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Best advice for a first cruise, according to frequent cruisers


Whether you're counting down the days until your first-ever voyage or are still debating if cruising is for you, learning from past sailors is a great way to help make the most out of your limited time onboard, though experienced cruisers aren't immune from making mistakes, either! 

It took me quite a few sailings before I learned the importance of booking shore excursions in advance. Last year, I overpaid for admission to Royal Caribbean's Thrill Waterpark, paying $149 for a single-day ticket, while others had scored tickets for $50 during the Black Friday sale. 

When it came to my last-minute cruise aboard Celebrity Ascent, I didn't realize the implications of booking a sailing weeks before departure. Not only were the cheapest cabins onboard sold out, but excursions to the Virgin Gorda Baths were initially sold out, too (Thankfully, two spots opened up days before I set sail!). 


Rather than scrolling through countless Reddit forums or Facebook posts, we've compiled a list of advice shared with Cruise.Blog to help you prepare for your first cruise adventure and avoid common pitfalls. 

Fly in one day early


Between crew scheduling, weather issues, and maintenance, flight delays and cancelations are far too common, which is why Rob Stuart suggests flying to your embarkation city one day early. Not only can scheduling your flight on the same day as your ship's departure lead to unnecessary stress, but it can cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars if you miss the all-aboard time. 

Ángelo Montenegro suggests arriving even earlier, especially if you're departing from a city you have never been to. Having sailed from Miami and Fort Lauderdale countless times, using additional PTO to spend time in South Florida isn't appealing; however, on my upcoming Celebrity Ascent cruise, I'm flying into Athens, Greece three days before my Greek Isles cruise. 

From touring the Acropolis to splurging on a wine-tasting event, I'm giving myself ample time to explore the city's rich history and culture and adjust to the time difference before departing on my cruise. 

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

Do not participate in every activity

Trivia RC

Bertha Sk advises cruises to sit some activities out and get some rest. While the allure of non-stop entertainment and activities is tempting, you must give yourself time to rest, too. Between fun days ashore and late-night dancing in the club, pacing yourself is key to avoiding getting burnt out. 

If you have an early-morning excursion, do not push yourself to attend every event the night before. Instead, retire to your cabin for a good night's rest. Alternatively, if you have a sea day and don't mind sleeping in, you can watch the late-night comedian, try your luck at the casino, or enjoy listening to live music in the atrium! 

While part of the beauty of a cruise is that there's something for everyone, skipping activities and taking time for yourself is just as important as participating in the fun. 

Read more: 12 Annoying Mistakes I've Made on Cruises

Eat a green apple every morning


If you're worried about motion sickness, stay proactive by eating a green apple each morning, as suggested by Cathy Borisenko. Green apples contain pectin, a type of fiber found in cell walls that can help settle stomachs. 

You can find them at the ship's buffet and other venues onboard. Royal Caribbean, for instance, usually has apples in Café Promenade. Moreover, since they aren't perishable like dairy or meat products, they're easy to grab and keep in your cabin. 

Other methods to combat seasickness include purchasing motion sickness medication like Dramamine or Bonine, staying hydrated, limiting alcohol intake, getting a scopolamine prescription, focusing on the ocean's horizon, and avoiding certain cabin locations. 

Read more: I tried the most common seasickness hacks to find out what works best

Midship cabins feel the least amount of motion

Panoramic Ocean View Celebrity Cruises

Unlike when booking a hotel room, you have the option to select your specific stateroom when placing your deposit, even if your sailing is over one year away. With ships having thousands of staterooms, the choice can seem daunting. Thankfully, personal preferences can help narrow down the best cabin. If, for instance, you're worried about motion sickness, stay in the middle of the ship, as recommended by Patty Vognild.

Those who want peace and quiet should select a stateroom that is sandwiched between others, as opposed to cabins above the ship's nightclub or below the lido deck. "No noise from [the] pool deck or bars [equals a] great [night's] sleep, writes Paul Meekin

Similarly, though convenient, staterooms near elevator banks can be noisy due to the constant foot traffic. Hallie Masters said her mother always ensures their cabin isn't near the elevators or stairwells. "The drunks and party people will be loud," she says. 

