So you’ve booked your first Cruise. You know it’s different from a regular vacation and have tons of questions.  Here is a summary of the information I give to my clients to get them ready for their first cruise.

Log In & Fill Out Information – Create an account at your Cruise lines website and link your reservation. Most Cruise lines have an app also.  Once you have an account you can complete basic information that will make your arrival and embarkation process quicker. You can also reserve dining preferences and complete kids club information. The more you complete before you travel the faster you can get settled and start having fun!

Printing Luggage Tags & Other Documents – Have your Passport and other travel documents ready to go. Print Luggage tags and other booking information to make embarkation seamless. Print your cabin information and dining preferences too.

Room Upgrades –  I’ll be honest getting an upgrade for your cruise is difficult, so make sure you are happy with the room you book initially. Many Cruise lines sail at capacity or even oversell sailings.

Drinks – While room upgrades are a tall order other upgrades are easy to add. Drinks like juice and water are provided free of charge, other carbonated drinks and of course alcoholic beverages are extra. You can often get a package for on average $50 per person. You are allowed to bring a limited amount of beverages with you with you first embark. Check with your cruise line for their specific rules.

Excursions & Other Add-Ons – Book your excursions early as the more popular ones fill up. You don’t have to do an Excursion at every port or you can go with a third-party company. However, if you go with a third-party company the ship will not wait for you if do not get back to the ship on time.  Other add-ons available are jump the line or VIP embarkation. As you can imagine a couple thousand people trying to board at the same time can take quite a long time. There is also a wifi package and photo packages. I will say quality varies. Wait until you get on board to access the wifi and photo packages.

Spa, Specialty Restaurants  – Just like many resort vacations you can have special experiences for an additional cost. Spa services are often discounted especially when your ship is in port. Speciality restaurants are a real treat and offer food at another level than your dining room experience for on average between $25-$50 per person.

Seasickness – I for one get seasick. It usually only lasts for the first few days but who wants to feel queasy on vacation? Not I. You can take Dramamine. You can get the patch. You can also visit the infirmary, they sell medicine for a minimal cost. Note that some medicine taken with alcohol can make you tired.

Dress Code – Cruises these days are pretty laid back. However, there are themed nights that require formal or semi-formal attire. This is not mandatory of course you can always dine at the buffet instead of the dining room if you’d like to remain in shorts and flip-flops. Check your cruise itinerary to see what the dress code is for each night. You can also order room service, for free.

Ports/ Getting On & Off – Time at each Port is often limited. It’s important to have a plan and give yourself enough time. Unless you plan to briefly browse the shopping available close to Port, I would recommend being ready to disembark as early as possible.

Kids Club – One of my favorite things about cruises. The Kids Clubs are wonderful. Many Clubs offer additional care after hours for parents who would like to enjoy adult entertainment.

Have Fun!




Mera lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband Bryan and their two children. She's always looking for experiences for her family and values any memory making opportunities. She grew up in the Caribbean as a Methodist Missionary's daughter and is active in her community and church as a Rotarian and church Mission Chair. The family squeezes as many trips foreign and domestic into their year and lives a frugal lifestyle to make that happen. In 2011 Mera quit her administrative job in local government and has been raising money for family vacations ever since then.