Skip to main content

12 Annoying Mistakes I've Made on Cruises


Amidst the excitement of exploring new ships and ports of call, it's easy to overlook potential mishaps. Having been on nearly two dozen cruises, you would think I would have learned how to avoid making rookie mistakes. That, however, couldn't be further from the truth. 

From forgetting to book shore excursions to using the ship's ATM for cash, even the most seasoned cruisers are not immune to making a mistake here and there. In fact, some of my mistakes have been pretty costly! Had I taken the time to think about certain aspects of the planning process in advance, I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars on things like shore excursions, staterooms, and more. 

Here are 12 annoying mistakes I've made on cruises. 

Booking a cruise at the last minute only to find limited cabin options


I booked my 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Celebrity's newest ship about three weeks in advance. To date, it was the most expensive solo cruise I've ever taken, with my fare costing around $2,880. In comparison, I spent $1,900 to sail on Carnival Celebration and $1,175 on MSC Seashore. Both sailings were also 7 nights. 

Though part of the cost was the fact that I had to pay the single supplement fee, I also wasn't able to book an inside room, which would have likely been cheaper. Instead, the only cabin I was able to find was a Prime Ocean View room. 

I was lucky to be able to find a stateroom on this sailing at all, as when I initially began my search, the website didn't show any availability, and my travel agent confirmed the same findings on their end. I didn't lose hope, though, as I kept checking the website for any potential openings. Thankfully, I noticed the ocean view cabin pop-up, and emailed my agent right away! 

Though you can sometimes find great last-minute deals, they're quickly becoming a thing of the past, as cruisers are booking sailings further in advance. If you end up waiting, you may find that there are no rooms available! 

Read more: What to know before booking a cheap cruise

Waiting too long to reserve shore excursions 

Thrill Waterpark

Typically, I spend a good amount of time combing through my cruise line's online planning portal in the months leading up to my sailing, so I can reserve as many add-ons in advance as possible. Not only is this a good tactic for saving money, but it also reduces the amount of stuff you have to worry about while onboard, so you can fully transition into vacation mode. 

While sailing on Symphony of the Seas, I had planned to take advantage of the complimentary beaches at Perfect Day at CocoCay; however, I ended up making some friends onboard who had booked tickets to Thrill Waterpark. Since I did not buy my pass until the night before, I paid an astonishing $149. In comparison, they made their reservations around Black Friday and paid close to $50 each. 

Moreover, though not completely a mistake of my own since I had booked the cruise at the last minute, when I was browsing available excursions for Tortola while sailing on Celebrity Ascent, all cruise line-operated tours to the Virgin Gorda Baths were sold out. Thankfully, a spot opened up a few days before the cruise began; however, I was initially disappointed to discover that I might not be able to cross the destination off my bucket list. 

Read more: 12 cruise ship shore excursions you should skip

Not packing enough sunscreen


On my first-ever solo trip, I underestimated how much sunscreen I'd need for a weeklong cruise. Since I was used to traveling with others, we always had enough in the group to get us through. I ran out on the second to last day of the cruise, which happened to be when we were docked at CocoCay. 

There was no way I could go an entire day in The Bahamas without applying sunscreen. While there were places ashore to purchase sunscreen, I was taken aback by the pricing. A single can of spray was $16.50! I didn't have a choice, though, so I bit my tongue and bought it. 

Flash forward over a year later, I visited Half Moon Cay for the first time. While I, thankfully, had learned my lesson and packed enough sunscreen, I decided to check how much it cost on the island for giggles. I wasn't laughing when I discovered that one bottle cost $27! 

In short, it's better to pack more than you think you'll need, as sunscreen is much cheaper at your local stores or on Amazon. If you end up having some left over, you can save it for your next vacation or use it while lounging at your local pool in the summer! 

Read more: 16 tips to not waste money on your first cruise

Skipping sunscreen


Even if it's cloudy and you're sitting underneath an umbrella, you should still apply sunscreen. 

One of my biggest mistakes from my cruise onboard MSC Seashore was thinking that I didn't need any due to the weather conditions when visiting Ibiza. I figured I didn't need to waste the sunscreen I had if I was comfortably sitting under a beach umbrella. 

When I got to dinner, I realized that my chest and shoulders were pretty burnt. The rest of the cruise wasn't too enjoyable because of the pain. I'd wince whenever I was in the shower! 

Forgetting to bring over-the-counter medications 


To save money, I tend to purchase the majority of my over-the-counter medications from Costco. My allergy medication, for instance, costs just $12 for a 365-day supply!

Whenever I cruise, I tend to pack a mini-pharmacy out of fear of feeling ill and not being able to fully enjoy my time onboard. When sailing on Carnival Celebration, I had forgotten cold & flu medication, and as luck would have it, I ended up catching a mild cold. 

Medications onboard tend to cost more than ashore, so I was thankful we were docked in San Juan that particular day because I found a Walgreens close to the cruise pier. Had we been at sea, I would have had to pay whatever the onboard price was for cold & flu medication, as I wouldn't have wanted to go the remaining cruise feeling sick. 

While the outcome of my forgetfulness wasn't the end of the world, I would have preferred to have the medication on hand, rather than waste time at a drug store in Puerto Rico. 

Read more: How to make your own DIY cruise first aid kit

Using the ATM for cash


Before my Symphony of the Seas sailing, I forgot to go visit my bank to get cash from the ATM before leaving, so I grudgingly went to the ship's ATM once onboard. Afterward, I learned that I could have gone to the casino, charged $50 to my onboard account, and then simply cashed out. It's such a good hack when you need more cash but want to avoid the pesky fees. 