Wash your hands


Frequent handwashing is crucial for maintaining good hygiene. Dane Crist reminds everyone of the importance of "washy washy." Washing your hands helps prevent the spread of illnesses, including COVID and norovirus, so you should be mindful of high-traffic surfaces you're touching onboard, including handrails and elevator buttons. 

Before going into the ship's buffet and touching the communal tongs, wash your hands or, at the very least, use hand sanitizer. After you've gotten your food, doing so afterward is equally crucial. While you can do your part, you do not know who didn't wash their hands before grabbing the same serving utensil you used! 

Read more: 10 tips to make your next cruise healthier

Pack your patience 


The lido deck will be crowded, and you'll likely encounter lines at the ship's buffet during breakfast or lunch. It's important to remain calm and collected, even when everything seems like it's going wrong, so you can make the most out of your time onboard. "Low or no expectations and you'll never be disappointed," writes Julie Charles

Robert Jaworski shares similar sentiments: "Go with the flow and don’t stress. [If] the itinerary changes or missed ports, or a person is annoying; it is all good, you are on a cruise."

Rather than get upset about chair hogs, minor cabin issues, or a canceled excursion, take a moment to collect yourself and enjoy the view. Even if you're frustrated in that moment, you'll be back to reality before you know it. 

Cruising during the off-season has its perks


If you want to cruise with fewer children on your ship, Mike Reardon suggests cruising during the school year. Avoiding the peak summer months will save you money on your cruise fare, too. 

When browsing Carnival's website for sailings in 2025, a 7-night Caribbean cruise aboard Carnival Jubilee starts at $639 per person in February, whereas the same itinerary sees prices as high as $1,010 per person in July. Similarly, a weeklong Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas starts at $829 in May 2025. If you wait until July, you'll pay at least $200 more per guest for an inside cabin. 

In addition to lower prices, sailing during the shoulder season tends to present more favorable weather conditions, as well as fewer land-based tourists. In Rome, for example, the average high in May is 75°F, while the high in July is around 90°F. August is one of the busiest months, too, as this is when Europeans typically schedule their vacations. 

Bring magnetic hooks for your stateroom


If you're worried about storage space in your cabin, take Pat Bulmer's advice and bring magnetic hooks. Strong hooks can hang hats, jackets, lanyards, and tote bags, while clip hooks keep your important documentation, such as shore excursion tickets and disembarkation tags, safe. 

Some sailors have even made makeshift curtains with magnetic hooks and shower curtains, which is useful for passengers who want extra privacy. TikTok user HappyGoLiving shared the hack on their social media, receiving over 211,000 likes since being posted in early 2022. 

Read more: Top 25 cruise cabin hacks to improve your stateroom's functionality

Use packing cubes

packing cubes

Packing for your first cruise can be overwhelming. Forgetting something is costly, as inventory is limited onboard, so you have to pack strategically. Plus, cruise ship cabins aren't the most spacious accommodations. Overpacking can lead to tight quarters if you're sharing the space with two or three other passengers. 

Anna McLennan recommends utilizing packing cubes. They naturally compress your clothing, allowing you to fit more into your suitcase. If you're packing with a single carry-on, they will help you maximize the limited amount of space you have, especially if you're going on a longer voyage. 

Moreover, they help keep everything a bit more organized. Rather than waste time unpacking each article of clothing, you can throw the cubes into drawers or onto shelves in the closet, letting you enjoy more time relaxing or exploring the ship's amenities. 

Read more: 15 Packing Tips for First-Time Cruisers

Book another one


Cruises offer a hassle-free way to travel. Everything you could possibly need is conveniently located on your chosen small floating city, from accommodations to dining, entertainment, child care, and more. 

Plus, cruises visit a variety of destinations. Whether you're seeking an adventure to the Last Frontier or are seeking a vacation that focuses on ancient history, there's the perfect itinerary to meet your specific desires. 

Debbie Gibson encourages travelers to go ahead and book another one. A 3-day voyage to The Bahamas is vastly different than a 7-night cruise to the Mexican Riveria, which is also not comparable to a sailing that visits the Western Mediterranean or Australia. There's a reason why cruising remains such a popular form of travel! "[Cruises are] like tattoos. Can't stop at one," writes Diane Amico

Read more: 15 reasons why I fell in love with cruise ship travel

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