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5 habits of successful cruisers

happy people on a cruise

When it comes to how you spend your hard-earned money and PTO, you want to ensure that you return home feeling as though your vacation choice wasn't a disappointment. From selecting the wrong stateroom to waiting to book shore excursions, many mistakes can negatively impact your cruise experience. 

Even as someone who has cruised over a dozen times, I find myself making silly mistakes here and there, especially on new-to-me cruise lines or itineraries. 

Here are 5 habits of successful cruisers, so you can cruise like a pro even if you've never stepped foot on a ship before!

Read more: 28 first time cruise tips that really work (2024)

Book with a travel agent

travel agent

Growing up, I acted as my family's travel agent. Starting at age 13, I was responsible for planning our annual trips. My parents would give me a budget, and I'd go to town researching different options. 

Because of the freedom that I was given, I was hesitant to book with a travel agent for a while. I didn't want to feel like I had lost control over the planning process, which is one of my favorite aspects of traveling. 

Now that I've found a travel agent whom I adore, I cannot imagine booking any vacation without one. Not only do travel agents have access to exclusive group rates, meaning that they can sometimes get you a lower rate on your cruise fare, but the expertise that they bring can help an uninformed cruiser select the best itinerary, stateroom, shore excursions, specialty dining meals, and more. 


For instance, when planning my 2024 cruise to the Greek Isles onboard Celebrity Ascent, my agent was not only able to secure us our dream cabin for $1,500 less than what was advertised on Celebrity's website, but she also helped make suggestions as to dining times on such a port-intensive itinerary. 

Plus, if anything goes astray, they'll act as your advocate. Rather than wasting your time on hold, they'll be the person who communicates with the cruise line. 

Read more: 5 Reasons to Book With a Travel Agent for Your Next Cruise

Don't wait until you are onboard to reserve cruise add-ons like drink packages and shore excursions


Oftentimes, you will find much better deals on cruise add-ons before your cruise. Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, lets guests save 10% off the cost of the drink package if booked prior to the sailing. 

Similarly, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises tend to have amazing sales on their Cruise Planner. Over Black Friday/Cyber Monday, I was able to score a great deal on an excursion in Naples, Italy for my cruise in July 2024. Rather than paying $285 for two for the "Small Group: Taste of Sorrento and Pompeii" excursion, we were able to pay about half, or $300 total. 

For my upcoming Alaska cruise in May, some excursions are already sold out, further emphasizing the importance of planning ahead. 

 Read more: 10 common cruise ship mistakes first-timers make all the time

Arrive the day before your cruise is scheduled to depart


Perhaps the smartest thing any cruiser can do is fly to their embarkation city the day before their cruise.

At first glance, you should be able to make it for a 3:00pm last call if you land at Miami International Airport around noon, right? Wrong. You'll need to consider how long it will take you to deplane, collect your luggage, and get to the terminal. 

If you opt to fly out the morning of, you risk a single delay or cancelation causing you to completely miss your cruise, as the ship will not wait for you. 


Of course, arriving the night before means you won't have any confirmed place to stay, so you will need to secure a hotel. If you are concerned about the cost, consider using credit card points to help offset the total amount! 

You can either book directly through your travel credit card's booking portal or transfer the points to a loyalty program, such as Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, or Marriott Bonvoy. Personally, I prefer the latter, as I feel as though I'm able to get a better redemption value when I redeem my points directly through the hotel's website. 

Depending on which card you have, you might even be able to use points to help pay for your flights, too. Knowing how to utilize points helps to make you a more successful traveler in general! 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

Always bring a non-surge power strip


The older your cruise ship, the fewer power outlets you will have in your stateroom. Even if you're sharing the cabin with only one other person, you might start to bicker over who gets to charge what device and when, as it's unlikely that you're cruising with just cellular phones. You might have AirPods, cameras, iPads, smart watches, etc. 

When I cruised on Royal Caribbean's Navigator and Freedom of the Seas, I was disappointed to find that there were only two American outlets in the cabin. Both, however, had a third European plug. I had brought an adapter, I could have had three different outlets to utilize. 

The majority of cruise lines prohibit extension cords due to their inherent fire risk. Instead, look on Amazon for a cruise-compliment power strip that's surge-free. This will ensure that even if you are cruising on one of the oldest ships at sea, you will have plenty of outlets to charge your devices. 

NoTS outlets

If you're cruising on a newer ship, you'll want to pack at least one USB cord, as there tend to be fewer actual plugs. On Carnival Celebration, for instance, I wasn't able to charge my phone while in bed because the only charger I brought was a USB-C cord. 

Read more: The 13 best cruise tips the pros use all the time

Pre-pay for your gratuities 


When you are booking your cruise, you will have the option to pre-pay your gratuities. In general, it's a good idea to select this option, as it not only means you'll have a lower balance on your onboard account at the conclusion of your cruise, but it will also lock in the current gratuity rate. 

Every so often, cruise lines revise their gratuity rates for their crew members. When an increase is announced, those who have already pre-paid for them will be grandfathered in with the old rate. 

In November 2023, Royal Caribbean announced that they would be increasing the automatic gratuity rate from $16.00 USD for those in standard staterooms (Junior Suites and below) to $18.00 USD per day, while all suite guests saw an increase from $18.50 to $20.50. 


Additionally, you don't have to pay the gratuities all at once. It will be added to your total amount, which will have to be paid by the final payment date. 

Read more: 8 ways to do things differently on your next cruise

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