board. Expect tips to range from $15 to $25 per day per person. However, keep in mind that debt collection methods vary. On some lines they are included in the price of your fare; Others allow you to pay in advance. And then there are some lines that will simply give you a tip bill at the end of the cruise along with your other onboard fees. It is important to emphasize that this money is usually shared among the crew. So if someone provides you with excellent personal service, consider leaving a cash tip specifically for that person at the end of the cruise.

3. Are formal evenings still a thing?

Yesterday’s cruises bring back thoughts of ball gowns and tuxedos. And while some lines still have a dress code during dinner (e.g. no jeans or shorts) and on “dressy” evenings, those guidelines aren’t as strict as they once were. Double-check your itinerary, but if you’re planning a formal evening or two, a jacket and pants for men and a cocktail dress for women should suffice.

Girls with passports and boarding pass

You never want to take something with you that you can’t live without, and your passport is definitely valid.

Photo credit: Jsnow my world /

4. Should I take my passport with me on a shore excursion?

There are different opinions on this question, but I’m here to tell you: don’t do it! Unless your tour requires it, leave your passport in your cabin’s safe. You never want to take something with you that you can’t live without, and your passport is definitely valid. Your driver’s license and a photocopy of your passport should meet any identification requirements you have.

5. Should I book excursions through the cruise line or on my own?

I’ve done both. Most cruise lines do a good job with their excursions, and while they may be more expensive than if you booked them on your own, you can’t ignore the convenience factor. It’s so nice to board the ship and know that all shore activities are covered. The cruise company will also help you if there is a problem with it. The only exception: local guides. If you don’t want to get stuck in a crowd, do your research, find a reputable guide and treat yourself. You will learn a lot and avoid falling into tourist traps.

6. How much cash should I bring with me?

Sometimes these shore excursions do not include meals, snacks, or drinks, and depending on the port of call, credit cards may not be an option for purchases. For this reason, I recommend bringing $100-$200 worth of local currency with you at each stop on your cruise. Bring a card too, but cash is king. It’s better to be safe than sorry if you discover something you just can’t live without or if you’re craving a local cocktail. Keep the money in a belt or other secure holder.

7. Where is the best place to stay on the ship?

As a rule of thumb, the higher the deck, the quieter the cabin, but the more movement you may feel – not ideal for those prone to seasickness. But the lower cabin decks are often noisy – closer to entertainment venues or restaurants – and can pick up vibrations from the ship’s engines. The best choice is cabins on the middle decks, where you feel or hear fewer annoying noises.

Cruise ship dining table

The trend is completely moving away from seat allocation.

Image credit: Solarisys /

8. Will I be assigned a table at dinner?

This came up during my first cruise years ago. My husband and I had assigned dinner seating each night during our two-week Mediterranean cruise. Although the thought horrified us at first, we quickly became friends with some of our table mates and still keep in touch with them to this day! Most cruise ships now offer “free-to-dine” options, where you decide where and when you want to eat your meals. The trend is completely moving away from seat allocation.

9. How much food can I order?

Once you’re seated, the sky’s the limit, at least in the buffet-casual restaurants and main dining rooms. Fancy an additional appetizer? Do it. Want a few different appetizers? Get both. And if you want the eggs And Waffles at room service breakfast, that’s fine too. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should: be mindful of food waste and only eat what you eat.

A possible exception to the culinary all-rounder: specialty restaurants. These are the elevated dining areas that are not included in your cruise price. To eat at these restaurants, you pay either a la carte or an additional fee, and the staff may limit your order.

10. Can I do laundry on my trip?

Almost every cruise ship offers its guests a laundry service. It’s super convenient: your clothes will be picked up, washed, ironed and returned to your cabin. However, this service comes with an additional fee that can be quite high. Many ships, particularly ocean-going vessels that tend to undertake longer voyages, also have self-service wash bays. They are often free and include everything you need to wash up if you have a spill or just want clean clothes before you pack to go home.

11. What happens if I get sick on board?

Rest assured that every cruise ship has medical staff on board. sometimes there are complete medical wards or mini-hospitals on the ship.

If you are looking for basic care to treat minor ailments such as headaches or seasickness, you can find and purchase medication in the ship’s store. For more serious illnesses, you should consult the doctor or medical staff who are also trained to stabilize patients in medical emergencies. Remember: This care may not be covered by your regular health insurance, which is why considering travel insurance is so important.

Waiter serves cocktails next to a department manager

There’s something convenient about being able to order whatever you want at the bar.

Photo credit: Salvador Aznar /

12. Are drink packages worth it?

Last but not least, let’s talk drinks. Trying to smuggle in your own alcohol is so frowned upon that it can get you thrown off the ship. Therefore, you will have to pay for a glass of wine, beer or Seabreeze if alcohol is not included in your cruise fare. But is it worth paying on the spot or ordering a drinks package?

If you do the math, you would have to drink a lot Making most packages worth it as they are priced per person and cannot be shared. Still, it’s convenient to be able to order whatever you want at the bar and not have to worry about the bill at the end of the trip. Lemonade, mineral water and fresh juice are also included in these packages. Conclusion: If you would rather not be surprised by additional costs, it may be worth opting for this drink package.

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