Even though you don't need cash while onboard since you charge all of your onboard purchases to your cruise card, it does come in handy for the occasional tip. At the end of the cruise, I like to leave my cabin steward some cash as a token of appreciation for their hard work! 

It's also good to have cash when going ashore, especially if your credit card charges foreign transaction fees. Local vendors don't always have access to a card reader, either, which could impact your ability to buy a souvenir. Plus, those who want to play table games at the casino need cash. 

Read more: How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

Not packing enough toiletries


When it comes to things like shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and styling products, I always seem to pack the right amount. Contact solution, however, is a different story. When sailing on Celebrity Ascent, for example, I ran out two days early. Thankfully, I had a spare pair of contacts that I was able to use to replace the dried-out ones, but I had to wear my glasses on disembarkation day. 

There was no way I was buying any on the ship, either! Had I run out earlier, I may have considered it, but with only two days left and a full bottle at home (shout out to buying in bulk from Costco!), I wasn't going to pay for a small bottle onboard. 

There has also been more than one sailing when my contacts have become irritated, and I've run out of spares. I don't know why, after nearly two dozen cruises, I'm still struggling with eye products, but it's something I'm striving to get better about!

Read more: What Toiletries to Pack for a Cruise (Packing List)

Waiting until the last minute to book airfare

Delta Airlines

When I booked my last-minute cruise onboard Celebrity Ascent, I immediately began to think about my airfare options. I have status with both American Airlines and Delta; however, in this case, it made more sense to fly with Delta due to a flight credit that needed to be redeemed. 

While the overall flight cost was around $870, I had a little over $500 in credits to use, so I only paid $357.46 out-of-pocket. This cost was cheaper than a last-minute flight on American, albeit the latter would have been direct from Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale. 

Even though this is less of a "mistake" and more of a learning experience, one of the negative aspects of booking a last-minute cruise is dealing with inflated airfare. I'm thankful I was able to help mitigate the cost, otherwise I would've been out nearly $900 in addition to my cruise fare!

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

Not selecting an arrival time as soon as check-in opened


Whenever I go on a cruise, I prefer to secure the earliest check-in time for my sailing because I enjoy being one of the first people onboard. While not every amenity is available, it's nice to have a leisurely lunch before the majority of passengers are on the ship. 

When I took my first Carnival cruise, I neglected to complete my online check-in when it opened. Despite receiving emails from Carnival, I didn't get around to it until a week before the cruise. By that point, the only arrival appointments were in the afternoon. I grabbed the earliest available, which was 1:00pm. 

Though the embarkation process went smoothly, there were already a ton of guests onboard by the time I finally stepped foot on the ship. Had I been on earlier, I may have not had to wait an hour at Guy's for a burger! 

Read more: 12 reasons to get as early a check-in time as possible for your cruise

Forgetting to turn data roaming off 


Last summer, I went on a 7-night solo cruise around the Western Mediterranean onboard MSC Seashore. Since I was traveling alone, I didn't want to be without service in any of the countries I was visiting. Thankfully, my cellular plan with Verizon allows me to purchase international day passes for only $10. 

After returning from Marseille, France, I had forgotten to turn my cellular data off. As I watched us sail away from the French coastline, I received a text message saying, "Welcome aboard. With INTL TRVL 50MB 1MO you get 50MB of data for $20.00 to use while on board." That wasn't all, either. Had I made a call, it would have incurred a charge of $2.99 per minute, while each outgoing text message would have cost $0.50. 

I was shocked by my mistake, as I'm more than aware of the steep roaming charges. I'm glad I realized before I started sending text messages or scrolling through Instagram. I quickly turned my data off and reconnected to the ship's Wi-Fi. 

Read more: Do cell phones work on cruise ships?

Not purchasing a drink package

alchemy bar onboard carnival celebration

During my 5-night spring break cruise on Carnival Elation, my partner and I debated purchasing a drink package in the weeks leading up to the sailing. I figured that there was no way we'd spend around $900 on alcoholic drinks during a short cruise, especially since one day we couldn't even utilize the package while ashore at Half Moon Cay

As my finacée is a teacher and was on spring break, she found herself indulging in more drinks than I had anticipated, and while we didn't collectively spend $900, I think the investment would have been worth it for peace of mind. 

Plus, we found ourselves sticking to some of the cheapest drinks onboard, whereas there were plenty of Carnival-exclusive cocktails that she wanted to try since it was her first time on a Carnival cruise. 


While we would've spent more money on the drink package, having the freedom to order whatever sounded the most interesting, as well as not constantly checking out Sail & Sign accounts, would have justified the extra cost, at least in our opinion. 

Read more: What's the cost of a drink package on Carnival? (2024)

Neglecting to book post-cruise transfers


After an amazing 7 nights onboard MSC Seashore, I disembarked the ship in Genoa, Italy, intending to head to Milan for a night before my flight back to the United States. There was a certain train I was eyeing; however, I was planning on buying tickets at the station the morning of. Turns out, this was a horrible mistake, as the direct train was sold out. 

The only available option that left at a reasonable hour was a train from Genoa to Alessandria, and then from Alessandria to Milan. Though the connecting train wasn't the end of the world, a direct train would have been more convenient, as I was lugging two suitcases by myself! 

Usually, I rely on rideshares when traveling from the cruise port to the airport; however, Genoa was a bit further from Milan, which had the cheapest return flight. Thankfully, I learned from this mistake and already have transfers booked, albeit private this time, for my European cruise in July! 

Read more: 3 things I did right and 5 mistakes I made on my first European cruise

Loading Comments